Council – Feb 5, 2018

It was a report-full and public-conversation-full Council Meeting this week, with a lot on the agenda, so put on a kettle of tea. We started with an open invite for the public to comment on:

Draft 2018 – 2022 Financial Plan
This is our annual budget consultation. As required by the Community Charter, our budget must be balanced over a 5-year cycle, and there are some prescriptive reporting requirements. We also provide more information in order to make the somewhat enigmatic budget figures more understandable.

I will blog more about this in the coming weeks, but the short version of the draft plan is that general revenues are projected to go up by about $5.8 Million. Of this, about $1.6 Million (28%) is from new taxes related directly to growth and $1.3 Million (22%) is related to new fees collected mostly from supporting growth (permit and engineering fees, for the most part). Add to this a proposed 2.95% tax increase that bring in an extra $2.2 Million (38%), and a new 1% Capital Levy to support our ambitious capital renewal plan which will bring in about $750K (13%) to be directed to our Capital Reserves.

Utility rates are, not surprisingly, going up mostly due to local and regional Capital investment, from water tunnels under the river to new sewer treatment plants. We are still not sure what BC Hydro will be doing with electrical rates in 2018, as the utility predicted a 3% increase and the Premier suggested he would freeze that for a year. We will need to talk about the long-term policy implications for the City of BC Hydro creating unsustainable deferment accounts – we need to maintain our capital (including some new substation needs) and need some certainty in rates to plan for that.

We had a few people present to the plan, some sharing our concern about the infrastructure gap and the need for Senior Governments to help local governments, others with more technical questions about the numbers. We also received some written correspondence on the budget. Council moved to receive the report, and staff will now work towards creating supporting Bylaws to make the Financial Plan official.

The following items were Moved on Consent

Updates to the City’s Election Bylaws
Why has no-one told me there is going to be an election this year? As God is my witness, the fountain of information coming out of the Provincial Government has been unrelenting, with new and constantly-updating financing and declaration rules. However, these Bylaw changes are simply about making sure our local election rules comply with the Provincial regulations. There will be little change here, except the dates of the early ballots will be adjusted to avoid the polls falling on the Thanksgiving weekend when many people travel.

235 Durham Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Amendment Bylaw No. 7975, 2018
This HRA project has been delayed by the owner for a few reasons relating to family issues. The owner does plan to proceed, but needs some more time. As these Agreements have deadlines, Council had to agree to extend the deadlines through a Bylaw.

835 Eighth Street (New Westminster Secondary School): Proposed Redevelopment of the New Westminster Secondary School
The new High School project is rolling along, but unlike the RCH project (see below) it doesn’t need any zoning approval or anything from the City. However the City does have some interest in the transportation connections, relationship to Massey Theatre, the Moody Park Arena and Mercer Stadium. So it is good to get an update on the plans as they move along.

Mostly, seeing as we have no regulatory role, I think the City’s main desire here is to stay out of the way and let the new School get built. The one issue we needed to deal with is a triangle of land that belongs to the City but the School District wants to use for crane installation and construction staging. So we are making that happen.

406 – 412 East Columbia Street: Principles for a Housing Agreement
A developer is working on a plan to build a mixed-sue building on a vacant lot in Sapperton. It will combine street retail, office space, and purpose-built secured rental housing. To secure the potential residential units as rental for the life of the building, a legal agreement will be prepared between the City and the developer. This report outlines the principles of the agreement, and now that council endorsed the principles, staff will draft a formal agreement as part of the development review process.

Bylaw Closing a Portion of Highway – 1084 Tanaka Court
A portion of land adjacent to Tanaka Court (the road one uses to get to the Lowes parking lot in Queensborough) belongs to the City, and though it is designated as part of the road, it is only really useful as part of a redevelopment of the adjacent piece of vacant land. In order for the City to sell it, we first have to “close the road”, so it is a titled lot, or can be amalgamated on to the adjacent lot. That takes a Road Closure Bylaw.

Assuming the Ministry of Transportation approves, this Bylaw will go to a public Opportunity to be Heard. Watch your local CityPage for the announcement!

Recreation Management Software Replacement Project
Parks and Recreation are ready to pull the switch on their major registration and facility management software upgrade. This is the software used for all recreation and cultural programs and facilities rentals. Naturally, this is a big shift, but staff have been working on this for a year the new provider of the software has a solid reputation with a lot of experience at this stuff. Fortunately, they are a Burnaby-based company, and there are 22 other municipalities that use the system, so we are not all on our own here.

That said, its new software, so expect a few hiccups and a bit of time on a learning curve, but hopefully registration will soon be smooth and easy like never before!

We then had a few Reports for Action

Status of 2015-2018 Strategic Initiatives – Update
This is our new practice of receiving regular reports on the progress of many of our Strategic Initiatives for the term. This time around, we heard progress reports on these three initiatives:
Library upgrades: The Library is our second most-visited facility (after the Canada Games Pool), and hasn’t seen major renovations in a few decades. The older side of the building is from the 50’s and needs some pretty significant work done on the building envelope and stricter, aside from the need to upgrade the facility to suit modern needs. Libraries are very different places in 2018 than they were in 1958, and we have not kept up with that change. So there will be (unfortunately but necessarily) disruptive work going on in the building for the next year and a half. The ongoing plan is to only deactivate portions at a time to keep as much continuity in service as possible, so please be friendly to the staff as they make the best of a bad situation. The end result will be worth it!
Economic Development: The City has taken a more proactive role in Economic Development in the last few years, and are very fortunate to have great partnerships with our Chamber of Commerce, our two “official” BIAs and three Business Area Associations. The major thrust here is through the Intelligent City initiative to promote and retain more tech-savvy businesses while continuing to support our retail and commercial areas as the population grows. This is a never-ending job, but a solid strategy and team is vital.
Environment Strategy: It is time the City did a comprehensive review of its various environmental programs and initiatives, and provide a strong framework plan to assure we are being strategic with our priorities. There was some great initial public consultation for this program in the fall, with some new ideas, some suggestions and criticisms of the City’s current programs, and visions of a more sustainable City. We expect to see a policy document some time in late spring bringing these together.

813 – 823 Carnarvon Street: Rezoning to Allow a 204 Unit Market Residential and 66 Unit Non-Market Residential Development – Bylaw for First and Second Readings,
This is a proposed development in the Downtown Tower District that combines a Market condo tower (a little shorter than the adjacent Plaza88 tower) with a smaller tower of non-market rental suites. The organization running the non-market Tower is called PAL, and they hope to run a facility similar to one they have on Coal Harbour where seniors who have worked in the arts can live in a means-tested affordable housing building attached to the market tower.

The project will be going to public consultation and eventually to Public Hearing, so I don’t want to say too much about it until the public has a chance to chew on it. However another topic came up through the discussion of the project, and that resulted in a follow-up motion from Council.

I did, however, raise a concern about the amount of parking going into a building that is immediately adjacent to a SkyTrain Station – 275 parking spots for a 270-unit building (including guest parking and some parking to support the commercial in the podium). I think we are at a time where we can start significantly reducing the parking numbers for developments like this. Underground parking is a significant cost for developers: depending on site and ground conditions, $30,000 – $50,000 per spot. Underground, they make construction much more expensive and disruptive to the community as large excavations and de-watering projects must be tolerated; above ground, they create out-of-scale buildings with terrible streetscape.

The City has a program where developers can build less than our regulated “parking minimum”, but they must pay cash in-lieu to the City based on some formula. This program dates back to 2011, and may need a revisit, as times change and we have a new Master Transportation Plan and housing affordability issues that this should directly address. During Q&A, this developer expressed concern about the cost of building four levels of parking, and was confident they could market the condos without parking spaces – it is the City and our policies that are forcing so much parking to be built across the street from a SkyTrain.

So, we are going to review these policies (though I suspect it is too late for this specific project).

813 – 823 Carnarvon Street (Affordable Housing): Principles for Housing Agreement
This report outlines the shape of a Housing agreement that would assure the second building in this development would remain non-market affordable housing for the life of the building. If the project were to be approved, these are the conditions the City would expect the developer and not-for-profit operator to stick to.

Aside from some subtlety of language around storage space allocation and a bit of a follow-up gripe about requiring parking in a supportive housing development, Council moved to support the principles in the report.

After a report from our Police Department, some awards given to a couple of outstanding officers, and some proclamations and public delegations (I blogged a bit about a few of them here, and will talk about another on in a subsequent post), we moved onto the items Removed from Consent for discussion.

Community Mural Policy
Staff and the Arts Commission worked on a policy where the City could support community-driven mural projects on City and private buildings. It looked pretty good, but Councillor Trentadue did raise an interesting issue around how the City seems to be creating a situation where people wishing to beautify their own private building may run into a bureaucracy wall when, really, outside the Sign Bylaw, we should only be interested in mural on our own property. Council moved to send it back to Committee for a little more work prior to passage.

616 – 640 Sixth Street (Market Rental): Principles for a Housing Agreement
Similar to above, this is another proposed development that has not had Council Approval, but Staff is working to put together a Housing Agreement to secure the conditions of the Purpose Built Rental part of the development. Again, aside from a few minor language changes, Council supported the principles.

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital): Rezoning to Allow Renovation, Modernization and Redevelopment of Hospital Facilities
The City has some permitting to manage as the Royal Columbian Hospital redevelopment occurs over the next decade. This report gives us some idea what is coming down the pike. It also includes a report to be used by Fraser Health and their consultants to drive the public realm designs of the buildings.

From a City perspective, I am mostly concerned about how this building integrates with our traffic and pedestrian systems. If staff and visitors of the Hospital are all going to arrive and leave by cars on East Columbia Street, none of our goals for making east Columbia a vibrant Great Street are going to be realized. It will be a disaster.

Good news is that Fraser Health and City are committed to making alternatives work, including moving the main automobile ingress and egress down to Brunette Avenue, and whatever changes need to happen to Keary Street and/or Sherbrook to support this needs to be understood early. We also need to assure the pedestrian, cycling ,and bus infrastructure on East Columbia is well integrated and makes those attractive options.

Fortunately, the initial concepts look positive, and Fraser Health is talking Transportation Demand Management to help with their own parking issues, which is a huge step towards making a new, expanded hospital support East Columbia and the livability of the entire community. Exciting times ahead.

We then, as always, did our Local Government Act Prescribed Bylaws dance:

Zoning Amendment (813 – 823 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 7974, 2018
As described above, this proposal to build a two-tower mixed use residential building on Carnarvon Street, including a supportive housing component, was given two readings. There will be a special Public Hearing on March 5th. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Council Procedure Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7986, 2018
Local Government Elections Procedures Bylaw No. 7985, 2018
Automated Voting Machines Authorization Amendment Bylaw No. 7994, 2018
These three Bylaws to adjust our Council schedule, make some necessary changes to our Elections Bylaw to meet the new Provincial laws, and to authorize the voting machines for the 2018 Local Government Elections were given three readings.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (235 Durham Street) Amendment Bylaw No. 7975, 2018
As described above, this Bylaw to facilitate a request for a time extension for a homeowner to do their heritage restoration work was given three readings.

Tanaka Court Road Closure Bylaw No. 7991, 2018
As described above, this Bylaw to close an unused portion of the Tanaka Court right-of-way was given three readings. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard scheduled once the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is given us the green light.

Corporate Record Management Bylaw No. 7987, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this update to our procedures for record retention, destruction, and transmission to our permanent archive was Adopted. It is now the Law of the Land. It should be fun seeing what comes out of the deep file search of some of our very old Bylaws and they are transferred to digital.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7953, 2018: Passive Design Incentives for Single Detached Zones
As discussed last meeting, this Zoning Bylaw amendment that will provide modest incentives for the building of more energy efficient homes in the community was Adopted. It is now the Law of the Land. Adjust your thermostats appropriately.

We then had some New business</> coming out of last week’s notices of motion:

Motion on Notice, Umbrella Cooperative
This is a not-for-profit operating a community health clinic in New Westminster specifically developed to support people with language or cultural barriers to public services. They could use a little help and the City is formally asking the Province ot help them out, and to provide for more of this type of service to our new residents.

Motion on Notice, First Nations Representatives on Committees
The City is working on a diversity mandate for Council Advisory Committees, and I think it is important that First Nations representatives (be they from local or regional First Nations, or people who live in our community and have lived the Indigenous experience, regardless of their tradition territory) is an important part of that. We will make sure there is a mechanism in place for next Committee Recruiting season to make this happen.

Happy Family day everyone. Pop by the Anvil Centre, as there will be many things happening!

on HCA effects

Another council meeting, and another delegation from residents concerned that the Heritage Conservation Area in Queens Park has unleashed economic disaster on Queens Park. I have not written up my notes from yesterday’s meeting yet, but I first want to talk about a subject that came up in the Open Delegations, and a meeting tomorrow about it.

I feel the need to explain that I am a champion for people delegating to keep Council informed about their concerns. I want Open Delegations to be an inviting and comfortable place, and am cognizant that there is a power dynamic here. My directly challenging delegates could be seen as – can genuinely feel like – I am “punching down” from a position of authority. For that reason, I am very sensitive in that setting not to engage in a debate about the facts delegates present. Too often that comes across as challenging their right to be heard. If I counter their facts in that setting, it can be construed as dismissing or doubting their opinions, and ultimately, not being respectful.

So I often takes notes and thank them, and save my questions or comments to delegates for points of clarity, to reinforce things I agree with, or to initiate discussions about how Council or Staff can operationalize around their concerns (see other delegations that day).

Regular readers (Hi Mom!) would also note I have an itch to correct the record, so I am writing this to correct one common theme I heard, with all due respect to the strongly felt convictions of the delegates: There is simply no evidence that the Heritage Conservation Area has impacted the values of homes in Queens Park. At least, not yet.

When the annual BC Assessments came out recently, many people noted that housing values have not increased as much as condo values this year. This is a trend across New West and the region, and may be attributed to condos starting to “catch up” to the last few years of significant increases in the single family home sector. It also appears that many single family homes remained stagnant or even decreased slightly in value this year. This is the case for most homes in Queens Park.

This (horribly scanned, apologies) image shows every residential property in New West based on how their assessment changed in 2018. GREEN went up more than 15%; YELLOW was an average increase between 5 and 15%; ORANGE had an increase under 5%; RED a decrease.

A careful analysis of individual homes throughout Queens Park, however, show that there is no bulk difference between homes that fell under higher levels of protection (those built before 1940) and those with limited or no protection. With only a few exceptions, the variations within the neighbourhood seems more related to the block the house is on than anything else.

Same crappy scan, same colour codes. Note single-family parts of upper Glenbrook and Upper Sapperton areas had similar declines as Queens Park.

Perhaps more tellingly, homes in the Glenbrook and Upper Sapperton neighboruhoods had similar stagnant or slight reductions in value. These houses are not (for the most part) older homes, have no Heritage Conservation Area, and only resemble Queens Park in that they are fairly high-value homes on relatively large lots. If the HCA caused the stagnation in Queens Park, we will need another, yet completely separate, explanation for this remarkably similar stagnation on the other side of McBride. Declines were generally 1-5% in both areas.

Note, the 2018 assessment were completed only a month or so after the rules around the new HCA were developed. Although there was a 6-month temporary conservation measure and significant community conversation about the potential HCA, it is fair to say that the implementation of the HCA may not have had an impact on the Assessors work, but the market by that time definitely had a strong wind that something was going to happen, what with the Lawn Sign war and all.

What I m saying here is that we don’t yet know the short- or long-term impact on housing values related to the HCA. We have evidence from other jurisdictions that there may be a small short-term decline, followed by accelerated increases, and that the long-term trend is towards higher values. However, give me a trend you want to see, and I can probably find a Heritage Area somewhere that matches it. There are hundreds of districts like this around North America, and there are too many confounding variables to say with certainty what the impact will be. The best bet, based on an accumulation of data, is that the impact (positive or negative) will be small.

I do want to emphasize that increasing property values was not a goal of the HCA; protecting the heritage of a unique neighbourhood was. That said, Council recognized that the heritage goals will not be met simply by banning demolitions of heritage homes, but we need a suite of measures to encourage residents to preserve the neighbourhood. Preventing demolitions was priority #1 simply because of the timelines imposed by the Local Government Act, setting up regulations around renovations, repairs, and upkeep was also a high priority.

The City recognizes the need to provide more “carrots” to give people reason to invest in their heritage properties. So we are working through a process of determining what an appropriate set of incentives are that will make it more attractive for people to take advanced protection measures (like Designation), potentially help with specific cases where the broad brush of the HCA may make it difficult to fulfill their zoning entitlements, or where we can find opportunities to increase housing choice, affordability, or flexibility while protecting heritage assets.

Having started this post speaking of the group of delegates from yesterday, I do want to note that the final delegate on the topic did provide a pretty well-organized list of potential incentives that should be part of the conversation. Coincidentally, there is an Open house at Anvil Centre on Wednesday Night where staff, residents, and subject matter experts can talk about this. It may be worth while attending if you live in Queens Park:

Council on Cannabis

My reports on the January 29th regular meeting and Public Hearing are here and here, respectively, but we also had a constructive Workshop session during the early afternoon that you can watch in its videotronic glory here.

Implementation of Cannabis Legislation
The Federal Government have announced that some time in July, 2018, the production, distribution and sale of cannabis for recreational use will be legal in Canada. This has resulted in a bit of a rush (by government standards) to develop appropriate regulatory controls around an industry that will transition from underground to commonplace. This has involved every level of government working at essentially the same time, trying to figure out where the overlaps and gaps are. At a national level, there is no precedence for this, so complications ensue…

What we know right now (and I am simplifying a bit here) is that the feds are going to regulate the commercial production and packaging, and create quality and other standards. The provincial governments are going to be responsible for distribution systems and regulating the retail market. Local governments will do what we always do – regulate local land use (through zoning) and business regulations to manage parochial concerns (business hours, signage standards, buffer zones, etc.).

The pressure on local governments right now is that we can’t really do our job until we have a good understanding of the framework that senior governments will provide. They are putting together laws, but we are not yet certain about what the details will be. In the regulation-as-sausage-making sense, we cannot just create new Bylaws instantly: between doing the drafting work, community consultation, legal review, Council approval, Public Hearings, and implementation, it can take 6 months or more to build an effective bylaw regime. July is 6 months away.

With this in mind, Council held a workshop to give staff guidance on a proposed regime for managing cannabis sales and production locally, within the limits of our regulatory role. Staff prepared some briefs on the ways they see this rolling out, leaving significant wiggle room as we are somewhat reading the tea leaves of semi-complete senior government regulation. It isn’t perfect, but it is a proactive approach.

All ideas were discussed as a set of basic principles to be put together into draft bylaws, with the intention of taking this out to public consultation to get a sense of where the community is on this. Therefore, take my comments and those of Council on this as a set of starting principles, which may change by the time we are finished this process later in the year. The discussion revolved around 5 basic areas:

1) Limiting retail locations (Zoning Bylaw)
The Province has indicated there will be government-run cannabis retailers and private retailers. This looks a bit like the current liquor store model. We can write a zoning bylaw to allow the sale of cannabis as an “add on use” to existing retail-zoned areas. Similar to a liquor retailer, an applicant would come to City Hall with a proposed location, staff would evaluate against a general set of guidelines and process an application that would require some public input. The actual guidelines are currently up in the air. What restrictions to put on these retail stores (if any) are the meat of the public discussion to come. Should there be a 300m buffer to the nearest school? 100m buffer from each other? Should it only be allowed in some retail areas, not others? Should there be a prohibition on selling in neighbourhood corner stores as opposed to retail strips? This is the conversation we need to have right now.

Notably, it does not look like consumption sites will be legal in the short term. There are a bunch of WorkSafe BC and other rules around smoking in work places, and edibles and tinctures will apparently not be legal until 2019, so we are limiting our discussion in the short term on retail sale for off-site consumption (think liquor stores, not pubs, for the alcohol corollary)

2)Production facilities (Zoning Bylaw)
It is anticipated that production will be pretty industrial, and due to security and energy costs, relatively large operations. Whether there will be a smaller “craft” production market is yet to be determined. The Federal Government is regulating this, but the City will need to assure our Zoning Bylaw allows this use in appropriate places. We have larger M2 zoned properties, mostly in Queensborough and the Braid Industrial Area, where staff feel it is most appropriate, and we have smaller M1 zones that are more light industry like in the Braid Triangle and adjacent to Stewardson Way. Which of these is most appropriate?

These industrial operations may smell, and it is a little unclear how prepared Metro Vancouver is to regulate air quality from them. It is not even clear where the proposed federal rules government production will intersect with the air quality bylaws of the regional government. This is something to watch.

3)Business licensing rules (Business License bylaw)
This is where we regulate things around the day-to-day operations of businesses, like hours of operation, staffing, limiting age of customers, and business streetscape. I am generally in favour of making this as similar to liquor stores as a starting point, but am willing to be convinced that either a more rigorous or more lax approach is appropriate. One important aspect is how we regulate the sale of “paraphernalia”: should it be limited to places that sell the product? we currently have (somewhat dated) Bylaws restricting the sale of “drug paraphernalia” in the City – these will need an update.

4)Public Consumption (Smoking Bylaw)
Another challenge that falls somewhat in to local jurisdiction is our public smoking law. Not all marijuana is smoked, but the nuisance and negative health impacts of second hand smoke are as real for pot as for cigarettes. Our current Bylaw does cover all smoking materials, so no big change needed here, though some clarifying language may help. I have other concerns around public education, but will cover that below.

5)Domestic production
The feds are going to make it legal to produce a few plants at home for personal use, and the city may want to create regulations around this, such as requiring that it only be done indoors or in an accessory building. I’m not sure if we need to take these measures, as I suspect much of the negative impact of previous “grow-op” practices were a product of growing under a prohibition regime – the need for intensive lights, hydroponics, etc. People growing a plant in their living room or deck may be no different than growing poinsettias or tomatoes, but I really don’t know. I feel we need some input from our Fire Chief and buildings staff to better understand potential issues.

This, and the smoking bylaw part above, brings up my final concern: New Westminster has a high proportion of people living in Multi-Family Buildings, be they condos or rentals, and I don’t really know how these new rules are going to impact that sector. Will building managers or stratas regulate the growing of plants on decks, the smoking of cannabis on decks, or even within apartments? Does the Strata Act or the Residential Tenancy Act address these issues already? What are the rights of residents (be they owners or renters) and what are their responsibilities? How much can stratas self-regulate this? I am afraid the City will be asked to intervene in this type of conflict between neighbours, and I don’t know if we understand how to manage this.

I want to know from the province about their efforts to educate the general public about the new rules, and where funding will come from to support local governments in addressing conflicts.

The City is initiating a public conversation about all of these issues, in the hopes that we can have a solid framework as soon as we have certainty on senior government regulations. I’m not sure we will have every piece in place by July, but we did emphasize to staff that we don’t want to drag our feet on this, even if it means holding Public Hearings in the summer (which is not a preferred practice).

Staff suggested we need to make a few changes to our existing Bylaws now in order to prevent unanticipated problems leading up to July and the city getting its entire regulatory regime passed. It is still illegal to sell cannabis from a storefront in Canada, and in New Westminster we have taken the approach of not providing business licenses to businesses wanting to engage in illegal activity. Staff recommended updating the language in our Zoning Bylaw to clarify that practice, and bring the language up to date with newer Federal regulations. They are not recommending changing any practices here in the short term, just making sure the language meets the current standard to remove uncertainty. Council agreed to give those Bylaw updates First and Second reading.

So stay tuned, folks, and let us know what you think about this new direction we are taking. I think we are entering with open minds and clear intent, but also aware that there will be some hiccups along the way.

Council – Jan 29, 2018(B)

I covered the January 29th Public Hearing in this earlier post. Our regular meeting began with Opportunities to be Heard on several development variance permits:

Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw No. 7976, 2018
Queen City Taxi is applying yet again, through the long and complicated process, to get more taxi licenses in order to provide better service in New Westminster. The amendment of our local Bylaw is part of the process. They wish to expand service by three regular cabs and an accessible cab. I’ve ranted about this before.

We have one presentation from a resident who was concerned about lack of accessible cabs, and Council referred her concerns to the Access Ability Advisory Committee.

With no other presentations, Council moved to adopt the Bylaw Amendment.

Development Variance Permit DVP00637 for 430 Boyd Street, 350 and 354 Stanley Street and an unaddressed parcel
There are a couple of variances needed to make this 80-unit townhouse project in Queensborough fit better on the site. Tandem parking spaces allow more flexible layouts and some separation between buildings is slightly smaller than required by the zoning bylaw (on the order of a few feet at most) . We had no-one come to speak to the variances, and received no correspondence. The project was supported by the Residents’ Association and the Design Panel, and fits with the Queensborough Community Plan.

Council moved to approve the Variance and the subsequent Development Permit.

Development Variance Permit DVP00638 for 728 and 734 Ewen Avenue
Similar to the above project, there are a couple of variances needed to make this 37-unit townhouse project in Queensborough work, and again Tandem parking is the big one. We had no written submissions, but had the proponent present in favour. Again, this project is supported by the Residents’ Association, the Advisory Planning Commission, and the Design Panel. It fits the Community Plan and had a public hearing in 2014(!).

Council moved to approve the Variance and the subsequent Development Permit.

Development Variance Permit DVP00639 for 746 Ewen Avenue
This project is directly related to the neighbouring one above, and brings another 30 townhouse units to Queensborough, and had similar approvals from the community and committees. Council moved to approve the Variance and the subsequent Development Permit.

All told, that’s 149 relatively affordable family-friendly homes approved for Queensborough.

Following those Opportunities, we moved onto our regular agenda, starting with the following items Moved on Consent:

2018 New West Grand Prix
The 2017 was by so many measures a success, and we are getting ready to organize year two.

Last year we had few spills, but many thrills. As a cycling fan, the women’s race was particularly exciting, even as the eventual winner absolutely dominated. Kirstie Lay went on a suicide solo break that lasted for way too many laps. Each lap we thought she was surely going to get reeled in, but she kept the gap up in a Merckxian display of strength and determination. It was pretty cool.

Unlike Kirstie, we started a little late last year, and had a few organizational hiccups. They were small, and not really noticed by the fans or the racers, and we have learned a lot about how an event like this fits in New West. We have a head start this year, and things are already lining up. Volunteers and sponsors really made this a success. It was a fun event for the volunteers, many of them had no idea what a professional bicycle race looked like, and were amazed by the speed and the force with which this mass of athletes blasts past (they move a lot of air!). If you want a t-shirt, we always could use more volunteers!

Recruitment 2018: Recommended Appointments to Committees
This City relies on volunteers. They provide time and energy to get so many things done in the City, but they also give City Staff and Council guidance based on their subject matter expertise. Every year we have to sift through a large pile of applicants for Committee appointments. Here are the 179 appointees to 25 committees, commissions, or boards. Thank you all, and to the many others who applied but didn’t get picked – please apply again next year!

We have yet to adopt measures to assure diversity and representation on these committees – that is a work in progress and we will hopefully have an updated process for these appointments next year. I think we have a pretty good gender balance on these committees, 86 (48%) male, 93 (52%) female, but our process does not allow us to screen based on other demographics such as ethnicity or socio economic status. More to come…

Zoning Amendment (Housekeeping) Bylaw No. 7924, 2018: for Minor Updates/Corrections to Zoning Bylaw No. 6680, 2001 – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
There are several “housekeeping” changes required to one of our older but still valid Zoning Bylaws. They range from correcting spelling to updating definitions and fixing now-broken references to changed provincial regulations. These changes do, nonetheless, require a public hearing, so c’mon out on February 19 and let us know what you think.

232 Eleventh Street: Development Variance Permit DVP00640 for Height, Retaining Wall and Front Yard Parking – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
A landowner want to build a single family house on a small, steeply sloped lot in the Brow Neighboruhood, and has a few challenges involving the roof height and accommodating off-street parking. This will go to an Opportunity to be Heard after reviewing with neighbours. I’ll hold my comments until after that process.

Temporary Use Permit for Amusement Arcade, 457 East Columbia Street
It looks like the arcade is back. Again, I am not sure what the concern is that led to the City restricting them back in 1990, but that was 28 years ago when I spent a little too much time playing Cabal up at Lester’s Arcade in Burnaby…

There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on the required Temporary Use Permit on February 19. C’mon out and let us know what you think!

Investment Report to December 31, 2017
The City has about $159 Million in the bank, mostly in group funds with the Municipal Finance Authority (see rant below). This annual report on our investments isn’t terrible news, but we are slightly behind where we want to be on returns on our investments.

Major Purchases September 1st to December 31st, 2017
This is our ternary report on major purchases. Mostly, this serves as the final step in our transparent procurement process. Bids are open, and the winning bid is reported out to assure that we are justifying purchase decisions.

810 Agnes Street – Rezoning and Special Development Permit for 29 Story Residential High Rise – Preliminary Report
This is a preliminary report on a large proposed residential development in the Downtown “Tower District”. There is a lot of work to do yet on this project, and there will be a public engagement process involving a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments

Proposal to Amend the Terms of Reference of the ACTBiPed Committee
The Advisory Committee for Transit, Bikes, and Pedestrians has always had strong representation from local pedestrian advocates, but there has never been a formal Organizational representation like we have for cyclists (HUB has provided a representative for several years). The Committee wanted to create an opportunity for a pedestrian advocacy organization on the committee.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Capture Photography Festival Public Art Project
You may recognize the large photographic pieces attached to a couple of brick walls in the City last year as part of this program. Our Public Art Advisory Committee is recommending taking part again in 2018, and have identified a priority location for an installation: The ugly fence along East Columbia at Sapperton Park.

In this report, the PAAC has recommended an artist to create the public art piece, which will be funded from our Public Art Reserve Fund. It is a great example of how Public Art doesn’t have to be a stand-alone piece in a square somewhere, but can be adding expression and aesthetic value to boring or dull infrastructure to make our communities nicer places to spend time.

Fire Escape Stairs at 642 Columbia Street Design and Public Art Integration
Speaking of boring or dull infrastructure, the fire escape built on Front Street is not the most elegant structure ever built. Once the rest of Front Street was improved, many noted it is incongruous to the new setting. An engineering marvel built to meet the newest fire escape standards, but ugly.

Luckily, the City has a Public Art Advisory Committee made up of City staff, arts professionals, and members of the public dedicated to bring aesthetics, expression, and creativity to our public spaces and advise us in how to integrate art and design into our community. When many of us see an ugly structure, they see a canvas waiting to be activated.

In this report, the PAAC is suggesting using some of the Public Art Reserve Fund to make this space work and look better. Council approved.

Corporate Record Management Bylaw 7987, 2018
This new proposed Bylaw will codify how the City manages its records. There is a bunch of regulation controlling how we, as a corporate entity, manage information. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act balances the need to make information accessible while protecting privacy where needed. We have staff in City Hall whose job it is to manage these matters and assure all City operations comply with the law.

This Bylaw would formalize that the records management are the responsibility of the City Clerk, and would formalize the process through which old records are made digital and aging records are transferred to the City’s Archives for permanent storage or, if appropriate, destroyed.

1319 Third Avenue (Steel and Oak): Increase in Seating Capacity – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
Steel & Oak have a tasting room attached to their brewery in an industrial area in the Lower 12th area. They want to expand the seating capacity in their tasting room, but our Zoning Bylaw does not allow more than 30 people in an assembly space in our industrial areas. So they need a Zoning Amendment to allow the seat expansion. This will go to Public Hearing on February 19th, so I will hold my comments until then.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Summary of Community Consultation and Proposed Expansion of Incentives Work Plan
The Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area process is ongoing, as the City evaluates different types of incentives to encourage the preservation of heritage assets. The first round of community consultations around incentives discussed zoning-based incentives that may provide more building space entitlement (to build an extension to an existing house or a laneway/carriage house) or stratification of large homes. They were generally appreciated, but some people definitely wanted to see more, and we are giving staff the ability to explore a wider set of incentives and new rounds of public consultation. Here is a lot of good feedback from the neighbourhood and stakeholders here, and work to do!

Metro Vancouver’s Proposed Bylaw: Regional Wood Smoke Emission Regulation
Metro Vancouver is delegated the regulatory authority over Air Quality (smoke, emissions, dust, smells) by the Province, mostly because most of the causes of air quality problems are closely related to Municipal jurisdiction (zoning, business licensing), but the results of bad air quality crosses municipal boundaries. MV has the Bylaws and enforcement staff to manage this issue.

MV is bringing in regulations to reduce wood smoke pollution, and are phasing in these changes starting in 2020. They would ban using fireplaces in the summer (when the air quality impact is higher), and then would move towards requiring all fireplaces be registered and have a low-emission appliance. We had a great discussion with the Manager from Metro Vancouver during the meeting, which I think helped to clarify some of the questions around this proposed change. Metro is doing lots of public consultation on this (and no changes are planned until at least 2020), so let them know what you think!

2018 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
Snow levels are not anomalous, and it is a la Nina season, so there is no increased or decreased risk of flood in the spring. Stay tuned!

Update to Investment Policy
I went on a bit of a rant here, as this is an issue we have talked about in the past, and despite some political will across the Province, we don’t seem to be able to make enough impact that the Provincial level.

We have discussed Divestment in the past, and have taken some action to UBCM and the Municipal Finance Authority, but we have never been successful at getting the MFA to provide ethical investment options to municipalities. Instead, the MFA tells us that divestment is a difficult problem that is really hard to solve. No news there.

When we invest in the oil industry we are investing in the value not of the oil in the ground, but of the value to be extracted when that oil is burned and the carbon released into the atmosphere. We are essentially betting that we can continue to put as much carbon into the atmosphere as we want, as long as it is profitable. We are betting against the continued stability of our climate, and against the same costs we are going to have to suffer as local governments as climate change worsens. I can’t support that.

So here we are, in New Westminster, fighting a bitumen pipeline on the Brunette River, yet our investments are supporting the other side of this fight. I believe it is our duty to divest, and I believe it is in our self-interest to divest.

Instead of supporting an update in our investment strategy that works against our own interest, we are going to take a better look at how we can make progress with the MFA, or what our other investing options are.

319 Ash Street: Development Variance Permit to Permit a Secondary Suite without a Parking Space –  Consideration of Opportunity to be Heard
A homeowner in the Brow of the Hill wants to formalize a legal secondary suite, but lack of a back alley and trees up front make it hard to put in more parking, so they need a variance. This request will go to an Opportunity to be Heard on February 19, 2018; C’mon out and tell us what you think!

354 Johnston Street: Development Variance Permit for Minimum Frontage – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard; and 
353 Johnston Street: Development Variance Permit for Minimum Frontage – Consideration of Opportunity to be Heard;

There was a bit of confusion about the wording of these two Variances on the agenda, but we got it clear. This is another case in Queensborough where very long lots are being subdivided to typical lot widths, but they run afoul of a requirement that lots can’t be more than 4x deep than they are long. This request will go to an Opportunity to be Heard on February 19, 2018; C’mon out and tell us what you think!

We then went through the Bylaw Readings:

Zoning Amendment (1319 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 7981, 2018
As discussed above, Steel & Oak wants to expand seating capacity in their tasting room. Council gave this Bylaw amendment first and second reading. A Public Hearing will be held on February 19th, c’mon out and tell us what you think!

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7924, 2018 (Housekeeping Bylaw): To Make Minor Updates/Corrections to Zoning Bylaw No. 6680, 2001
As discussed above, we need to make some minor changes to language of our zoning bylaws. Council gave these amendments first and second reading. A Public Hearing will be held on February 19th, c’mon out and tell us what you think!

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Retail Sale of Cannabis) No. 7966, 2018
We had a long Workshop discussion in the afternoon about how to best approach the pending legalization of recreational cannabis sales. I will do another separate blog post on this topic (Part C!), but we agreed at that workshop to amend our Zoning Bylaw to formalize some of the language and our current approach as a temporary measure to prepare ourselves for July. This is more of a stopgap until July than anything else. It will go to Public Hearing on February 19th, C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Corporate Record Management Bylaw 7987, 2018
As discussed above, we are formalizing our Records Management in a Bylaw. Council Gave this Bylaw three readings.

Heritage Properties Maintenance Standards Bylaw No. 7971, 2018; and
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw No. 7973, 2018

These Bylaws in support of the goals of the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area were given three readings last meeting, and are now Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land. Adjust your building envelope maintenance schedule accordingly!

We had one late-addition item of New Business:

Restorative Justice for FCM
Councillor Puchmayr brought this item from the Restorative Justice Committee asking that Council support a resolution to FCM calling for the Federal Government to make Restorative Justice part of standard police training across the country. Council unanimously supported this motion.

Then we had a few Notices of Motion for future meetings, and called it a day. Stay tuned, as in the next few days I will write up Part C of this epic council report, talking about our Cannabis Regulation workshop.

Council – Jan 29, 2018 (a)

January 29th was a busy day at Council, and I have a lot to say about it, so I am going to stretch this out to three blog posts (a new record!) that are going to trickle out as I find time to write them up. We had a mid-day Workshop on pending Cannabis Regulations, and many items on our Regular Agenda, but I’m going to start by going through our three Public Hearing topics.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7953, 2018: Passive Design Incentives for Single Detached Zones
There is a lot going on in BC on building more energy efficient buildings. The Province has been going through a process of developing a new building code that provides for more efficient buildings as a baseline, and ramping up that baseline over time. They call this the “Step Code”, as in several graduated steps towards higher efficiency. The top step (Step 5) will be buildings approximating the efficiency of a high-level European standard known as Passive House.

These buildings use advanced building techniques to reduce thermal bridging between inner and outer walls, and much higher insulation standards. They also use advanced tech to assure that the air inside the house does not become stale or that moisture doesn’t become an issue by using heat exchangers and air handling units to closely manage indoor air quality. When well executed, a Passive House in our climate wouldn’t need a furnace 99% of the time – the waste heat from bodies, the back of your fridge, and your water heater will be enough to maintain a comfortable temperature. As a bonus, the house will be much more comfortable than an old-tech house because the air will be fresher and you won’t have drafts or big temperature shifts.

Of course, these houses are more expensive to build, and have other design compromises. There is a Passive House on Third Ave that an untrained eye would not be able to tell from the heritage home next door, but the builder definitely experienced some “bleeding edge” hassles and expense getting it built. As it is one of the City’s goals to have more efficient building stock (to reduce GHG and energy use), our staff have looked at what types of incentives we can provide builders and homeowners to make it easier to move up the Step Code steps.

There are limits to what a City can do as far as incentives when it comes to building new homes, for all sorts of Local Government Act reasons. However, we can provide variances to certain zoning requirements. Staff here suggests a Flat Area FSR Exclusion tied to Step code – the higher your “step”, the more FSR you are permitted, up to a 10% increase if you achieve Step 5 (which is Passive House / Net Zero Ready, for you code freaks out there). This makes up for the loss of living space per square foot of building due to the much thicker walls that Step 5 Houses will have.

Staff did a pretty exhaustive analysis to determine the impacts on setbacks, even working with new Laneway/Carriage house guidelines, and don’t think that change to minimum setbacks are required. However, we would permit 2ft higher buildings in some zones to accommodate thicker insulation requirements in the basement and roof.

We received one piece of correspondence that questioned the value of Passive House as opposed to other energy efficiency metrics, but I note our Bylaw does not actually do this. It is more about meeting the advanced building code, which may meet or exceed many efficiency standards that are currently flooding the market. We also had a presenter at the Public Hearing bring some interesting points about how we could encourage more efficient buildings by encouraging smaller buildings, and less articulated designs of Laneway/Carriage houses. These are great ideas, and our staff will be following up. Again, we need to figure out how to “incentivize” smaller houses within our legal limits when it would represent (essentially) taking away zoning entitlement, but I think there is something to his arguments, and I look forward to next steps.

In the end, I think this is a good idea and appreciate the work staff did to develop an evaluate the incentive programs. Council voted to approve giving the Bylaw Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7915, 2018 for 229 Eleventh Street
This project will see three living units built on a current single-family lot in the Brow of the Hill – a duplex and a laneway house. The lot is currently vacant, and has been for several years, at least in part because it is a very challenging lot to build on. It is narrow and very steep, with the only road access on the uphill side (which is one of New West’s numerous named laneways).

The project as proposed was generally supported by the Residents’ Association and neighbours. The Advisory Planning Commission approved the design. We had no written submissions, and no-one came to speak to the Public Hearing. Council voted to approve Third Reading of the Bylaw Amendment.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw for 612, 616 and 618 Carnarvon Street; 50 and 36 Sixth Street; and 615 and 637 Clarkson Street (Zoning Amendment Bylaw [618 Carnarvon Street] No. 7949, 2017)
This was the highest-profile Public Hearing of the night, a big project that has been in the works for several years. The project will see a 33-story residential tower with a 3-story mixed-use podium on the corner of Sixth Street and Carnarvon in the “Tower District” of Downtown. The project will include enclosing part of the Skytrain guideway between Sixth Street and MacKenzie Street.

The building supports the Downtown Community Plan for the Tower District, putting higher density development near our Skytrain stations and downtown amenities, while providing street-level retail and public realm improvements. It will have twice the number of “family friendly” units required by our Family Friendly Housing Policy, including several street-level townhouses, and a majority of two- and three-bedroom units. It was approved by the Advisory Planning Commission and Design Panel (after several design and layout changes to accommodate concerns raised by those committees earlier in the process).

The changes being proposed here in the Zoning Amendment are related to overall density and height. The density requested is 6.11 FSR, which is 0.91 above the zoning allowance of 5.20 (with Density Bonus). This is actually lower density than the two immediately adjacent recently-developed properties. The height does, once again, allow the building of a more slender building with less shadowing and view impacts, larger offsets from surrounding buildings, and a better ground form. The design of the tower has shifted somewhat as a result of public consultation and committee input. The tower was made narrower, with a “chamfered” top, and was pushed west and south somewhat to reduce intrusion to existing adjacent buildings.

Council received some written correspondence for this project, both in favour and against. We also had five presenters at the Public Hearing, three against (all concerned about views and sunlight) and two in favour (including the proponent). Neighbours in adjacent high-rise circulated a petition opposing the project for height, view and traffic concerns. I also took note that one of the letters of support was provided by one of the businesses that will be displaced by this project. Overall, I think that the developer has done a good job working with the community through the consultation process, and have put a serious effort into addressing concerns.

The question is always “what does the community get out of developments like this?” and perhaps that needs to be an entire new blog post, as most of the answer is not limited to this single project, but also to most development projects in the City. But here is a one-paragraph answer.

The City gets living spaces, which is part of (not nearly all) of the solution to rising housing prices. This project has a variety of housing types, with City townhouses and apartments that will no doubt range (based on size, side, and story) from somewhat affordable to kind of expensive. We also get density near our retail zones to improve the viability of our businesses. Placing density near SkyTrain stations reduces the traffic impacts of that density, and even reduces the need for people to drive through our City because we are providing more housing options here. This particular project will envelop part of the Skytrain line, which will reduce noise in part of downtown, and will provide a small pocket park on Sixth Street improving the public realm in that area, along with an improved retail strip. Through Density Bonus and Voluntary Amenity Contributions, the City will receive something close to $3Million. Through Council Policy, Density Bonus money all goes into reserves, with 30% going towards our Affordable Housing fund, 10% towards providing capital grants for childcare, 10% to fund our Public Art program, and the remaining 50% towards general amenity fund that goes into improving civic facilities and parks via our 5-year Capital Plan (this is aside from the DCC contributions the builder must make to pay for sewer, water, parks and roads infrastructure in the City).

Council moved to approve Third Reading for the Zoning Amendment.

We then moved on to Opportunities to be Heard, which will be covered in Part 2, coming soon!

Whither a plan?

It appears the Mayor’s Council are once again on the hot seat.

For the best part of a decade, the Council has demonstrated apparent amity, likely due to recognition that they were going to need to work together to get a disinterested Provincial Government to support any kind of transit funding stability as the region’s growth exploded. Alas, they recently seem ready to take a step back into parochial foot-shooting. With a federal government hot to spend money on urban infrastructure renewal and low-carbon transportation and a provincial government equally willing to prioritize sustainable transportation investments, the 10 year plan developed by a consensus of Mayors is suddenly being questioned by the very Mayors that put the plan together.

The first shot in this apparent internal battle was the vote to make Mayor Corrigan of Burnaby (the one Mayor who questioned the 10-year vision all along, leading random bloggers to suggest he was “transit regressive”) the new Chair of the Mayors Council, giving him more power to set the agenda and negotiate with the province over the terms of transit investment. He did this (presumably, because the voting was secret ballot), only through a one-mayor one-vote system that provides the Mayors of Anmore and Lions Bay equal voices to those of Vancouver and Surrey. However, most votes at the Mayor’s Council have a weighted vote system in an effort to closer approximate the population differences across the region and the relative sources of the budgets that TransLink spends.

The Agenda for Thursday’s Mayors Council meeting is out, and it suggests this tenuous situation will be tested right away. The only substantive agenda item is a motion put forward by Mayor Greg Moore of Port Coquitlam:

…that the Mayors Council supports the implementation of the Phase Two Plan in early-2018 as planned, including construction of the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT, Millennium Line Broadway Extension, the SkyTrain Upgrade Strategy and the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, along with increases to bus and HandyDART service and funding for walking, cycling and Major Road Network infrastructure across the region;

There is more there (you can read the Agenda and resolution, with all its whereases and nuanced language, here), but the message is clear. At least one member of the Mayors Council (the one who happens to be the Chair of Metro Vancouver) wants the plan forward to be made clear to Translink planning staff, the Provincial and Federal Governments, and to all of the regional partners involved in planning our transportation system. It is clear that at least some of the mayors on the Council still believe in the vision, see its urgency, and are willing to speak up to the pall of suspicion that has resulted from Mayor Corrigan’s election (not the least by semi-informed bloggers, like me)

This is the vote to watch to see who is on-side with well-developed and integrated sustainable transportation investments, and who is willing to delay solutions to our regional transportation challenges for yet another decade.

Us & Them

This is a terrible story.

Over a period of four days, two pedestrians and a cyclist were struck by drivers of vehicles on the same section of Cariboo Road. The first pedestrian, a 15 year old, died at the scene. It’s heartbreaking.

This is a piece of road I am familiar with. It used to be on my daily commute when I worked in Burnaby, and is still part of my regular cycling routine. So am quick to add my “anecdata” along with the list of people commenting that the crosswalk in question is a terrible design. It is a crosswalk that provides access to a well-used bus stop across the street from a residential area, but it is around a corner at the base of a big hill where the speed limit is ostensibly 50km/h, but every piece of the road’s design (separated centre, wide shoulder, 5m lane widths, sidewalk buffer) tells the driver to go much faster. And drivers do go much faster.

So there will be wringing of hands, and pressure for the City to fix this situation. Likely, some sort of pedestrian-activated light will be installed at the cost of a couple of hundred thousand dollars that will marginally increase pedestrian safety, but will add one more step a pedestrian must take (hit a button, wait for a light cycle) to beg for the right to safety while moving through public space. Meanwhile, a little bit of targeted enforcement by the police will increase the perception of something being done until their attention is drawn elsewhere and driver’s behaviors revert to what the road design is telling them to do. The 85th percentile will again sneak up to its design point.

I would be hopeful for, but not expecting, a more sustainable long-term solution, one that would meaningfully increase safety for all users. Reduce the lane width to something like 3.5m (which would provide opportunity for a separated protected cycling path on this well-used route). Complement the pedestrian light with a raised crosswalk, paint and texture treatment to send appropriate speed signals to the drivers. Increase the number of protected crosswalks along Cariboo Hill so people can access the Cariboo Heights residential Co-op and Briar Road, and to again signal drivers that this is a residential area where they should be driving 50km/h and expect pedestrians, not an 80km/h freeway on-ramp. This would, of course, be expensive, but the Google Earth air photo still shows the millions of dollars recently spent here to allow drivers on Cariboo Road to drive faster through here as part of a regional motordom expansion project…

Uncharacteristically, I am not going to hate on Burnaby here. That would be too easy and unfair. This situation is not unique to Cariboo Road, and it is not unique to Burnaby. It in no way undermines the seriousness of this situation to say these three incidents in such close proximity are an unfortunate coincidence. Realistically, I can name a dozen other areas where similarly hazardous conditions exist, and municipalities like Burnaby, Richmond, and (yes) New Westminster are slow to react to them.

That these safety issues are so common is part of the reason we are so slow to react; there’s a lot of infrastructure to fix and a limited infrastructure improvement budget. Still, too much of it is spent on “getting traffic moving” in places like this, were public safety would suggest the opposite. I could go off on a long tangent about “warrant analysis” here, but instead I’ll just reiterate that even if the best intentions exist, priorities need to be set. There simply isn’t enough money to make every pedestrian crossing as safe as we would like, because there are too many unsafe intersections and crossings. 70-odd pedestrians are killed every year in BC, the vast majority at a marked crossing or intersection, demonstrating that we have a lot of work to do when it comes it engineering the protection of pedestrians.

However, engineering can only get us closer to the safety we desire (and please spare me the long digression into autonomous vehicles, the fantastical promises of which seem to commonly fail when pressed against some simple inquiries into their remaining challenges). I’ve recently-enough ranted about how the vehicles pedestrians are forced to share space with are increasingly dangerous to those pedestrians, but haven’t really called out another trend supported mostly by personal anecdote: an increasingly callous disregard for the safety of other demonstrated by people driving cars in British Columbia, and the apparent reluctance of Police and Crown Counsel to meaningfully address this public health emergency.

We have work to do as municipalities (working with and supported by TransLink and the Ministry of Transportation, I hope), and I am proud that New Westminster’s draft 2018 capital budget is showing a serious commitment to meeting the goals set out in our Master Transportation Plan – we are now spending as much on pedestrian and cycling improvements as we do on road repair and asphalt to “keep traffic flowing”. But at some point, we are going to need to convince drivers to meet us half way. We need to change people’s minds about their cars, their entitlement, and how that threatens the safety of our communities.

Pipeline Project

There is a lot to grab your attention right now when it comes to local government. Budget deliberations, mobility pricing, the ongoing housing crisis, election 2018; it is hard to pick your battles sometimes.

However, the pending start of construction activity along the proposed Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline Expansion is likely to spend some time in the news this spring and summer. Although directly-impacted local governments such as Coquitlam and Burnaby have taken very different approaches to the project, there have been people in New Westminster raising alarm about the potential impacts on the Brunette River watershed, along our eastern border.

What has not been discussed as much in our local government context, is what this project means to the First Nations along the route and to the indigenous people upon whose traditional lands this project will impose itself. As our own City approaches reconciliation, we need to start thinking more broadly about how we engage the indigenous community when we are evaluating our support or opposition to resource projects – even ones we have little jurisdiction over.

Next week, the Massey Theatre Society is partnering with Savage Society and Itsazoo Productions to present “The Pipeline Project”, a multi-media theatre event and conversation that explores these themes. As part of the Massey’s ongoing “Skookum Indigenous Arts Program

By all reviews, it is a serious, but at times humourous and disarming discussion of pipeline politics, and the sometimes unrecognized push-pull between “environmentalism” and the ongoing fight for indigenous rights. There are even a couple of matinee performances/discussions for those who can’t get out at night.

Here is a (slightly NSFW, but funny when it is) preview:

I think it is pretty timely with where New West, the province, and the nation are on this discussion. It’s gut check time when it comes to defining what kind of place we want Canada to be. This is a good chance to start listening. Get tickets here.


I have already written a slightly-too-long blog post on the City’s burgeoning reconciliation process. If I could summarize the thesis, it is that the community needs to take intentional and careful steps in creating a space for communication. We need to hear each other’s stories.

I was both excited and apprehensive to see the Record name reconciliation as their News Item of the Year. It is great that our sole remaining local paper sees this as an important topic, as their participation in nurturing those conversations will be important. The problem being that their story once again focused attention on a statue – a potentially important issue point, but a relatively minor part of a much larger discussion that has to happen.

The story in the Record has, for good or bad, already started discussion in the letters section of the paper, and associated Social Media.

I disagree with some of what I read in those letters. However, I more strongly disagree with people jumping on Social Media to (with the best of intentions) correct things in that letter they deem as inaccurate or (with less clear intentions) accuse the letter writers of ignorance or ill intent.

One thing I have learned in my first forays into learning about the Truth and Reconciliation process is that we need people to tell their stories, to share their thoughts and experiences. This cannot happen if our default is to immediately question a person’s ideas or impressions. Conversation is different than debate, and on this topic we need much more of the former, much less of the latter. Even when what we hear is uncomfortable. We need to find a way to talk about how our understanding, our experience, may be different or come from a different place without engaging in debate or placing the letter writer in an “others” group.

I wrote last time about trying to understand how we can create spaces where people who lived the Indigenous experience can talk about their truths. I think this is an important early emphasis, if only because we have to get over the hurdles related to 150+ years of systematic efforts to silence those voices. However, we don’t get there by shouting down the voices of the members of our community for whom the entire idea of there being an “Indigenous Experience” is a challenge to their deeply held beliefs.

We all, all of us, have to learn how to listen. It’s only the first step, but it’s an important one. We can use this process to build a stronger, more just and compassionate community. And that is a way better goal than just having a well-debated statue.

Council – Jan 8, 2018

The first meeting of 2018 had that back-to-school feel, with presentations, some interesting public delegations, and some actual work done. We started with a presentation from staff on Innovation Week, which I will probably have to write a whole separate blog post about, because there is a lot of cool stuff happening at the end of February, and you probably want to take part.

2018-2022 Draft Financial Plan – General Fund
This is the first public reporting of the work that has been done up to now on the 2018 budget and Financial Plan through to 2022.

Our General Fund (the money we use for the day-to-day running of the City) is currently budgeting revenue to increase by 3%, mostly from tax increases, with expenses increasing by 2%. We can achieve this with a 2.95% tax increase, and still include the transfer of $4.7 Million into capital reserves to support our long-term Capital Plan.

The Capital Plan for 2018 includes $64 Million spent on buildings and other capital improvements – $50 Million from the reserves we have in the bank, $7 Million from borrowing, and $7 Million from other sources (Grants, DCCs, etc.). This is completely manageable in 2018, but we need to look forward to our entire 5-year Capital Plan, which is (at first blush) pushing the envelope a bit.

We have a great number of capital projects, including some new facilities and ongoing capital maintenance. Over a 5-year plan, it totals more than $240 Million, which will challenge our reserves and our debt tolerance. A big part of this is the proposed replacement of the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre, but also includes implementation of our MTP, necessary maintenance and upgrades on the Library, City Hall, and other buildings, and meeting community expectations for everything from accessibility to pavement management (there is a great table in the report that outlines all of the items in the draft 2018 Capital budget attached to this report).

The need to invest in closing our infrastructure gap is not unique to New Westminster, and we are in pretty good shape compared to many similarly-sized Cities across Canada, but the gap is real and needs a proactive approach. We have already done some pretty serious prioritization of capital projects, and our staff have done the financial analysis to determine the right balance between drawing down reserves and increasing debt – both options have long-term financial consequences.

Staff are proposing a Capital Levy to be added to our property taxes to help us get over this capital investment bump. A 1% levy for 5 years would help our reserves be maintained at a level that provides financial security long-term. Essentially, that would mean our tax increase in 2018 would be 3.95% (assuming the general budget is approved as it is), but that the extra 1% would be earmarked for tangible capital improvements like the Canada Games Pool.

This is an interesting discussion, and I look forward to hearing from the public about how we should best address the needs identified in our Capital Plan.

The following items were moved on Consent:

Infrastructure Canada Smart Cities Challenge
This Federal Grant program is a pretty exciting opportunity – though it will be a highly competitive grant process. The City has a pretty ambitious Intelligent City program, and has already been recognized as a Smart21 City. Events like the Innovation Forum, our Hackathon and our Open Data, BridgeNet, and other initiatives put us in a good position to put together a bid, either alone or working with regional partners. We need some community help here, though, so look forward to some upcoming community engagement asking you to help us frame a “Challenge Statement”.

Changes to the 2018 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
Oops, they moved Spring Break on us! Please update your 2018 social calendars so you won’t be disappointed!

Queen City (Bonnie’s) Taxi Ltd: Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw No. 7976, 2018 to Add Vehicles – Bylaw for Three Readings
Once again, taxi operators in the City are asking for an increase in their fleets to meet frequency and timeliness standards their customers expect. This somewhat convoluted process includes the City approving a Bylaw to increase the number of licenses. This is the draft version of the Bylaw, which will go to an Opportunity to be Heard, so I’ll hold off my comments until after that.

Heritage Properties Maintenance Standards Bylaw No. 7971, 2018 and Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw Amendment No. 7973, 2018: Bylaws for Three Readings
The Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) protections for Queens Park are designed to prevent the active destruction of important historical assets in the community. However, these assets can be damaged in a more passive way – through intentional or unintentional neglect or maintenance failures that erode the structural stability or heritage elements of the building. For this reason, HCAs usually include a Bylaw that regulates minimum standards of maintenance for otherwise protected buildings.

This draft Bylaw replaces an existing older Bylaw that protected heritage assets in the City, in order to align with the new HCA. Essentially, it requires owners take reasonable steps to prevent water ingress and rot, infestation, and damage caused by penetration of vegetation into the building. It doesn’t regulate things like fading paint or cosmetic appearances.

Passive Design Incentives for Single Detached Zones – First and Second Readings for Zoning Bylaw No. 7953, 2018
The City has looked at providing some development incentives to homeowners interested in building much more efficient houses. This would help us meet our long-term community energy and emissions reduction targets. Passive House (or, in the native German “Passivhaus”) is an ultra-low-energy standard where a typical residential home can be heated by little more than the waste heat from their fridge coils and domestic water (with a bit of a boost from low-power heaters in extreme conditions).

We have at least one Passive Houses-standard house in the City that I know of (you wouldn’t know looking at it from the street), and as the Province’s Step Code changes advance over the decades ahead, the “leap” to Passive House will be getting smaller and smaller – making it more and more attractive to builders.

However, the thicker walls required for Passive House currently mean a slightly smaller house for a given footprint/allowable zoning, and staff are recommending we change the way we calculate square footage (and concomitantly FSR) for buildings built to Passive House standard to level that playing field a bit. This Bylaw will go to Public Hearing, so aside from describing the intent, I will hold off on comments until after that.

2018 City Partnership Grants – Update
This is a follow-up on a few questions Council had coming out of the Partnership Grant applications and approvals we did back in December.

These items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2018 Festival Grant Recommendations
This is the last of our Grant approvals for the 2018 season, with the rest being done back in December. Festivals Grants help fund everything from the Hyack Parade to the various cultural festivals and road “closures” across the City. No doubt the Festivals file has been a great news story in New West over the last couple of years, with so many great events happening. This is – I cannot emphasize enough – mostly due to the efforts of armies of volunteers from the many organizations that work to bring people together in New West. They do most of the heavy lifting for these events, but the City’s financial and logistical support can be fundamental to their success.

Our budget was $235,000, and we received 25 applications totaling just a hair under $400,000. So the Festivals Committee was charged with prioritizing funding based on established criteria. In the end, Council approved the recommended $248,100 in funding to 23 organizations – which is $13,000 over budget.

Housing and Social Planning Update and Work Program for 2018/19
This City is regional leader in the Housing and Social Planning departments, because of consistent support from Councils past and present over the last decade, and because of some remarkably strong work done by our social planning staff.

This file has grown (…expanded, …exploded) as the regional housing crisis worsened along with other social issues in the province related to poverty, mental health, and failing senior government social supports . There is so much going on: the development of supportive housing on City lands, expansion of childcare, actions under the Family-friendly housing policy, child and youth friendly city strategy, dementia-friendly City action plan, the Rent Bank, our Tenant Relocation Program… the list goes on.

We have senior governments now that are talking about re-investing in supporting the disenfranchised and marginalized citizens of the province, and there is some light on the horizon, but the City still needs to maintain consistent action, and that means we need to invest in the staff required to do that work. Council moved to support that work, and further made it clear to staff that we don’t want to slow down, but need to know that there are sufficient resources to address emergent issues. This work program is ambitious, but the City is ambitious.

Rental Replacement Policy and Inclusionary Housing Policy: Proposed Work Plan and Consultation Process
Speaking of good work on the affordable housing file, we are looking at how to encourage the development of more affordable housing options. We have been pretty successful at encouraging secured market rental gets built, but need to worry about the affordability of those units, and long-term stability of the lower-cost rental stock (this is where the Demoviction and Renoviction issues come in). We also need some policy guidance on inclusionary housing – assuring there is a reasonable non-market housing component to the new housing growth in the City. That will require some economic analysis of proposed policy changes, for which we would need to hire some consultants. This can be paid for out of our Affordable Housing fund.

There will be some stakeholder and public consultation on this work, and I am interested to see where it is going.

We then performed our normal Bylaws shuffle

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Passive Design Exclusions) No. 7953, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw would adjust our zoning to support the building of more energy-efficient buildings. Council gave this Bylaw Amendment two readings, and it will go to Public Hearing on January 29th. C’mon out and let us know what you think.

Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw No. 7976, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw which would allow an increase in Taxi licenses in New Westminster was given three readings. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on this Bylaw Amendment on January 29th. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Heritage Property Maintenance Standards Bylaw No. 7971, 2018
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw No. 7973, 2018

As discussed above, these Bylaw amendments that would help protect heritage homes in Queens Park from intentional neglect were given three readings.

232 Lawrence Street – Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7948, 2017
This Zoning Amendment was given a Public Hearing back on November 27th, and is required to permit a childcare facility to operate on City lands in Queensborough. It was Adopted by Council, and is now the Law of the Land.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2017-2021) Amendment Bylaw No. 7938, 2017
This Amendment to our 2017-2021 Financial Plan was discussed and given three readings back on December 4th. It is an administrative update to adjust for changes that occurred during the year, and was Adopted by Council.

And, again, aside from an interesting Public Delegations session, that was the work for the evening. See you all next week, same time, same channel!