Ask Pat: Taxes – the western suburbs edition

westvandude asks—

I read your property tax comparison article as I was looking to compare West Vancouver to City of Vancouver taxes. For instance if we say what is the total tax paid on a $2.5 or $3 million house in either community (so property tax, garbage, sewer, water, etc) as I always thought City of Vancouver was more expensive…. when you compare Vancouver streets potholes and snow removal it seems Vancouverites are getting ripped off. Where would I find a comparison for total taxes for same value houses?

Hey, wait, this isn’t a New West question! It also sounds like you want me to answer one of those questions that a few minutes on Google could answer. That link I just used is a little old, but fresher information is pretty easy to find. For example:

Go to the City of Vancouver Property Taxes webpage, and it gives you a pretty good summary of what your Mil Rates are, and where they go:

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Unfortunately, no such page exists that I can find on the West Vancouver property taxes webpage.

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To find the Mil Rates, you need to dig a bit through the Bylaws until you come upon Bylaw No. 4885, 2016, where the Mil Rates Rates are set out:

taxes3

If we can ignore Metro, School, and other property taxes that don’t go to the City and are set provincially or regionally, on a house assessed at $2.5 Million in 2016, you paid $3,700 to West Vancouver (2.5M/1,000 x 1.4758), and $3,900 to Vancouver (2.5/1,000 x 1.56168). Of course, we also have to, just for a moment, put aside the absurdity of the phrase “$2.5 Million house in West Vancouver”.

Utilities are more complicated. West Van charges Quarterly for water and sewer. Water has a $60/qtr base charge, and rates that go from $1.15 to $1.93 per cubic metre of water depending on how much you use. Sewerage further costs you $32/qtr plus another $2 per cubic metre of water you use.

Vancouver bills for water on a Ternary basis, with about a $31 base charge, and rates that go from $0.95 to $1.20 per cubic metre of water based on season. Sewage costs a further $0.87 per cubic metre of water use. So it sure looks like for most users, Vancouver water rates are quite a bit lower, but it depends completely on your use. If you have typical household use, Vancouver is several hundred dollars cheaper per year.

Notably, West Vancouver charges homeowners a “Drainage Levy”, which is $400 per year for a typical home. Vancouver does not have a charge like this. That extra $400 charge easily exceeds the difference in property taxes between the Cities. And also points out how the deeper you dig into the comparisons between how different cities pay for their public services, you discover that simply saying “Vancouver has higher taxes than West Vancouver” is a bit of a meaningless phrase. This is why I tried to compare what cities collect in taxes per capita, using data normalized a bit by the provincial government. West Van looks pretty expensive when you look at it that way.

Finally, about the roads and pothole thing, you can look at the 2016 West Van budget, and see they have about $100M in revenue every year, and spend about $4.5M on all engineering services (about 2/3 of that spent on roads). Vancouver’s 2016 Budget showed $1,260 Million in revenue and spending of about $75 Million in all engineering services – so about a 33% higher proportion of revenues. Of course, the roads that Vancouver spends money fixing are way more likely to be used regularly by a West Vancouver resident than vice versa. Also note that Vancouver has (almost) the most roads by area and the most road lane kilometres per capita than any City in British Columbia, where West Vancouver has relatively sparse roads. So we are, once again, comparing apples to pineapples here.

New West taxes? We are about average per-household in the region, and are well below average on a per-capita basis. And the potholes this year are terrible, despite the $4.5 Million spent on asphalt annually. That December snow event was pretty hard on asphalt, and that is going to cost us.

Ask Pat: $1 Transit?

Terran asked—

Hey Pat,
Hope I’m allowed to still ask questions even though I don’t live in New Westminster anymore. (I’ll be back once affordability comes back)

Translink recently started asking about transit fares again. This was a long time promise for the compass card that we could better manage the system. The survey is quite overly simplistic but that’s not my question more concern.

My question stems for the comments below the Facebook post they have for the survey. The idea of $1 transit fares comes up. Considering only ~35% of the budget comes from transit fares could this actually be a realistic option? I know I would switch from using my car if I could get to work for only a $1. Would the increased ridership even come close to off setting the huge loss in revenue? Is there even a way to know?

Sure, I’ll give you one free question since you used to live in New West. Wait – was that your question?

As you mention (and I talked about a bit a few weeks ago), TransLink is going through a Fare Review process right now. This is likely in response to the integration of the Compass Card as much as to a newfound opportunity for the next stage of system growth, as the Mayor’s Plan for a decade of capital investment may be back on track.

This review is not intended to boost or reduce fare revenues, only to re-jig the system to make it work better; to make it more “fair” or more user-friendly. The working model is that any adjustment would result in about the same revenue from fares, it will just be collected in different ways. The survey therefore was designed to collect people’s feelings about fare structures such as whether people who travel farther should pay more, or the entire system should be a flat fee, but is basically silent on what the actual flat fee or distance charge would be.

What you are suggesting is not just a “flat fee” model, but one that sets the fee quite a bit lower than it is now, in hopes that it will boost ridership. Considering the purpose of the survey, what would that rate have to be?

TransLink receives a little more than 1/3 of its operating revenue from the farebox, or about $510 Million of a $1.4 Billion budget. Aside from roads and bridges and all the other things TranLink does, they annually have about 240 Million journeys on the multi-modal transit system, or 360 million boardings (obviously, some portion of journeys results in more than one boarding, as a person may transfer from SeaBus to the SkyTrain, or from one bus to another on a single journey). So depending on whether you want to issue transfers or not, you would need to charge $2.15 per journey, or $1.45 per boarding.

So a dollar won’t be enough, but would this simple and cheap fare boost ridership enough to make up for it? At current service levels, there would need to be a doubling in the number of journeys on the system, or a 45% increase in boardings. Anyone riding a SkyTrain during rush hour or standing on a 106 recognizes this is not viable without a significant increase in service levels, which would require investments in the capital part of operations (buying more trains and buses), not just increased operational costs.

Perhaps there is some wiggle room in the idea of flat $2 fares per journey, one might speculate that this would provide a 7% increase in ridership to make up for the lost revenue per ride, but that brings us back to the fairness question: should a person riding the 106 from Columbia Street to Uptown pay the same amount as someone riding SkyTrain from Surrey to Downtown Vancouver? Which type of journey are we trying to incentivize more? These are the questions the current review is trying to address, even at a relatively simple level.

Calculating an optimum fare, one that incentivizes use but also provides enough ridership to maintain a system, is some difficult calculus, even putting aside the political implications of increasing the various tax subsidies to the system (or the massive tax subsidies to the alternatives). I don’t think we are going to get there through this fare system review.

And seriously, we really need to talk about how much you are spending on your car now. If $1 fares would sway you, perhaps you might want to crunch the numbers and see where $2.15 fares put you, financially. The sad reality is that, regardless of how much we subsidize cars, they are still surprisingly expensive to operate if you do the actual math.

Ask Pat: Rapid fire

Wingate asks—

So my condo went up 31 percent so i can expect another increase over and above the percentage increase council votes approved? My net taxes went up 18 percent couple years ago in 1 year. Can you tell me the projected loss for the Anvil centre this year? Also how much last year? When will I be able to pick up copy this years budget at city hall. I did read some good news recently, Ford is going to make hybrid Ford Explorer police vehicle in 2019, so our police can enjoy the comfort and safety of a large SUV and the tax payer can save money on fuel. (Is the propane the city is using exempt from the translink tax on gasoline, hence the savings in fuel)

I hope people will use that Ask Pat button up there to the right to get a little more feedback on how the City works, or to answer a question that is grinding at them. My goal is to help people feel more engaged in New Westminster, and at the same time provide me some content ideas for the blog. I haven’t really been able to keep up with them as they arrive, and there are still a few the queue, so let’s see if I can get through this one quickly.

Question 1: Yes, becasue the City-wide average increase was about 28.5%, so you should expect your taxes to increase 2.5% plus whatever increase Council votes upon. See details here.

Question 2: No. See more details here.

Question 3: No. ibid.

Question 4: Not sure if they print paper copies anymore, but our 5-year Financial Plan for 2017-2021 was officially passed on March 6, and should be available on our Financial Reporting webpage.

Question 5: I don’t think that is a question.

(Question 6: Yes. The Gas Tax collected by the province to to fund Translink operations is only charged on gasoline and diesel)

Ask Pat: Anvils and elephants

Duke of Belyea asks—

Hi Pat, perhaps the notion of the Anvil Center being a white elephant could be dispelled if you or the City could show the actual revenue/expense numbers for the facility.

First, on the premise, I disagree with you. Second, on the solution, I wish it was that simple.

I do not think critics of the Anvil Centre (or indeed critics of Council) will ever be convinced that it is anything but a white elephant. Specific residents of Coquitlam will write occasional long-winded factually-challenged screeds to the Record for some time, using the Anvil as an example of New Westminster’s failures, regardless of any success seen around or within the Anvil. That is just political bullshit theatre we need to live with, and facts will not change it, because the Anvil is more than building, it is a totem around which previous elections were fought and lost. Some people never stop fighting yesterday’s battles.

The premise further relies on measuring the success or failure of Anvil on a balance sheet of effort-in & revenue-out. I simply don’t see it that way. To explain that, we need to clarify what the Anvil is, and what a City does.

For one building, The Anvil Centre has purposes to fill a long paragraph (noting, for full disclosure, that I was not on Council when these conversations and decisions were made):

The Office Tower was conceived as an economic driver for Downtown, but since the City sold it off for more than it cost to build (success?), the City no longer had much say in how it is operated. The owners have every right to set their rent and manage their incentives any way they see fit, regardless of whether it serves the larger purposes of the City. The restaurant space is finally leased, and although later than we may have liked, I think we will have an operating restaurant that fills a niche in the City, brings attention to Columbia and 8th, and becomes a revenue driver for the City. I’m not sure how you measure the success of the shift of the Museum, Archives, and Lacrosse Hall of Fame to this venue. They have been relocated from various other locations to a central cultural hub, which also freed up space in those other venues. The New Media Gallery has quickly become one of the region’s most important artistic venues, drawing visitors and raves from around the region. Conference services are on or ahead of target for bookings and revenues, the program at the Theatre is (slowly) coming along, and the numerous arts and culture programs on the 4th floor are similarly starting to fulfill the original vision for activating the Arts in our City. All of these tangible purposes are wrapped up in the larger benefit of turning a windfall (the DAC funding) into a community asset to replace a failing retail strip at the renewed gateway to our central business district.

This brings us to your solution to the inevitable political push-back: a simple spreadsheet that outlines the costs and recoveries from the Anvil. I suppose it is doable, as the City’s Financial Plan and backing documents are openly reported, and every input and output is buried in those spreadsheets somewhere. But it would be really complicated, simply because the Anvil is not a single entity operating separate from the rest of the City.

The museum and archives have always cost money to operate; moving them to the Anvil doesn’t change that. The old Hall of Fame site is now home to a very popular and revenue-generating recreation program: is that success part of the Anvil, though it is located at the Centennial Community Centre? The City’s Arts Programmer works out of the Anvil, but also administers the City’s Public Art program, which is funded through a combination of fees, sales revenues, and taxes – how does that balance sheet overlap with Anvil’s? Even the Conference Services, which are a revenue-generation aspect of the Anvil, share resources with other departments (especially the theatre and our catering contractor), and rely on an integrated operation to be successful. There are staff who spend part of their time doing Anvil-related things, and part of their time working at other facilities, just as the toilet paper and photocopier toner at Anvil are bought as part of City-wide operations. The tax revenue for the office tower is higher than it was when the space was a one-story retail space, but that tax enters general revenue, and needs to be measured against opportunity cost if a private developer had taken over that site… the list goes on.

I guess it sounds like I am creating a list of excuses of why not, instead of addressing your original concern. Lyrical gentlemen from Coquitlam will accuse me of “spinning” the facts here for political reasons – the same way they would accuse any spreadsheet produced of doing the same thing. So if you want a spreadsheet to solve a political problem, I suggest it won’t work. So why spend valuable staff time producing it?

I tend to agree with one idea buried in your premise, and maybe an answer to that last question: we need to find a better way to share our financial information in the City. Although all reporting is “open”, I am afraid our efforts towards “transparency” is a little clouded by the complicated way that Public Service Accounting Standards are regulated and performed. Even as a City Councillor exposed to this stuff all day, I am sometimes challenged to create connections between line items in spreadsheets. There is a lot of Accountant Talk here, and with all due respect to the profession, they are no better than others at explaining to lay people just what the hell they are doing. I’m not sure what the answer is from a public engagement viewpoint, but suspect (hope?) we can do better. I’m just not sure it will ever be enough to satisfy some Letter-to-the-Editor authors, and maybe that shouldn’t be our goal. However, we do need to find ways to translate our financial reporting so residents and businesses can be confident that their money is being spent wisely.

I am pretty sure of one thing: any honest accounting would reveal the City spends more money on operations at the Anvil than it receives in revenue from Anvil operations. Just as it spends more money on the Canada Games Pool than revenue earned, or the all-weather playing field at Queens Park, or the Queensborough Community Centre, or the Library. I suppose there is a discussion that could be had about which of these operations community assets would need to show a financial profit to be considered “successful” in the City, but I don’t think that is where you were going with this question.

I also think there are improvements we can do to make Anvil run better, especially in opening up the first floor to more public use and making the entire centre more inviting. That is an ongoing discussion, and one very much worth having.

A modest proposal…

We all just lost an hour sleep. It makes us grumpy, large-data-set-grinding nerds tell us it causes a measurable increase in accidents, parents have to manage cycle-conditioned children. Many question the reasoning of it all.

Some say the archaic practice has to be done away with, despite alleged energy efficiency gains and whatever agrarian benefits might have brought us the concept of “saving” daylight with our watches. I am not one of those, but might humbly suggest adapting of how we practice the fall-backward spring-forward ritual dance.

I hate the end of daylight savings, because suddenly it is dark on the way home from work, and I have to dig my bike lights out before my commute – the most sure sign that summer is over. However, this is really a product of the tilt of the planet, not our artificial mucking with sun-clock synch. It would happen if we didn;t switch clocks, just sooner. That is hardly a reason to hate daylight savings.

The reality is that most people prefer falling back, because we get that extra hour of sleep. We are a society of underslept, overworked drones feeding an unrelenting God we call “the Economy”, and love an extra hour of respite whenever we can get it. Despite the gloomy weather ahead, we all take that hour of sleep as a wonderful gift (ignoring the Marshamllow Test implications of it all).

This is what caused me to think that the problem with springing forward is the loss of sleep. We cannot afford to lose sleep in this frantic lifestyle. So why do we?

The simple change would be to shift the “leap forward” from 2:00am on a Sunday to 4:00pm on a Friday. That way, the weekend comes 1 hour earlier for everyone. 1 less hour of waking (and working) means we will enter spring more refreshed and better slept, not the opposite. Who isn’t ready to get off work and have a beer at 4:00 on a Friday in early March? Bonus less bike light need.

Or, alternately, instead of going on the internet to complain about losing an hour of sleep, people could just go to bed an hour earlier. That would work, too.

More on setting rules

A little expansion on my last past about the election, and my talking about it here.

I received a bit of social media feedback, mostly positive, but also including a bit of criticism from someone in the community I respect immensely about being too political or partisan on my blog. They like the council updates and community stuff, but didn’t want to have to sift through partisan attacks and negativity.

Frankly, I don’t know how to respond to that, except to say sorry.

I try to use this blog as a bit of a community service, to report out on things happening in the City, but I also try to make it clear this is my voice and my opinion. This is not official communications from the City or anyone else, nor is this an official duty of my City Councillor job. It is something I do because I like it, and because I think it helps me to a better job as a City Councillor.

Because of that, I am perhaps a little more selfish about it than I would be in most things. I think I have tapered off some of the more political stuff since I got elected, partly because of time commitments, partly because I need to be more aware of a wider audience, and that I have been trusted with a bit of a Bully Pulpit (in the Roosevelt sense of the word “bully”, although some would argue a fear of the more modern usage as well…)

That caution aside, I still feel the urge to shout from this pulpit at times. Often times. There are issues like the Massey Tunnel replacement, our failing ambulance service, fighting climate change and homelessness and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, that are important to me, important to our City and the region. These conversations are inevitably political, and inevitably partisan. I cannot not talk about them, nor can I pretend I think they are being properly addressed by the current government in Victoria.

Arguably, by not talking about important issues like this, or taking a milquetoast approach to them, I am failing to show the kind of leadership and outspokenness that got me elected in the first place. Some of my regular readers (Hi Bart!) have even suggested I have stepped too far back form the edge since getting elected, that I am getting soft. I honestly have no idea where the middle ground is here, but I am reluctant to spend too much time searching for it, because life is always more fun out by the edge.

So if reading partisan political discussion here is not to your liking, I recommend you skip past those posts. You can always skim down to the more municipal events type posts.

However, I would respectfully also ask you to consider why reading an opinion you don’t agree with, especially from someone you otherwise enjoy reading, causes you discomfort. We need to keep our eyes and our ears open to the people on the other side of the partisan aisle, because sometimes, every so often, they have an idea worth hearing.

Ask Pat: The Sub

Eric asks—

Ahoy Capt. Re: Das Sub

Great the Quayside playground is up for a needed rebuild. Has “what do we do with the submarine” come up?

After all this item has quietly slipped into historic artefact/ community heritage resource status.

We all know it came from Expo ’86. What might not be as well known: it was from a West Edmonton Mall attraction (at the time the mall had more working subs than the Cdn. navy); at Expo it was part of the brilliant public art piece Highway ’86 by James Wise of SITE, a cutting edge design firm all us young architects were in awe of.

The sub was the largest of dozens of transportation, including a tricycle and an aeroplane, all painted matte grey and set on an undulating grey asphalt “road”.

How about we hand the sub over to the Public Art Cttee. to reprise/resurface it in a new location? Our local transpo crowd – including a certain councillor- might get right into it.

Yes, the topic of saving or moving the semi-Sub has come up. Staff have even spent a bit of time looking at potential options. However, at the risk of sounding like a boo-bird, I need to point out some of the significant technical challenges staff have related to me about trying to save and/or move the Sub.

The Sub can’t stay where it is. The storm drainage pipe under it needs to be excavated and replaced, that is not an optional thing, but something the City needs to get done before compete failure of the pipe and related flooding. Try trying to remove the sub in one piece presents several challenges (not to mention the unknown unknowns, to borrow a phrase). It will need to be separated from the foundation built to support it, and the entire concrete-over-steel structure would have to be lifted and moved, which if not done with great care (read: expense) may end the entire “in one piece” part of the discussion.

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The Submarine itself would need extensive restoration if it was to be made a permanent art installation, as the steel is not in great shape based on the concrete delamination and spalling – the piece was built for a 6-month installation 30 years ago. The modifications of it to install it in the park (removal of the wings, installation of the railing) probably didn’t help, nor did the various coats of paint that are now peeling off of, regardless is whether the concrete overcoast comes with it or not. We currently have no budget for, and have not even had evaluated, the form of this restoration, however safe to say it will be significant.

We have nowhere to put the submarine. If we remove it, we would need to find a place to store it where it can be protected from the elements, and where restoration work can happen. Unless a generous benefactor with spare warehouse space was to come along, I’m not sure where we can do this.

Finally, and this is, unfortunately, the biggest issue with all of the above – we have very little time to get the pipe replacement work done. As much of the drainage involves an excavation within the wetted area of the river, the work needs to be done within a “fisheries window” – a short period of time when Fisheries and Oceans Canada have given us permission to do the work in order to minimize the disruption of fisheries habitat and the injury of fish. Again, this is not something we have any control over, and that is creating a very, very tight timeline for the work, and it will be starting very soon. An extra week or two to design, coordinate and execute a potentially delicate removal plan for a piece we have no long-term plans for would be perilous. Never mind trying to find the (estimated – with significant contingency) tens of thousands of dollars to do the removal work.

As for the Heritage value, there already was a preliminary assessment of the Sub. The value is considered very limited and “sentimental”, but not representing a significant heritage artifact. Its provenance is not New Westminster, and it is separated from its context. Although there are legends about a connection to West Edmonton Mall, in reality the submarine was the only machine of the 200 that made up the Highway 86 installation that wasn’t a real, operating machine before it was installed. It is a semi-sub; half of a fake boat. The “U” in this U-boat stands for “Unecht”. You get the message.

That said, on kitsch value alone I’m not opposed to the idea, and wish we had more time to allow someone passionate about such a plan to cook up a solution to the above concerns. Problem is, this project has been discussed and on the books for many months (including a few public consultation rounds and public meetings), and the topic of saving the submarine has not been put forward as an important component of the engineering work or playground replacement. I also touched bases with a few people in the Publci Art realm, and they were… underwhelmed. Unfortunately, we are now well past the eleventh hour, and jeopardizing the timeline and budget of the planned work for the site at this point would be irresponsible.

So in sumary, I’m going to suggest this is an interesting idea, likely impractical, definitely costly, and probably undoable considering the pressures on the City to get the engineering work at the Quayside done. I would suggest the submarine is finally heasded off towards the sunny horizon it has pointed at for more than a generaiton: the metal recycling and junkyards south of the Fraser.

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Ground Rules

It is election time in British Columbia. The writ has not, technically, been dropped, but campaigning has been going on for quite a while. Arguably, the current government has done nothing but campaign for the last 4 years, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. In this light, I thought I would throw together a bit of a pre-campaign blog post to tell my loyal readers (Hi Mom!) and anyone else what to expect from me here.

Now, more than ever, I am partisan. This blog post will be including much partisan content in the coming months. This election matters to the future of our region and our community, and there is no way I can stay silent or disinterested in the result. I will expand on this further between now and May 9, but I can summarize my feelings in one paragraph:

The current government has failed to address the issues that are most important to me, as a citizen and as a person trying to make my community better. Their failures include the silly Transit Referendum and the shameless waste of billions of dollars on unnecessary bridges, violation of modern urban planning principles, against the desires of the very communities they are meant to serve, and in opposition to established regional and community plans. Their failures include 4 years of fiddling around the edges as the housing affordability and homelessness crises exploded across the region, including their recent attempts to blame the problem on local governments who have been busting their asses (and budgets) to fill in for a senior government failure on a subject that is clearly, constitutionally, Provincial jurisdiction. They have failed to develop any kind of vision for the future of the Province, dumping resources and time into one pet project (Massey Bridge) or another (Site C) with no cohesive vision for how these short-term expenses will result in long-term strength in a post-carbon economy. Say what you want about the LNG, at least it was a (failed) vision. And then there is the corruption…

So I am going to be partisan on this blog, and call out the BC Liberals on their failures. I will, however, endeavor to be respectful towards the people involved (as hard as that is when talking about corruption – which we need to talk about this election, often and repeatedly). They are politicians, but they are also people, and I have to trust they truly believe the lies they are telling. However, I will not spare criticism of their policies or bad decisions.

But yesterday was International Women’s Day, and that makes me want to make one more point.

When a woman serves in politics, she faces a completely different type of criticism, especially in the Social Media age. It seems the more powerful she becomes, the more criticism of her includes misogynist, sexist, and offensive language. I was myself accused last election of being misogynist because I dared to suggest the Premier wasn’t very smart when it comes to public policy, which launched me into a slightly too-long and too-mansplainy response.

So without getting too deep into it again, I just want to say that we, as a province, as a social media community, and a planet, need to point out misogynist language in the election cycle, whether it is pointed at our allies or opponents. I have already seen way too much use of language to criticise Premier Clark that would never be applied to a man in the same role. We need to, especially, point out and criticize misogynist language when it is directed at our opponents, and we need to recognize that pointing out a misogynist attack does not constitute support for the positions of the politician who was attacked.

Ugh, Facebook, why you gotta be like that? Call anyone this election a “bitch”, and I’m unfollowing you.

Keep it clean, folks, no hitting below the belt. Return to your corners, and come out fighting. Let’s get us a government that cares about the people of the province.

Council – March 6, 2017

We had quite a long agenda on the March 6th Council Meeting, although a large number of items on that agenda went by on Consent. It is worth looking at least at the table of contents to see all the things we *didn’t* talk about.

The evening began with two very made-in-New Westminster events: the selection of the 2017 May Queen and Royal Suite, then a discussion of design guidelines for the proposed Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area, which will be going to public consultation, so I won’t go through them here.

The following items were moved on Consent:

City of New Westminster Public Art Plan Development
The City has a nascent Public Art program, funded through a reserve fund, overseen by a Public Art Advisory Committee, and has become more sophisticated in how it manages the role of introducing art to our public spaces. However, we don’t have a well-developed plan or strategy to look at the program holistically, which limits us to ad-hoc decision making when it comes to installing pieces.

Council approved the plan to develop a Public Art Plan for the City to synchronize it with the broader Art Strategy for the City.

Request from Hyack Festival Association to re-allocate 2017 Festival Grant funding awarded for Hyack Grand Prix to 2017 Parade Float
The Hyack Festival Association is working through some of the details of their evolving festival in May, and have come up with some interesting events to bolster their work on the Hyack Parade and all of Hyack Week. As they are pushing their envelope a little bit to make the week better for the community, I am happy to give them the flexibility to adjust how they use the funds granted to them under the Festival Grants to make everything work better. Notably, they expect to save some money on a slightly stripped-down Hyack Grand Prix event, and re-allocate it to the Parade and Float program. This is not an expansion of their Grant or an exceedance of the Festival Grant budget, but a shifting between events.

Community Heritage Commission Resignation and Appointment
The CHC changed meeting schedules, and as a result one member was no longer able to serve due to conflicts. Another applicant from the 2016 call has therefore been asked to step in. Council moved to appoint Lynn (2015 New Westminster Citizen of the Year) Radbourne to the CHC.

Moody Park Residents’ Association Representative on the Neighbourhood Traffic Advisory Committee
The NTAC is a different kind of Council Advisory Committee, as it is comprised of appointees from the City’s 10 Residents’ Associations and the Quayside Community Board. Council does, however, need to approve the appointee offered by the RA, which we just did for the Moody Park RA representative.

Restorative Justice Committee Amendment to Terms of Reference
DoneThe Terms of this Council Advisory committee was amended to include a space for a representative of the New Westminster Victim Assistance Association
Board. Makes sense.

1319 Third Avenue (Steel and Oak): Increase of Seating Capacity
This is part of a long process Steel & Oak has gone through to expand their business plan within the strange, new world of Craft Brewing in BC. The industry is exciting, although it does tend to run up against archaic rules and bureaucracy at every level of government – City not exempted. Part of this is puritan laws around alcohol production and sales, part of it is inflexible ideas in City Planning about separating “manufacturing” and “industry” from commercial and retail areas. Council moved to allow an expansion in their permit to allow 30 seats in their current space. I may have a whole lot more to say about this in a future blog post, if I find time to write it.

700 Royal Avenue (Douglas College): Development Variance Permit No. DVP00623 to vary Sign Bylaw requirements – Consideration of Issuance
Proposed new signage at Douglas College is completely in scale and compatible with their building, but does not meet the strict guidelines of our Sign Bylaw. Council therefore granted them a variance, recognizing they are not a “typical” building, and that their sign will not be obtrusive and is within the intent of the Bylaw, if not the strict letter.

100 Braid Street (466 Rousseau Street) Urban Academy: Development Permit – Consideration of Issuance
Urban Academy continues on its long journey to design a new building to provide long-term sustainability to their school.

As far as zoning and land use requirements, the proposed building meets all of the permitted uses, density, height, etc., which may not be surprising as those limits were developed as part of the OCP amendment and Rezoning specifically for this plan. It is good to know that the detailed design is worked out, and the Public Consultation was generally supportive of the project, at least through a well-attended Residents’ Association meeting. Perhaps surprisingly, the Public Open House, which was advertised with two ads in the newspaper, on the City website, at the school site, through the RA mailing list, and through mailing our advisory flyers to 850 residences in Sapperton, attracted exactly one resident.

Council moved to issue the Development Permit application.

425 Columbia Street (Columbia SkyTrain Station): Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 – Request for Exemption
The good news: you may soon have cellular access in Columbia SkyTrain Station and the tunnel parts of the SkyTrain through New West. The bad news: the bulk of the installation work will need to happen at night while trains are not running, meaning a bit of night-time construction noise.

Council moved to approve a Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption to facilitate these works between March 8 and 24, on the condition that notices are posted at the adjacent residential buildings with contact numbers.

295 Francis Way (Parcel O): Housing Agreement (295 Francis Way) Bylaw No. 7909, 2017 and 
Housing Agreement (295 Francis Way) Amendment Bylaw No. 7910, 2017
The project at 294 Francis Way in Victoria Hill is a 5-story residential building where the developer has agreed to build dedicated and permanently protected rental. Aside from the 85 “Market Rental” suites in the building (where rents are rented for whatever value the market will bear), there are 100 suites that are “Non-Market” Rental – housing offered at below –market rates to protect an affordable housing stock. The two housing agreements that would secure these statuses were approved for third reading by Council.

East Tenth Avenue at Cumberland and Coquitlam Street Intersections (Metro Vancouver Regional District Watermain Project): Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 – Request for Exemption
The good news: we are connecting our new Tenth Ave water main into the Douglas Road water main, meaning you will continue to receive clean, fresh, and safe water in New West through updated infrastructure. Bad News: there is a chance some of the work will stretch into the weekend of March 19th, meaning a bit of construction noise outside of permitted times. And yeah, there will be some traffic disruption as well.

Council moved to approve a Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption to facilitate these works on March 19th in case the work extends that long, on the condition that notices are provided to local residents.

Update on Improvements to the Rotary Crosstown Greenway (5th – 8th Street) for Walking and Cycling
This report is just to inform Council of some work that our Transportation staff have been doing in consultation with the ACTBiPed to improve an underwhelming stretch of the Crosstown Greenway. The part between Moody Park and an Fifth Street could be made a lot better, as there is a wide expanse of pavement, and very little car traffic other than access to local driveways for several buildings. The plan is to put in true separated bike lanes, which is actually the easy part. There is a bunch of complicated detail about how driveways will cross and what to do at intersections and with the problematic power poles that are actually in the street along part of the route.

The design that has been put together seems to balance many needs very well, and was generally supported by the ACTBiPed, however, the residents of the area are also going to be consulted. This report let Council know about the consultation.

Update on the Sapperton Transportation Plan
This is a big planning project the residents of Sapperton have been (mostly) patiently waiting for. Sapperton has required a comprehensive look at their various traffic and parking issues for a few years. With the RCH expansion project planned, initial stages of the Brewery District coming on line, the “temporary” diversion at Alberta Street, a significant collection of data, and the MOTI Brunette interchange project proposal, it is a good time to take a look at this. Early stakeholder and a first community meeting on the issues and concerns went great, with a “throw spaghetti at the wall” idea session, but the real work starts now. There will be another meeting on or around April 8 – keep an eye out.

Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Program
This report lists the priority pedestrian crossing program for 2017 and gives some idea of priority projects for 2018. One thing I am really proud of in my term on Council is the work our Engineering staff have done, led by our Transportation Manager and the Mayor’s Transportation Taskforce to *prioritize* transportation capital spending and to roll out rational improvement plans like this, based on the guidance of the Master Transportation Plan. $250,000 in 2017 to design and build tangible improvements to the pedestrian realm in our residential neighbourhoods, that’s a big deal for a small city like New West.

Hopefully your pet peeve crosswalk is on the list. If not, let us know, and we can add yours to the evaluation list for next year.

Temporary Relocation of Queen’s Park Arenex Programs and Services Update
The loss of the Arenex has been disruptive for the many programs it hosted, and our staff are working hard to find alternative arrangements for the users. This just brings an update on further programs that have found homes, and a few that have not.

This is probably also a good time to ask you to answer a quick survey question about the Arenex replacement. Go here, click., it literally takes 30 seconds to complete this simple survey.

260 Twelfth Street (Calvary Worship Centre and John Knox Christian School): Rezoning from Public and Institutional Districts (Medium Rise) (P-2) to Comprehensive Development Districts (260 Twelfth Street) (CD-68) – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This is a report on a planned private school to be built on the current Calvary Worship Centre property on the corner of 3rd Ave and Twelfth Street. It is a pretty significant project for that neighbourhood, so you might want to take a look at this proposal. The project will go to Public Hearing on March 27, so I will hold my comments until then.

350 Johnston Street: Development Variance Permit No. DVP00621 for Frontage – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
This is a relatively simple request to provide a Development Variance to allow the subdivision of a lot on Johnstone Street (no relation) in Queensborough. The lot here (like many in Queensborough) is longer than average, so subdivision means the front of the subdivided properties will not be the required 10% of circumference of the lots, necessitating the DVP. It will go to an Opportunity to be Heard on March 27th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

408 – 412 East Columbia Street: Rezoning and Development Permit for Proposed Six-Storey Mixed-Use Retail, Office and Residential Rental Building – Preliminary Report
This project is for a 6-story building on a long-vacant lot on East Columbia in Sapperton, with a mix of commercial, office and residential space. This project is very early in the process, as this is the first time it has been in front of all of Council. There will be panel reviews, committee reviews, and full public consultation with the Residents’ Association and the entire community. Council moved to send it out for these various reviews. I am interested to see the community reaction to this proposal.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion at Council:

2017 Pavement Management Update
This winter was tough on our roads. No secret there, and there is a lot of that going around the lower mainland. New West has 227km of roads, and asset worth about $160 Million. This report provides some idea of what the medium-term maintenance costs are for maintenance and improvement of our roads. It isn’t pretty.

Up until about 2006, the City was underfunding its pavement maintenance program, allowing the roads to age and eventually degrade to a point that serious catch-up was required. Steady increases in the amount of road repair done in the intervening decade has seen some improvement (although it is the major roads where much of this work has been concentrated, the small residential streets have seen less improvement). Then a winter like this comes along, boosting the need for repairs to prevent further degradation of the substructure road base – like most things in life, a little repair now delays the need for expensive bottom-up replacement in upcoming years.

This is a good time to remind people that New Westminster has a disproportionately large amount of its land covered with roads when comparted to our municipal neighbours. Roads don’t pay taxes, and it takes a lot of your local tax dollars to repair them. Quick back-of the envelope estimate is that this plan means $65 per person in New West per year (or $170 per household) goes towards putting asphalt down and keeping it repaired.

This report was just for information, but the clear message is that the budget for road repairs is likely to be going up.

Amendment to Subdivision Control Bylaw Schedule “B” Design
Criteria Section 6 Lighting and Traffic Signals

This Bylaw regulates how lights are installed in the City when they are being installed by someone other than the City. When larger developments build in the City, we generally ask them to make the street and lighting improvements in front of their building as part of the project. With new technologies – notably the ubiquity of LED lights – some changes to our standards were needed. This Bylaw amendment will facilitate that update.

Access Ability Advisory Committee: Inclusion & Promotion of Accessibility Information at Public Events
This comes from work that the New West Pride Society did last year to assure the accessibility of their week-long festival and street fest. They did some amazing work as a group of community volunteers, performing accessibility audits of all two dozen or so of their event locations, trying to make them as accessible as possible, and more importantly – adding comprehensive accessibility information on all of their locations to all advertising and promotions for their event – so people who may have barriers know what to expect.

They really raised the bar on accessibility at their event, and hope that other organizations can use their database of location audits to also promote accessibility at their events. Actually, they are asking that the City make inclusion and promotion of accessibility a part of all public events the City either promotes or financially supports.

The recommendation from the Access Ability Advisory Committee (which I Chair – full disclosure) asked that Council support “encouraging” groups to include this information in their programming, I added to the motion by adding a referral to staff and the Festivals Committee to work on developing a policy supporting these principles, and bring those policy recommendations back to Council. I want to see accessibility part of our evaluation process for events we support as a City.

Proposed Energy Step Code for Building Energy Efficiency: Scope and Next Steps for Implementation
The province has been working on a new building code for building energy efficiency, formerly called the “Stretch Code”, now the “Step Code”. They are looking at allowing Cities to “opt in” to applying the code for new builds in the City. I am in support of New West opting into an enhanced energy efficiency code when this program is better developed and the Province provides that opportunity, but this report is just outlining the potential steps ahead.

It is amazing what can get done when Local governments and the province work collaboratively and carefully towards better governance.


We then had a ton of Presentations and Delegations – Two and a half hours worth! There was lots of good stuff there, and many interesting conversations, but I’m afraid I can’t explain them all here. Watch the video!


We then went through our usual Bylaws,/b> shuffle, which someone really should set to music one day.

Zoning Amendment (260 Twelfth Street) Bylaw No. 7905, 2017
The zoning amendment to support the John Know Private School was given two readings. A Public Hearing will be held March 27th. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Housing Agreement (295 Francis Way – Affordable Non-Market) Amendment Bylaw No. 7910, 2017
Housing Agreement (295 Francis Way – Market Rental) Bylaw No. 7909, 2017
These Bylaws that create the housing agreements securing rentals for the new building in Victoria Hill were given three readings each.

Subdivision Control Amendment Bylaw No. 7908, 2017
This Bylaw update that regulates lighting design standards for the City was given three readings.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2017-2021) Bylaw No. 7906, 2017
Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 7901, 2017

These Bylaws that formalize our 5-year Financial Plan and set our Electrical Rates for another year were each adopted. They are the Law of the Land – please adjust your behavior accordingly.


And except for a few announcements, that was the evening. We got out just at 10, which was early enough for me to catch up at the pub after with these folks! Still love them, although they are Easterners now.

Demoviction Conversation

Amongst the joys of my job as a City Councillor is collaboration with other elected types around the region who are trying to solve regional problems in new ways. I’m also a bit of a data geek, so I love getting new information and learning from people much smarter than me who have innovative approaches to problems.

In the interest of bringing these things together, I am working with some pretty cool colleagues to develop a “MetroConversations” series. We had a successful first event in New Westminster last November, and have plans to expand and grow the program in 2017. The second in the series is happening in Langley City next week, hosted by the brilliant and telegenic City Councillor Nathan Pachal

The topic is as relevant in New Westminster as anywhere in the region: How do we replace an aging stock of rental buildings without displacing people who rely on an affordable rental building stock?

There has been a lot of talk about this in the City of Burnaby, and although they get a (perhap unfair?) majority of the press, this is truly a regional concern. The City of New Westminster has done a lot to incentivise the building of family friendly apartment housing, secured rental housing, and other housing forms in the hopes that we can eat away at the affordability monster. We also have a huge stock of condo and rental buildings, mostly in Brow of the Hill and Sapperton, that are aging and don’t meet modern building standards. At some point, replacement of this stock is going to create a Burnaby-like situation, unless we take a proactive approach to the issue. That said, who knows what that proactive approach looks like?

This MetroConversation will feature people who have a better idea of what works and doesn’t when it comes to managing our affordable housing stock – actual subject matter experts who view the issue from diferent angles. As always, this will be an interactive conversation, not a boring set of speeches. Bring your questions, bring your ideas, and help add to the conversation in the region.

The room is relatively small (we want an intimate conversation) so please be sure to register to make sure you can get a seat, we totally expect to sell out.

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