It was another sobering year in Oak Bay as death and grieving were among the 2019 newsmakers for the Tweed City.
The death of former mayor Nils Jensen – just months after losing his spot as mayor in the 2018 election – caught the community off guard as only those close to him were alerted to his battle with cancer.
Fresh off completing a 23-year-run – 16 as councillor and eight as mayor – Jensen did what most politicians do and kept a low profile from the Oak Bay spotlight. We soon found out why. He was diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer in January and died on April 7 at the age of 69. The next week his family held an upbeat celebration of life at Oak Bay High’s Dave Dunnet Theatre with more than 400 people, live music, and powerful speeches from his family and from friends.
Around the same time, Crown prosecutors undertook the Andrew Berry trial in Vancouver. After a 5.5-month-long case, the jury found the Oak Bay resident guilty of two counts of second-degree murder in the death of Aubrey, 4, and Chloe, 6, on Dec. 25, 2017.
Oak Bay now ends its second consecutive decade with a tragic domestic murder. Back in 2007, Peter Kyun Joon Lee killed his wife Yong Sun Park, their son Cristian and Park’s parents and then took his own life.
The climate in Oak Bay and Greater Victoria continued its trend of higher temperatures and less rain as the threat of human extinction elevated due to the ongoing increase of global CO2 emissions.
As per the Carbon Brief mapping project, which breaks down each region on earth, the temperature for Greater Victoria has increased 0.9C over its average since 1850 and hasn’t had a decade of below-average temperatures since from 1969 to 1979.
Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria and the Capital Regional District all declared a climate emergency in 2019.
There were plenty of colourful events in Oak Bay that once again broke the Tweed City’s sleepy-town stereotype and made news across the region.
In August, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna visited Oak Bay’s Cattle Point to make a double announcement. It was delayed, however, as members of the local Extinction Rebellion chapter made it clear they had intentions of making a citizen’s arrest of McKenna.
“We are here to put [McKenna] in protective custody because we feel she could be in imminent harm by some individuals who may want to act out on their anger,” said protester Howard Breen, who held zap straps in his hand. When Breen moved to approach McKenna he was arrested by Oak Bay Police (to which he complied and was later released).
That day McKenna declared Uplands neighbourhood a national heritage site.
In August it was revealed that the famous ‘Tulip House’ on Beach Drive was for sale because the owners – who are based in Marin County, Calif. – were hit with an approximate $27,000 speculation and vacancy tax for 2019. The house and its garden of 12,000 tulip bulbs sold soon after.
In November, Oak Bay resident Angus Matthews noticed strips of plastic turf fibres had been spreading from the artificial Oak Bay High soccer field and into Bowker Creek. Greater Victoria School District 61 (SD61) shut the field down, installing a temporary plastic cover, and said they are seeking a replacement turf for 2020 (possibly through manufacture warranty).
Also in October, members of the community criticized Abstract Developments’ owner Mike Miller for removing a portion of a rock wall on his York Place property. The wall in question abuts Prospect Place. As it stands, pieces of the rock wall were removed to enlarge two openings while the majority of it remains. The work was done despite a “stop-work order” from Oak Bay bylaw.
Neighbours claimed Abstract was rushing to remove the wall ahead of Oak Bay’s first Heritage Conservation Area, a policy that will protect landscapes, rock walls and buildings in the “Prospect neighbourhood.”
In October, former artist in residence for the City of Victoria, Luke Ramsey, completed the Parade of Play mural on Oak Bay’s public works building.
The mural stands tall over the 25-year-old Jack Wallace Memorial track and was the culmination of a multi-year plan. It’s a major splash of colour that’s invigorated the community, said Mayor Kevin Murdoch, and it is likely the biggest mural in Greater Victoria.
One of the region’s biggest changes in 2019 was SD61 shifting its catchment area boundaries for middle school and elementary schools as it faces a projected boom in the population of elementary and middle school students in Victoria’s core area.
SD61 has voted to reinstate two of its former facilities near the Oak Bay border, Bank Street and Sundance. The two will form one school which will see an estimated $5 million in seismic upgrades for the century-old old Bank location.
It will also displace current tenants, Victoria College of Art from the Bank building and Ecole Beausoleil from the Sundance building. Catchments changed slightly for Willows students near Lansdowne Road while South Jubilee neighbourhood youth moved from the Lansdowne catchment to Monterey middle school.
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