As a local resident, I also attended the Cadboro Bay Local Area Plan (LAP) workshop on June 11 at Goward House. It was wonderful to see so many neighbours turn out for a community meeting, but it’s been a bit discouraging to read how some folks have interpreted the meeting and what it means for the future of our neighbourhood.
Many people attending the workshop were eager to discuss the housing challenges in our community, and to consider ways the Cadboro Bay LAP can both support a vibrant and healthy neighbourhood and contribute to broader solutions. Some people had questions or concerns which they raised with Saanich staff. And a few appeared resistant to any change and upset that Cadboro Bay can’t always remain as it is right now. But the truth is that Cadboro Bay is already changing: it’s not a question of if, but how and how many will benefit.
Although the total number of residents has changed little for several decades, the proportion of households in Cadboro Bay with younger adults and young children has declined. All over the neighbourhood, modest older houses are being demolished and replaced by massive new ones. These are changes, but not ones that particularly improve the community. The don’t bring new shared amenities or more customers to support Village businesses; they don’t bring more kids to attend Frank Hobbs or get their first job at Pepper’s, or prospective volunteers to support community groups like the CBRA. They are changes which aren’t really healthy for anyone, including those of us already lucky enough to live in this beautiful place.
The data show that residents of Cadboro Bay are older and more affluent on average than the rest of Saanich, and there are fewer households with young children. The reason is obvious: compared to the rest of the region, the biggest gap in Cadboro Bay’s demographic pyramid is adults aged 25-49 (Gen X and Millennials). This cohort are the ones who have young kids but whose incomes have been unable to keep pace with the massive increase in the cost of housing. They are a group who are typically happy to embrace more sustainable housing forms such as townhouses and apartments, and who drive less and own fewer cars. And they are a group who would benefit enormously from more housing just a few hundred metres from UVic, the second largest employer in the entire CRD.
I believe we need to support healthy growth and sustainable density in Cadboro Bay Village, not only because it’s the ‘right thing’ to do for other people, but because it’s the best way to maintain a vibrant and balanced community. Waterfront mansions, gated estates, and detached homes will always remain a part of this area, but they alone cannot be its future. As discussed at the housing workshop, the buildings in the Cadboro Bay Village are nearing the end of their lifespan, and without permitting gentle growth in the Village Centre it may be uneconomical for them to be replaced. If we’re not careful, by seeking to prevent our neighbourhood from changing we may inadvertently lose the services that make it so liveable in the first place. We should see the opportunities that planning for change offers us in the form of a neighbourhood with more services, public spaces, and a thriving local hub.
This Draft Local Area Plan isn’t about the Queen Alexandra lands or Queenswood; no one wants to build skyscrapers around Gyro Park, and no one’s homes are being developed without their consent. Shifting the Village Centre uphill away from the rising sea, permitting low-rise buildings around it and along busier streets, and allowing older housing stock close to UVic to be replaced with buildings that will support growth right next to where it’s needed – these are positive changes for all of us in Cadboro Bay. As a community, I hope we support them, because these changes will support our community, too.