Our Council meeting on Monday was an emotional roller-coaster. There was some good news and some great discussions about the future of reconciliation, measuring our OCP, and empowering diversity in the City on the Agenda, but we started with a challenging situation where decisions have real human impacts.
Remedial Action Order – 509 Eleventh Street
This may have been the most emotionally challenging situation I have experienced at Council. A home in the Brow neighbourhood is in a serious state of disrepair, and our Bylaws and Buildings staff are of the opinion that it constitutes a risk to occupants and an offence to the neighbourhood. After almost 5 years of working with the owner and incremental enforcement, staff came to Council to ask for permission to legally Order the owner to take action, or to take action as a City in the owner’s stead to protect human health.
The process here is laid out under the Community Charter, and Council must act rather like a judge in a semi-judicial process: a case is made by staff and the landowner is allowed to respond to that case, and we are able to act based on the evidence we hear.
I was convinced by the evidence that the place is not safe for human occupation, and I was satisfied that staff have taken sufficient, even extraordinary, measures to help this landowner bring his house in to compliance. Unsightly is one thing, but this goes well beyond neighbourhood standards of unsightliness, there is a real human health concerns here, we need to protect our residents, the neighbourhood, and our First Responders if they should need to respond to an emergency here – that is our job as a Council, and as a City. We had to act.
This process brought no joy, and there really is no good outcome except the landowner fixing his house and making it safe for the person who lives in it. There is a real risk here of the person living in the house becoming homeless, but there is also a real risk of the person becoming seriously ill or being killed just by living in this space. I hope our social service agencies can provide the supports necessary to help the resident, and after the Remedial Action Order process was completed here, Council moved to request staff act to assure that the resident and homeowner have access to supports available to them.
The following items were Moved on Consent:
Update on the Downtown Transportation Plan
Our Transportation Group is updating the traffic plan for Downtown. This isn’t about re-writing the Master Transportation Plan, but about finding spot improvements and local strategies to help the goals of the MTP be achieved in the Downtown neighbourhood. These is a public consultation process going on here (including a workshop next week), so if you have opinions about traffic in the Downtown, follow this link.
2018 City Grant Programs – Allocation of Funds
Every year, we give out almost $1 Million to community groups through our various grant programs. Most of this money comes from General Revenue, some comes from dedicated funds (i.e. parking fees and electronic billboard income). The applications for 2018 Grants are already in, but Council needs to approve the grant allocations (up to $950,000 this year, an increase of a little more than 3% over last year) before we start the work of telling most applicants that there isn’t enough money in the kitty for every request to be filled.
Engineering Users Fees and Utility Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7968, 2017
Back on November 6th, we reviewed Engineering Fees, and the proposed changes for 2018. This is the Bylaw that brings those changes into force. Council moved to approve this Bylaw for various Readings.
229 Eleventh Street: Proposed Rezoning to CD Zone to Permit Construction of a Duplex and Laneway House – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
Council moved to allow this project, which will bring some infill density to Brow of the Hill, to go to Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until after that hearing.
430 Boyd Street, 350 and 354 Stanley Street and an Unaddressed Parcel of Land Fronting on Boyd Street: Issue Notice to Consider Issuance of Development Variance Permit and Issue Development Permit
Council moved to allow this project, which will bring some more townhouse development to the Queensborough neighbourhood, to go to Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until after that hearing.
The following items were Removed From Consent for discussion:
Proposal for a Truth and Reconciliation Task Force
Staff proposed setting up a Task Force to guide the Reconciliation process that Council committed to earlier in the year. I moved instead that we take a slightly different path in bringing in some external guidance at this step. I have a bunch to say about this, and will save that for a subsequent blog post, because it isn’t a short discussion.
The short version borrows from ideas expressed by much wiser people in the community than me: we need to do this with intention, and do it right, and that requires us to be very thoughtful about the structures we use for conversation before we engage in conversation.
More to come.
Official Community Plan Implementation: Work Program for Endorsement
This was the first report of two for the evening that discussed the next steps in Official Community Plan implementation. It discusses how staff will track the changes in housing proposed in the new Land Use Plan to determine if we are achieving the goals of housing diversity we set out in the OCP. Staff will track projects for two years, and will track projects that may start but not be achieved, to determine what the barriers are to bringing more mixed density development on tap.
The appendix also reported on some policy work that staff is going to have to defer, simply for staff capacity reasons. This is frustrating, but a good reality check for Council – we are quick to suggest staff should do more things, are not so quick to recognize that we are a relatively small City will limited resources, and every new task delays other tasks.
My only concern (and I expressed this at Council) was the deferral of the development of a Short Term Rentals (read: AirBnB and VRBO) policies. I asked more than a year ago for this work to begin in the city, and I am not happy with waiting until after 2019 to address this issue. This is a fast-moving area, and with Vancouver recently implementing pretty restrictive rules, we are going to feel the force of this in our community sooner than we think.
As this issue is important an emergent, I asked staff to report back on the resources they need to make it happen, so we can have an open discussion about whether we want to spend that money, or are happy waiting.
Official Community Plan Monitoring and Evaluation Program
The other part of the OCP is the long list of policies and actions (aside from Land Use) that will move us towards the City we envision for 2040 and beyond. This report outlines the way we will assure the OCP isn’t another binder on a shelf, but is an active document that drives council and staff towards the goals the community placed the most value on.
Reporting out every 5 years on progress (at a timescale that makes OCP changes appropriate and manageable) and doing annual “updates” will provide accountability and transparency.
My only recommendation is that we think about structuring this reporting around a dashboard model, similar to the ones recently developed by Metro Vancouver. With a regularly-updated web dashboard, we can incorporate new data as it arrives, and make it public. This is also much easier to digest and share than having a report buried in a council package – as riveting as those may be.
Council moved to receive Correspondence:
Letter from Mayor Coté to the Board of Education, School District No. 40 dated November 10, 2017 regarding the Report from the May Day Task Force
The School District is currently engaging in a public consultation process around the May Day program. I have attended a meeting at the School Board, and heard much discussion about the topic in the community. Out of respect for the process the School District is working on, I am holding off on providing comments right now, other than this official correspondence Mayor and Council are sending to the District.
We then addressed the usual raft of Bylaws:
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (229 Eleventh Street) No. 7915, 2017
This Bylaw would make the zoning changes required to facilitate an infill density project in the Brow of the Hill. Council gave the Bylaw two readings. It will go to Public Hearing on January 29, 2018. C’mon out and let us know what you think.
Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7968, 2017
As discussed on November 6th, this bylaw that codifies the changes in engineering fees was given three readings.
Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw (Sign Bylaw) 7961, 2017
As discussed on November 6th, this bylaw that cleans up some language in our new Sign Bylaw was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land. Haven’t you seen the signs?
Housing Agreement (43 Hastings Street) Bylaw No. 7941, 2017
As discussed on November 6th, this bylaw that codifies the no-market supportive housing nature of the project on City land in the downtown is now the Law of the Land. Adjust your behavior as appropriate.
Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7964, 2017
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7967, 2017
Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 7965, 2017
Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 7963, 2017
These bylaws that make annual adjustments to various city fees, which were given three readings on November 6th, were adopted. Adjust your budgets accordingly.
Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 7962, 2017
As discussed on November 6th, this bylaw that gives staff the flexibility for limited borrowing to cover short-term cash needs is now the Law of the Land.
Finally, we addressed a piece of NEW BUSINESS:
Motion on Notice: Diversity Mandate for City Committees
This initiative, brought forward by Councilor Trentadue and some ass-kicking members of our community, is not timely, it is overdue. At almost every level, our local government is run by people who increasingly don’t live the broader experience of the members of our community. From Residents’ Associations to Council Committees to elected positions, the political voice in our community is dominated by middle class middle aged white guys. Like me.
One way to shift that conversation is to assure we seek diversity on Council Advisory Committees. These committees not only bring ideas and experience to Council, they often provide a “training ground” in how local government works for people interested in running for Council or other levels of government.
So Council moved to support Councillor Trentadue’s motion, and we will be expecting Staff to provide us a Diversity Mandate to assure that Council Advisory Committees reflect the diversity of our community before the next recruitment round.