Trip Diary 2

In my recent post about the TransLink Trip Diary data release, I talked about how the use of cars in New Westminster is going down. Even as our population grows, the number of people using cars to get around is stable, and the actual number of car trips generated by New West residents on the average day is going down.

I also wrote this does not mean there are fewer cars on the road, or that traffic is getting better, because New Westminster is in the centre of a connected region, and that region is growing. Unfortunately, New Westminster’s decrease in car use is not being seen across the region, and our roads and livability are being  impacted by those trips generated mostly from the south and east of us.

All but three municipalities in the Trip Diary data had an increase in car trips, and the combined number of regional trip increased by more than half a million trips a day between 2011 and 2017. This is only slightly offset by the combined decrease in trips seen in New West, West Van and White Rock:

There are a couple of other ways to look at this data, using percentages instead of raw numbers. If there are 520,000 new car trips across the region, this pie shows the percentage of that total traffic load that is generated by each municipality:

So no surprise Surrey and Vancouver lead the way in new car trips, as they are the largest municipalities, nor is it surprising that 50% of the new trips are generated South of the Fraser, and most trips are generated in areas where the region has spent billions of dollars building new freeway infrastructure and new river crossings.

But what about population growth? The South of Fraser an northeast communities are growing fastest, so it makes sense that their car trips will increase in correlation with this, right? More people = more trips is the meme I challenged last post, and it clearly is not the case for New West, but how true is that across the region? The blue bars here represent the percentage increase in car tips between 2011 and 2017, and the red bars represent the population increases over the same time period (2011 – 2017) from the BC Government stats page:

Note that in almost every municipality, car trip numbers are increasing at a faster rate than population. In Port Moody and North Vancouver District – two communities where the councils are using increased traffic congestion as a reason to slow or halt new housing – actual population did not significantly increase over that 6-year period (the fact they show a slight decrease in population is quirk in how BC Population stats are estimated between census years), yet this did not prevent car trips increasing. The short point:

Car trips and resultant congestion do not correlate with local population changes.

I leave you to speculate about what is happening in White Rock and West Vancouver, two municipalities where population has been stagnant or decreasing for a decade, and neither specifically transit-oriented relative to those of us sprinkled along the Rapid Transit spines, but both seeing much reduced car use. Each has its own tale to tell as West Vancouver had a significant increases in walking and transit use to balance out to about the same number of total trips, while the entire trip count for White Rock across all modes went down significantly. This graph shows the percentage increase or decease in each mode for all Cities, and you can’t help but wonder what people in White Rock are doing at home all the time: 

Also note the latest data was collected not long after the opening of the Evergreen Line, but before the changes that have come with the Mayor’s 10-year Plan investments, which has brought more and more reliable bus service across the region, both in undeserved and overcrowded areas. It is also worth noting that the 2011 data was before the opening of the expanded Port Mann Bridge, and the 2017 data was from the very time when tolls on that bridge were being removed, so the longer term impact on transportation patterns related to toll removal are muted here. Like all surveys, this represents a snapshot in time, and only by collecting this type of data over a longer period can we see the long-term trends our transportation policy is creating.

Council, October 7, 2019

It was annual Council on the Road day at New West Council, when we hold our regular Council Meeting in sunny Queensborough. There were lots of proclamations and delegations, so it is worth watching online! But our regular agenda was fairly light:

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Innovate New West Proposed Work Plan
The City has run a couple of successful “Innovation week” events over the last couple of years. These have brought businesses, institutions, and government together to talk about how we can better foster innovation in public services and better support innovative businesses. As a major part of our Economic Development Strategy, Innovate New West is adapting to better fit the needs of stakeholders and participants. This biggest shift will be breaking up “innovation week” into several events spread throughout the year, which allows more participants to take part in more of the program – it is really hard for small businesses and people running institutes to take several days away from work to attend a week of events. The first will be a one-day Innovation Forum in February or March.

This is a great program, happy to support it!

Proposed 2020 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
This is the schedule for 2020 Council meetings: 24 meetings, including 9 Public Hearings. We will meet two or three times every month, except in July, August, and December, when people are less interested in City Council stuff, but we meet once to keep business moving along. Plan your year accordingly!

Acting Mayor Appointments for November 2019 to December 2020
We also need a Councillor to serve as Acting Mayor every month, in the event the Mayor is not available to sign timely documents, run a meeting, or do any of those other important Mayor-type things. Each Councillor takes two months of acting duty, mine are March and August. Plan your year accordingly!

Recruitment 2019: Advisory Planning Commission Appointment
The Advisory Planning Commission is a committee of volunteers in the city that has a legislative function in planning by providing a review of development projects from a broad community perspective. We have a short vacancy before recruiting for next year, so we asked on the original applicants to step up and fill the role so they can get the business done. Full recruitment for the next APC will start at the end of the year. If you want a say in how the City meets its planning policy guidelines, dust off your resume!

318 Fourth Street: Official Community Plan Amendment to Remove Heritage Conservation Area Protection – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The Heritage Conservation Area in the Queens Park neighbourhood protects older houses that have significant heritage value. Some older houses have been modified enough that there is little heritage value yet, and there is a process through which homeowners can evaluate whether removal from protection is reasonable given their specific situation. This applicant is asking to be removed from protection. Because this is an Official Community Plan Amendment, it will have to go to a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Major Purchases May 1st to August 31st, 2019
Every 4 months we put out a report of all of the major purchases the City makes. If you bid on a job, or want to know what the City spends your money on, this is the thing.

837 – 841 Twelfth Street: Rezoning and Development Permit for Five Storey Residential Building – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This is an application to build a 5-storey residential building on the vacant lot on the corner of Twelfth and Dublin. There would be 29 units, all two- or three-bedroom, including 4 ground-level townhouses. This would be the first mutli-family building in New Westminster to be built at Step 4 on the Step Code, making it the most energy efficient residential building ever built in the City.

This will go to Public Hearing on October 28, so I will hold further comment until then.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2020 Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Program
The City has a Master Transportation Plan that prioritizes the comfort and safety of pedestrians, and one manifestation of this is a budget line item specifically to improve the safety of crosswalks, and a program to prioritize how that money is spent. This report outlines the 2020 program priorities, based on citizen requests, engineering review, and consultation through the City’s transportation advisory committees.

Litter Receptacles Within Public Streetscapes, Parks and Open Spaces
The City is adjusting how street litter bins are being maintained. The biggest problem we have right now is that some of these bins are being overloaded with residential garbage. For some reason, people are choosing to put their household trash in these receptacles, overloading them, creating mess and expense. Short of putting dumpsters on the street, or paying someone to stand beside garbage bins 24/7, it is hard to figure out how to address this.

Staff has removed, moved and down-sized some of these receptacles to see what that does to behavior. Surprisingly, this resulted in less litter on the streets (yes, the City has people who actually track and count litter, along with picking it up), and reduced volume of trash being collected, which presumably means people are taking their trash home or throwing it into a commercial receptacle. This reflects the experience in other cities when a program like this is implemented.

Another interesting and completely unsurprising point out of this: street recycling bins simply don’t work. People put everything and anything in them, and the resultant waste is too contaminated to go to the recycling stream, so it goes to landfill with the rest of the trash.

New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre Update
This is an update on progress with the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre Replacement Project. Last week we dealt with the variances needed given the design, and talked about the energy and GHG efficiency goals of the new building, this is more a holistic update on the project.

Unfortunately, one of the base assumptions about how we were planning this project has been problematic. Since we started serious planning for this project, the federal government has been promising an Infrastructure Grant Program for local governments, the ICIP. We have structured much of this project around making it as fundable as possible under that program, and have a project that hits every checkpoint for ICIP eligibility. We also assumed that ICIP funding would be announced before the 2019 Federal Election, but it was not. When the writ dropped, we still did not know if we were getting an ICIP grant, or how much it would be. That is hampering our ability to advance planning on this project, and every week we delay adds costs to the project. The nature of these grants is that we have to be shovel-ready, but we cannot already be building. So we idle.

But there is work we need to do to reduce the risk and cost related to that idling, and we are at a point where we need to make some decisions about the two-path planning process. Are we going to build the pool that the community consultation asked for (“Base Program”), or are we going to build the much larger facility that the Hyack Swim Club was advocating for (“Enhanced Competition Hosting Facility, or ECHF”)? The larger option adds 18,000 square feet to the building, along with increased energy and staffing costs. Council has, up to now, said we will look at this option once we know how much federal grant money we can count on. As we are now doing some thorough life cycle costing of the facility, we need to provide some clarity to our finance department about how much grant is enough that we can afford to build the ECHF. There is a lot of financial calculus that went into this number, but $22.4 Million is the number that percolated out. We applied for much more than this, but we will not know until November at the earliest what the result will be, and we will have to make some decisions then.

Public Art Advisory Committee Request to Increase Sportsplex Public Art Funds
The PAAC has a bigger idea for public art in the space between the new Sportplex and the Skate Park, and they don’t think this vision will fit within the available budget, so they are asking for more. Note – they are not asking for new money here, just drawing more from the already established Public Art Reserve Funds – more spent here means less spent elsewhere on Public Art. Council gave them that authority.

331 Richmond Street (Richard McBride School): Development Variance Permit for New Elementary School – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
It looks like they were serious when they said they are building a new school to replace Richard McBride. Much like last week’s discussion of the Canada Games Pool replacement, this project will require some variances because of the uniqueness of the building doesn’t strictly fit our Zoning Bylaw.

The new, 430-student school will be 44,000 square feet, and the site has some obvious challenges with a huge grade difference across the lot and the need to build a school on a site while the old school still operates. The variances are for building height (3.6 feet taller than the allowed 30 feet), parking (56 spaces including pick-up/drop-off, where the Bylaw wants 62), sign bylaw (the undercanopy sign much larger than allowed for really wonky reasons), the presence of an on-site retaining wall required because of the grades, and a reduction in some off-site improvement needs.

This will go to a Public Opportunity to be heard on October 28, c’mon out and tell us what you think!

Council Efficiencies – Proposed Changes to the Council Procedure Bylaw
This is a follow-up report to a discussion we had earlier this year after a couple of pretty long council meetings, and this was a lengthy discussion, but messing with the way council procedures work is an important topic, so it was worth having the chat.

This is less about about trying to make Council meetings shorter, and more about trying to make them more efficient and our discussion more productive. Council time is valuable time, for the public who come to see these meetings, and for the staff who take so much of their time to be here. They deserve to not have their time wasted. And as a Councillor, I don’t think we make our best decisions at 10:30pm after a 13 hour day of meetings.

I like the recommendation that we have 5 minutes limit to councilors – as someone who does sometimes go off on tangents and talk more than I should, I think if you cannot make your point in 5 minutes, it shows a lack of preparation and you are wasting everyone’s time. This will force us to be clearer and more concise, to everyone’s benefit.

Honestly, I don’t think Public Delegations are the major problem, at least at most meetings when we have two or three. I would have agreed to reducing public delegations from 5 minutes to 3 minutes if we have more than, say, 20 people sign up, mostly so delegate #25 doesn’t have to wait two hours to get their chance to talk, but it didn’t look like that idea was well supported at council and the argument the it would cause problems for people preparing statements was a good one. In the end, Council agreed that we should limit the Public Delegation period to 1.5 hours, but can agree to extend this time limit in the event a significant community conversation is happening. This would only apply to public delegation, NOT to Public Hearings or Opportunities to be Heard.

This will come back to Council as a new Procedures Bylaw, so there will be some more talk about it.

Recruitment 2020: Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) Appointments
The Youth Advisory committee is one that assigns members on a different cycle than the others in order to align better with the school season. The appointments are named!


The following Bylaw was adopted:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (616 – 640 Sixth Street) Bylaw No. 7997, 2019
This zoning amendment permits the development of a high-rise with a mix of market condo and market rental units on the corner of Sixth Street and Princess. It was given a Public Hearing back in June, and now that some of the approval conditions have been completed, it can move ahead.


Finally, we had one piece of New Business rising from the Public Delegation period and a piece of correspondence we received:

Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society email dated August 19,2019 regarding the Komagata Maru
Councilor Das moved the following:
THAT city staff do a report on the connection of New Westminster and the Komagata Maru incident. In particular, the report should provide documentation of the support the New Westminster South Asian community offered to the passengers of the Komagata Maru.

There is a call for the City of New Westminster to mark the role some of its citizens played in this historic incident. This motion will allow Staff to put some work in to putting those events into a local context, and will hopefully inform whether some formal marking is appropriate. Council moved to support this

And that was all for the Queensborough edition 2019. See you after the Thanksgiving break!

Trip Diary

The venn diagram overlap of transportation geeks and data geeks shines brightest when Trip Diary numbers are released. So despite the zillion other things I have to do, I sat down for some Excel Spreadsheet fun this weekend to look at what the Trip Diary data release tells us about New Westminster.

The Translink Trip Diary is a survey-based analysis of how people in Greater Vancouver get around. Unlike the Canada Census that asks simply “How do you usually get to work?” and “How long does that take you?”, the Trip Diary digs down into details about how people get around. What types of trips do they take, where do they go, how far, and how often? The difference matters because many people, especially those who use active transportation modes, use more than one way to get to work and travel for non-commuting reasons as well. I have two jobs, one I either walk or cycle to, the other I either cycle or ride transit (after a 5-minute walk on one end). My “usual” could be transit or cycling or walking, depending on the week. I usually walk to shopping, but sometimes drive. I sometimes drive to recreation, sometimes I bike or walk. For most of us living in a modern urban area, our modes are mixed, and understanding that mix is more important to how we plan our transportation system than the simplistic census question.

I’m going to skip over some of the regional stuff (maybe a later post when I find time because there is some fascinating data in here) to concentrate on New Westminster. All of the numbers below that I refer to as “New Westminster trips” are trips by people who call New West their city of residence – whether their trips start and/or end in New West or elsewhere in the region, every trip made by a New West resident is considered a New West trip.

The last Trip Diary provided data from 2011, and at the time, New West was doing OK as far as “mode share”, which is transportation geek speak for “what percentage of people are travelling by X mode.”

As might be expected for a compact city with 5 Skytrain stations, New West has high transit mode share at 17% of all trips. In 2011 we used transit at a higher rate per trip than any other City in the Lower Mainland except the City of Vancouver itself (at 20%). We also had higher walking mode share than most cities (11% of all trips, which is only behind Vancouver, North Van City and White Rock). Our 2011 cycling mode share was a dismal 0.4%, which was, even more dismally, close to the regional average. Add these up, and we had one of the lowest automobile mode shares in the region. 59% of trips were drivers, 13% were passengers, totalling 72% of trips, which was lowest in the region except (natch) Vancouver. Contrast that with the traffic we need to deal with and the amount of space we have given over to that traffic. But more on that later.

The 2017 Trip Diary data shows how our mode share has shifted over a 6-year span:

As you can see, the shift is subtle, but in a positive direction if you hate traffic. Our transit rode share went up to 20% and is now the highest in the region (Vancouver’s dropped a bit to 18%) New Westminster is now the City in BC with the highest transit mode share! Our walk share went up to 15% and is still 4th in the region, and our bike mode share doubled from dismal to still pretty bad. Or car mode share, however, dropped from 72% of all trips to 64.5%, and “passengers” went up a little bit in share, suggesting that single occupancy vehicle trips went down. Going from 59% to 51% of driving trips in 6 years is (a 14% decrease) is a really positive sign for the livability of our community.

All of those numbers are percentages of trips, but they mask that New Westminster is a growing city. Based on BC Government population estimates (BC Gov’t Local Government Statistics Schedule 201), our population went from 67,880 to 73,928 over that 6-year span, an 8.9% population increase. The trip diary raw numbers show that our number of trips went up at a higher rate: a 12% increase from 194,000 individual trips on the average day to 217,000 trips. We are moving around more. And this is where things get interesting:

With a modest increase in cycling (around 1,000), and significant increases in walk trips (11,000) and transit trips (10,000), there was no increase in trips taken by car – the increase in passengers almost exactly offset the reduced trips by drivers. I need to emphasize this, in bold, italics and in colour, because this is the big story in all of these numbers:

All of the new trips taken by New Westminster residents, as our population grew by 8.9% and our travelling around grew by 12%, resulted in no increase in car use by residents of the City. All of the extra trips were counted as transit, walking, or cycling. Simply put, this logical connection perpetuated by people who oppose the transit-oriented development model, is not supported by the data:

Admittedly, this does not necessarily mean traffic is getting better; That a smaller proportion of people are driving and that driving is becoming less convenient, are not contradictory ideas. Other parts of the region have not seen the same shift, and growth to the south and east of us especially is increasing demand on our local roads. This also means there are more pedestrians and cyclists about, so crosswalks are fuller and taking more time to clear, meaning some tiny amount of through-capacity from cars is lost to accommodate the mode shift and keep vulnerable road users safe. The City shifting resources to serve the growing proportion of our residents that don’t rely on a car every day also makes sense from a planning principle. If I am car-reliant (and some in our City definitely are) I can rest assured that a huge proportion of our public land space is still dedicated to moving and storing cars, and a large portion of our budget to accommodating the expectations of drivers.

But the writing is on the wall, and we need to continue to adapt our practices and resources to reflect the success that is starting to show in our regional transportation numbers.

Climate Strike

I don’t usually do community announcements at the end of Council meetings, but I made an exception this week (I promise not to make it a practice). But I could not let the meeting pass without calling extra attention to the events of last Friday.

Friday was the last resolution session at UBCM (yes, I will report out on that in the next little while). Members New Westminster council were at this annual conference of local governments from across the province, and we helped move resolutions that emphasized the urgent need for climate action. Some, like the Resolution asking the UBCM to endorse a Call to Action on the Climate Emergency passed, some like the call to hold fossil fuel industries legally responsible for the cost of climate change adaptation in our Cities, failed. Thanks to CBC Reporter Justin McElroy, there is a scorecard of the resolutions around climate:
Green surrounds the “passed” resolutions, Red is “failed”, purple is “withdrawn”.

There was significant debate on the floor on these climate action resolutions. Some arguing we need to slow down and be cautious, we cannot risk “investor confidence” or we need to show more respect for “resource communities”. Such is the nature of democratic debate, good points were made, hyperbole was engaged, passions were expressed:

Then, we went outside. And some youth were there to talk to the media about the Climate Strike that was about to start a few km up the road. Then there were 100,000+ people on the street, lead by inspiring youth from across the region, calling on politicians and other leaders to stop pretending a lack of climate action is an example of caution – call it what it is – an act of dereliction.

Some of us on council joined that Climate Strike, and I think we all went to show support – to be allies. But I was reminded time and again during the event that this strike, this protest, was directed at me. Those signs, those chants, the anger, were directed at me, and at my fellow Councillors, and the other delegates at UBCM, and at the generation to which I belong who have known about this issue, but failed to act. We continue to fail to deliver the change needed to assure these students have a future as good as our present.

Recognizing that hit me hard. And I am still processing it.

So I had to speak at Council on Monday to tell them that I heard them.

And in every way, this Monday – from the way we talked about our capital budget in the afternoon workshop to the renewed call for fossil fuel divestment to my vote about preserving a heritage house 300m from a Sky Train station – this Monday is different because of what happened on Friday.

Shit like this needs to be stopped. There is no place in a Climate Emergency mandate for expanding freeways. The myth of congestion relief through building traffic lanes is abhorrent in this context, and we have to stop lying to people about it.

No more business as usual as a reason not to move forward. No more incremental-until-meaningless actions. I can’t continue to compartmentalize climate action and climate justice in this work. And I won’t.

Council – Sept 30, 2019

Back at Council after our UBCM break. I have some writing to do about that whole thing, but need to get through this business first. Out meeting agenda was not too crazy long, but we got into some pretty meaty discussions on some policy issues that brought us to some split votes. We started with Public Hearings on three projects:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (34 South Dyke Road) No. 8087, 2019 and Development Variance Permit DVP00635 for 34 South Dyke Road
This project would see 16 townhouses built on a vacant lot on South Dike Road, including a swap of some lands to make the lot work better while providing the waterfront land for the City to enhance the dike, and continue the waterfront parks sue that is the big vision for that part of Queensborough.

There are a few variances needed here. The setback to the north is reduced 3 feet and the west side by a foot and a half. The Advisory Planning Commission, Design Panel and Residents’ Association all expressed support for the proposal. We received no written correspondence, and no-one came to speak to the Public Hearing.

Council moved to support the DVP and gave the Bylaw third reading.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1935 Eighth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7846, 2019 and Heritage Designation (1935 Eighth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7847, 2019
This application is to subdivide a largish lot on the corner of 20th Street and 8th Ave in the West End in exchange for giving permanent protection to the 1928 single family house on the corner. There would be some variances required: the resultant lots would be 66% and 50% of minimum size, with Floor Space Ratios 18% and 6% above the maximum. allowed. The Community Heritage Commission and Advisory Planning Commission reviewed and approved of the project.

I actually voted against this proposal. The idea that we are permanently preserving single family homes on the intersection of two arterial roads less than 5 minutes walking from a SkyTrain station in 2019 rubs me the wrong way. This is not the vision of sustainable, transit oriented development that I think of in the City. Unfortunately, our OCP leads applicants down this path – in that this type of preservation is exactly what our existing policy framework is encouraging, and the landowner here is perhaps being treated unfairly when I speak against the proposal at this late stage, but I could not support it.

We received no written submissions and no-one came to speak to the application at Public Hearing. Council voted to support the the project, and gave the Bylaws Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Cannabis Retail Location – 805 Boyd Street) No. 8140, 2019
The Government of BC wants to open a government cannabis store in Queensborough Landing. We have now approved 3 private cannabis store applications, have two more wading through the provincial security check process, and this would be the first government store approved.

This process has taken longer than most would like, including the City and the Province. At the UBCM meeting last week Premier Horgan admitted frustration that BC was not able to get their various regulatory changes and approvals done faster, but such is the nature of bringing in comprehensive changes. We received a single written submission in support, and two people came to speak in favour of the application. Council moved to support the Zoning Amendment, and gave it Third Reading and Adoption with only a single “high” joke. I’m proud of us for that.


We then had a single Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit DVP00663 for 65 East Sixth Avenue (New
Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre)
The City itself has to go through formalizing the variances for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre replacement project, now that we have some certainty about the design. Though we are still not sure we will have the financial capacity to build the much larger facility that the competitive swimming community asked for, we are using that as the basis for our variances at this time.

The list of variances is not that long considering the uniqueness of the building. It includes building height (54 feet where only 30 feet is permitted), parking (We only have space for 422 cars, the zoning bylaw recommends 526), and the design of bicycle parking (we are building almost twice the requirement, but varying the design requirements to make it more appropriate for the building design). We had one letter of support and one member of the public came to express support for the reduced car parking and ample cycling space. Council moved to give ourselves these variances.


The following item was Moved on Consent:

Split Assessment through New Commercial Assessment Class
The way property taxes are calculated in BC is based on the assessed value of the property. The value of a property is based on “highest and best use”, not necessarily the current use, so in growing commercial areas the assessed value of even low-cost commercial lease property can be really high, with consequent impact on property taxes. New Westminster, like every other City in the lower mainland charges a much higher rate in commercial property taxes than we do on residential taxes. Businesses pay 3.5x as much property tax per $1,000 than residents do. And it is almost always the lease of the building – the small business in the building – that pays these property taxes, not the owner of the building. So small, independent business commonly cannot afford these triple-net leases, which is part of the reason you see more chain stores and national brands in new lease spaces. This is complicated by modern mixed-use zoning practices where it can be hard to separate residential value from commercial value in the same developable lot.

This is not a New West only problem, and the Province has been looking at creative ways to shift our property tax regulations to allow Cities to better support small independent businesses, and have received recommendations from an Intergovernmental Working Group on this. New Westminster’s BIAs have sent us a letter suggesting their support for these recommendations.

One of them is to separate the current use and “developable value” parts of the assessment, and charge a different tax on the latter which the city could set at anything from zero to a percentage under the full tax rate.

This is interesting, but I need to emphasize that any reduction in taxes to one property type will result in an increase in taxes to other property types. We can’t give businesses a property tax break without raising residential property taxes (except, of course by doing city-wide service reductions). The business community asking for tax reductions must be put into this context. The province has not made the regulatory changes yet, and this idea will have to get bounced off of the public a bit, and will need some financial analysis. Interesting, but not a slam dunk.


The rest of the items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre – Sustainability
Implementation and Certification Progress

A significant part in our City’s commitment to the Climate Emergency declaration is assuring the replacement of our largest corporate GHG point source is with as low-carbon a building as possible. We are pushing the envelope a bit here, and after some significant design and energy modelling work, it looks like we can do what no-one has yet done – build a 100,000+ square foot aquatic centre that meets the Canada Green Building Council “Zero Carbon Building” standard. That is pretty exciting.

The building will use carbon-free energy for all heating and cooling, for water treatment, air management and auxiliary energy needs. We are also hoping to add photovoltaics to the roof to produce 358kW of electricity – effectively tripling the City’s current Solar Garden photovoltaic capacity. This marks a major shift in how we build buildings, and will be a model for recreation centres in Canada.

Brewery District (Wesgroup Project): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
This is another application to do utility works at night, as has been a typical practice if daytime work would be expected to add too much road disruption or traffic chaos. Council actually had a long discussion about this, following some recent projects where we heard from residents not happy to be kept up at night by construction. I have started re-thinking these in my own voting, and am going to prioritize the peaceful sleep and livability of residents over the need for drivers to not be delayed while driving through New West. I suspect we will get grief for this, but Council in a split vote denied the application, meaning the applicant will need to adjust their works to change the night use schedule, or will need to do the work during the day.

Pop-Up Recycling Events
This is a report that updates on changes in our recycling systems in the City. As previously reported, the current recycling centre near Canada Games Pool will be inaccessible due to construction staging once the pool replacement project starts, so staff is looking at different ideas in how to use this as an opportunity to shift how we collect some of the harder-to-recycle materials that can’t go in our curbside collection system, like soft plastic and Styrofoam. At the same time, we can educate the community on the myriad of recycling options that already exist in New Westminster . Part of this strategy will be “pop up” recycling events on City lands in 2020 – where we can also have reuse and repair opportunities, with an emphasis on education of options, and to see what works. Far from “abandoning recycling”, the City is putting a bigger emphasis on the first two Rs (reduce and reuse) and will adapt our recycling options to fit the realities of the shifting recycling materials markets.

Permissive Property Tax Exempt Properties – Review of Application Results
We give permissive property tax exemptions to some charitable organizations and community service agencies. These are “permissive”, because they are not required by provincial law like the regulatory exemptions given to Churches, but are up to Council to approve or not. Although there are a number of long-established recipients of permissive exemptions, the City has long had a practice of not awarding new ones. This is our annual report on the Bylaw we need to update every year listing the permissive exemptions.

Recently, however, there have been two significant expansions of Private Schools in the City, and we are still managing them as “permissive” exemptions. I have asked Council to have a review of policy around permissive exemptions for tuition-collecting private schools in the City.

Investment Report to August 31, 2019
We have about $191 Million in the bank in various reserve funds. Most is not cash we can spend, and it is not (as some may allege) in a vault at City Hall for us to roll around in. It is mostly in reserve funds that are earmarked for specific projects, like the Canada Games Pool replacement, or DCC funds set aside from development charges to pay for things like sewer and water and road upgrades those developments will cause us to build. Before we get all excited about that big number, a huge chunk of this is going to get spent over the next three years as we realize our aggressive capital program. Nonetheless, so far in this fiscal year we have made about $2.8Million on these investments.

We talked a few years ago about divesting our funds from fossil fuel industries, and took a resolution to UBCM a few years ago. The Municipal Finance Authority has net been excited about a fossil fuel divestment fund, though they have been tossing around an “ethical” fund, which is not really the same thing. That said, we have declared a climate emergency, and this is a new Council since the last time I kicked at this can, so I moved the following:

That staff report back to Council before the start of next financial year to determine what options for fossil fuel divestment are available to us, and outlining the process and implications of we moved our funds away from the MFA in the event they cannot provide a fossil-fuel free investment product to the City. This was supported by Council.


We then adopted the following Bylaws</b:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2019-2023) Amendment Bylaw No. 8141,
2019
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that updates our Financial Plan to reflect recent changes in revenue projections and capital spending was adopted by Council.

Housing Agreement Bylaw (616-640 Sixth Street) No. 8131, 2019
This Bylaw that secures market-rental tenure for a new development in the Uptown that was approved back in the summer was Adopted by Council. Despite the gloom and doom predicted by the development community when the City took stronger measures to prevent renovictions, investors are still building new and much-needed rental stock in New Westminster.

And that was the work of the day

Ask Pat: The CVG Gap

Zack asks—

When will there be a proper cycling connection between Cumberland and Brunette along E Columbia? Almost everyone rides on the sidewalk there.

I have no idea.

I’m not happy about that answer, that piece of terrible planning turned into infrastructure failure is one of the biggest active transportation pet peeves I have in the City. Now, I could blow smoke up your ass and say we are working on it, but I don’t actually think we are. And to understand why not is to understand what is currently frustrating me most about my job.

The Central Valley Greenway is a great piece of regional transportation infrastructure. After only the BC Parkway (which has its own frustrations), the CVG is the best integrated inter-community cycling and active transportation route in Greater Vancouver. Tracing pretty much the flattest and most direct route between Downtown Vancouver and the triple-point of Burnaby New West and Coquitlam, with a significant side-spur connecting to Downtown New West, the CVG is 24 km of relatively safe, pretty comfortable and pretty attractive cycling infrastructure opened to some fanfare in 2009.

It is definitely not perfect, and much of it falls far short of what we would consider “All Ages and Abilities” AAA bike routes. That in Burnaby they built a really great multi-use overpass at Winston and Sperling to cross the road and railroad tracks almost makes be forgive the adjacent 4 km where the route is a too-narrow, poorly-maintained and debris-strewn paint-demarked lane adjacent to a truck route where 4+ m lane widths assure the 50km/h speed limit is treated as a minimum. But I’m not here to complain about Burnaby, I’m here to complain about New Westminster.

At the time of the CVG opening in 2009, it was noted that some parts had “interim” treatments, and would be brought up to proper design in the near future. One of those is the section you mention, where the separated Multi Use Path (“MUP”) along East Columbia simply runs out of road room, and for 150m, cyclists are either expected to share sidewalk space with pedestrians (which is actually legal in this space, but that’s another Ask Pat) on a 6 foot wide sidewalk immediately adjacent to heavy truck traffic coming off on Brunette, or take a 360-m detour up a steep (13% grade!) hill to Sapper Street, then back down an equally steep hill a block later. It is a fudge, but tolerable as a temporary measure as we get this great $24 Million piece of region-defining infrastructure completed.

A decade later, the fudge is still there, and it is way less tolerable.

I have asked about this for pretty much a decade, and the answer seems to be that this fudge will get fixed when the intersection of Columbia and Brunette gets fixed. If you look at the traffic plan for Sapperton and the “Great Streets” section of our master transportation plan, you see that there is some notion that the Brunette/East Columbia intersection will work better if Brunette is made the through-route, and East Columbia is turned into a light-controlled T-intersection. This vision appears at times when discussing Braid and Brunette changes, or potential “solutions” to the United Braid Extension conundrum, or dreams of re-aligning the Brunette offramp from Highway 1 or the building of 6- or 8-lane Pattullo Bridges. When one or all of these things happens (so goes the story) then re-aligning this intersection will be an important part of “keeping things moving”, and then we will have the money/excuse/desire to fix the fudge in the CVG.

But none of those things have happened over the last decade, and there is really no sign that any of them are going to happen any time soon. There certainly isn’t any money in the City’s Capital plan to do this work, no senior government is offering money to do this work, and there is very little political will by anyone (for good reason) to spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars shifting choke points for drivers around in New West around. So all this to say my answer to your first question is No, there is no foreseeable timeline to fix this piece of the CVG.

But my frustration is this being just one more example of how the City of New Westminster is has still not adopted the principles of our Master Transportation Plan and it’s clear prioritization of active modes. This is still not the culture of the organization. If the improvement of this keystone regional active mode route is contingent on us spending 10x the amount it would cost on some “getting cars moving” project that we can slip this in with, it is clear where our priories lie. As long as making an active transportation route work is still accessory to motordom, we are failing our own vision.

Climate Emergency

One of the big topics we discussed at Council last week was a report from staff entitled “Response to Climate Emergency”. This policy-rich, wonky, but still preliminary report had its profile raised by a variety of delegates coming to speak to Council, urging aggressive climate action. That many of the delegates represented generations of people who will be around and most impacted by the climate crisis was not lost to anyone in the room.

If you want to read the report, it is here (because of the way our Council agendas work, you need to scroll down to page 81 of that big, ugly agenda package). I want to summarize some of what is in there, and talk a little about what I see as the risks and opportunities ahead. When we declared a Climate Emergency, we were asking our staff to show us the tools we could apply if we want to act like it is an emergency and shift our emissions towards the Paris targets. Now it is up to Council to give them the authorization and resources to use those tools.

When New Westminster (or any local government) talks about greenhouse gas emissions, we talk about two types of emissions. “Corporate” emissions are those created by the City of New Westminster as a corporation – the diesel in our garbage trucks, the gasoline in our police cars, and the fossil gas used to heat water in the Canada Games Pool or City Hall. This is managed through a Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy or CEERS. For the sake of shorthand, that is currently about 4,000 Tonnes (CO2equivilent) per year. “Community” emissions are all of the other emissions created in our community – the gas you burn in your car, the gas you use to heat your house, the emissions from the garbage that you and your neighbors toss out, etc. These are managed through a Community Energy and Emissions Plan or CEEP. And again in shorthand they amount to more than 200,000 Tonnes (CO2equivelent) per year.

When Council supported the Climate Emergency resolution, it included the targets we want to hit for emissions reductions to align with the commitments that Canada made in Paris, and with the global objective of keeping anthropogenic climate change under 1.5C. This means reducing our emissions by 45% by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 100% by 2050. These targets are for both our Corporate and Community emissions.

Clearly, the City has more control over its corporate emissions. The two biggest changes will be in re-imagining our fleet and renovating our buildings. We can accelerate the shift to low- and zero-emission vehicles as technology advances. Passenger vehicles are easy, but electric backhoes are an emergent technology, and the various energy demands of fire trucks are probably going to require some form of low-carbon liquid fuels for some time. The limits on us here are both the significant up-front capital cost of cutting-edge low-emission technology, and the ability to build charging infrastructure. Rapidly adopting low- and zero-carbon building standards for our new buildings (including the replacement for the Canada Games Pool) will be vital here, but retro-fitting some of our older building stock is something that needs to be approached in consideration of the life cycles of the buildings – when do we renovate and when do we replace?

Addressing these big two aggressively will allow us some time to deal with the category of “others”. This work will require us to challenge some service delivery assumptions through an emissions and climate justice lens. Are the aesthetic values of our (admittedly spectacular) annual gardens and groomed green grass lawns something we can continue to afford, or will we move to more perennial, native and xeriscaped natural areas? How will we provide emergency power to flood control pumps without diesel generators? Can we plant enough trees to offset embedded carbon in our concrete sidewalks?

Those longer-term details aside, corporate emissions are mostly fleet and buildings, where the only thing slowing progress is our willingness to commit budget to it, and the public tolerance for tax increases or debt spending in the short term to save money in the long term.

Community emissions are a much harder nut to crack. Part of this is because the measurement of community emissions, by their diffuse nature, are more difficult. Another part is that a local government has no legal authority to (for example) start taking away Major Road Network capacity for cars and trucks, or to regulate the type of fuel regional delivery vehicles use.

We do have a lot of control over how new buildings are built, through powers given by the Provincial “Step Code” provisions in the Building Code. A City can require that more energy efficient building be built, recognizing that this may somewhat increase the upfront cost of construction. We can also relax the energy efficiency part in exchange for requiring that space and water heating and cooking appliances be zero carbon, which may actually offset the cost increase and still achieve the emissions reductions goals. The retrofit of existing buildings will rely somewhat on Provincial and Federal incentives (that pretty much every political party is promising this election), but we may want to look at the City of Vancouver model and ask ourselves at what point should we regulate that no more new fossil gas appliances are allowed?

Shifting our transportation realm will be the hard one. The future of personal mobility is clearly electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and shared vehicles. Somehow the Techno-optimists selling this dream fail to see what those words add up to: clean, reliable public transit. Yes, we are going to have to look at electrification of our private vehicle fleets, and getting chargers for electric vehicles into existing multi-family buildings is an economic and logistical barrier to complete adoption, but ultimately we need to reduce the number of motorized private vehicles moving through our City, because that is the only way we can make the use of alternatives safer, more comfortable, and more efficient.

Denser housing, more green spaces, better waste management built on the foundation of reducing wasteful products, and distributed energy systems linked by a smarter electricity grid – these are things we can build in the City that will get us to near-zero carbon. We can layer on resiliency of our systems and food security decoupled from fossil-fuel powered transglobal supply chains, but that is another couple of blog posts. If you are not getting the hint here, we are talking about transforming much of how we live our lives, because how we have lived our lives up to now is how we ended up in this emergency despite decades of seeing it coming.

The barrier to community emissions reductions is less about money and more about community drive / tolerance for change. Every time we (for example) take away 5 parking spots on 8th Street to provide a transit queue-jumping lane, it will be described by automobile reliant neighbours as the greatest indignity this Council ever imposed on residents. Building a separated bike lane network so our residents can safely and securely use emerging zero-carbon transportation technology like e-assist bikes and electric scooters will be vilified as causing “traffic chaos”, and opponents will somehow forget that “traffic chaos” has been the operating mode of New Westminster roads for 50+ years.

The questions will be: Do we have the political will to do what must be done? Will our residents and businesses, who overwhelmingly believe that climate action is necessary, be there to support the actions that may cause them some personal inconvenience, or challenge their assumptions about how their current practice impacts the community’s emissions profile?

The delegates who came to Council asked us to act, and I threw it back at them: they need to act. As helpful as constant reminders of the need to do this work are, we need to bring the rest of the community on board as well. We passed the Climate Emergency declaration, and now we have a toolbox we are ready to open. To some in our community still mired in denial, that toolbox looks like the Ark of the Covenant from the first Indiana Jones movie. How will we shift that perception?

Shit is about to get real. We need climate champions in this community to turn their attention towards educating and motivating their neighbours – the residents, business and voters of this community – that these actions are necessary and good. Political courage only takes us to the next election, real leadership needs to come from the community. Let’s get to work.

Council – Sept 9, 2019

It was an eventful meeting at New West Council on Monday, with some high points and some low ones. I’m going to hold off for a future post to talk about the two biggest events of the evening – a report on Climate Change Action and the conversation we had about specific reconciliation actions, so I can just get through the other business on the Agenda and get this already-epic blog post out without too much noodling on the writing.


We opened with an Opportunity for Public Comment:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2019-2023) Amendment Bylaw No. 8141, 2019
We are once again adapting our 5-year plan as we are required to do when changes cannot be absorbed in to the exiting plan, which requires and amendment bylaw that requires and opportunity for public comment. In this case, we are adding $1 Million to our 2019 Capital Program as we adjust what we are actually planning to get done and paid for this year.


We had one item of Unfinished Business:

616 – 640 Sixth Street (Market Rental): Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8131, 2019 – Consideration of Three Readings
This is the Housing Agreement to secure the market rental tenure of 40% of the units in the high rise development in Uptown that was approved at Public Hearing back in June. The units will be market-rental operated by a single owner, regulated by the Residential Tenancy Act, and this will be secure for “60 years or the life of the building, whichever is longer”.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Recruitment 2019: Appointment to Access Ability Advisory Committee
One of our AAAC members had to retire, so we are naming another member.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Special Limited Study – Phase Two Completion
We are still adjusting the Heritage Conservation Area program in queens Park a couple of years after its implementation. We originally had a group of about 90 properties that fit in the grey area between (and I paraphrase, as there is probably more technical language to be used here) “definitely a heritage asset to be protected” and “too young to be heritage”. Back in June 2018, we moved 33 of these into the “non protected” category after evaluating their heritage merit. For the remaining 47, we are doing further investigation of development potential (i.e. what is the risk that the heritage value of the house will be destroyed through redevelopment within the existing zoning entitlement) and a condition assessment, and will make a decision in the fall about which houses will fall under protected or non-protected category. This report is basically a reporting out of the development potential study, which is also being sent to all of the impacted owners. More to come!

65 East Sixth Avenue (New Westminster Aquatic & Community Centre): Development Variance Permit for Proposed New Facility – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
The City needs to apply for a Development Variance because several aspects of the planned replacement for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre do not comply with the current zoning. The building (as planned) is too tall and has too few parking spaces, along with some design flexibility being sought to make the facility work better on its location.

This will come to an Opportunity to be Heard on September 30, c’mon out and tell us what you think.

Demolition Waste & Recyclable Materials Management Bylaw No. 7660, 2015 Compliance Update
You may not realize this, but much of the material generated when a building in demolished is recycled. The City has a program to encourage this, and initially about 47% of the demolitions meet the >70% recycled standard to receive the incentive. That number has slipped to about 30%. Some other cities have compliance rates of over 98%, and they have much higher deposit amounts (a stronger financial incentive) and a simpler process for processing the compliance. So the City is going to adjust its program to be more like the proven more successful ones.

Updated Council Remuneration Policy
This report describes the formal strategy we have adopted for future changes to how Council is paid. The next time Council salaries will be reviewed will be in 4 years.

719 Colborne Street: Rezoning for Secondary Suite and Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit – Preliminary Report
An owner of a single detached house in Glenbrook North wants to formalize a basement suite and convert part of their existing garage into a defacto laneway home. This will not require building new density, but will provide some more housing flexibility near a commercial node and immediately adjacent a school. This is a preliminary report, and the application would have to go to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.

34 South Dyke Road: Rezoning, Development Permit and Development Variance Permit for Townhouse Development – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This is a proposal for a 16 – townhouse development in Queensborough that has been going through internal and external reviews for some time, and will be coming to a public Opportunity to be Heard in the near future, so I’ll hold my comments until that time.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Culture Forward Celebration
There is a one-day arts and culture festival being held on September 28th to invite people in to the Anvil Centre arts spaces and show off some of the arts culture and heritage offerings of the space. Think of it as an Arts Doors Open event, with music, performance art, sculpture and visual arts, with that special bit of tech new media art weirdness that makes the Anvil great. Should be fun!

Response to Climate Emergency
This is basically a report setting the direction of future work to come between now and the 2020 budget, and a re-commitment to the goals of the Climate Emergency declaration. I will write more about this in a follow-up post.

Draft Advisory Committee Policy
We discussed this last meeting, and staff have put together a draft policy to guide how we will change our Council Advisory Committees to make them work better and more efficiently. This means shifting how people are appointed, and assuring that committees have better defined mandates and workplans. This is a good start to making these important advisory committees more effective.

The Grant Funding Envelope 2020 and 2021
We are also making changes to our City Grant program to streamline it an (hopefully) make it work better for the many community partners we fund through cash and city services. This report sets the proposed budget for the next two years to help with our overall budgeting process. We are keeping the in kind services grants at the same level, and are increasing the cash grant envelopes a little bit to put the total planned grant envelopes for both 2020 and 2021 at just a bit under $1,000,000 per year.

Brow of the Hill Housing Co-Operative: Request for Funding
The City of New Westminster is lucky to have several Co-Op Housing developments built back when senior governments had proactive programs to encourage this form of development. Co-ops are a unique structure that provides a form of market ownership at below market values, because it strips the profit incentive out of ownership, and at the same time supports a portion of the property for subsidized non-market housing, and integrates the supportive and non-subsidized housing together to build stronger community. It is a form that brings the true “missing middle” housing form and bridges the gap between subsidized rental and market ownership. I don’t have the partisan inclination to get into the deeper details about why the program is no longer supported by governments (its treacherous and involves both Provincial and Federal Liberals demonstrating their lack of progressive values), but this type of housing should be supported by all levels of government.

One of the Co-ops in town is doing a major renovation, and as part of the work they had to apply for City permits and inspections and stuff, racking up a little more than $32,000 in fees. The Co-op provides 37 units of below-market housing, and they are asking that the City provide support to maintain those 37 units to a level equal to those permit costs. They are asking the City to provide this subsidy from our Affordable Housing Reserve Fund – a fund meant to support capital projects to provide affordable housing through partnerships. I cannot think of a better bang for the buck than supporting 37 units for less than $1000 each, representing only 1.5% of the total costs of the work, and am glad Council supported the request.

Proposal to Expand School Age Child Care Spaces in Queensborough
The childcare situation in Queensborough is reaching crisis levels. Though affordable childcare access is a problem across the region, most neighbourhoods of New West have availability much higher than the Metro Vancouver and Provincial averages, except Q’Boro, where the numbers are dismally low – less than half the spots per child as anywhere else in the City.

There is some longer-term relief coming with new Childcare spaces associated with development, but in the short term, the School District has some portables that they would be willing to contribute to a program. The City is being asked to provide $140,000 from our capital fund to do the required improvements of the portables, and we will act quickly in hopes to secure an operator so these spaces can be up and running as soon as next month. We are also planning to apply for a Child Care BC New Spaces Fund grant for another 37-space daycare on City lands, which will be more of a medium-term action.

Proposed Selection Process for Non-Profit Housing Providers of Below – and Non-Market Housing Units achieved through the Development Approvals Process
The City is working on an Inclusionary Housing policy – where we will take a greater amount of community contributions from new development and orient them towards the building of non-market housing as part of all significant new developments. One part of that is assuring that the non-market housing we are building is providing the type of housing that is most in need, and that we can find non-profit operators to provide that housing. So we are creating a transparent and easy-to-navigate process to connect not-for-profit operators with developers early in the process to assure the right kind of non-market housing is built for those operators.

Shared and Separate Community Areas: Policy Work Plan and Proposed Interim Guidelines
We are working on some policy guidance to inform the discussion that was had in the spring over mixed-tenure housing and buildings that have separate entrances for rental and strata portions. As we bring together an Inclusionary Housing Policy, this is going to be a more common occurrence. This is an early report the outlines the work staff will do to balance the operational needs of the buildings with social equity desires of the community. We will be working with the developers and (most importantly) the non-market affordable housing providers to figure out what works for them – if we create rigid rules that mean there are no operators willing to administer this housing, then there is little point in building it, and we can re-apply that community amenity value in other ways.

There is much more nuance to this discussion than the media-friendly “poor door” rhetoric, reflected by the fact there don’t appear to be any established best practices to learn from. Jurisdictions from New York City to Vancouver are struggling to make policy work around this, so I don’t expect we will find a magic solution quickly. But it is work the community wants us to do. More to come here, and we will need to have this discussion quickly because the last thing we want is to stop affordable housing from being built because of a lack of clear policy here.

Resident Permit Parking Application Process – Response to August 26, 2019 Delegations to Council
This is a follow-up to delegations that came to Council last meeting concerned that parking on Devoy Street has become problematic. There is a process for a neighbourhood to request permit parking, and staff have connected the neighbourhood with that process.

I want to note that every single house on this block has off-street parking, and many have back alley access and garages. I went by the location a few times over the last two weeks and my anec-data is that there was always ample curbside parking available when I observed the site, mid-day and at dinner time. That said, the site of McBride school is going to be a construction site soon, and that is going to put pressure on street parking, so things will get worse.

Aside from the access to personal free parking in front of their house, I heard at least two delegates expressed concern that parking on both sides of the street was resulting in poor visibility and making the situation less safe. I hope that will be addressed through the transportation plan for the new school at McBride, at least when the school is completed.

51 Elliot Street: Residential High Rise, Non-Market Housing and Not-for-Profit Child Care – Preliminary Report
This is a proposal for a new high rise development at the east part of Downtown, comprising 252 Strata units, 28 non-market rental suites and a not-for-profit daycare. It is fairly tall building, but there is a significant community amenity here. This is a preliminary report, with some work to do yet, including public consultation, so I’ll hold my comments for now.

1402 Sixth Ave: Life Safety Concerns and Tenant Displacement
Council discussed the details of the case of the tenants in the West End evicted because of life safety issues. Staff have been working to bring the landlord into compliance here, and Council moved to suspend the eviction for 120 days to give everyone a chance to find a resolution here.

Appointment to the Restorative Justice Committee
We had a change of representatives on the RJC. Moved!

Sports Hall of Fame Grant Request
We had a request for a small in-kind grant to cover room rental for an event at the Anvil Centre. There was a bit of strange discussion about this because the grant request was $200, and in-kind. This seems much below a threshold where the CAO should be bringing a report to Council for approval – it is waste of everyone’s time if staff don’t have the ability to make small decisions like this without Council. So we empowered staff to decide if this was a good idea.


We then had two pieces of Correspondence that resulted in motions:

United Way of the Lower Mainland email dated July 17, 2019 regarding how Municipalities can make a difference with United Way’s Period Promise campaign
The United Way is leading a province wide (national?) program to remove financial barriers to menstruation products. New West School District already took leadership by becoming the first in the Province to fund tampons and pads in schools, and the United Way is asking local governments to bring this idea to municipally-run public buildings like Libraries, Recreation Centres and parks facilities. Council moved the recommended resolution, which essentially asks staff to look into the implications and cost, and report back to us.

Sher Vancouver letter dated August 7, 2019 an Official Request for a Memorial for January Marie Lapuz
January Lapuz was a citizen of New West who was murdered in New Westminster in 2012. A community service organization for which she volunteered is asking that she be remembered in the City with some sort of memorialization. Council agreed that this was a good idea, but also recognized there needed to be a lot of details worked out, so we expressed support and decided we would connect with the organizers and determine what an appropriate path was.


Our Bylaws adopted were as follows:

Housing Agreement (228 Nelson’s Crescent) Amendment Bylaw No. 8142, 2019
This Bylaw edits the earlier one that secures a housing agreement for the Affordable Housing component of a new building at the Brewery District, clearly defining things like utility charges and access to amenity spaces. Council adopted it making it law.

Affordable Housing Reserve Fund Bylaw No. 8138, 2019
This Bylaw creates an official Reserve Fund for affordable housing programs to replace out old one – this one reflecting the policy changes adopted by Council on August 26. Same fund, just better driven by clear policy.

Building Bylaw No. 8125, 2019;
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8129, 2019;
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 8133, 2019; and
Municipal Ticket Information Amendment Bylaw No. 8134, 2019
All of these Bylaws are part of the update of the Building Bylaw we talked about at the August 26th meeting, to update the language to be compliant with changes in Provincial regulation and other timely edits.


Finally, we had two motions on the Agenda under New Business, one withdrawn and the other defeated. This report is already way too long, and this one is going to take some serious unpacking, so I’m going to make you wait for another follow-up post.

It was long night, not one of our longest, but definitely emotionally and intellectually taxing. But it’s good to be back!

Council – August 26, 2019

Summer is over! Well, not quite yet, but the August break is over and New West City Council was back into action with a fun-packed agenda:

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Evaluating the current state of Advisory Committees
New West has more advisory committees than most Cities – more than twice as many as average. This is both good and bad. The idea that we have so much citizen participation in our decision making can make for better decisions, but the downside is that all of these committees draw a lot of resources (staff time, volunteer effort) and too much committee review can slow down our ability to get things done. We need to assure the committees we have are working as effectively as possible to assure that tax money is being spent efficiently, and to assure our volunteer energy is not being wasted. We have never done a comprehensive review of our committees to know if we are getting the most value from them.

The City engaged a team of SFU Public Engagement experts to help us evaluate the effectiveness of these committees, as part of our larger Community Engagement Strategy. There were a variety of recommendations, leading with “Don’t let committees get stale; keep them relevant and valuable”. I’m not sure the current structure does this. To be frank, our current committees are an expensive way to receive engagement by a small, select group of people – people selected by Council, which results in an inherent bias (totally not exempting myself from this).

There will be more discussion of this in the meetings ahead, but Council generally agreed with the recommendations to 1) Reduce the number of committees through amalgamation; 2) Allow staff to review applications and recommend membership to Council instead of Council leading the selection process; 3) introduce annual Committee workplans; and 4) introduce nominal term limits for volunteers.

Affordable Housing Amenity Provision: Policy and Guidelines Bylaw for Three Readings
The City has a reserve fund for Affordable Housing that comes from three main sources: density bonus money we receive from high rise development in the Downtown, transfers from operations, and part of the revenue from those ugly digital advertising signs at the City gates. It has been used to fund small affordable housing projects like at 630 Ewen and 43 Hastings, and there is a little less than $2 Million in the fund right now.

This new Bylaw will essentially create some firmer guidelines about how this and future Councils can spend that money, based on recommendations for the Affordable Housing Task Force. There is A LOT here, and this is coming out of a lot of work by out Affordable Housing Task Force, and I cannot disagree with any of the recommendations made.

Introduction of New Building Bylaw: Including an Amendment to the Development Services Fees and Rates Bylaw (Schedule A), and Amendment to the Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw, and an Amendment to the Municipal Ticketing Information Bylaw – Bylaws for Three Readings
The City has a Building Bylaw that dovetails with the Provincial building code, which is being updated in various ways to reflect changes in the building code and City policy.

228 – 232 Sixth Street (la Rustica): Development Permit Application for a Mid Rise Multiple Unit Residential Development – Consideration of Development Permit Issuance
This property with the derelict buildings on it on 6th Street went through rezoning back in 2017, with a few of the neighbors in the adjacent building opposed, though the design was modified somewhat to reduce overlook and proximity issues. This DP application reflects some further minor changes to the design as it had to be modified to not impact a tree on the adjacent property that the neighbours would not agree to having removed.

It has been through Design Panel a few times, and was finally approved. As the building conforms with existing zoning and the modifications of the design since the rezoning approval are minor, this application does not need to go to further public consultation.

1111 Sixth Avenue (Wisdom Forest Early Learning Centre): Official Community Plan Amendment Section 475 and 476 Consultation Report
The owners of Shilo Church want to knock down the existing annex to the church, and build a new 4-story building that would house a retail spot, a significant childcare space (114 children), and a caretaker suite for the church. These uses do not fit with the existing OCP, and the part of the Church not being demolished is a protected heritage structure, so this building must be designed to be compatible with the goal of heritage restoration of the existing building. These two points mean this needs to go through the OCP process, So it needs to go to external review by First Nations, by the Regional District, etc. This will come to a Public Hearing in the fall, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Cannabis Retail Locations: Public Operator Updates and Rezoning Application – Bylaw for Consideration of Readings
When Council went through our development of Cannabis Retail approval process, we admittedly missed the mark a bit in not recognizing that some of the fundamentals of the approval process would be different for the publicly-owned stores as they would for private stores. The public stores would have their own standards and processes regulated by the province that would supersede ones the City may put in place, and therefore a slightly different process for local approval would be good.

The process has been suitably revised for public store applications, and the received application for Queensborough Landing will go for Public Hearing on September 30, 2019. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Cross Connection Control Program
Keeping the poop out of the water is one of the primary jobs of City government, and probably the least appreciated (no-one mentioned poop in water during the last municipal election, did they?) probably because it is something we do pretty well here in the Lower Mainland.

Last year, the regulator of our water system advised the City (an others) that we must undertake and active “Cross Connection” system to assure that we are not getting back-flow contamination of our water system. There is no sign that this is a current problem, but Fraser Health is regulating this change, and we are required to comply. In short, we already had some measures to prevent cross connection built into our Waterworks Bylaw, but there is no current active program to assure that these requirements are maintained in real time. We require them during installations, but don’t go out and look to see if they are still operating in subsequent years. That’s going to change.

We are going to have to hire some staff to do this work, and it is going to cost, but that cost will covered by required inspection fees and fees for new connections to the water system, as required by how we are regulated to fund the Utility.

Soil Deposit and Removal Regulation Bylaw No. 8106, 2019: Rescind Second and Third Reading and Amend Bylaw Consideration of Readings
There was an administrative error in the recently-given-third-reading Soil Deposit and Removal Bylaw around how “invasive Species” was defined. It has been corrected, but requires we go back and re-do the Second and Third reading.

1935 Eighth Avenue: Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designation – Bylaws for Two Readings
This is a proposal to preserve a 1953 single family house on the corner of Eighth Street and 20th Avenue while subdividing the lot to build and infill house on the eastern half of the lot. This will go to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.


The following items were Removed form Consent for discussion:

Proposed Key Directions Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy (CEERS)
This is the first half of the City’s response to the Climate Emergency. This will address our “corporate” greenhouse gas emissions – the stuff the City itself does. It will be followed up by a Community Energy and Emissions Plan (“CEEP”), but it is good to outline how we first plant to put our own house in order.

Our Climate Emergency declaration was not an empty gesture. We are setting our corporate greenhouse gas reduction targets to meet the Paris commitments, 45% below 2007 levels by 2030, 65% by 2040, and 85% by 2050 – while striving to have net zero emissions by 2050. And we are putting policy in place that we think will get us there.

I will write a bit more in a follow-up post about this, but we have three big Corporate actions planned: Changing our vehicle fleet and how it is used, changing how we heat our buildings and water inside them, and instituting an internal price on carbon for our corporate procurement. This last one is a wonky but very aggressive tool that I look forward to unpacking the details on, because it will show real leadership for a local government. Council voted to support these measures in concept, pending some implementation details.

228 Nelson Crescent: Housing Agreement Bylaw 8142 , 2019 for Three readings
One of the new buildings in the Brewery District is reserved for “secure market rental housing” by a Housing Agreement between the Developer and the City signed back in 2016. This Bylaw would amend that Housing Agreement to clarify some rules about who will pay property taxes (the owner of the building, not the tenants) and utilities (the tenants, not the owner), and secure access to the common amenity space for renters in the building. We approved the Bylaw for three readings.

Community Grant Policy
The City has been looking to update and streamline how it manages its various grant systems. Much like committees (above), New Westminster has one of the most generous community grant programs of all local governments in the Lower Mainland. We are not talking about reducing grant values, just doing the hard work of assuring that the process through which we award grants is fair, transparent, efficient and responsible.

The process proposed by the staff report has received very positive response from the grant-receiving community – more positive than expected, honestly, considering the potential political minefield that community grant processes can be. So kudos to the staff and volunteers in our community service groups who worked to bring this together.

Upper Twelfth Street: Processing of Development Applications
There has been some discussion about Upper Twelfth Street, and potential strategies to protect the unique retail area. There were also some mixed messages coming out of a recent workshop on the topic about what council wants to see happening here, and we have not really heard from the community about what the business goals are on upper 12th (this is one part of town where businesses are not particularly interested in supporting a business association or BIA, apparently).

Staffs was suggesting this uncertainty may require some policy work, and even suggested Council may want to freeze the intake of new rezoning of development applications in the area until we develop a stronger vision (or even update the relatively recent OCP at a neighbourhood level). I was not in favour of preventing or slowing changes for what could be a couple of years to this area while we figure out what we want to do with it. There is not a spate of applications, if Council does not want to approve an particular application, they can choose not to. In the end we agreed to maintain the status quo in a split vote, and deal with applications when they come.

Parking Utilization in Multi Unit Residential Projects
Parking is a discussion that takes a notably disproportionate amount of our time and energy in the City. We have a housing crisis, but by going to any Public Hearing you would assume we have a Parking crisis – that affordable, accessible, and convenient housing for cars is a bigger concern than the same goals for people.

On issue that came up recently is how allocate off-street parking is allocated in market and non-market rental housing. I question whether these practice we have (allowing owners to charge extra for off-street parking as part of our Housing Agreements) incentivized street parking, exacerbating the negative impacts of “free” street parking while underground garages that we require developers to build remain underutilized.

The primary tool to determine how much off street parking is built is the Zoning Bylaw, but until recently, we didn’t really have a performance measure to know if the Bylaw was causing us to build too much, too little, or just the right amount of parking. A March 2019 Regional Parking Study by Metro Vancouver showed parking is oversupplied in most multi-family housing region-wide, however, it is difficult to translate this directly to the local situation in New West at the neighbourhood level.

This answers my questions. We are probably building slightly too much off-street parking, and the incentive value of unbundling off-street parking is, on balance, higher than the cost of the increased load on street parking. A different management of on-street parking is a better way to address underutilized underground parking, and despite my reflex feelings about this, it makes sense to manage rental parking the way we do through Housing Agreements.

Cycling Connections to New Westminster Secondary School
The new High School is going to be receiving students next year, and (as raised by a HUB delegation back in July and my recent rant) this is an opportunity and an excuse for the City to review our active transportation connections to the school, because they are currently sub-optimal, and we don’t want them to get worse.

There are three essential issues here:
1:A safe cycling access to the Cross-town Greenway at 7th Ave will be built that goes via Moody Park. This is a great connection that the city needs and will serve long-term, though we may get more of a short-term solution as we still have some detail to work out about land between Massey Theatre and 8th Street that the City doesn’t own (see below).

2: As great as it would be to also have a safe separated cycling connection along 6th Street, It is clear that 6th is where we need to prioritize pedestrian space and supporting the frequent bus network. A lot of students access this school by transit. As the lanes work now, it is hard to design a separated bike rout that does not impinge on safe pedestrian space or significantly impact the bus lanes operation through there, so I am happy to support those priorities here. To improve the pedestrian experience, there will be a pedestrian-controlled mid-block crosswalk in 6th Street across from the School, and a new full signalized intersection mid-block on 8th Avenue.

3: The current school is going to be knocked down, so we cannot provide safe routing through that construction site until that is done, but we are working to assure than a paved connection onto the Dublin Greenway directly from the new school across the memorialization space is preserved and implemented as soon as the school demolition is complete.

I am satisfied that we will have safe connections, even if they will not be optimal at the time of opening.

Environment Advisory Committee: Single-use Item Reduction Recommendation
Our Environment Advisory committee is asking Council to look at banning some single-use plastic items, and even Styrofoam. Some cities are taking these action, with mixed success. The City of Victoria’s plastic bag ban ended up being struck down by the courts, and will have to go through approval from the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

Meanwhile, the Province is currently engaging the public on this, and honestly this is a topic that falls 100% under their jurisdiction. For this reason, several Cities are taking resolutions to UBCM to ask the Provincial government to exercise its authority here and implement a plastic control strategy that addresses single use plastics, plastic waste management, and still address the legitimate needs of the disabled community and other people for whom the use of some single-use plastic items may be an equity issue.

I think we are better served finding out where the province is going with this, actively advocating the province to better regulate plastics use and disposal, and am hoping that New West can support motions to this effect at UBCM. We moved to table any action until the Provincial report is released in the fall, and we will have a better idea of the legislative landscape we are entering, and to advocate the Province to listen to the disabled community and other marginalized groups in their single use plastics policy work.


Finally, we adopted the following Bylaws:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8136, 2018
The updates to the 5-year financial plan to account for revenue projections and other small changes that we reviewed last meeting were adopted by Council.

New Westminster Aquatics and Community Centre Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 8079, 2019
The Bylaw that allows us to borrow a LOT of money to build a new pool and community centre was adopted. This is going to be the #1 budget driver for the City for the next 5 years, so let’s hope we get some help from senior governments and don’t have to borrow as much money as we are authorized.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8113, 2019 (315 and 326 Mercer Street)
This Zoning Bylaw that was a couple of missing pieces in the Eastern Node development plan in Queensborough was adopted by Council.

Parks and Recreation Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 8137, 2019
This Bylaw that supports the annual adjustments in Parks and Recreation fees in the City (still the lowest in the Lower Mainland for most facilities – get out there an recreate!)was adopted by Council.

And that was enough business for a warm Summer night, see you after Labour Day! Grab a bit more summer before its gone!

Pedestrian Cages

I’m going to pick one specific part of the new pedestrian overpass on Stewardson that bugs me. I dropped by to look at the near-completed project (which, I hasten to note, was paid for by the Province and Feds, not the City), and have a bunch of negative feelings about it for a variety of reasons I mentioned here, and concerns I raised here, but it is this picture shows what currently bugs me the most:

Why the hell do pedestrians need to be kept in cages?

A quick Google Map tour of the overpasses rebuilt as part of the recently-expanded Highway 1 through Burnaby and Surrey provides these images of overpasses for cars that have sidewalks on them for pedestrians:

Willingdon Ave
Sprott Street
Kensington Ave.
Cariboo Road
160th Street

Now compare these to overpasses build specifically for pedestrians:112th Ave.

Tynehead Park

Notice the difference?

This isn’t limited to Highway 1, or even to Ministry of Transportation infrastructure. Go to your favourite road-overpass-with-a-sidewalk-over-another-road anywhere, and you see a normal elbow-to-shoulder height fence to keep pedestrians from falling off the edge:

Winston Street, Burnaby.

Gaglardi Way, Burnaby.

But look at any pedestrian-only-overpass, and you have the perimeter fence from San Quentin:

Winston Street, Burnaby.

Gaglardi Way, Burnaby.

Can anyone explain this to me? Presumably, this is to protect the underflowing traffic from nefarious activity of suspicious non-car-having people. But if that is so, why not also put a cage up at the overpass where non-car-having people are walking beside car-having people? Is simply the presence of car-having people enough to keep non-car-having people from doing nefarious activity? Is not having a car such a suspicious activity that even when non-having, being proximal to those who are currently having is enough to mitigate the suspicious activity so the cage isn’t necessary?

Of course, I don’t  think is the actual thought process that creates this strange discrepancy, but I think it is a window in the cultural bias of transportation engineering. Building a pedestrian overpass? Need a cage to protect the drivers. Building a car overpass? Sure, we’ll throw a sidewalk on it (not like anyone is going to use it!). Pedestrians (and cyclists to a lesser extent) are accessories to transportation at best, impediments to efficient transportation at worst. They are something that needs to be accommodated as we decide the best way to move the real road users – cars and trucks – around in the City. Look around at how our transportation systems are built, even today, and you see this bias built in, even in the most walkable urban neighbourhoods like New Westminster.

It is this bias that decided spending $5.2 Million to get pedestrians out of the way was a better solution than spending a fraction of this to slow trucks and cars down to the posted speed limit to make Stewardson safe for pedestrians and cyclists. This expensive intervention is the exact opposite of Active Transportation infrastructure, because it gives up on the idea of slowing cars and trucks down to the posted speed limit before they get to the crosswalks at 5th Ave or 3rd Ave so those pedestrian spaces don’t feel so terrifying.

I hope, but am not confident, that the provincial Active Transportation Strategy will include a cultural shift in the Ministry of Transportation to one where active transportation will be found to be equal to, or even emphasized over, the dangerously rapid movement of cars and trucks. I also hope that the City New Westminster can make this cultural shift across the organization, because without this commitment our Master Transportation Plan is just lines on maps in a book on a shelf.