Saturday, May 15, 2010

Francis Drake Apartments in James Bay

I wish the City of Victoria would make it easier to find out about development proposals on their website, but that does not seem to be something they are doing.   I may think Saanich is anti change, but at least I can find all the proposals online.   If anyone knows how to easily find development proposals on the City of Victoria site, please let me know how it is done.

I raise this because I wanted to look at what exactely is being proposed in James Bay for the Francis Drake apartments.   I came across the proposal at MakeVictoriaBetter.com.    This directed me to the Times Colonist article on the development.   I wanted to read up on it myself, but I could not find the details on the City website.  I am not even sure how long the proposal has been around for.   The 2008 Google Streetview has some sort of Land Use Application sign up in front of the building, but it is not on the active proposal page for the James Bay Neighbourhood Association.

The Francis Drake apartments site on a site slightly larger than 1.5 acres.   There is access to the site for cars from St James Street, Oswego Street and Beckley Street.   The proposal is to remove the two story parking structure  accessed from St James Street and replace it with a 15 unit rental building.   This would take the building from 93 units to 108 units but would reduce the parking spaces from 81 to 56.

This is the accees to the parking structure from teh St James Street side


And this is the view from the Beckley Street side


The big issue with this development is the low number of parking spaces in relation to the number of units.   The development would mean the site would have less than one parking spot per two apartments.   City staff recommended that the site has at least 102 parking spaces, an increase of 21 from what is there now and also six more parking spaces than new units.   The question becomes, how many parking spaces would be needed for this apartment building and what could be done to reduce the demand?

The developer is proposing having a Car Coop vehicle on site.   It strikes this is a very good idea for this location because there is only one other Coop car in James Bay and this is a neighbourhood where it is easier to live without owning a vehicle fulltime.   The developer is also offering to provide space for 47 bikes.

If the idea of a less car dependent city is to work, then proposals such as this one should be going forward. If James Bya cannot be made less car dependent, then it is not going to happen elsewhere.

In looking at the site using the CRD Natural Areas Atlas, it looks like there are between 27 and 30 on street parking spots bordering on the apartment building property.   I also believe that if one were to work with the site, it should be possible to add another 10 to 15 parking spaces on site.   It seems to me that it should be possible to make a go of this proposal without having to have as much land being used for parking.

There is one other issue with the development, I can understand if the people living on Rendall Street might not be keen on the development.   They would be going from a two story parking structure that is maybe 10 feet tall to a four story building looking into their backyards.
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