Neighbourhood dispute resolved in accordance to the law, despite Keep Victoria Boring’s best efforts
A beloved fuchsia in Cadboro Bay was reluctantly trimmed by its owners on Nov. 21, despite a public campaign by a meme account to save the plant. The owner, Kathleen Shandley, claims the fuchsia nurtured thousands of migrating birds every year.
Fuchsias are important food sources for hummingbirds, and some hummingbird species winter in Victoria. The bylaw-violating fuchsia brought a plant-loving community together when the District of Saanich ordered it to be removed from the grass boulevard for violating a Saanich bylaw.
Section 4.1 of Saanich’s boulevard regulation bylaw states that landowners must ensure their boulevards, the space between the road and their property line, are accessible and that vegetation does not hinder pedestrians. This still applies to the rarely-used grass boulevard on Telegraph Bay Road, even though there is a fully paved sidewalk on the other side of the road.
Stapled to a nearby tree, a daily countdown noting the deadline set by Saanich was soon joined by other notes of support. A local Instagram meme account, Keep Victoria Boring, launched a campaign to save the fuchsia.
Keep Victoria Boring often pokes fun at Victoria citizens from a distance, and keeps a running commentary on the more flavourful aspects of the city and its residents. With the fuchsia, the account decided to intervene with its characteristically humorous way, calling people to fight “#fuchsiagate.”
Shandley says it all started when a passerby decided to lodge a complaint about the fuchsia blocking the grassy boulevard. Shandley tried to point out the paved sidewalk on the other side of the road, but that interaction marked the beginning of the end.
“She informed me that she shouldn’t have to cross the road if she doesn’t want to, and she started quoting the bylaws to me,” said Shandley.
It wasn’t long before Saanich bylaw enforcement gave Shandley the notice: the fuchsia had to be removed within a month, or else they would do it and bill her the expenses. It was then that Shandley decided to put up the sign with the countdown, to let the neighbours know that it wasn’t their choice to trim the plant.
In addition to posting a tribute video on their story after the fuchsia was trimmed, Keep Victoria Boring’s Instagram feed became the staging grounds for its followers. Multiple Instagram commenters called for the account owner to lock themselves to the fuchsia to prevent bylaw officers from cutting it, and some sent in emails to Saanich Council.
“It was amazing to see how many people cared so much about the fuchsia,” said the account in a statement to the Martlet. The account declined the Martlet’s interview requests.
Bill Dancer, Chair of the Parks and Trails Committee of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, said that they also received a complaint about the fuchsia. Dancer estimates that the Association receives six to seven sidewalk-related complaints every year.
Dancer confirmed that the fuchsia had grown across the grass boulevard and could be unsafe for anyone who chose to walk there instead of the paved sidewalk across the road. To solve the situation, Dancer suggested Shandley trim the fuchsia for it to grow up a tree instead.
“If you cut these things back in the winter they grow [back] up in the summer,” said Dancer, but he agrees with Shandley that the fuchsia had been undisturbed for some time.
Shandley alleges that the neighbourhood is full of non-conforming boulevards that violate Saanich’s bylaws. “It’s unfortunate that I was singled out after living here for 15 years,” said Shandley. “All it takes is one [complaint].”
The fuchsia has now been sufficiently chastised and in the end, the problem was easily resolved.
“It has been solved. You could walk along that sidewalk if you wish to walk that side,” said Dancer, though he personally would walk on the paved side. “Everybody [likes to] blames Saanich … but they are responsible. They have to react [to a complaint].”
As a final homage, Keep Victoria Boring left a replacement shrub next to the condemned plant, four days before it was trimmed to no longer block the boulevard. “It was very unexpected and touched my heart,” said Shandley.
Shandley says she will be planting the new fuchsia in her yard, far away from the boulevard, and hopes that the hummingbirds will continue to visit.