A number of years ago, Central Saanich council decided that densification was required in Brentwood Bay and Saanichton. Reasons for this decision were never made clear, although there were some generic statements about affordable housing, local businesses and transportation.
A consulting firm was hired, not to determine the why of densification, but the how, in spite of strong push-back by citizens who felt that the why should be addressed prior to the how. Overall citizens were ignored once again, and the how was addressed, but the why was largely ignored by the study.
The why is difficult to understand, especially seeing that to date, densification has created a fair number of long term vacancies in both retail spaces and apartment units, as well as slow sales of adjacent properties.
Presently densification is not properly addressed by Central Saanich zoning bylaws, but has been addressed through spot zoning, in some cases with variances, which go against the very spirit of the zoning bylaws, and in others through new spot zones, euphemistically called Comprehensive Development zones. Now council is trying to enshrine some spot zones as permanent zones for Brentwood Bay and Saanichton.
The reality is that from almost all perspectives densification has been a dramatic failure in Brentwood Bay.
Many years ago my wife and I finally saved enough money to purchase our first home. We could not afford a lot, so we purchased a rather run-down, older house. We replaced the water pipes with copper and the drains with PVC pipes, we added a ground wire and replaced all of the receptacles.
We took the bathroom down to the studs due to wet walls, and removed the floor to the beams due to rot, and rebuilt the bathroom. We painted all the walls and ceilings, placed new doors on the kitchen cabinets, and lots more. As we did all the labour, the costs were affordable, and we now had a home.
Our experience is not unique, this is how many young couples start out, and there are a number of similar examples from the past in Brentwood Bay, but this is no longer possible.
Now if such a property comes on the market, a developer grabs it. After getting variances and spot zoning approval, the house, often still structurally sound, is destroyed, adding to our landfill problems. In its place, a number of much more expensive houses are built.
This is systematically removing affordable housing from Brentwood Bay.
These developments frequently have a “beggar thy neighbour” attitude, resulting in a negative impact of the value and quality of life of adjacent homes through a loss of sunlight and privacy.
In addition, there is a dangerous increase in congestion, because these new houses rarely have adequate parking, resulting in many cars parked on the street. In an environment such as Brentwood Bay, with few sidewalks, the result is that pedestrians and cyclists are forced into the middle of the street to navigate around these parked cars.
All in all, densification has resulted in the destruction of affordable houses as they come on the market, while decreasing the value of homes in their immediate neighbourhood and creating congestion and safety issues, all results contrary to the stated goals of densification.
In fact, to date, it would seem that the only beneficiaries of densification in Brentwood have been developers.
Alex and Bozenna Apouchtine