The Crystal Pool Recreation and Wellness Centre cannot and should not be viewed in its development as a “land transaction” or in its operations as merely a “facility”. Thoughtful development and siting of this significant amenity could go a long way towards addressing inequity and the cycle of poverty.
PROCEDURAL EQUITY (INCLUSION)
Procedurally, the City has fallen short in ensuring equitable engagement in the process for siting and designing the new Crystal Pool facility, and determining community development and recreational needs.
City’s decision-makers philosophically recognize the historical, cultural, and institutional dynamics and structures that have routinely advantaged privileged groups in society and resulted in chronic, cumulative disadvantage for subordinated groups, the strategic plan reflects that understanding throughout.
However, absent analysis and an equity and affordability lens, the City will not be able to operationalize this change and institutionalize accountability.
DISTRIBUTIONAL EQUITY (ACCESS)
Distributionally, the City is risking the entrenchment of neighbourhood inequities (ghettoization / gentrification) by not using an equity lens in how it distribute services, burdens and amenities.
The siting decisions being made today related to long term care facilities, mental health facilities, social housing, recreation centres and firehalls, as well as land use and density decisions, and the delivery of programs and services, partnerships and grants, will all determine the fate of Victoria’s neighbourhoods and whether some become gentrified or ghettoized over the near and long term.
Poor investment decisions around the replacement of the recreation centre could leave the city with a stranded, underutilized asset that costs taxpayers heavily each year thereby laying unfair burdens on future generations.
Affordability considerations associated with the people using the recreation centre
Consider affordability of the facility and services to underserved:
- Go beyond the LIFE program
Consider value for money: Utilize this significant investment in social infrastructure to
- deliver on crime reduction and police savings or redirections ( the annual police budget is $26M or ¼ of City’s operating budget),
- improve social determinants of health for Victoria’s most vulnerable population, and
- enhance community connections and sense of wellbeing for marginalized populations (seniors, youth, newcomers).
Bundle amenities to reduce overall costs while maximizing community benefit:
- Gymnasiums and arts centres are profit centres and can help to subsidize the costs of valuable community assets like community kitchens and childcare to fulfill critical local needs
$1.6M/year in direct losses from the current facility are absorbed by Victoria taxpayers
- Could a partnership with a service agency (eg: YMCA/Native Friendship centre / ICA) reduce these losses and costs to taxpayers while delivering more services to a wider variety of people?
- If so, what critical community development and social planning needs could $1.6 M in annual operation savings be re-assigned towards?
SEEKING THE CITY’S COMMITMENT
DIRECT TO THE CRYSTAL POOL REPLACEMENT PROJECT:
1.Don’t build in scarce and valued public greenspace!
2.Bring an equity lens to siting, design, amenity selection, engagement, procurement, and evaluation to inform decisions and investment in community.
3.Bring an affordability lens to assess total cost of ownership, siting, amenity selection, operating costs, costs to taxpayers and users.
4.Invite potential partners and neighbourhood representatives to collaborate to align and help achieve these equity and affordability objectives.
5.Permanently table the current staff report with recommendation to site in Central Middle School and commit to retaining Crystal Pool north of Pandora street within walking distance of the people and neighbourhoods that will most benefit from it.
6.Rise and report on the failed negotiations with RG Properties to site Crystal Pool in the arena parking lot.
Embed Distributional, Procedural, Structural and Inter-generational Equity into the City’s DNA ( amend corporate policies guiding hiring, staff training and professional development, procurement and civic engagement).