The Crystal Pool saga continues with City council again hearing from the North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA), which is keen on seeing the facility placed somewhere it is accessible to the city’s most vulnerable.
The NPNA will present at council’s June 13 Committee of the Whole meeting, following a new motion around applying “affordability and equity” in the Crystal Pool project.
A feature of the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan is “commitments to equity and affordability throughout the provision of city services, its operations and decision-making,” reads a report from councillors Marianne Alto and Sharmarke Dubow. “Application of equity and affordability policy analyses to the exploration of a future Crystal Pool facility provides an opportunity to test and evaluate such policies’ utility.”
A presentation from the NPNA last week asked council to consider placing the facility in the North Park or Hillside-Quadra areas.
“There are considerable and lasting implications of removing a significant public asset from northern neighbourhoods that already house disproportionately high community burdens and have disproportionately fewer community assets and benefits,” states the presentation. “Applying an equity lens would evaluate the existing location as vastly preferable to the Central Middle School for a significant investment in public recreation.”
Plans for constructing the pool and wellness facility in the southwest corner of Central Park – neighbouring the pool’s current location – are still on the table, as are the public parking lot across from Royal Athletic Park and the western portion of the field next to Central Middle School.
In 2017, council decided to explore options to replace the aging Crystal Pool facility, currently located in the 2000-block of Quadra Street.
Along with the creation of a schedule, budget and refined concept designs, the City has undertaken public consultation on the matter and in fall 2018 the public spoke back. A facility located at Central Park, the NPNA and Downtown Victoria Residents Association said, took away their green space.
They urged the City to consider parking lot spaces at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre and Royal Athletic Park.
In early 2019 the City worked with RG Facilities, operators of the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, to discuss the possibility of a new community recreation facility located in the parking lot next to the arena. However, the two groups “never came to a mutually acceptable arrangement.”
Motions to be considered Thursday night include directing staff to not build facilities in existing green space, “apply[ing] an equity lens” to investment decisions and inviting potential partners and neighbourhood representatives to collaborate on objectives, as well as embed inter-generational equity into corporate policy.
On Thursday evening, council will hear from NPNA and consider the equity motions. Updates on the project will be released following the June 13 meeting.