Council – June 19, 2018

Our second Council meeting last this week was held on Tuesday, with Special Public Hearings to hear from the public on two Bylaw changes related to the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area, and our ongoing efforts to improve the policy.

Zoning Amendment (Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Bylaw for Incentives to be Implemented in the Short Term) Bylaw No. 8024, 2018
The City committed, when implementing a Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) to also add some incentives to provide better positive benefits for those who investing heritage conservation. Although ideally we would have done this at the same time as introducing the HCA, the statutory limits to the Heritage Protection Period and intensive community conversation and policy work that went into getting the HCA right and rolled out on time simple left us with limited resources to do the incentives work. This work has now been done, and a first phase of incentives are ready to be implemented.

We have had quite a bit of conversation about this, and I talked about some of it in my May 14 Council Report. Through these conversations, the proposed incentives were pared down to three groups: those to be implemented immediately, those that need more policy work, which should be implemented within the next year, and those that either are longer-term or more City-wide, and will take yet more work to bring about. This Zoning Amendment is to support a couple of those “immediate” incentives, those that require an amendment to the Zoning Bylaw.

In short, we will permit a slightly larger house on protected properties than is generally permitted in single family residential zones (FSR 0.7 instead of a usual 0.5), and will allow homeowners to “shift” some of this density (if they don’t want to improve their principle residence) over to a laneway of carriage house, as long as that secondary building does not exceed 958 square feet.

There is a bit of nuance in this. First off, the maximum allowable site coverage (that is the amount of a lot covered by buildings as opposed to lawn or garden) is not going to go up, so this should not result in a big change in the amount of green space. There is also some detail in how we count attic and basement space towards FSR that may be too complex for this quick summary. This incentive structure should provide the most flexibility to homeowners to maximize their living space, and add secondary rental suites.

We had a bit of correspondence on this item, about a dozen written submissions, almost all in support, and we had about a dozen people come to speak at the public hearing, again generally in favour. Some concerns were raised in regards to loss of green space (which I think will still be protected by the limit on site coverage), and some delegates are still irritated by the concept of the HCA, but I go the sense that the public understand and appreciate the incentives offered so far.

Council gave this Zoning Bylaw Amendment third reading and adoption: it is now the law of the land.

Official Community Plan Amendment (To remove Heritage Conservation Area Related Protection from Phase 1 Special Limited Category Study Properties) Bylaw No. 8025, 2018
When the HCA was put in, all residential properties in the Queens Park were put into one of three categories: Advanced (meaning they are fully protected, due to age and inferred heritage value), Limited (meaning they are not protected against demolition, as they are not old enough to constitute heritage), and Special Limited, which was somewhere in the middle, partly because their heritage value was uncertain, and partly because the nature of the residence may have created an unreasonable burden to the homeowner if they were fully protected. At the time, it was acknowledged that further analysis of these 85 “in the middle” properties would be required before eventually re-classifying them to one or the other category.

As moving properties between categories requires an Official Community Plan Amendment, staff recognized that doing these by groups will be easier than doing each individually. They created a phased screening approach to this, and the first phase is currently complete. As a result, 35 properties were recommended to be moved from Special Limited to Limited, essentially reducing the protection on the properties.

This first screening was done by the City with the help of consultants. The screening was a desktop exercise where the age and heritage value of the property was evaluated at a very basic level, as was the potential for the homeowner to achieve their zoning entitlement while still protecting the intact residence. Of the 85 Special Limited properties, 35 were found to have a combination of low heritage value and severe infringement of zoning entitlements such that removing them from protection made sense. Each of these homeowners was contacted to let them know that staff would be recommending removing their protection. They were given an opportunity to “opt in” to Advanced protection, if they wished to avail themselves of incentives (discussed above).

This leaves 50 other properties of the original 85. Four of those properties already had higher levels of protection than the HCA (they were “Designated” already), 4 were owned by people who specifically asked to have their property put into the Advanced Protection category, and 42 others that will go through a more detailed screening process as part of a Phase 2 study. This table from the Staff report explains that all:

As a complication, one of the 35 property owners being exempted requested (too late to get into this OCP Amendment Bylaw) that their protection be increased instead of reduced, so Council tacked on a motion asking staff to fast-track their individual shift from Limited to Advanced protection, after this omnibus shift of properties to Limited. 

Again, we received about 20 pieces of correspondence on the OCP Amendment, almost all in favour. We also had about a dozen delegates, mostly in favour. Council moved to give this OCP Amendment Third Reading and Adoption.

The entire HCA process has been a challenge. The call of some level of protection for the Queens Park neighbourhood led to the previous Council appointing a community working group, who put together some recommendations for this Council. The temporary Heritage Protection Period that was necessary to prevent demolitions put a tight deadline on the development of an HCA, and a lot of policy work and consultation with the community resulted in a suite of measures that will bring reasonable protection to the heritage assets of Queens Park, but will still allow the neighbourhood to grow and evolve, so it can still be a vibrant neighbourhood with a variety of housing. There is more work to go yet, but I am happy with the approach we have taken. Many thanks need to go to the staff for putting this challenging program together, and to the community for continuing to be engaged in this program and providing valuable feedback that is making the policy stronger.

Council – June 18, 2018

This week we had two (2!) evening Council meetings. It is a little unusual, but have a lot to get done before the summer break, and some of it requires Public Hearings. As we rarely know ahead of time which Public Hearings will strike a chord in the community and result in hours of delegations, Staff have tried to pace things out to assure we don’t run into scheduling delays or situations where important issues that need a fulsome community conversation are overwhelmed by one another. So two meetings it was. I’ll write a second post about the second meeting, but first, a Monday Council Workshop on a single topic:

Cannabis Workshop: Implementation of Cannabis Legislation
This is a follow-up to a workshop Council held on January 29, and you might want to go back to this report to get caught up on where we are and where we are going here. It really explains the areas that the City needs to deal with – that is issues that are not already regulated by the Feds or the Province, and those where we are able to augment senior government rules because of our land use and business license regulatory powers.

After that January meeting, our staff did some work and some public consultation to develop a set of guidelines that they will draft into Bylaws. This workshop was meant to be a check-in with Council, and a conversation with the public, around that framework.

This is an evolving file, and Bylaws are yet to be drawn (this was even discussed before yesterday’s Royal Assent of the Federal Cannabis Act, demonstrating how quickly things are changing), and some may require Public Hearings. Therefore, I am going to speak in generalities about what the major areas of municipal legislation are, what the proposed direction from staff is, and what my initial opinions are (recognizing any and all three of these could change before the October 17th date the Federal Law is meant to be enacted).

Land Use for Cannabis Retail
As a City, we can regulate this, all the way from not allowing any retailing of cannabis in the City to having a complete free-for-all. The general direction would be to mimic how we deal with liquor retail: require a site-specific zoning. This gives Council a lot of discretion, in that the zoning would be based on a set of Guidelines, but Council could always be asked by a proponent to vary from those guidelines. At this point, staff have suggested limiting retial to commercially zoned areas (naturally), and to create limits on how close a store can be to a school or (potentially) to other areas like Parks and Daycares (100m). They also recommend having a prescribed distance between cannabis retailers (300m).

I suspect the first provision is a bit of a holdover from prohibition, both in how we apply it to liquor outlets and to cannabis: I don’t think it is based on risk mitigation or actual danger to children, but to a somewhat puritan “keep the sin away from innocent eyes” holdover from the temperance movement. I recognize that a community concern exists, however, and don’t think a 100m buffer to schools will be onerous for the businesses. I’m not sure I can say the same about Parks, because 100m from Pier Park and Sapperton Park (for example) does impact commercial areas.

I also have a concern that daycares are already scarce in our City, and are almost all in commercial areas, and as much as I don’t want their existence to unduly limit other retail business, I don’t want a new cannabis store to suddenly preclude the existence of new daycare centres if operators want to open them. I guess I don’t understand the risk we are hoping to avoid.

As for the 300m proximity buffer between retailers, I also think that may be too large. I used the example of the Starbucks on Sixth Street and Columbia: if it decided to shift to a cannabis outlet, it’s 300m buffer would encompass about 90% of the downtown commercial property. Similarly for Uptown if an outlet was built at Sixth & 6th. I suspect we are trying to avoid creating a “Cannabis district” where every second store is a cannabis outlet, just as a basic land use principle, but there needs to be a bit of work here to make sure we are not being too limiting for new businesses that want to open up.

Business License Regulations
The City can regulate things like operating hours, sign bylaws, and other details of how a retail business can operate in our community. The City is considering creating similar regulations (again) to liquor retail, but still have some work to do on signage and aesthetics. We don’t want businesses with blacked-out windows or bars in the windows, as that creates an uninviting street presence, but we want businesses to be secure. So there is some more work to do where, especially in consultation with potential operators.

Processing and Warehousing
Similar to retail, the City can regulate the type of industrial business that operates in the City. The City is proposing that cannabis processing and packaging be limited to the M1 zone, which is the heavier industrial zone. This is mostly related to the increased anticipated security these facilities will require under federal law, and that level of security not being appropriate for our M2 zones (which are commonly more light industrial-with-a-store-front). There will also be strict waste management and air quality protection measures required by senior government regulation, which makes M1 work better.

Public Consumption
This is where I suspect the most public concern with legalization of cannabis is going to appear: the simple nuisance of second-hand smoke. Public attitudes about public smoking have shifted significantly in the last decade, and the simple approach offered by the province (public use is legal wherever smoking is legal) may prove challenging. Although I suspect the actual use of cannabis will not increase significantly after October 17, the public exposure to its use (along with confirmation bias by its opponents) will lead to a lot of complaints.

The city will be updating our smoking bylaws to include vapor and cannabis smoke, and will continue to limit smoking with 7.5m of a doorway and in Parks. However, banning use in the way we do alcohol (i.e. no public spaces) is challenging, as we will not have “pubs” where people can go, and landlords and strata councils will have the legal authority to prohibit smoking in people’s homes, making it very difficult for some people to find a place to use what is a legal product. One of the delegates at our meeting pointed out the structural unfairness of limiting public consumption for those who may not be able to smoke at home.

Of all the regulations, this is the one that is going to be hardest to make people happy, because it runs up against a conflict between people’s individual rights. With the federal government specifically *not* legalizing edibles and tinctures at this time, smoking and vaping will be the primary delivery method. So we are going to have some learning to do as a society.

Personal Cultivation
The Federal regulations say you can grow a limited number of plants at home for personal use, and the province further restricts that the plants can’t be “visible” from public spaces, and that landlords and stratas are legally able to restrict growing of cannabis in multi-family units. As a City, we are not contemplating adding to these restrictions.

You have until June 24 to take part in the City’s on-line survey about these regulations if you have strong feelings. Otherwise, we will see some draft Bylaws at the end of the summer, and expect that we will be able to make them into law here in New West ahead of the October 17 federal legalization, and before the October 20, 2017 Municipal election!

More pool

Last Council meeting, we had an update report on the replacement plans for the Canada Games Pool, and a reporting out on the results of the last round of public engagement. I mentioned it briefly in my council report, but it is a big enough story that I thought I would flesh this out with a bit more detail, and share some of my thinking on this project.

Back in the spring, the City began this round of public and stakeholder consultation on the replacement of the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre. This came after two years of meeting with stakeholders, holding a pretty comprehensive public engagement process, work with program staff at the pool, architects, geotechnical engineers, and other subject matter experts. I talked about that first-phase work more in this Blog Post I wrote earlier this year, and at that time mentioned we were ready to take a draft plan out to the public based on that work.

As you may have heard, part of this engagement was a call from the Hyack Swim Club to build a more competition-oriented pool than the initial plans presented. Although the plans were developed with consultation with competitive swimming, which included a 50m pool length and a secondary pool that was amenable for warm-up and cool-down lengths, they did not feel the draft plan provided a venue that supported the level of competition their club could support.

Putting the wants of this user group aside for a moment, it is clear from the engagement that the program proposed closely matches the desires of the greater community that will ultimately pay for most of the new facility. The balance of aquatics and leisure swim space, the enhanced fitness centre, community flex space and gyms, and childcare facility are all well supported (in the end, we may need more pickleball space, but I’m not sure we will ever meet that demand!). So I am satisfied that the program we have proposed is the program we need in the community, and the public engagement results reflect that.

That does not mean this facility has everything everyone wants. Simply put, that was not possible, partly because we have a limited budget and buildable area on the site, partly because when you do comprehensive public engagement (see the 60 pages(!) of comments included in the report) you get a lot of contradictory requests. For everyone who wants, for example, a lazy river, there is someone who hates the concept. Parsing through this mixed data was a big task for staff, our consultant, and the taskforce.

I need to emphasize that the Hyack Swim Club was involved in this process from the beginning. Several meetings were held with their board and coaching staff, and their members were encouraged to take part in the public engagement process. From day 1 it was recognized that the competitive swimming community valued this asset, and as a regional community they are a vocal in discussions of any new aquatics complex in the region. There was no doubt that Hyack wanted as high-level a competitive pool as possible, up to a pool that would meet all Swim Canada requirements for the highest level of competition (something that currently doesn’t exist in BC, but is best represented by the $200 Million+ Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto), and this led to some pretty significant discussion about how far we could afford to go that way while still meeting the desires of the community for a family-friendly recreational facility, within reasonable budget expectations.

The purpose of this stage of public consultation was to hear if the draft plans that came out of the planning process hit the target the community and stakeholders were looking for. In that sense, it was anticipated that some push back from some users on the draft plans would occur. I think we got there from the community viewpoint, but the stakeholder side clearly needed more work. That is why we do this kind of consultation.

Competitive sports facilities are, by nature, regional. Sports programming rarely respects Municipal boundaries, and just as competitive curlers from across the region come to New West to curl at the Royal City Club and MsNWimby goes to Coquitlam to play in a women’s ice hockey league that suits her competitive level (wait – neither of those facilities are run by a City… never mind, let me continue my story here), we need to expect that all Cities will build facilities that will be used by people from outside that City.

I also need to clarify that the request from the Hyack Swim Club is not just “two more lanes”, and though the swim fees paid by Hyack Swim Club are definitely a significant part of our operational revenue, they will certainly not offset the increased capital cost of a larger facility. The request for two more lanes, a larger secondary pool to better accommodate warm-up and cool-down length swimming, significantly increased “wet” deck space, and some level of “dry” spectator seating represents a significant cost premium. I (speaking as one Councillor, this is, as always, not necessarily the opinion of all of Council) am not willing to compromise the community amenities that the community asked for to pay for that cost premium. Ultimately, this is a case where the public engagement is vital to decision making, and I cannot ignore the wants of the larger community when building the most expensive asset the City has ever built.

That said, if we accept that higher-level competition is a regional asset, it is reasonable to expect that the region help pay for it. All along, the City has been working towards senior government assistance to build this facility, through the promised federal Infrastructure Grants program and affiliated provincial programs to support recreation and community assets and community reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. I think we have developed a program that will very closely meet the expected criteria for federal infrastructure funds. These, matched with provincial funds, may give us the financial space to build the expanded region-serving competitive facility, while not compromising on the recreational facility the community clearly wants, and not overly burdening our (still stretched) capital budget.

So the path forward the City has chosen is to continue to work towards an expanded facility that will support higher-level competition (one the Hyack Swim Club expressed unbridled support for at their public delegation last week), and the community recreation that the public engagement outlined, and hope that senior government grants will be sufficient to make it viable. We will continue to hold the current more recreationally-focused program as a fall back in the event we are unsuccessful in receiving sufficient senior government support.

The good news is that we now have a well-supported plan to move forward, and can do some of the extra work we need to do to get this project “shovel ready” enough to get those grants. To quote someone more profound than me: Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning.

And I’ll write one more post about this pool in the next few days (yes, I’ll get to your question, Jason), but this one is long enough for now!

Council – June 11, 2018

After all of that excitement, it was back to work on Monday at New West Council. We opened the meeting with presentations of plaques for the newest Registered Heritage Buildings in the community. This was followed by a couple of presentations that were emotionally charged. It is Salmonbellies Day on June 17th, but the usual celebration was subdued in light of the recent loss of a treasured member of the SalmonBellies community. This was followed by acknowledgement of World Refugee Day on June 20th, which we marked with a harrowing presentation by a New Westminster resident who is himself a recent refugee from Syria, which put many of our issues in New Westminster into a stark perspective.

Our regular agenda began with a Report for Action:

Modular Housing Update: Further Analysis on 200 Fenton Street
This report is a summary of work done to evaluate a site on Fenton Street in Queensborough for Temporary Modular Housing (“TMH”). This is a follow up report on last meeting, as we had many delegates speaking to the 838 Ewen Avenue TMH proposal, and some suggested the Fenton Street site as a better alternative for TMH in Queensborough. We asked staff to provide more details to the evaluation that was done of Fenton, and to revisit some of the assumptions that went into it being not selected to make sure we haven’t missed something important.

The short version here is that the Fenton Street site is indeed a viable location for modular housing, but there are some significant challenges for the site that impact the timing, cost, and project risk. The site would require pre-load and other ground stabilization works, and would need significant on-site and off-site landscaping and other works. In comparison to the Ewen Avenue site, the access to services is not as good, and making the site more accessible for pedestrians will come at an extra cost. Nearby transit service is less convenient and less frequent, and shopping is twice as far away. In summary, the Fenton Street site works better for a more permanent affordable housing project so the timing and costs to make it work can be absorbed into a longer project timeframe, but it is not a viable location for the current Rapid Response TMH program being led by the Provincial Government.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

2017 Statement of Financial Information
This is our official release of financial information for the year. Most of the spreadsheet stuff shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has watched our budgeting process. This report also includes how much you paid me and my Council colleagues for our work ($45,646 for me, plus $5,539 in expenses, mostly for the conferences I attended, which is why I report out on them here), a list of all of the companies we paid more than $25,000 for goods and services, and a list of the wages paid to all of our employees who earned more than $75,000, as required by law.

No doubt, the regional media will report out on peoples wages, without much effort to putting those wages into context of what those people would be paid in the private sector for similar responsibilities and skills, instead framing those wages as opulent. Alas.

Recruitment 2018: Arts Commission Appointment
We have an empty seat on the Arts Commission, and this person is willing to fill it, and she is a consummate volunteer in the City, whom I thank for her service.

Street Naming Bylaw for Roma Avenue in Queensborough – Bylaw for Three Readings
As reported earlier, the name Roma Avenue will be sued for a new street in Queensborough. This is the official Bylaw that makes that happen. The actual installation of the road sign will come after the road is built and put into service. Hopefully it is good timing to coincide with a grape-stomp.

406 – 412 East Columbia Street (Market Rental) Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8000, 2018 for Three Readings
The project planned for an empty lot on East Columbia will include Purpose Built Rental, and in order for the City to secure that rental, we need a covenant and a Legal Agreement. This agreement needs to be supported by a Bylaw. This is that Bylaw.

Amendment to the Tenant Relocation Policy: Changes to the Residential Tenancy Act
The City has a Tenant Relocation Policy to do what we can to make sure that people are not displaced from their housing unnecessarily, and to assure that when evictions are legal and required for significant renovation of a building, the residents have as much support as possible in this impossibly tight rental market. The provincial government recently updated the Residential Tenancy Act to give renters more protection from demovictions, such that their “fair notice” minimum is now longer than the one in the City’s policy, so we are adjusting our policy to match. This is a constantly evolving file, and more work is being done by local governments and province, this is a quick shift of our local policy to keep up, but not the end of story!

Proposal for Public Realm Improvements in Brow of the Hill at Seventh Street and Fourth Avenue
This is a proposal to create a small public green space improvement in the Brow of the Hill, a neighbourhood notably lacking in public green space. Up to now, our Parklet Program has been oriented to improving the streetscape in our retail areas, where this one is adjacent to a church in a relatively high-density neighbourhood. This creates some opportunities, but also a different potential set of conflicts. Like other Parklets, this is meant to be temporary, but any opportunity we have to reduce the amount of paved space dedicated to cars and re-purpose that space into something greener that all people can use is a positive.

New Westminster Arena Operations and Ammonia Safety Update
The tragic incident at Fernie last year, where three refrigeration workers were killed by an ammonia leak at their skating rink, has cause all municipalities in BC to review their safety practices around ice plants, working with WorkSafe and the Technical Safety Board, There were some changes done at both of our arenas, mostly around how TSBC have changed the application of “risk assessment” measures. The changes come with a small operational cost increase (more frequent testing, increased staffing levels to oversee ammonia plant operations) which are consistent with changes being made at most ice arenas in the province. Short version is that were up to snuff when it comes to safe operation of our ice plants, and with emergency procedures, with a some increase in operational costs.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

620 Third Avenue (Westminster House): Temporary Use Permit for Youth Residential Recovery Program – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
This is the notice that an Opportunity to be Heard will happen on July 9 for a Temporary Use Permit for a residential recovery program directed at younger women recovering from addictions. It is best practice that I recuse myself from this discussion as the application is only a few doors down from my house.

Electric Vehicle Readiness Policy for New Residential, Commercial and Institutional Buildings
Electric vehicles are coming, and they are coming on fast. The largest disruption caused by them will be the change in how people “fuel” their vehicles. Gas stations are going to go away, and distributed charging systems will replace them. We are not, however, building that distributed charging infrastructure fast enough. This policy would help push the City that direction, requiring that new buildings with off-street parking spots are built to have the background infrastructure (conduit, wiring, and adequate electrical capacity) to support installing charging stations.

The cost of making this a requirement in new builds is relatively small, well under $1000 (compared to the $40,000+ cost per stall of providing underground parking). Other cities (Vancouver and Richmond) have already made this move, and many others across the region are about where we are in in putting their policy together.

As *most* EV charging will happen at home, if an adequate charging system exists there, there is less demand for making these stations mandatory in commercial buildings. The standard practice regionally is to require 10% of off-street commercial parking be ready for an EV charger. Staff are planning to report back to us with a fully-cooked framework for how to manage the commercial sector.

Amendments to Animal Care and Control Bylaw and Associated Schedules in the Bylaw and Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw
The City is waiving Dog Permit fees for Therapy dogs, and updating some language in the Animal Control Bylaw without any major policy changes.

Queen’s Park Arenex Replacement
The replacement of the Arenex has been a difficult process. We were initially optimistic that a replacement structure could be quickly acquired that would provide greater space, and along with the Canada Games Pool replacement project, we would finally have a home for the gymnastics and trampoline programs that didn’t quite fit in the Arenex as it was. Regrettably, best laid plans ran into some procurement issues, as the tight construction market and relatively high project risk related to the geotechnical conditions resulted in no adequate responses to the Request for Proposals. In the public procurement process local governments are required to use, that often means back to the drawing board.

With some revision of scope, and more work done on the soils conditions at the old Queens Park reservoir site (where the old tennis courts and soil storage area are), we are now in a position to re-start procurement.

Honestly, it is a bit of a disappointment that it took this long to get this far, but we have reviewed the process to date and there was every reason to suspect the first procurement should have worked. It may have been our rush to get a replacement facility done as quickly as possible that (ironically) resulted in this delay. The good side is that this failure has led to the City to re-evaluate some of our project management practices, and bring in some new resources. We have an aggressive capital program, with the Library, the Animal Care Facility, the CGP replacement, and more projects charging ahead, at the same time that some senior staff is retiring, so the learning from this will be valuable. However, in the end all we can do is apologize that this project ran into the challenges it did, and move ahead aggressively to get it done as soon as possible.

On a related topic, we had a Staff Presentation:

New Aquatics and Community Centre Feasibility Study, Public Engagement Results
Regular readers (Hi Mom!) will recall we are moving ahead with the Canada Games Pool replacement, and took a proposed “program” out for public comment back in late April. This report gave us a summary of the public engagement results. I have a lot to write about this, so will hold off for a second blog post, but the short version is that we have developed a pathway where we may be able to accommodate a higher-level competition pool while not taking away from the community focus of the new community centre.

As always, we closed the evening program processing our Bylaws:

Street Naming Bylaw No. 7984, 2018
This Bylaw that makes the name of a new street in Queensborough “Roma Avenue” was given three readings.

Housing Agreement (406 to 412 East Columbia Street) Bylaw No. 8000, 2018
This Bylaw that secures the agreement that this new development in Sapperton will be a rental building was given three readings.

Animal Care and Control Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8026, 2018;
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8027 2018; and
Municipal Ticketing Information Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8028, 2018
The amendments to these three bylaws that will allow us to not charge license fees for therapy dogs and make other small changes in our Animal control Bylaw, were given three readings.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8020, 2018
As discussed last meeting, these updates to the 5-year Financial Plan were adopted by Council. It is now the law of the land.

Automated Voting Machines Authorization Amendment Bylaw No.
7994, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that is required by Elections BC to use electronic ballot-counting devices in our civic election was adopted.

Building Amendment Bylaw (Building Permit Exemption for Hoop Greenhouses) No. 8018, 2018
Also as discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that removes the need for a building permit for some types of backyard greenhouses larger than 100 square feet was adopted. May your tomatoes enjoy a warmer fall.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (306 Gilley Street) Bylaw No. 8007,
Heritage Designation (306 Gilley Street) Bylaw No. 8008, 2018
These Bylaws that secure permanent protection of a heritage home in the Brow of the Hill were adopted by Council.

Ask Pat: Elections?

Ed Sadowski asks—

When will we know if you will be running again in the upcoming municipal elections?

Yes, I am running for Council again. Sorry for the delay responding to you, but I did have to do a bit of serious thinking and also put a few things in place so that when I announce my intention to run again, people have a way to contact me and I don’t lose that initial campaign bump on that is (apparently) important.

If you want to read about my campaign, why I am running, what I want to do next term, and why I think you should vote for me, please go over to my campaign website ( It is a little bare-bones right now, but I will be updating and improving it as the campaign goes on. One of my challenges with “launching” my re-election campaign is trying to figure out how I can keep this conversation – 8 years of blogging, hundreds of blog posts, its gotta be a million words by now – and keep it a little separate from the rhetoric necessary for campaigning. The election is in October, but I still have 4 months of work to do before then, so here is my strategy.

This website will pretty much stay the same, with blogs, updates on City stuff, random opinions on topics that interest me, and Ask Pats answered when I get a chance. My Campaign website will talk campaign, will have all of that campaign “why you should vote for me” stuff. My regular Facebook Page will be pretty much as it always was, and my Campaign Facebook Page will have campaign Facebook stuff like updates on where I am going to be, special campaign events, and probably a fair amount of campaign-related opinions. There is no way I am managing two Twitter accounts, or two Instagram accounts, so those are staying as is.

In the meantime, I’ll be out in the community as I have always been, ready to talk about the City and sharing ideas with the citizens of New West. It’s going to be a busy 4 months, but let’s take the time to talk.

LMLGA 2018 part 2

As a follow-up to this post, here is the second half of the LMLGA Conference in May. This may not be as interesting for my regular readers (Hi Mom!) as me ranting about traffic, but I think it is important that I report out to the community what I learned during the conference, because the community paid for me to attend the conference. As I am on the LMLGA Board, the cost for one of my nights was covered by the LMLGA, but the City still paid my registration for the conference, and paid part of the travel cost (I car-pooled with other attendies).

As I mentioned last post, a big part of the annual conference is the Resolutions session. This is when the members of the LMLGA vote on resolutions to be forwarded to senior governments, asking them to change policy or prioritize spending to meet the needs of our communities. The 2018 session included more than 40 resolutions, with about half of them at least slightly debated. This was an unusual year in that three separate resolutions or proposed amendments were defeated in tie votes (which is pretty unique with ~100 voting members present). If you want to know the results of all of the votes, you can read them here.

In brief, the two resolutions put forward by New Westminster were endorsed. The first was to ask the provincial government to prioritize the funding and support of the Community Health Centre model for providing general health care in communities across BC. The second was to ask the provincial government to update the BC Motor Vehicle Act by addressing the recommendations of the Road Safety Law Reform Group of BC to better protect vulnerable road users ( as I talked about in this report earlier in the year). Both were endorsed by the LMLGA Executive, and passed by the membership without debate.

Day 2 Featured a session on Digital Connectivity that started with a presentation from a technology director at Amazon, talking about what they see as the future of retail. Depending on your outlook on the world (or possibly your age), he either described a stunning future where your computer will know exactly what hammer you need before you even go on line to shop for it, and one click later the hammer arrives at your door within two hours, or a stark dystopia where every decision you make is predetermined by algorithms and every human interaction or social aspect of purchasing goods is scrubbed away as “friction” that interferes with the efficiency of the market. So that was interesting.

XKCD, as always, predicts the most logical end result.

This was followed by another ying/yang tech discussion by Mayor Greg Moore, directed at the elected officials in the room. He talked about the positive opportunities that Social Media provides to engage with your electorate, both during campaigns and while you are in office. He then described, step by step, how a single person with a bone to pick, a couple of hours to kill, and $20 can use a social media platform like Facebook to create a powerfully disruptive disinformation campaign using the same tools, and make themselves look like a large crowd of people to amplify their voice. It was stunningly familiar, and a valuable lesson to all of us who seek to engage meaningfully in decision making. If you don’t know who you are talking to on-line, it is quite possible they do not actually exist.

This led us into a closing plenary session on Human Connectivity, which brought together several aspects of making human connections in a time of digital disconnection. We had presentations about the power of volunteering, about working for sustainability within a community framework, and about thinking deeper about the everyday interactions we have, and what underlying the narratives we often miss may be telling us about ourselves and our community. It was inspirational, but also challenging – we are so busy “doing” or “planning”, that we are sometimes forgetting to take the time to listen, look, and understand the interactions in front of us.

I’ve given a bit of a summary of my learnings/rememberings from LMLGA, but there was more. The Minister for Local Government and Housing gave us a great update on where housing policy is going in the province, the Leader of the Official Opposition told us all of the things that the current government has not accomplished in 9 months, seemingly forgetting his government had 16 years to do the same things. Of course the networking, both formal and informal, with local government leaders across the region are valuable, and the LMLGA executive met to discuss next steps, including developing a better plan to present the resolutions to government members in Victoria. Altogether an informative, inspiring, and crazy busy 2-1/2 days.

LMLGA 2018 – Part 1

I’m out in Halifax at the annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which is a nation-wide conference for local government types. However, I don’t want to report on this yet, because I still haven’t reported on my trip to Whistler last month for the LMLGA. Sorry, things have been busy!

The Lower Mainland Local Government Association is a networking and advocacy group that serves the local governments of the southwest corner of the mainland of BC, which I talk about a little more in my report on the 2017 meeting here.

The 2018 conference was at Whistler in the first week of May, and it was a full couple of days. Here is a quick run-down of what kept me busy over that time.

Pre-conference Sessions
There were two plenary workshops on Wednesday afternoon (I am on the LMLGA Executive, so I had to go up early for Wednesday morning executive meetings). One was on challenges that cities have in attracting and retaining family doctors, the second on the latest updates on cannabis legalization. I did not have a lot to say about the first session, as there was a lot of details about the problem (from how we teach Doctors to how we pay them and how we attract them from other jurisdictions – all firmly in the Provincial realm) and the solutions local governments could apply were a strange mix of making your city more livable and selling the benefits of your community to young professionals and their families.

The second session was more compelling, as there was a lot of new information about how other local governments are approaching legalization. There is a strict division between what the federal government and provincial government will be regulation, and there is a fairly well defined role for local government. As always, our role is land use (where will these businesses be able to set up?), business licensing (how will a local business operate –hours, signage, staffing, etc.), and nuisance management (where will we enforce smoking, growing, etc.). In New West, we expect to have a report back from Staff early in the summer to set up our local rules, though it seems obvious that the roll-out of federal regulations will be delayed from the July deadline set up by thr federal government.

The opening day ended with a Keynote by Chris Syeta’xtn Lewis from the Squamish Nation, who gave a informative and poignant summary of the history of his people, and the context of where the amalgamated Squamish nations exist today, and what they see for the future of their region. A follow-up discussion with Mayor Patricia Heintztman of Squamish talked about the opportunities all Cities have for not just starting reconciliation, but finding a respectful space to have conversations about our shared future. It was an inspiring evening.

Day 1
Our Morning Plenary was a talk by author James Hoggan, whose discussed his book “I’m Right and You’re and Idiot”. It was a long dissertation on the current problem of public discourse (including there are too many people intentionally disrupting it for personal or political gain), and some techniques to address this (“speak the truth, but never to punish”). Any summary I give here will give short shift to his great multi-faceted talk that covered what Hoggan calls the “social pathology” of our natural predisposition to form teams, the opportunity to be found in embracing cognitive dissonance, and how all of us on every side of every issue think we are David and the other is Goliath.

I then ran a Transportation Connectivity session, which was in two parts. First, Don Lidstone gave a talk on the autonomous vehicle and vehicle-sharing future from the perspective of local government legal issues. Don is, among many I have heard on this topic, at the techno-optimist side of things, anticipating that our entire vehicle landscape will shift dramatically in the next decade to something we do not recognize. He switches quickly to pessimist, however, when he talks about how completely unprepared the province and local governments are. Nothing in our Motor Vehicle Act addresses driverless vehicles. The liability that falls on a Local Government if our infrastructure is not read correctly by an autonomous vehicle (say, if someone vandalizes a stop sign or road lines are buffed off) is uncertain and untested. There is also the not-minor problem that every local government has its own Street / Traffic / Parking Bylaws, and there is no system to an autonomous car to know this, or even any understanding of who is responsible for teaching a car that drives into New Westminster from, say, California, what a flashing yellow light means here or what the local parking restrictions are.

The second part was a panel discussion moderated by Mayor Cote, where a Planner from the City of Abbotsford, the Mayor of Squamish and a staffer from BC Transit discussed the opportunities and challenges of connecting the entire Lower Mainland (Hope to Delta to Pemberton) with Public Transit. Abbotsford and Squamish are both growing quickly, and both are becoming denser, more –transit oriented communities well served by Transit, but barriers exist between the area served by TransLink and those served by BC Transit. This is a bigger issue for Squamish, where up to 4,000 people a day commute to Vancouver, but Abbotsford is all about connecting local communities as opposed ot getting people to the “core”, as job growth is being pushed out to Abbotsford in a major way. So clearly, needs differ around the region, but the need for coordination does not.

We then had a unique program element: An actual honest-to-goodness debate. Seth Klein and Josh Gordon each had teams debating the question: “Does the Speculation Tax go far enough?”, which was fun to watch and quite informing about the strength of the tax as public policy (which resulted in the audience shifting somewhat from slightly in favour of the tax to slightly more in favour of the tax).

The rest of the Day 1 was spent doing AGM-type activities, including Bylaw updates, passing a budget, and electing officers for the upcoming year. You may now congratulate your new Lower Mainland LGA Second Vice President. Jason Lum of Chilliwack has been an excellent President for the last year, and Jack Crompton from Whistler will no doubt fill his shoes well, as he has already been a real driving force behind some of the new initiatives LMLGA has brought into assure it serves its members. We also had resolutions, which I will talk about in Part 2 of this report, which will be arriving soon…

Council – May 28, 2018

The Council meeting of May 28th was a long one, partly because of two lengthy public delegations, neither of which I am going to talk about at length here. This is because I already blogged at length about the first one here (and that post needs an update that will have to wait until I get back from the Maritimes), and the second because the topic will be going to a Public Hearing, so aside from mentioning it below, I am going to hold my opinions in respect for the process.

So it is perhaps ironic that we started the evening’s Agenda with three Opportunities to be Heard, for which very few came to be heard:

Five Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8020, 2018
We have already been through the big discussions of the City’s budget, but it is good idea to adjust our Financial Plan so it closely tracks where our budget is going. We are therefore making the following changes to the 5-year plan adopted in March:

• Adding $6.25 Million to our Capital budget, as the Electrical Utility is getting ready to buy a piece of land in Queensborough for a new substation. This is debt financed, as was approved in the 2016 Loan Authorization Bylaw, so it is not new unanticipated debt, but an expense already planned for;
• Taking $3 Million from reserves to pay for expanded City Hall renovation costs;
• We are accelerating some work and doing expanded design on the Canada Games Pool replacement, meaning we need to move some capital spending from 2019 to 2018;
• Changes to anticipated borrowing cost related to the above changes.

Council moved unanimously to refer this Bylaw for three readings.

Development Variance Permit DVP00646 for 323 E. Sixth Avenue
The resident wants to maintain front-access parking on this house that was recently renovated, which requires a variance. As a general rule, the City is moving away from front-entrance parking for residential lots that have an alley. This improves the streetscape of the neighbourhood, and makes the main road safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. As this lot has a back alley, this would normally apply to this significant renovation of the building, but they have asked for a variance related to the shape of the lot and slope, which makes a rear garage significantly less accessible.

Council received two letters in support of the variance, and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council moved to grant the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00644 for 330 Johnston Street
There is a rule that any City lot shouldn’t be more than 4x as long as it is wide, as a general planning principle. However there are a few blocks, especially in Queensborough, where the lots are extra long, meaning that typical lot widths violate this rule. This is one of those cases, and the proponent is asking for a variance of this requirement. There was no correspondence, and only the proponent came to speak to the application. Council moved to approve the variance.

After some award-presentation, the following items were Moved on Consent:

Investment Report to April 30, 2018
The City has $141.5 Million in the bank. This isn’t just money stuffed away, but is in Reserves, most of it earmarked for specific purposes. (I recently wrote more about how the City manages reserves here). Some are in a higher-interest bank account, but most is saved with the Municipal Finance Authority, where we get a pretty good return. The report is that we are not going to earn quite as much from our savings as we anticipated, as bond markets are softening a bit, but things are generally ticking along.

Major Purchases January 1 to April 30, 2018
Every 4 months, the city reports out on all major purchases, in an effort to provide better clarity of where your money is being spent. This also assures our procurement process is transparent to show who bids for work at the City, and who won, and how we did at setting budgets for that procurement.

Recruitment 2018: Remembrance Day Committee Appointment
The City’s Remembrance Day ceremony is organized by a volunteer committee. Here we are filing a space on that committee.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Zoning Amendment Bylaw for Incentives to be Implemented in the Short Term – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
As discussed at some length during our May 14 meeting, Staff is working with the community on a suite of incentives to support heritage conservation in Queens Park – the “carrot” to follow up on the “stick” of the Bylaw that prevents the demolition of heritage homes. A total of 16 incentives were discussed last meeting: 5 that the City is not pursuing further at this time, 4 that will be coming after a bit more policy work, 3 that are going to be implemented City-wide, and the 4 in this report which the City intends to implement as soon as possible. For two of them, that means a Zoning Bylaw Amendment, which will go to a Public Hearing. I will talk more about them then.

218 Queen’s Avenue: Temporary Use Permit – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
An owner of a large lot in Queens Park with a heritage home on the front of it would like to subdivide the lot, and receive a type of conditional pre-approval of locating appropriate heritage houses on the new lots, when houses available for relocation come on the market.

This is a bit of a strange request, and not something that works easily within our existing land use regulations, but when heritage homes come available for relocation, there is often not a lot of time to do all of the regulatory things needed to make the relocation work, so the landowner would like to prepare ahead of time.

This looks like a creative way to make the rather rigid parts of the Local Government Act, and will result in preservation of several heritage houses, while turning a really big (22,000 sq ft) lot into three more typically sized lots. There are some obvious controls that will need to be in place to avoid real or perceived stockpiling of abandoned homes, but I think we can work something out here that lets these assets be preserved and add to our community. This Temporary use permit will go to an Opportunity to be Heard.

838 Ewen Avenue (Modular Housing Project): Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw and Zoning Amendment Bylaw to Facilitate a 44 Unit Housing Development with Support Services for Women – Bylaws for First
and Second Readings

The Provincial government will build temporary modular housing to be operated by a not-for-profit in several cities around the Lower Mainland, as part of a Rapid Response to a serious homelessness crisis across the region. In this first phase, they rely on Cities to provide temporary use of city-owned spaces to site the structures. As you may have seen of Global Newz, the City has offered the site of a former gas station on Ewen Avenue adjacent to the Queensborough Community Centre.

The City bought the property back in 2016 when the remediation of the site was complete, and up to now have used it primarily for construction staging for the Ewen Street reconstruction project. It is still zoned for Commercial use, and is designated for parks/community amenity in the community plan, so we need to rezone the property if we wish to have people living on it, even on a temporary basis. Despite the many conversations at Delegation and in the media, this will require a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then to respect the process.

Council moved to give the proposal First and second reading, and set the Public Hearing for June 26th.

New West Hospice Society Update
The relatively new Hospice Society has been incredibly active since its founding less than two years ago (I am a little biased, as Ms.NWimby serves on the board). They have a good strategic plan, and will be looking for the city to support their vision (along with many others, from Fraser Health to community members). They are also working with City Staff to determine the steps and requirements for the City to be designated a “Compassionate City”. You will be hearing more about this in the year ahead.

Building Permit Exemption for Hoop Greenhouses: Building Bylaw Amendment – Bylaw for Three Readings
The current Building bylaw says any accessory building bigger than 108 Square feet needs to comply with the Building Code to assure human occupancy is safe, from surveying the foundation up. The Bylaw also calls greenhouses “accessory buildings”. Put this together, and you can’t have a greenhouse bigger than 108 square feet unless it is structurally robust to survive an earthquake, host a party, and keep you warm at night. We are relaxing a small part of that to allow hoop-style greenhouses that don’t present the risk or occupancy issues that the building code is meant to address. May your tomatoes be warmed by this.

2018 Child Care Grant Application: For Douglas College Early Childcare Centre
The City has a grant program to help child cares operating in the City. This Daycare applied on time, but we had a paperwork snafu and their application got skipped. We did not exhaust the funds this year for this grant, and the application is valid, so Council agreed to award the grant. A little late is better than never!

Interim Alternative Development Review Process: Proposed Terms of Reference
The rate of development applications are making it difficult for the City to keep up. This is not a New West specific issue, it is a common theme across the region, but one we are feeling. Our turn-around time on these types of applications is one of the better in the region (according to the Fraser Institute, so maybe take that with appropriate grains of salt), but we are always asking our staff to find better ways to provide customer service, and this report suggests an interim measure to get past a current logjam.

There is a reason applications are complicated. The City has a tonne of policy and requirements for new development, be it a laneway house in the West End or a mixed-use commercial-residential building in Sapperton. The larger projects have to be assessed against our Family Friendly housing policy, our affordable housing and secured rental policies, opportunities for Community Amenities, and fit into our overall community plans. Design elements are impacted by our Zoning Bylaws and Official Community Plan, details from the size of sewer hookups to the turning radius in parking garages have to be evaluated to assure they meet building code and other requirements. Buildings are complicated, and it is a responsibility of a City to make sure they are built in compliance with regulations and policy. They also need to be designed and presented adequately that public processes like open houses and Public Hearings are based on good data. This is the work of civic engineers and professional planning staff, and the City simply doesn’t have enough of them right now to manage the work load, leading to delays. The same forces that are leading to a logjam are making it difficult for us to hire the professional staff to help address the logjam – there aren’t that many experienced development planners available right now in the Lower Mainland labour market, and (despite what the Fraser Institute says), Cities are getting outcompeted by the private sector, especially on wages and benefits.

Staff are suggesting we allow the proponent to have their own professional staff do some of the work currently done by staff internal to the City, such as policy analysis (writing a report on what City policies the new project intersects with, and how it meets those requirements) or technical evaluation of regulatory needs (like parking counts, etc.). City staff would still review and sign off on the resultant analysis, so we would not give up oversight, but much of the busy work to get to that final oversight could fall back directly on the developer instead of being done by City staff and charged to the developer via fees.

This will be an interesting trial, and Council agreed to have staff test this out as a temporary measure to address our current backlog. I am challenged a bit by this appearing to represent “outsourcing” of jobs, and am concerned that we have strong measures in place to assure no loss of oversight. I am willing to give staff a chance to try this out, and appreciate the work they are trying to do to find a flexible way to be ore “customer oriented”, but we will need to use caution here, and look forward to the evaluation of it after this one-year trial wraps up.

1011 Ewen Avenue – Sale of Portion of Land – Queensborough Fire Hall
A developer is interested in developing a piece of vacant land at the entrance to Queensborough, but there is inadequate site access to support the best use model. The solution is to provide a second entrance off of Hampton Street, which requires them to purchase that land, half of it currently belonging to the City, the other half belonging to the Ministry of Transportation.

There are a few complications yet to work out with this development, it has only received preliminary approval from the City, and will need to go through an extensive public process. The impacts on the Firehall operations are also still being evaluated. However, a fair market price of the land has been determined, and the proposed sale is conditional on the other work being done successfully to make this new road access necessary.

647 Ewen Avenue (Slovak Hall): Heritage Revitalization Agreement to Convert Hall for Two Residential Units and Add Three Townhouse Units – Preliminary Report
This is a preliminary report on an interesting project to revitalize a perhaps underappreciated heritage asset in Queensborough. It will also bring in some gentle infill density (three townhouse units or a total of five housing units). This I preliminary report, and will go to a public open house, the RA, and all of the other committee and such reviews. As this will eventually go to Public Hearing, I’ll hold my comments until then.

The following items were Removed from Consentfor discussion:

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Special Limited Category- Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The somewhat byzantine structures of the Local Government Act when it comes to Heritage Conservation Areas mean we need to set up a blanket area of protection and secure that in our Official Community Plan, then if we have a good reason to exempt specific properties from protection, we need to amend our OCP after the fact. During the HCA set-up, we recognized there was a group of properties that don’t fit snugly within the two end-member “valuable heritage asset worthy of protection” or “no heritage value whatsoever” categories. As a stop-gap, we set up a special category for all 85 of these properties, and put them under full protection with the intent of doing more detailed analysis of the properties to determine which ones may have been inappropriately included within the protected category.

After Phase 1 of this analysis, Staff is now able to recommend 34 of these properties be removed from the “Protected” category, and have drafted a n OCP Amendment Bylaw to support this re-classification. Of the 34, one property owner declined to be removed from the protected category. This Bylaw will go to Public Hearing, so I will hold further comments until then.

Draft Environmental Strategy and Action Plan
The City has been working on an update of our Environmental Strategy for a couple of years. This is a little close to my heart, perhaps, formerly being an Environmental Coordinator for a local government, and a long-time advocate for local government environmental sustainability. I have watched how local government environmental strategies have evolved from anti-littering campaigns to energy and emissions plans to more integrated ecological network services models, including the emergence of things like tree protection strategies, re-greening of built spaces, and the Step Code.

This document outlines the proposed Environmental Strategy that staff has put together through public and stakeholder consultation. It is important to note that this strategy ties together many things already happening in the City, as our larger sustainability vision requires that the environment is considered in all City policy development. So the OCP, our Integrated Stormwater Management Plan, our Urban Forest Management Strategy, and Master Transportation Plan all inform this strategy in some way, as do various parks and community planning policies.

The plan, as it is, will be going to a Public Open House in June. I hope those interested will come out and let us know what we are doing right, and where we need to make improvements. I also hope I will have a chance to blog a little more about this topic then.

Council approved to going out for public comment, but added two aspects for discussion with the public. First, we want to know what the public thinks a local governments role should be when it comes to advocacy for environmental measures. Secondly, we want more about how we plan to measure success. The performance indicators are an important part of this, which are mentioned in the strategy, but not a lot of detail. I hope the public consultation can help inform what types of metrics we can use to assure we can measure progress.

620 Third Avenue (Westminster House): Temporary Use Permit for Youth Residential Recovery Program – Preliminary Report
This application is for a residence very close to my own, so it is best practice if I recuse myself from participating in the discussion about it because there may be perceived or real conflict of interest.

We also had three items that were Added to the Agenda late, because that was the kind of week it was:

Recruitment 2018: Restorative Justice Committee Appointment
There is a position open for a person who could bring an Indigenous perspective to the Restorative Justice committee, and a great candidate has been found! Council moved to appoint her.

Changes to the Strata Property Act: UBCM Resolution
There have been some concerns raised in the community about recent changes to the provincial Strata Act that makes it easier to sell a Strata property and dissolve it. This includes increased risk of eviction not just of renters who may rent from strata owners, but effective eviction of owners themselves, without and of the protections from unreasonable eviction that renters may have. Council moved to provide our concerns to the appropriate members of the Provincial Government, and to take a resolution to the UBCM meeting in September asking for these issues to be addressed.

New Westminster Urban Solar Garden Project Update
The first Urban Solar Garden in the Lower Mainland was proposed late last year, and quickly sold out when the City started selling shares. It looks like the cost for installation of the panels will be at the low end of our estimate, and the Queensborough Community Centre will be the host building for the first Solar Garden. Installation services can now be procured, and photons can start exciting electrons into doing our bidding!

1400 Quayside Drive (Poplar Landing / Muni Ever Park): Work Plan for Conceptual Site Design
He grass field adjacent to the Third Ave overpass at the west end of Quayside Drive is jointly owned by the City and Metro Vancouver. It has a Combined Sewer Overflow tank on it that was built about a decade ago through a combination of Federal and Provincial grants and is jointly operated by New West and Metro Vancouver. This former industrial land was remediated as part of that project, and the long-term vision was always to host the CSO Tank, have some public park space (the CSO Tank actually has public washrooms on top of it that have never been made accessible because the surrounding land has been in limbo), and to develop some combination of market and non-market/affordable housing.

After a decade of no much happening, and with the Provincial purse strings for affordable housing projects seemingly loosening, the City wants to start moving ahead with this project, and Metro Vancouver has agreed to work with the City on some conceptual planning. There is *a lot* of work to do here, and all designs are currently conceptual, but staff want to take them out to the public in an open house and give people a flavor of what may be coming, and get some feedback.

Finally, we went through our Bylaws for the week:

Official Community Plan Amendment (To remove Heritage Conservation Area Related Protection from Phase 1 Special Limited Category Study Properties) Bylaw No. 8025, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw that acts to remove some properties from the highest level of protection in the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area was given two readings. It will go to a Public Hearing on June 19. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Zoning Amendment (Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Bylaw for Incentives to be Implemented in the Short Term) Bylaw No. 8024, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw that supports a couple of the incentives being introduced to promote the protection of heritage homes in Queens Park was given two readings. It will also go to a Public Hearing on June 19. You now have incentive to show up for that meeting and tell us what you think.

Official Community Plan Amendment (838 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 8021, 2018 and
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (838 Ewen Avenue) No. 8022, 2018
As discussed above (and at length during Public Delegations, and consequently in the media, social and otherwise), these Bylaws that support the construction of a Temporary Modular Housing project at 838 Ewen Avenue in Queensborough were given two readings. This will go to a Special Public Hearing on June 26. Please show up and tell us what you think.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8020, 2018
As discussed above, and given an opportunity to be Heard at Council this evening, This Bylaw to amend our Budget was given three readings.

Building Amendment Bylaw (Building Permit Exemption for Hoop Greenhouses) No. 8018, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw to relax building code requirements for hoop-style greenhouses that exceed 108sqft was given three readings.

Housing Agreement (813 – 823 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 8001, 2018
As previously discussed, this Bylaw to formalize the housing agreement with the developer and secure below-market rentals for perpetuity in the proposed building on Carnarvon Street was adopted by Council. It is now the law of the land.

Heritage Designation Bylaw (220 Carnarvon Street) No. 7958, 2017 and Zoning Amendment Bylaw (220 Carnarvon Street) No. 7959, 2017
As previously discussed, these Bylaws to provide permanent protection to the last house on this stretch of Carnarvon Street and in exchange for a change in land use to allow commercial and a secondary suite was adopted by Council. It is now the law of the land.

Council Procedure Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7986, 2018 and Local Government Elections Procedures Bylaw No. 7985, 2018
As discussed back on February 5th, these Procedure Bylaws to adjust Council dates and language to fit the adjusted election schedule and language by the Province was adopted by Council. Vote accordingly.

At long last, we had one piece of New Business rising out of a Motion on Notice:

WHEREAS the City of New Westminster has identified and communicated
to the National Energy Board of Canada, serious concerns with the routing of the Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain Pipeline through the sensitiveBrunette River watershed;
And whereas we have also raised concerns regarding safety, security, and contingency planning in the context of emergency response;
And whereas we have identified the social and economic impacts that a catastrophic pipeline failure would have, not only on New Westminster but on the entire Fraser River watershed;
Therefore be it resolved that the City of New Westminster supports the Province of British Columbia’s position in seeking clarification from the Supreme Court of Canada on the province’s jurisdiction to protect BC’s environment, including those matters which the City have identified to the National Energy Board of Canada.

I note that Council passed this resolution unanimously, only hours before said pipeline was announced to soon be the property of the taxpayers of Canada. Life moves at you fast when you live in a petro-state.

Council – May 14, 2018.

It occurred to me that I totally failed to provide a Council Report for our special meeting on May 14th. This was a special meeting we scheduled during the day to provide more time for Council to workshop the potential Heritage Conservation Area incentives for Queens Park. We had a very long meeting on May 7, and decided than that this topic could not be given a proper vetting at 11:00 at night after a long meeting, so we deferred for a week. Then scope creep started and staff added one more item to the agenda, which we moved on Consent:

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure: Outstanding Referral for Street Closure Bylaw No. 7935, 2017
As with an earlier discussion on the May 7th meeting, this is a Street Closure Bylaw that staff has discovered was not administered properly back in 2017 when it comes to consultation with the Ministry of Transportation. So we are rolling it back to permit MoTI to do their thing, in anticipation that we can re-adopt after then give us the thumbs-up.

We then had a good discussion for the main event of the meeting:

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area Incentive Program: Proposed Implementation Framework
The Heritage Conservation Area measures in Queens Park are an ongoing initiative. Addressing the imminent threat of demolitions of important heritage assets related to land value increases, the City acted as quickly as it could within the limits of the local Government Act to bring in measures that allow us to pause those demolitions, and then spent a year determining how to make those protections more permanent.

As far as heritage preservation measures, creating legislation to curtail demolitions is definitely at the “stick” end of the public policy spectrum. From the start, the City has been committed to also introducing measures that provide the “carrots” that will incentivize better heritage protection, and have been undergoing extensive public and stakeholder consultations, along with legal and economic reviews, to see what works best to provide those incentives.

This report both provided a tonne of information on those consultations and studies, and also outlines some proposed policy and programs to provide meaningful and useful incentives. The discussion around the Council table was engaging and really productive (and I highly encourage those interested to watch the Video and see how consensus-building works when you have a collaborative team that often disagrees on points of policy, but want to achieve a common goal). Through the discussion, we reviewed a suite of 16 potential incentives, some we have asked staff to draft into a Bylaw immediately, others we have asked them to do more work to develop, a few we asked them to introduce City-wide, and some we agreed to not pursue.

As the Bylaws that support these incentive programs will be going to a Public Hearing, I don’t want to dive too deep into their relative merits or weaknesses (perhaps we can save that discussion until after the Public Hearing), but I do want to outline what were the principles I took into the discussion and tried to rely on to inform my decisions:

• These incentives are meant to make it easier and more attractive for people to invest in an preserve homes that are of high heritage value in what is a unique neighbourhood in that I has the highest concentration of pre-WW2 homes of any similarly-sized neighbourhood in BC.
• These incentives should encourage heritage conservation while also supporting other City policies, such as tree protection and providing more housing diversity.
• These incentives should not unfairly burden homeowners in other neighbourhoods by asking those residents of Queensborough or Sapperton to pay extraordinary costs to support the housing costs of Queens Park residents.

An important part of the discussion was the results of the public consultation. As there were 16 different incentive areas explored, the public opinion varied:

In the end, the incentives we move forward with will be going through an implementation period, and we will have more chance to talk about them at that time.

And that was all for our relatively short mid-day meeting, apologies for not reporting out sooner.

Counting Lanes

The Canada Games Pool replacement project is moving along. We have just completed a second round of public consultation, and one group have taken this opportunity to encourage the City to do more than the initial concept plan that resulted from the work to date. As they spent some time delegating to Council and have got quite a bit of messaging in the media (social and otherwise), I figured I would write a bit about how we got here, and my understanding of the request.

A couple of years ago, this Council made the decision to replace the Canada Games Pool (CGP) with a modern facility instead of investing tens of millions of dollars in replacing end-of-life components of the existing building and mechanicals. This has led to a lot of work on planning for a new facility, from figuring out what the “program” of the new facility needs to be, what it will cost, where it will fit on the site, and other technical and financial considerations. This has included two lengthy conversations with the public and stakeholders.

There are a few points that constrain our opportunities here. Council agreed with strong advocacy in the community that the existing pool cannot be torn down until the new one is built – we cannot afford to have a lengthy period without the swim programs and other amenities that the CGP provides. It was also determined that replacing the late-life Centennial Community Centre (CCC) at the same time would provide worthwhile synergies and assure continuity of programming. Finally, an extensive analysis of locations around the City brought the conclusion that the existing location had many advantages, and that the cost of moving the pool to a different neighbourhood just didn’t make sense, financially or for the disruption it would cause.

This is recognizing another limit on the current site, in that the front parking lot of the current pool was built on the upper reaches of the Glenbrook Ravine, which was filled in the 1960’s, burying a regionally-important sewer line under it. We cannot build above that sewer line (due to Metro Vancouver owning a right of way that excludes any construction), and moving it would cost a significant portion of what a new pool costs, so that further constrains the site. However, preliminary design and architectural work demonstrates that we can fit a decent-sized (~115,000 square foot) facility on the site immediately to the south and west of the existing pool.

Another thing Council did was tour new pool facilities across the Lower Mainland. We visited the Edmonds Community Centre, the Hillcrest Community Centre, the Poirier Complex, the West Vancouver Community Centre, and more. We also had an extensive tour of the current Canada Games Pool. On all of these visits, we are able to talk to the operators and project planners to talk about what works, and what doesn’t. Most interesting was to discuss what they would do differently if they were to start a pool replacement project from fresh. A few of us even scheduled a visit to a larger pool facility in Gatineau when in Ottawa last year, and have been tracking new pool facilities across the region to understand who is doing what.

Of course there have been a tonne of conversations here in New West with the pool user community, and people who don’t currently use the pool, but might like to except for its lack of serving their needs. There was both formal consultation and more informal meetings with stakeholder groups (such as the Hyack Swim Club). A few of us on Council also went out and did a few days of door knocking in the neighbourhoods around the pool to better understand what people think about the current pool, what they know about the replacement plans, and to hear if the budget freaks them out.

I have to say the most consistent feedback I received was that the current pool is not as inviting to families and community use as other more modern facilities. Part of this is the somewhat aged structure (described by some as dank and stuffy), but also the lack of play space and the colder water temperature (which makes it better for competitive swimming) that makes it harder for families to enjoy the space together. We also had feedback that the gym was too small and not comfortable because it shared humid and warm airspace with the pool. We also heard from a significant user group that they loved the humid, warm gym environment. A very small number of people valued the diving towers and the water slide, but most wanted more flexible spaces. The value of the pool as a community amenity and the programs run by our recreation staff were a consistent theme, but when it came to details, there was a wide diversity of opinions. I have no idea who you are reading this, but I bet at least one point I raised above is something you disagree with, as is the reality of public consultation.

The process to filter through this feedback included working with an architect experienced in building these types of facilities and measuring out what different program components would add as far as square footage and cost. The cost part, of course, includes the cost to build the facility, but also a business case based on the needs of a rapidly growing community. This means determining the capacity of pools, changerooms, gym facilities and such needed to accommodate (increasing) anticipated users. The operational costs are put into context of the potential for revenue generation and revenue growth. New Westminster is a relatively small city with challenging infrastructure needs, and it became clear that the budget was going to drive part of this conversation – we are going to build the best pool we can, but simply cannot afford to build everything that everyone wants. We knew hard decisions were going to have to be made.

Amalgamating the public feedback and other data, and coming up with a program to fit as many needs as possible, was a challenging process. The report on the first round of consultation and the reasoning that led to the proposed program, can be read here. It is this program that the City took out for a second round of consultation last month, and we have yet to receive a report back at Council about the results of the consultation; that is the next step here.

This is the background to the Hyack Swim Club’s appearance at Council to delegate on their needs and desires for the pool. I don’t want to put words in their mouth, but the message was that the proposed program is inadequate for holding the scale of meets that they think we can attract. We could still hold regional meets up to the level that the current facility can host, but we could not host national-level meets that are currently only possible at Kamloops and Victoria. In the media (social and otherwise) this has been characterized as requiring the addition of two more lanes, which sounds pretty minor, but there are hints it is more than this. So I’ll take a bit of time to put some context around that specific issue, recognizing this is at topic I am still learning about, so I stand ready to be corrected.

One big decision in any new civic pool facility is – do you build a 25m or 50m pool? The emphasis on fitness and lap swimming, including the legacy of the Hyack Club, is the reason the City suggested a 50m pool instead of a 25m pool (or even two 25m pools, which would be similar in cost to the one large pool, but provide much more user flexibility, which is the decision Richmond made with the new Minoru complex project). The demand analysis described above suggested that New West could meet anticipated swim demand by building a 25m 10-lane pool and a secondary leisure pool. It is the legacy of competitive swimming at the pool that led to the alternative 50m pool plan being considered.

The current pool is 8 lanes, and the proposed program would also be 8 lanes, with 2.4m lanes. The proposal also includes a much larger leisure pool that can accommodate some lane swimming, but also have the amenities people come to expect from a community pool serving families and other leisure users. So, contrary to some social media reports, we are not proposing a smaller pool that we currently have, but one with a functionally-similar main tank, and a significant second tank. It is my understanding (and I stand to be corrected here, as I have some reading to do!) that the Hyack Swim Club’s request is not just for two more lanes, but a deeper main tank, a much larger secondary tank with potentially less family / leisure useability, a significant increase in deck space for stands, and perhaps some other functional changes. The full proposal needs to be evaluated for fit and cost (capital and operational).

If I was to express frustration about this process, it is that the competitive swimming community always advocates for 50m pools whenever a new pool is built, but there never seems to be a pool built that satisfies their needs. Hillcrest and Grandview are just two recent examples of 50m pools that were built to accommodate a vocal competitive swimming advocacy group, but are(according to the presentations we received at Council) inadequate for competitive swimmers. The proposals for the new Harry Jerome complex in North Vancouver is going through a very similar conversation today (note – that “editorial” in the newspaper is actually a paid-for sponsored ad, which is its own weirdness), and I hear from the recreation operators that there are simply too many 50m pools being built in the region.

In summary, the conversation is ongoing here in New Westminster, and it is great that the Hyack Swim Club has been working to inform Council about their needs. I have had some correspondence from them since the Council delegations, and they have provided me some reading material to review. I hope to gain some better understanding about the details and (importantly) the business case implications involved in meeting the Hyack Swim Club’s expectations while not compromising what the rest of the community wants from a recreation facility. This conversation is not at all a setback for the project, but a perfect example of why we do public consultation. Our goal is (as it always has been) to have a project definition ready for when the Federal and Provincial government open the application window for infrastructure grants, and though there has been no confirmation of that date, we are in a good place to work out these details in time to make the window.

More to come!