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Letter to Mayor & Council re support of letter from NPNA re 926 -930 Pandora Avenue

To: Mayor Alto and Council

City of Victoria

March 20, 2023.

Re. letter from North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA) regarding the Delegated Development Permit Application for 926 -930 Pandora Avenue

Dear Mayor Alto and Council,

On behalf of the Victoria Downtown Residents Association (DRA) we are writing to voice our support for the February 7th letter to Mayor and Council by North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA). Having worked closely with NPNA and City staff in the early stages of the ground floor development of the 926-930 Pandora site and having also participated in the 900 Pandora block Good Neighbour group since its inception, we are acutely aware of the concerns expressed in this letter. Like NPNA, we were also briefed by BC Housing and City staff in November 2022 and are aware of the current stage of the development of this project.

We echo NPNA’s concern that the increased development of supportive housing in the North Park neighbourhood is proceeding without a systemic understanding of how these developments will impact their wider context. With 100 new supportive housing units (926-930 Pandora Avenue, 938 Mason Street and 954/959 Balmoral Road) being built in a three-block area, all dependent for social services on the 900 block of Pandora, we share NPNA’s concern that there does not appear to be any strategy in place to talk about and plan for how these developments will impact the surrounding neighbourhoods. To believe that there won’t be any impact or that the impact can be ignored is naïve. We would prefer that there was acknowledgement of the potential challenges of this concentration of social services and that strategies be put in place beforehand. NPNA’s request that the three projects mentioned be discussed together is sound practice.

Point #2 of the NPNA letter’s Executive summary states: “Based on Council's direction in May 2022, we request that staff incorporate the recommendations from the 2019 Pandora Taskforce into the design and operation of the development at 930 Pandora. Furthermore, we ask that the City treat the 900 block of Pandora as a special improvement area and conduct long-term planning to take tangible steps to improve the safety and well-being of this area and to transform the area of last resort into a dignified space.” In our conversations with City staff about the future use of the ground-floor 16,500 sq. foot community use space, we asked repeatedly how this development was going to interact with the 900 block of Pandora and how the recommendations of the 2019 Pandora Taskforce could be incorporated into the design of that ground-floor space. We were informed that it was “out of scope” and that the project was not designed to solve the problems of the 900 block. While we understand that the project will not solve the problems of the block, it will certainly be impacted by and have an impact on the 900 block of Pandora. To not consider what those impacts are and what mitigation efforts might be put in place seems short-sighted.

Given the project’s current lack of engagement with the challenges of the 900 block of Pandora, the inaccessibility of green space, its location on the edge of the neighbourhood and the fact that the building has been designed without public consultation regarding the needs of North Park residents, we agree with NPNA that this site is not one best-suited to the development of a community centre for the North Park neighbourhood. Whatever its future use, it should not be referred to as a “Community Centre.”

With thanks for your attention.

Sandra Severs President Victoria Downtown Residents Association

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