Ugh. What a terrible time we are in. I’ve been trying to step back a bit from social media right now, the chaos is a good time for people to listen to voices other than mine. But I’ve been doing these reports since I started on Council more than 5 years ago, and as long as the City is doing work and Council is making decisions that impact your community, I feel the need to put these out.
As always, you should read the Agenda and Reports or go to the recording if you want the full story. Now more than ever, you need to be aware that everyone brings their personal filters to information, sometimes even unintentional ones, and that includes me. Every one of us has blinders in our view, and by their very purpose we cannot see them. It takes effort to understand the impact they are having on our own outlook. So here goes.
COVID-19 Draft Recovery Plan
This is our report on planning the City is doing to support the BC Restart Plan. It includes proposed timing for the reopening of City facilities, re-start of suspended City programs, and an outline of what kind of guidance will be used to inform safety protocols needed to make public spaces safe for residents and staff.
There is a bit of prioritization on assuring services essential for vulnerable populations, such as planning for opening Moody Park Outdoor pool and cooling centers in the event we have a heat wave. Some other facilities will be more of a challenge, and will need more work to fulfill safety and comfort requirements for users. Some will have to wait until the Fall (depending on what the pace of change is in the Provincial Health Authority requirements), and the QtoQ Ferry is especially challenging, and may not be running again until 2021.
There is more detail in this report, it is worth a read. Also, recognize this is the best laid plan as of the end of May, as the Province is entering Phase 2 of the recovery. It will surely be adjusted as the recovery is either accelerated or slowed depending on how the Pandemic evolves.
The following items were Moved on Consent:
Inter-Municipal Transportation Network Systems (TNS) Business Licence Bylaws
I am still not happy with the damaging impacts to community and workers’ rights that are represented by the current structure of TNS like Uber, but there is nothing a local government in BC can practically do to stop them, and the only hope we have to regulate and manage some of these externalities is through business licensing. I think the Inter-Municipal Business License is the practical model to do this. We are a little late to getting this Bylaw approved here in New West, more due to our work load than any specific political direction, but we have a Bylaw matching 23 others already established across the region ready to test in an Opportunity to be Heard on June 22. C’mon out (virtually) and tell us what you think.
427 Fourth Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Rear Yard Setback
How refreshing to be looking at Development Variance Permits again. This heritage home on a uniquely-shaped lot in Queens Park that was strangely subdivided more than 100 years ago. The owner wishes to put an attachment on the house, but to continue the existing lines of the house, this requires a variance to be 7 feet closer to the rear fence than permitted (11 feet, as the existing house is, as opposed to 18 feet). At this point, we are issuing official notice that we intend to review this Variance request at the June 22 meeting. Let us know if you have concerns or comments.
1065 Quayside Drive: Development Variance Permit to Vary Off-Street Parking Requirements
Try to follow this one. There is an E-Comm 911 antenna on a high-rise in the Quayside. It (naturally) requires an emergency back-up generator. They need ot replace the generator, an the new one has bigger footprint than the old one. Its installation requires the removal of a parking spot, which is something counted in our zoning bylaws. This building, it turns out, is already 14 parking spots “deficient” according to our Bylaws (it has 126 spots and 10 visitor spots for 98 units) so the replacement of the generator requires a Development Variance to formalize the current deficiency of (now) 15 parking spaces. Council hereby issues official notice that we intend to review this Variance request at the June 22 meeting. Let us know if you have concerns or comments.
327 East Columbia Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Off-Street Parking
There is a Daycare development in a commercial building next to Sapperton Park that wishes to open with fewer off-street parking spaces that required under the zoning Bylaw, requiring a variance. Once again, this is just official notice that we intend to review this Variance request at the June 22 meeting. You can send us your opinions.
General Principles for Recommending Waiving of a Public Hearing and Consideration of Public Hearings for Three Bylaws: 909 First Street, 45 East Eighth Avenue, and Miscellaneous Zoning Amendment Bylaws
Public Hearings are difficult right now (they are often difficult at the best of times, and horrendous in the worst of times, but that’s another rant). Council has generally been in support of waiving some Public Hearings at this time, due to the difficulty of managing them and the need to provide procedural fairness to applicants in the City. But procedural fairness works both ways, and changing how hearings work requires that we develop a clear set of guidelines of when waiving is and is not appropriate. This report sets them out for Council approval.
That is, if the application is consistent with City policy or strategic priorities already established by Council, if the applicant responds effectively to public and staff feedback in reviews, and the proposal is consistent with the OCP, then Council will be asked to waive that hearing. All three hurdles need to be passed.
It is important to note that the Public Hearing is only one form of review of any project. Residents and other impacted parties have several other ways available to them to comment to Mayor and Council about whether they like or dislike any particular project. The Public Hearing also comes very late in the process, where potentially better forms of engagement happen earlier when clear issues or changes to the project can be addressed more effectively by applicants, or directed by staff.
There were two applications caught mid-process when the whole COVID thing came down, and we will not waive those Public Hearings, but will pilot a virtual Public Hearing process.
2019 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report
The City collects more than 1,000 water samples from around our water system every year, and sends them for analysis of E.coli, coliform, HPC, chlorine residuals, metals, temperature, turbidity, and byproducts of the disinfection process (DBPs, THMs, and HAAs). We annually report out on this sampling program. The water is good.
New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre (NWACC) – Project Status
There is more to talk about here, and I am sure this deserves a follow-up blog post, but here are the short version details for now. The City did not get an ICIP Grant for the Canada Games Pool Replacement. As per our earlier discussions about how much pool the City can afford without this senior government funding report, we are now concentrating on the 8-lane 50m pool model (with a second recreation pool) that is still significantly larger than the existing Canada Games Pool, but not the 10-Lane pool the Hyack Swim Club would have liked to see built.
We are ready to tender construction documents, but there is significant uncertainty in both the construction market and the City’s medium-term financial status due to the COVID crisis. For that reason, we are not taking the next step in sending this out for tender until at least the end of the summer, when we have a better handle on the financial status. At this time, this is the prudent thing to do.
Community Events and Festivals during COVID-19
This will be a summer with fewer events. No parade, no bike race, and if there is a revamped “Fridays on Front”, it will be later in the summer, and we wouldn’t know what it will look like yet. However, there is still going to be some activity around Canada Day. No fireworks, and distributed events as opposed to big gatherings, but something.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
Public Engagement Strategy on Recovery Planning and Post-Pandemic Vision
To help inform the above-referenced recovery planning, the City is launching a public engagement initiative to connect with residents about the shape of our recovery plan, with an effort to identify inequities in how we have engaged in the past.
This is actually a natural follow-up to the Public Engagement Strategy the City developed a few years ago, but have not until recently fully funded and resourced. There were some plans this spring to concentrate on Climate Emergency response as an opportunity to do more directed engagement, but as we have moved so much of this resource over to COVID response that it seems there is little staff capacity to do this.
This is going to take some resources to do right, and will eat up some engagement bandwidth (i.e. the public can only engage so much with the City before they get back to the other things they need to do in their lives), so finding the balance between this initiative and existing Climate Emergency engagement initiative is the question. And one we will continue to work on.
COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Speaking of moving resources over the COVID response, here is our weekly report on what our task forces have been up to. As with last week, there is a gradual transition to maintenance and recovery going on, after so much exceptional and amazing work has been done by the staff of the City.
Sidewalk/Street Patios and Parklets to Support Business Recovery
Patios and Parklets are getting fast tracked, both because they support the economic recovery of our hard-hit commercial and restaurant sectors, and because they support the Streets for People motion to re-think how we use our streets and sidewalks to accommodate physical distancing and the needs of active transportation users.
There will be a fast-racked “temporary” application process for those who want to set up immediately, which will cover them until the end of October and get them through the busy summer season and what we hope is the bulk of the recovery time. This coincides with recent changes in Provincial regulation to permit alcohol service on expanded patio areas as a temporary measure. There are several changes here, including amending our Zoning Bylaw to allow them to repurpose parking on their own land to patio space, if that is the path they want to take. There would also be an opportunity for establishments to re-purpose street parking in front of or attached to their business to full service patios.
We are also accelerating the installation of public parklets in select locations. These would not have “restaurant service”, but would support take-out seating. We will work with the adjacent restaurants of food service businesses to have them help with day-to-day maintenance (trash clearing, for the most part) of the parklets.
The big take-away point here is that the City is doing everything we can to accelerate this this process and make the most out of recent changes of provincial regulations – we want to get out of the way and let businesses find out how to make this work best for them.
Stage 1 Sustainable Transportation Zoning Bylaw Amendments for Two Readings – Bylaw 8184, 2020
Land use policy is transportation policy, and vice versa. Our Zoning Bylaw includes regulations that directly impact sustainable transportation opportunities. It has been a while since we did this type of review to assure those regulations are concordant with our Master Transportation Plan goals and principles. This first stage will be improve the clarity and administration of those Bylaws, future stages will bring more significant changes in how we regulate parking requirements.
We then went through a slightly less rhythmic on-line version of the Bylaw reading process, including Adopting these Bylaws:
Sidewalk Café Encroachment Amendment Bylaw No. 8204, 2020
This Bylaw that supports patios as talked about above was given three readings adopted by Council. Get your sunglasses out!
Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1935 Eighth Ave) Bylaw No. 7846, 2019 and
Heritage Designation (1935 Eighth Ave) Bylaw No. 7847, 2019
These Bylaws that support subdivision of a residential lot in the West End and permanent protection of the heritage house in the lot were given Third Reading back in 2019, and are now adopted, making them the law of the land and forever preserving a single family house 300m from a Skytrain station in 2020.
And that is all we have for now. Take care of each other folks.