Despite reservations, Victoria View Street housing project moves to public hearing

Despite reservations, Victoria View Street housing project moves to public hearing
City of Victoria
The changes to the east view of the development at 937 View Street in May 2022 (left) and the most recent proposal (right).

A 23-storey View Street housing project that has come before Victoria council numerous times since 2017 has now been forwarded to a public hearing, despite concerns by multiple members.

The 299-unit rental building at 937 View Street started as a proposal for a 10-storey building, then increased to 13, then 19 when last presented to council in May 2022. Now, when it came to the committee of the whole on Jan. 11, the proposal was for a 23-storey building.

Staff recommended rejecting the application, and also not asking the developer to make changes due to the prolonged process it has already undergone.

Victoria staff noted that there are a number of issues with the housing project on View Street that would impact livability.

One of the issues includes that it is being built immediately next to another six-storey rental building under construction with only three to five metres between the two buildings.

In the previous meeting, staff noted this raises privacy concerns for those living on the first six floors and those living in the neighbouring building. The developer returned on Jan. 11 with a proposal to remove all the windows facing the neighbouring building on the first six floors.

“Which does improve the impacts to privacy between the building and the neighbouring building under construction,” Charlotte Wain, a senior planner of urban design with Victoria said in the Jan. 11 meeting.

“However, it does result in a blank wall situated three to five meters from future residents’ living room and bedrooms and their only source of natural light.”

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Other concerns staff has with the design include that it exceeds the maximum height in the design guidelines by roughly 10 storeys, and the design doesn’t achieve a cohesive design or enhance the appearance along the arterial road.

A motion to reject the application failed with a vote of 5-4, and council ultimately voted to send it to a public hearing.

Coun. Susan Kim was one of the councillors who voted to send it to a public hearing, despite describing some of the choices by the applicant as “baffling.”

“I think that this needs to go to public hearing. I think that we need to hear from the folks directly because I can sit here and twiddle my thumbs and speculate all I want today about what the people of Victoria want, and to some extent, that’s my job, yes, but when the opportunity presents itself on something as difficult as this, to hear from a public it’s imperative, I think, that we do that,” Kim said.

“And for all we know, the very same public that brought us to this table might agree with us today, they want to see a transition to historic Fort Street be respected, they want to see setback requirements respected. So why don’t we find out if that is indeed where we want to go, and if that is indeed where Victorians want to go, and let’s go to a public hearing.”

Coun. Marg Gardiner, on the other hand, wanted to see the application rejected.

“As someone who has lived in several high rises during my life it’s very important to have that separation requirement and to have it respected,” Gardiner said. “It really is not only for privacy, but for air and everything else. It’s a very important requirement and there’s no question that livability within this building would be an issue.”

Councillors voted 5-4 to defeat the motion to reject the application with Couns. Kim, Dave Thompson, Chris Coleman, Krista Loughton and Mayor Marianne Alto voting against the staff recommended motion.

When the motion to send it to a public hearing came forward, the motion passed unanimously.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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