UVic Students’ Society Municipal Candidate Survey

Dear Candidate,

On behalf of the over 17,000 undergraduate students at the University of Victoria, we are sending you this survey comprised of questions that are hot-button municipal issues on our campus. We invite you to fill out this survey and return it to us by Sunday October 30th at the latest. We will disseminate the information provided to students and youth in Greater Victoria. Thank you for your participation and assistance engaging students with municipal issues! Feel free to attach your answers on a separate page. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Dylan Sherlock

Director of Finance and Operations
University of Victoria Students’ Society

What will you do to increase affordable housing for students in your municipality?
To help provide more housing for students and seniors, I would legalize secondary suites and laneway houses. Also, I would work with other municipalities and seniors levels of government to get funding restored to help build new apartment buildings and student residences at UVIc and Camosun.

What are your priorities for public transit, and how do students fit into these priorities?
I want to see the Victoria Regional Rapid Transit project, LRT out to the West Shore, under construction within the next three years. I would work with BC Transit to speed buses up using stop reduction and signal prioritization on their busy routes, especially those into UVic. I would also work with UVic and the provincial government to get a new transit exchange built at UVic, as the current exchange is at capacity. Both of these will help students travel faster and easier to campus.

What are the solutions to congestion and lack of capacity in the public transportation system?
Part of the solution is moving the buses faster, through signal prioritzation, but there are other steps that can be taken. Those
include adding more buses on busy routes and building a new transit exchange at UVic. All of these require the provincial or federal
government to step up to the plate and provide some capital funding. However, if it comes as a request of the region as a whole, it is much more likely to succeed.

How do students fit into local community development measures?
Students are a vital part of a vibrant Oak Bay, and a vibrant Greater Victoria. We need to talk more with students when it comes to the new Oak Bay Official Community Plan and the Active Transportation Plan.

What will you do to improve the sustainability of the operations of the municipality?
Oak Bay has already been working on making our recreation centre more sustainable, but we need to extend that work into our other
municipally-owned buildings, such as the town hall. I would also continue to acquire, where possible, hybrid and electric vehicles for the municipal fleet.

What is your position on bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure?
I am strongly in favour of more bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure. I was a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Council for the CRD’s Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan, plus I am a member of the Municipality of Oak Bay’s Community Initiatives Committee, which is tasking with improving active transportation in Oak Bay. We recently passed an Active Transportation Plan, and I  committed to getting much as possible of the Active Transportation Plan and the PCMP built in the next three years.

How do you see recreation services for students in the municipalities improving?
We need to continue the region-wide recreation pass, as it has been a great success. We also need to keep offering student rates at our recreation centres. One place where students could play a key role is with inter-generational relationship building from UVic and Camosun to Monterey Centre, which caters primarily to the older population.

How will you increase student voter turnout in municipal elections? Are you willing to commit to campus poll stations by 2014?
To start, the municipal councillors need to be on campus more, both as candidates and as elected councillors, through teaching and other experiential learning programs. I strongly support campus polling stations in 2014 and would start work immediately to hopefully make that happen.

How will you better include youth in decision making process of the municipality?
We need to go out and do more community engagement, both using newer technologies, but also going into the places where people already are, which includes both UVic and Camosun campuses. Also, I would support getting more students engaged with the municipality as part of their studies with more experiential learning.

What is your position on open data initiatives?
I believe that  open data is very important, as it allows citizens to get more engaged in government, and gives them a better picture of how their world operates. However, open data must be done to allow the greatest possible reuse of the data, so must not place undue
restrictions on commercial activity or require onerous reporting.

What is your position on harm reduction services?
I strongly support harm reduction services, and given the recent Supreme Court ruling, would welcome safe consumption sites within
Greater Victoria. But we must remember all four pillars, and continue to fund outreach, detox, and housing for addicts wishing to move on with their lives.

What is your strategy for dealing with homelessness and the lack of subsidized housing? What is your position on outdoor camping?
I support dealing with the homelessness problem by dealing with the housing problem. More rental housing stock, available to all income levels, is the only way to truly end the housing crisis. I am torn with regards to outdoor camping in public parks in urban areas, because while I support the right to be housed, I am concerned about the long term ecological effects of camping if it spreads into sensitive ecosystems such as our Garry Oak Meadows.

How will you increase food security in the region?
We need to stop removing so much agricultural land from the Agricultural Land Reserve, and actually respect our urban containment
boundaries. True food security cannot happen without these steps. Within Oak Bay, I support finding more space for allotment gardens.

Random links o’ the morning

A visit to the new Oak Bay Bistro

After Monday’s council session I got the chance to visit the new Oak Bay Bistro and try out the food, and I came away favourably impressed. As the Times Colonist reports, they have taken over part of the old Blethering Place, on the corner of Monterey and Oak Bay Avenue.

We were seated promptly, although there seemed to be a great deal of staff on for such a small space. I suspect they are running larger shifts than normal so that they have some leeway if a huge crowd comes in. On the way in I did notice one jarring detail: the door. It is a very modern design and it really doesn’t fit with the rest of the faux-Tudor building. They could have done something a bit more in keeping and still let plenty of light in.

To drink, I ordered a Driftwood Fat Tug India Pale Ale, something you can’t get in most liquor stores, and it came, although it did take a bit of time. Glass was chilled and beer was at a good temperature, which is nice. Brand-new equipment certainly makes a difference, although it was clear the bar tender actually knew how to draw a pint, as the head was perfect. For dinner I ordered one of their small plates, an albacore tuna seared in a bed of greens. It was tasty and it food came out quickly. The dish was also cold, but that turned out to be a pleasant surprise. This would make a good appetizer for someone more hungry than I was the other night.

Anyway, it was not a bad place to go. The food was good but not spectacular and the service likewise. Prices, $6 for the pint and $8 for the small dish, were in line with what you would pay at any other place. Overall, a good addition to the community. But don’t just trust me. Check out their Urban Spoon review page, their Facebook page, or their Vibrant Victoria thread.

UVic seeks input on Cedar Hill X Rd lands

A former potential site of sewage treatment, now under study. Image courtesy CRD Natural Areas Atlas

UVic Sustainability has finally decided to develop a plan for the Cedar Hill X Rd. lands. Yes, those same lands that the CRD considered for a Saanich East/Oak Bay sewage treatment/pumping plant earlier this year. (For reference, it is outlined in yellow to the right). Like most areas, there are a lot of interested parties, including dog walkers, UVic Facilities, UVic Forest Biology, and the local community. Some of those users don’t see eye to eye, so balancing those conflicted needs should be interesting.

This isn’t the first time a plan has come up for the site, although it seems that everybody but UVic has been involved. Proposed for the site in 2009 was a “UVic School of Agriculture” by the Campus Urban Agricultural Collective (Facebook page). At the time the draft plan under discussion was but an apple in the eye of then-UVic (now CRD) Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Webb, as she mentioned the Marlet in a story about the CUAC. Earlier this year the Food Not Lawns Collective co-opted that idea and dumped it into their manifesto (as they dug up the lawn in front of the library, possibly killing all their credibility in the process).

Disappointingly, the plan doesn’t talk at all about the road immediately adjacent, which includes parking in the area, or of better pedestrian access. Currently Cedar Hill X Rd. has a number of problems: too wide, lack of sidewalks on the north side, lack of bike lanes, and its use as overflow parking from UVic, the Rec Centre, both golf courses, and Emmanuel Baptist Church. Yes, the road is under the control of Oak Bay, but that shouldn’t stop UVic from making a stronger statement. And Oak Bay should listen. After all, they are the adjacent land owner and we go to great pains to query other adjacent land owners when we put in improvements like bike lanes. Observe the recent bike lane work on the other side of Cedar Hill X Rd.

However, I am cautiously optimistic. The drop dead date for getting your comments into UVic is November 26th. You can read more at the UVic Sustainability Planning site.

Guerrilla gardeners ask for the moon

The lawn diggers of UVic finally released a set of demands (PDF). Do these things or the lawn gets it. Oh, wait…

What exactly do they want? The first and most logical demand is for new community garden space, preferably smack in the middle of campus. They also want a giant educational farm, 15 acres be exact. Their suggested location: Cedar Hill X Rd. lands. Given the lands were once a farm and still have fruit trees, these ideas seem fairly reasonable so far.

Still in the reasonable category is the idea of more fruit trees on campus, to take advantage of Victoria’s Mediterranean-like climate. It is their time-frame and scale I quibble with: 500 trees  in five years. Trees take a decade or more to mature. Simpler would be to change (or subvert, depending on your worldview) UVic’s natural tree replacement and addition programs. The only work needed now revising whatever plan already exists.

And now we get to the insane. A department of agriculture? With 6 full time faculty? Aside from the small matter that UVic seriously lacks office and classroom space for its existing courses — let alone a brand new department — where is the money going to come from? What are they going to teach? And more cynically, what kind of monetization is possible? So I say: get thyself to UBC. They are BC’s agriculture specialists. Have been for a long time. No need to duplicate that.

The rest are a wash. Ten acres of ethnobotanical gardens? A LEED certified building? A food harvest festival? Interesting and not impossible.

Surprisingly, the garden in question is still in existence as of today. Like the rabbit problem, I suspect the university will wait for the summer to deal with it. Less students to chain themselves to bulldozers/live-traps that way.

If all this digging has prompted one good thing, it is that students are talking about community gardens, most of them for the first time. Whether or not that is a good thing is a matter of debate, like I had with a fellow student yesterday. Maybe something will come of this. After all, the reasonable community gardens group can play good cop: “Well, you could be dealing with them…”

UVic guerrilla garden reappears

Youth protecting Yams
Youth protecting Yams, satirical take on the Youth protecting Youth issue*.

The guerrilla gardeners at UVic have — technically still are — struck again, replanting the garden in front of the McPherson Library. With the current community gardens under threat of being turned into a warehouse, students decided to take direct action and plant a garden in the middle of UVic. That work was subsequently ripped out by UVic in the middle of night, spawning this second effort.

While the UVic Student’s Society, perhaps  not surprisingly, lacks an official position on the ad-hoc community garden, one of the senior UVSS people I spoke to said the UVSS lacks even a more generic statement of support for community gardens at UVic and that it ” might be a good idea”.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Several people I spoke to seemed to think that the university will likely wait until the summer to rip out this garden 2.0, mostly to avoid further confrontation. Bunnies might not be the only things getting culled this summer.

*Youth Protecting Youth is a pro-life group that was denied club funding by the UVSS due to their use of shock tactics with images of aborted fetuses.

The future of Oak Bay allotment gardens

Monteith St. Allotment gardens. Photo credit: Friends of Bowker Creek
Monteith St. Allotment gardens. Photo credit: Friends of Bowker Creek

Oak Bay’s allotment gardens are expanding. With the recent clearing of the land on the south side of Bowker Creek, space was created for a dozen new garden plots. Given the expansion, Oak Bay Parks and Rec thought it would be a good time to talk about the future of the allotment gardens with many the existing and wait listed allotment gardeners. The discussion covered a number of possibilities, including standardizing size of the beds, the creation of an association to help govern the gardens and more.

The two most contentious ideas, that of shrinking the beds to a standard size and of a 3-year rotation plan were both roundly rejected by both existing and wait listed plot holders. The benefit of shrinking to a standardized 6.5′ x 17′ is that it would allow 38 plots in the space of the existing 12. Both of these proposals were felt to be disrespectful of existing users who have spent years improving the soil.

In many other municipalities, an association governs the allotment gardens, so the idea was raised of creating something similar in Oak Bay. There was a lot of discussion around the pros and cons of such a scheme with no clear consensus. Regardless of that, the current plot holders will be asked to nominate an informal spokesperson to liaise staff.

When the question of costs came up, it was quickly made clear that the current $15/year was too low to cover the nearly $800/year cost of running the gardens, $340 of which is the water bill alone. With the price set to rise to $30/year, the current plot holders wanted access to year-round washroom in Fireman’s Park and possibly a fence to keep out people and deer.

With the current wait list at 25 and an average wait of 7 years, the question of expanding beyond Monteith St. has come up many times. Many areas of the municipality might be able to host to new allotment gardens, including areas such as Fireman’s Park just across the street to Uplands Park to the green space by the track at Oak Bay High School. All of these are and a few more were raised as possibilities, although there are many obstacles between now and the first shovel hitting the ground.

One of the current plot holders mentioned that the allotment gardens have never really been advertised, so their knowledge has mostly spread through word of mouth. This lack of knowledge is also probably only Councillor Ney and myself were the only spectators as it were. Everybody else at the meeting was either directly involved with Parks, either as staff or on the commission, a current plot holder or on the wait list.

Both the Minutes and Recommendations (both PDF) are available. The next step is for the recommendations to go to the Parks and Recreation Commission, who can make the decisions necessary. They meet next at 7pm on February 3rd, 2010 in the Council Chambers at Oak Bay Municipal Hall.

Estevan Village Food Roots market has returned

Foot Roots market with sign
Estevan Village Food Roots pocket market

Yesterday marked the return of the Food Roots pocket market in Estevan Village. This means good, local produce is now available every Thursday from 3pm to 6pm. Of course, I had to go down buy some vegetables, take a few pictures and chat with people.

When I was there around 4pm, it was fairly busy, with at least one person at shopping at all times. Speaking with Larkin, the Food Roots employee running the stall, she said that this was amongst their busiest markets and that business on of the first day of this year has already been pretty good.

Larkin was kind enough to take some Bicycle Master Plan promotion cards. They can be seen by the till. The more people we can reach, the better the plan will be.

For those in other parts of the city, Food Roots operates a total of 11 number of markets around Greater Victoria, from Vic West where they started to right downtown in Centennial Square. If you don’t have a pocket market near your house, they offer a handy Pocket Market toolkit to help you get one going.

A few more shots of the market in action:

Bicyclist with haul of food
John Snively with his haul of vegetables
Food Roots market in Estevan Village
Larkin with customer