Council – April 8, 2019

We started our regular meeting on April 8th with our annual review of the Parcel Tax Roll. There are a number of properties in the City that voluntarily pay and extra parcel tax to cover all or part of the cost of some special service the property owner enjoys. This may be taking part in a BIA, or special road or drainage improvements related to a neighbourhood improvement project. This requires a procedure every year where the roll is “reviewed” and signed off by Council, after giving people a chance to challenge their place on the roll.

The regular agenda was a long one, and started with an Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit DVP00653 for 310 Salter Street
One of the final pieces of Port Royal is an 87-unit mid-rise residential development comprising three buildings around a central courtyard, consistent in scale and character with the multi-family buildings on both sides of the site. There is a combination of apartments and stacked townhouses. Variances are required to permit the height (to bring the tallest building into the same heigh range as adjacent buildings) and setbacks (to provide better street interface along the waterfront trail). The Residents Association provided a letter of support, and the Design Panel approved of the design, and the public consultation feedback was generally positive. We received no correspondence, and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council voted to approve the variance and grant the development permit.


We then had a Presentation from Staff:

65 East Sixth Avenue (New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre): Project Update and Design Review Preliminary Report
This is the next stage in design for the facility formerly known and the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre replacement. It has been a bit of a task managing the many, many site constraints, not the least being the desire to keep the existing CGP and CCC operating during construction and replacement. And just like everyone else, we need to go through a design review in light of our existing zoning laws. As we are about half way through the design process, it is a good time to do a check-in with Council and the Public.

There will be two public open houses on April 21 and 27, and an on-line survey, so you can give the City some feedback on the design as it sits.


The following items were Moved on Consent

Financial Plan 2019 – 2023
When all is said and done, we need to approve a financial plan for the next year (well, for the next 5 years, but we change it every year). I have already written about this, and enjoyed extended Facebook comment threads on the topic. This needs to be formalized as a Bylaw, which Council voted to give three readings.

2019 Tax Rates Bylaw
The second half of that financial plan bylaw is passing a tax rate bylaw to support the revenue to make it happen. Of course, I will write another blog post about our tax rate increase and where it puts us in comparison with other munis in the Lower Mainland when I get a chance. Not enough hours on my current clock.

This is a good time to remind residential taxpayers to apply for their homeowner Grant ($570 – $845 in free money!) or defer taxes if that option is available to you (the interest rate on deferment is competitive with investment returns you can make on that money – you can literally make money deferring taxes).

The Queensborough Electric Utility Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8041, 2018 – Results from the Alternative Approval Process
We received 31 responses from people in New Westminster who don’t want us to borrow money to build a new substation in Queensborough. That is not enough to force the Bylaw to a referendum, and the electrical Utility will move ahead with the loan and procurement of the substation.

Recruitment 2019: Library Board Appointment
We had a vacancy on the Library Board. It is now full. By the way, did you notice the library is open again?

Naming of Two Streets in Queensborough: Street Naming Bylaw No. 8045, 2019 for Three Readings
Back on March 11, we talked about names for two new streets being built in Queensborough. Those names (Kamachi Street and Ota Avenue) need to be formally approved through a Bylaw. Council voted to give that Bylaw three readings.

488 Furness Street: Temporary Use Permit for Sales Centre – Issuance of Notice
A new townhouse development being built in Queensborough would like to use a couple of the early townhouses as sales centres for the rest of the development. Of course, they are zones for residential use, not commercial, so we need to give them a Temporary Use Permit to allow this use. Well, we don’t need to, so we will have an opportunity to be heard on April 29 to hear if the neighbourhood has a significant concern about this.

2019 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
Snow Pack across the province is at or slightly below average, meaning freshet flood risk is low this year. Of course, this may change if we have a real pineapple express that drops a bunch of warm rain on the melting snowpack and accelerates the melting, but barring unusual weather systems, we likely will not need to activate a flood response plan this year.

Proposed Sanitary Forcemain Crossing Agreement on Boyne Street with Southern Rail Link – Animal Services Facility
The animal shelter being built in Queensborough needs a water line and sewer and such, which requires an agreement with the railway to cross their right of way because railways are special in Canada and we are beholden to them in ways completely irrational for multi-national corporations operating in our country. Or not.

2018 Filming Activity Update
There was a bunch of filming in New West over the last year, which resulted in more than $800,000 in revenues for the City, slightly less than the last two years, but more than twice what we were pulling in only 5 years ago. Of course, this is not all “profit” for the City, as it includes the cost of providing permitting, police and engineering support and such. However as much of this filming happens on City lands, we *do* charge for its use, and made more than $500K in net revenue on that.

218 Queen’s Avenue: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Bylaw for Two Readings
This project to protect two heritage homes moved on to a large lot that already has a heritage home on it will go to Public Hearing on April 29th. I’ll hold my comments until then.

1005 Ewen Avenue: Rezoning and Development Permit – Bylaw for Two Readings
This project to put townhouses and a commercial building on that empty lot at the gateway to Queensborough will also be going to Public Hearing on April 29th. I’ll hold my comments until then.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Intelligent New West Operations Plan 2019
The Intelligent New West file is moving along with three main emphases: supporting a local high-tech business environment, using innovation to improve internal processes in the city to improve service, and adopting more intelligent technology in our infrastructure plans.

There is a part in here that I don’t think was emphasized enough in the report around digital inclusion – how are we assuring that access to the “digital revolution” or “the internet of things” or whatever cliché you want use, is available to all of our residents. There is some more coming on this in the next few months, and it is pretty cool.

Formation of New Residents Association
The residents of Victoria Hill and the adjacent multi-family residences on Ginger Drive have banded together to form their own Residents’ Association. Previously part of the much larger and diverse McBride-Sapperton RA, they felt they had a large enough population and a unique enough set of concerns and circumstances that they decided to strike out on their own. The MSRA supported this move.

This was really an information report, as the City has no policy about how it will acknowledge new RAs starting in the City. However, there are costs and considerations to RAs, in that we provide staff support, provide them seats on several City Committees, and provide them special rights in our development review process, like an expectation that they be proactively engaged by the development community. For these reasons, I am a little concerned about our lack of policy here, and asked staff to come back to council with some policy direction.

Cannabis Retail Sales Locations: Consideration of First and Second Readings for Five Cannabis Retail Locations
The five locations that made it through the first round of application screening for new cannabis retail locations still require rezoning. We will have Public Hearings as soon as April 29 to review these rezonings. C’mon out and tell us what you think. *note the process to get these applications through the provincial hurdles looks to be delaying our Public Hearing timing*

A few asides: we probably should have seen the conflict between private and public stores, and not tried to put them through the same application process. This kind of blind spot is to be expected as we go through an unprecedented regulatory shift. We will be reviewing that issue and coming back with some changes. I expect this will happen before we have the next round of applications that we initially scheduled for 6 months from now.

The provincial requirement that these businesses have opaque windows is, frankly, ridiculous. The idea that “youth are protected” from being aware of a product because of opaque windows is insulting to the intelligence of those youth, and for a bunch of safety and urban planning reasons, opaque windows are not preferred in our commercial areas. We will continue to ask the province to change this rule.

Safety and Regulation of Clothing and Donation Bins
There was a concern raised a couple of months ago around the safety of clothing donation bins, and we asked staff to look at what other communities are doing and whether we should address them as a public safety measure. Short version is we can remove them from City property, but our zoning bylaw does not currently ban the on private property.

We are going to ask that all 8 operators of clothing bins and ask them to assure they are made safe, but this is not far enough for me. I want the power to *require* that they be made safe or removed, and Council will be following up on this.

Victoria Hill Parking Study
There is not enough street parking in Victoria Hill for the residents there. There are at least 50 residences in Victoria Hill who own more personal vehicles than they own a parking spot for. Of course, limited free street parking is the preferred response to this situation for some, but there is limited space in Victoria Hill to make this happen. Others realize that adding street parking will not improve the situation unless we actually price or otherwise limit that street parking.

A 2011 study found that even at peak times there are about 500 empty off-street parking spaces in Victoria Hill. In a less comprehensive 2018 study, there are still more than 300 empty underground parking spots at peak times. There is definitely a parking allocation problem, but the idea of cutting down 35 trees and spending a couple of hundred thousand dollars to put in 60 new street parking spots when there is a residential oversupply is contrary to the community plan, to our Master Transportation Plan, and will ultimately not solve the problem.

Here is more work to do here, and fortunately we have a new RA to engage with!

2019 Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Program
I’m becoming one of those Councillors who rants about his area of specific interest during council meetings. I recognize this and am seeking therapy. Anyway, there are going to be some fixes to pedestrian crossings in the City, and actions to try to make the hill on Richmond street safer for pedestrians. You can watch my rant on video, or maybe I’ll write a follow-up blog post, but there is little need for me to re-hash it here.

631 and 632 Second Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreements for Compact Lot Subdivision
This is a preliminary application review for a couple of infill density projects on the same corner in Glenbrook North. There is quite a bit to unpack here, and both of these projects, if they proceed, will go to a Public Hearing, so I don’t want to dig too deep into them now, but Council moved to let both of them proceed through the process and get there.


We then had two late additions to the Agenda:

Participation in a Regional Recycling Facility
Metro Vancouver is building a new waste transfer centre and recycling depot just across the border in to Coquitlam at United Boulevard. The City of New Westminster has an option to join the Tri-Cities in co-operation with the running of the facility, which will provide better recycling services than our existing yard, but at a much lower cost. This is an information report, as there are some details to be worked out yet.

Multicultural Festival Extra Funding Request
The Multicultural Festival at Pier Park has run for a few years on Canada Day, but were not happy with the grant they received through the Festival grant process. Council moved (in a split vote, I was among the opposed) to provide them another $5,000 to help with their 2019 festival.


And, finally, we went through our Bylaws, including the following Bylaw Adoptions:

Electric Utility Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8041, 2018
Electric Utility Infrastructure Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 8051, 2018

These Bylaws that authorize the borrowing of up to $30 Million for the construction of a new substation in Queensborough was adopted by council.

Council – March 11, 2019

Our Council meeting on March 11 had its share of pageantry and drama, and much of it was after the annual May Queen draw. Alas, I don’t have time to blog at length about what got me hot under the collar during the Opportunity for Public Comment, as meta as it may have been, and you will have to watch the video to get the full experience. Still we had a packed agenda that started with an Opportunity for Public Comment:

Draft 2019 – 2023 Financial Plan
As discussed in workshop and blogged about at length, we have a proposed 2019 budget and 5-year financial plan. As always, between the public workshop where we discussed at length and made decisions about the discretionary parts of the financial plan, we accept correspondence and have a public opportunity to comment. The e-mail correspondence we received on the Financial plan was about 38 pages (almost all of it comprising questions from a single person that staff patiently responded to as best they could). We also had about a half dozen members of the public come to speak, assuring that the voice of the middle aged white man was well represented. I agree strongly with some of the input we received – two delegates mentioned that cities and (in turn) property tax payers are being unfairly burdened for the cost of local infrastructure when there are more progressive taxation types such as income tax available to senior governments, though little of that trickles back to local governments. I also strongly disagree with a person who receives 30-plus pages of responses from staff then is given a public forum to ask questions of Council complaining that this is a secretive and closed process.

Anyway, the Financial Plan will need to come to us in the form of the Bylaw, which will occur in April. I will blog more about the final financial plan at that time.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Urban Indigenous Engagement around the development of the New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre
This is a short report on the efforts staff are taking to engage the local indigenous population in planning for the new Aquatic and Community Centre (the project name of the replacement for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre). It will be interesting to work through this framework and find what works and what doesn’t as we are going into a broader-reaching Truth and Reconciliation process in the City.

Recruitment 2019: Committee Appointments (SAC, NTAC, RJC, and ACTBiPed)
These are regular adjustments to various council advisory committees. People move, people (alas) pass away, and people shift their volunteer priorities, but advisory committees go on. We have named new representatives to these committees.

310 Salter Street (Port Royal Phase 6B): Development Permit and Development Variance Permit for Mid Rise Multi Unit Residential Development – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
One of the final pieces of the Port Royal development is an 87 unit 4- to 6-story residential complex on Salter Street. The proposed complex of three buildings meets the FSR and is smaller than the allowable maximum lot coverage, but requires variances for height and setbacks. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on this on April 8th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Connaught Heights Park Playground Redevelopment – Preferred Option
The playground adjacent to Connaught Heights School needs to be refurbished. There was a pretty extensive child-centred community consultation, and a final plan is now proposed, for a mixed use playground to appeal to all ages nestled within the existing mature trees on site. The construction will take place while school is out for the summer, to reduce the impact on the students.

Vimy Heritage Oak Trees Proposal
There is an organization that preserves and propagates oak trees grown from acorns collected from Vimy Ridge shortly after the WW1 battle for the ridge ended. Working with the New West Heritage Preservation Society, there are two saplings to be planted on the front lawn of City hall to frame the Cenotaph and formal commemoration space.

2019 Environmental Grant Recipient – Project Scope Change
The plan to put together a documentary film on the history of the preservation of the Brunette River have been shelved for some creative and logistical reason. The City provided a bit of grant money for that project, but the organizers would now like to use those funds to create more educational multi-media materials on the same theme. I support this, as it is a story that needs to be told, and I think the mixed media proposal will reach a broader audience than the film.


We then had a couple of pieces of New Business:

Queen’s Park Sportsplex – Conceptual Design
After much too long of a wait, we have moved the Arenex replacement to final design. This has been a challenging project for several reasons, including details about insurance. The building that will start construction this spring in Queens Park will not have the old-timey charm of the Arenex, but will be a much more functional building for the primary user groups. The majority of the cost (about 80%) of the replacement will be covered by the insurance claim for the Arenex, though we will need to top it up a bit, mostly from a grant fund we have been holding in reserve for sports facilities in the City.

Climate Action in the City of New Westminster
This was a motion on notice form Councillors Nakagawa and McEvoy, which was well supported by a large delegation of community leaders from the Force of Nature Alliance. It is worth reading in its entirety:

WHEREAS The earth is currently on track to warm by more than 3 degrees Celsius; and

WHEREAS An October 8, 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that it is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than 2 degrees as previously understood, and that doing so “would require rapid, far- reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of
society,” and that we have until 2030 to undertake these changes; and

WHEREAS The IPCC report puts the benchmark for greenhouse gas reduction targets for corporate and community-wide emissions at 45% by 2030, 65% by 2040, and 100% by 2050;

WHEREAS The British Columbia government declared a provincial state of emergency in 2018 over record-setting wildfires; and

WHEREAS The Legislature of British Columbia and the House of Commons of Canada have acknowledged the growing crisis of climate breakdown by holding emergency debates following the release of the IPCC report; and

WHEREAS Local governments worldwide are taking action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and calling on senior levels of government for an urgent, emergency response; and

WHEREAS The costs to New Westminster for dealing with the impacts of climate change – including sea level rise – are significant; and

WHEREAS The most vulnerable members of our community are the most impacted by the effects of climate change; and

WHEREAS The City of New Westminster has been taking action on sustainability through the Environmental Strategy and Action Plan, Community Energy and Emissions Plan, and Envision 2032;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED

THAT Council recognize that climate change constitutes an emergency for the City of New Westminster; and

THAT Council direct staff to report back on how the following action items can be implemented:

1. Update existing City plans with new targets as per the IPCC report;
2. Increase ambition and/or accelerate timelines for existing actions under the Environmental Strategy and Action Plan and the Community Energy and Emissions Plan;
3. Consider new actions to help the City achieve its targets;
4. Consider new actions that would help reduce GHG emissions beyond the scope of the City’s current climate targets;
5. Track and report on community emissions;
6. Engage the community in discussion on how to drastically reduce GHG emissions with particular focus on those most vulnerable to climate impacts and most in need of support in transitioning to renewable energy;
7. More broadly communicate with the community about City emissions and targets;
8. Implement a carbon budget; and

THAT Council direct staff to include climate action for consideration within the City’s strategic plan that is currently being developed.

I don’t have much to add to that, except that I struggled with considering if we should do this before or after we had completed our Council Strategic Planning work to set out goals for the term. It was Councillor Nakagawa who convinced me that the Climate emergency needs to frame our Council goals, because vice-versa is how we have always operated as a City, as a province, and as a country, tacking on climate as just one more thing we need to deal with. This is the existential struggle of our age, perhaps the first truly global existential struggle. We need to act, and act with purpose.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Cannabis: New Retail Store Application Evaluation
As we discussed at some length last summer, the City has put together some guidance and community standards for cannabis retail operations that wish to open in #NewWest. After receiving 22 completed applications for these businesses, staff used a ranking system to prioritize 5 applications to be reviewed together as an initial tranche, one in each of Downtown, Uptown, Sapperton, 12th Street and Queensborough. These 5 will still need to go through a Zoning Amendment Bylaw, which should happen in April (no, not on the 20th), and if everything goes well with the City, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, and the applicants, we should have our first stores opened by the summer.

There were many delegates who came to speak to this process, all of them representing businesses that did not make the scoring cut, or were ranked lower than their competitors. However, I hold the opinion that the process was clear and fairly adjudicated. This was not going to be an easy process, and the gold rush mentality about this new industry makes these conversations difficult. Although I think the process was more fair and accountable than the alternate “lottery” process for choosing first wave applicants, it was inevitable that some would not be chosen – even really good applicants. Everyone, successful and otherwise, put serious money and time into the application process, and as with cutting-edge entrepreneurs, really put their heart in it as well. The quality of the applications showed this.

The 5 applicants who got through this first screening will still need to go through Zoning and business license approvals, so there is some work to do yet, and there will be a Public Hearing, so I am going to hold my comments about individual applicants until then.

Interesting to note that there are still some issues to work out with the Province on regulation of these businesses. The LCRB wants these stores to have opaque windows, but for both community design and safety reasons, opaque windows are no longer favoured in retail zones. This is something we need to work out with the LCRB.

Naming of Two New Streets in Queensborough
We have two new streets being created in Q’Boro, so they need names. The Community Heritage Commission and Queensborough Residents Association were consulted, and the names Kamachi and Ota rose to the top of the selections, honouring the memory of two prominent families in the earlier history of the ‘Boro.

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbia Hospital Project): Update on Rezoning to Allow for the Renovation, Redevelopment and Modernization of Hospital Facilities
RCH needs to do a rezoning for the next phases of development on the site, which will require some staff and committee review of things like setbacks, height, density and massing, transportation requirements, and design elements. It will go through some committee review and public consultation in April. Phase 2 of the RCH Project is the big one –with a new Acute Acre tower that will be the largest building on site. Folks in Sapperton especially should spend a bit of time getting to know this project and its potential impact on their neighbourhood.

The movement of Ambulance access to the Sherbrook Street side of the building is sure to be something Lower Sapperton residents are going to have opinions on, but the maintenance of a pedestrian and cycling connection through the campus from the Sapperton SkyTrain Station to lower Sapperton is a positive idea.

I also took a moment to reiterate that East Columbia cannot be the primary road access for staff and visitors of this major acute care hospital. The community’s dreams of East Columbia as a great street supporting a vibrant commercial district mean we need to reduce this traffic load on that road, not increase it. The only alternative is for the regional traffic accessing the hospital (and adjacent commercial development at the Brewery district) to have direct access from Brunette Avenue, which would require a light-controlled intersection at Kearey, Allen, or Sherbrook. This will be a tough sell to regional traffic mongers like the Trucking Association and the Gateway Council, but regional traffic on regional roads is the primary plan for not just New Westminster and Sapperton, but for the entire Greater Vancouver region. This is a fight worth having, and we need to get Fraser Health on side with it.

Proposal for Public Realm Improvements in Brow of the Hill at 1010 Fifth Avenue
Another small parklet in the Brow of the Hill Neighbourhood, where the City has some of the greatest density and least access to public green space. Little hubs like this can really make an apartment-centric neighbourhood a home. I’m happy to support them, and happy that Councillor Nakagawa (a champion for the Brow before it was cool!) called for a more “green” design.

Quayside Tugger Pilot House: Removal and Replacement Project
With mixed feelings, I am sorry to report Tugger has to go. She served us well for 30+ years, but rusting structural elements are taking their toll. The underlying decking needs significant structural intervention, and that simply cannot happen without deconstruction and removal of the ol’ tetanus tug.

The good news is that a new play structure is planned and will be installed in his spring, thanks to support from the local Rotary Club in memory of long-time member Dr. Irwin Stewart (who provided $50,000 for the project), and Bosa (who are doing the deck repairs).

The design is a bit controversial, just as most every other playspace is when seen as a rendering and as a replacement for what we are used to. But I like the nod to the old tug, and the creative use of the main evidence that the Fraser is still a working river – a heaping barge – as the foundation for an all-ages tumble space.

Downtown Dog Off-Leash Area – Partial Relocation
The downtown off-leash area has been in place since 2009, but the land it is on does not belong to the City, and with a new building on part of the lot and a new memorial park planned for the site, we need to move the urban dog park.

We went through some public consultation, and dog parks are always exciting and challenging public consultations for a variety of reasons. However, the best current option is to put a dog run at Simcoe Park.

I am challenged by the idea that we won’t have a dog park below Royal Avenue. I am asking staff to continue to look for opportunities downtown, recognizing we don’t have much City-owned land in the downtown, but a lot of people in apartments have dogs, and need this service. I have a few ideas that I hope staff will explore, but I’m not going to share them now because I honestly don’t know the practicality of feasibility of either site, and I don’t an to set expectations. There is work to do here…


Finally, we adopted the following Bylaws

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw 8097, 2019
Cemetery Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8102, 2019
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw 8098, 2019
These Bylaws that represent our annual adjustment of various fees and charges in the City – almost every bit of revenue that we collect that isn’t taxation, were adopted by Council. Be sure to put “2019” on your cheques.

Controlled Substance Property Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8081, 2019
Noise Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8082, 2019
Construction Noise Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8083, 2019
These Bylaw amendments are housekeeping measures to update the language of older Bylaws to match new bylaws and senior government legislation. It was adopted by Council, so check your language.

Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 8096, 2019
This Bylaw updates our electrical utility rates for 2019, and it was Adopted by Council on a split vote (Councillor Johnstone opposed).

Council – Feb 25, 2019

The things we discussed in open workshop on February 25th will end up being more interesting than what we did in Council, but those will have to wait for subsequent posts. Partly because those things will come to regular council and I need to stick ti current business here, and we had a full agenda, starting with a Public Hearing:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8067, 2019 Phase One of Infill Housing Program
As part of the implementation of the Official Community Plan, we have created zoning language around design of infill housing – laneway houses and carriage houses. After review of several applications that have been coming in coming in since the program was started, staff are recommending a few changes of that language to allow more flexibility in design while still addressing the design, massing, and parking concerns that may be presented by these designs. We are also making a few housekeeping changes (i.e. making our access requirement consistent at 6.0m when it was made inconsistent by a rounding error). These changes require a change in the zoning bylaw, which we are required to test in a Public Hearing.

No-one wrote us to opine on the subject, and no-one showed up to speak to the Public Hearing, so Council moved to give the Bylaw third reading and adoption.


We then went on to a couple of Opportunities to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit DVP00660 for 1050 Boyd Street
The new Toyota dealership located next to Boyd and Howes wants to put fascia signs on more than one face of their building, and have a taller freestanding sign than strictly meet the limits of our sign bylaw. The highway-offramp location is not typical of New West, and that is why their design really doesn’t fit neatly in our Sign Bylaw, and why they are looking for a variance. No-one wrote to council to opine on the variance, and no-one came to speak against it. Council voted to approve the variance.

Commercial Vehicle Amendment (Taxi) Bylaw No. 8091, 2019
This Bylaw increases the number of permitted taxi licenses in New West, consummate with the number permitted by the Passenger Transportation Board. Not enough, and not enough accessible taxis, in my opinion, but this will marginally improve service and reliability of taxi service in the City. No-one wrote to us or came to speak to the Bylaw, and Council moved to approve it.


The following items were moved on consent:

New Revenue Sources
It’s budget time, and we are reviewing many aspects of how we collect and spend money. Part of that is reviewing our non-taxation revenue sources: fees we charge for every service from building inspections to swim passes. Many are adjusted annually to match CPI, while others are given a more detailed review that tries to balance the sometimes-conflicting goals of cost recovery and being a price that reflects the regional market for similar services.

This report covers a variety of engineering fees, including parking in the downtown parkades going up in price for the first time in several years. We are also doing a bit of a revamp of development fees as that department is seeing increased work load with more complexity in the types of applications they see, and there is a general feeling that more of the cost of that work should fall on the applicants in the development community than the general taxpayer.

Revised 2019 City Partnership Grant Recommendations
The City’s Partnership Grant process is getting more and more difficult to administer, as we are reaching towards a half million dollars in annual granting and the dozens of applications are all for things we want to see happen in the City. The battle to manage within our budget inevitably means saying no to many worthy organizations and potentially great programs. The good news? We are giving a combined $493,000 to 22 organizations supporting the arts and varied social services in our community. These are all true social profits for our community, and I hope you will support them with your time or money (whichever you have more of), and help them keep our community connected.

Recruitment 2019: Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) Appointments
The EDAC needs community members, so we appointed them! Thanks to the volunteers who give their time and energy to help us help the local economy.

Recruitment 2019: Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) Appointments
The Youth Advisory Committee needs a few more appointees for the year – so here they are getting appointed!

Recruitment 2019: Community Heritage Commission Representative on the Heritage Grant Program Committee
We have a volunteer committee that evaluates heritage grant applications, and one spot is reserved for a representative from the Community Heritage Committee, and here they are, appointed by Council upon recommendation from that Commission.

Light Industrial Zoning Districts (M-1): Text Amendment to Permit Electrical Utilities – First and Second Reading
The City expropriated a piece of light industrial land in Queensborough upon which it intends to build an electrical substation. The zoning does not currently permit that use, so we need a zoning text amendment to fix that.

Housekeeping Amendments to Three City Bylaws (Controlled Substance Property Bylaw No. 6679, 2001; Noise Bylaw No. 6250, 1999; and Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992): Bylaws For Three Readings
Here we go with some omnibus changes to Bylaws under the category of “housekeeping”. We are not changing how the Bylaws work, you won’t notice any changes, this just updates the language and makes sure the language is consistent with language found in more recent Bylaws and with shifts in other regulations.

Royal Columbia Hospital Project: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Work at Royal Columbian is going to require digging up East Columbia Street to install electrical conduits, water pipes, and the such. Staff figure the best way to avoid traffic chaos of closing the street during the day is to allow some night work noise exemptions so the work can happen outside of business hours. They are asking for a noise Bylaw exemption for a few days in March and a few days in April, which Council approved.

Hey Neighbour Collective
This is an interesting program that has some solid academic backing and has proven to work in Vancouver where it was piloted. The idea is to improve social connectedness and public engagement in multi-family buildings. Anyone who has read “The Happy City” knows that creating social connections and engaged neighbourhoods in multi-family buildings is sometimes challenging, but is very much doable with the right kind of intervention. Council voted to approve this program on the recommendation of the Community and Social Issues Committee.


These items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Sanctuary City Designation: Process and Proposed Next Steps
Back in January, Councillor Das put forward a motion requesting the City work towards Sanctuary City status. This report outlines the path the City will take to implement that recommendation including work with external agencies and the Multiculturalism Advisory committee. Council added that the NWPD be brought closer into the process, as their participation in this program will be vital to its success.

In short, a Sanctuary City is one where all residents are provided access to services regardless of their immigration status – or lack of immigration status. There are people in our community who may be reluctant to seek a variety of services, be it calling the police to report a crime, seeking health care, or even applying for a permit, because they may carry fear that exposing themselves to officialdom may impact their immigration status, or even cause them to be jailed or deported. This may seem absurd to many Canadians, but a portion of our immigrant community comes from places where governance and corruption exist in a very different space, and they may have good reason to mistrust people in positions of authority. We want to assure all residents have equitable access to municipal services, and that no-one should live with fear separating them from vital services.

Light Industrial Mixed Use Zoning Districts (M-5): Text Amendment to Permit Public Utilities – First and Second Reading
Metro Vancouver is boring a new water main under the Fraser River, and it will terminate and connect to a pumping station on a lot they expropriated on the Lower 12th Street area. The lot is zoned light industrial, but this specific type of utility operation is not named in the applicable use for M-5 zoning. So a text amendment or re-zoning is required, and staff figured the text amendment was minor enough that it was the easier way to go.

My only question was about the property tax implications. A lot like this pays taxes if it has an industrial or commercial operation on it, I want to know if Metro pays taxes to the city at that rate, or what the impact is if they get a different rate. Staff surprisingly did not have the answer on hand, so hopefully will clarify this before third reading.

660 Quayside Drive (Bosa Development): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The Bosa project on the waterfront is continuing to adjust how they manage the most challenging part of the project – driving a secant pile wall adjacent to fisheries habitat with uncertain ground conditions within a rapidly-closing fisheries protection window. I have a bit of experience in this type of work, and can attest it was much easier to manage (with better protection of habitat) before the federal government disassembled FREMP. Alas, there appears to be no interest in the new government for cleaning up that environmental review mess either… wait – I went off on a tangent there

We continue to get complaints about impact driving, but not on the vibratory driving of the secant piles. This request to do non-impact-driving works outside of regulated construction hours in order to reduce the amount time spent impact driving is a reasonable request, and I think a net good for the community. I hasten to remind people – they could, under the existing bylaw, be doing 100% impact driving, 8 hours a day 6 days a week, but have spent a considerable amount of time and effort to reduce that impact in response to community concerns, and to reach out to the community to manage conflicts. To characterize this as “pushing us around” is, in the technical term, bullshit.

Proposed Speed Hump Policy
The use of speed humps to reduce speed in our residential neighbourhoods is something we receive occasional calls for. They are often seen as a bit of a panacea for other traffic-related concerns, when in reality, they are only one tool that needs to be fit into context of other interventions (traffic diversion, road narrowing, speed enforcement, education).

That said, the City receives almost constant requests for new speed humps where residents feel they have a spot speeding problem, so the Neighbourhood Traffic Advisory Committee and staff took on the task of developing a policy about when these requests would be reviewed, the process used when a request is received to determine if the intervention makes engineering sense, and then to prioritize installations of new humps within the available budget, based on that data.

Council bounced this back to staff, only because the public consultation part of it seems to emphasize homeowners, actually to the exclusion of renters. Almost half of residents of New West are renters, and we have been trying to better engage them – they care just as much about safe streets and traffic management as homeowners, so this need to be jigged a little to assure they are given a voice.

1968 New Westminster Salmonbellies Lacrosse – BC Sports Hall of Fame Induction Recognition
The 1968 Salmonbellies were one of the greatest lacrosse teams ever assembled, apparently. They are already in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, but are about to be indicted into the BC Sport Hall of Fame, and the City is going to honour them at a reception at the Anvil Centre.

2019/2020 Electrical Utility Rates
The Electrical Commission is recommending a 2.8% increase in electrical rates. I do not support the recommendation, and would have preferred a 1.8% increase. This was discussed at some greater length in the afternoon workshop, where I went off on a pretty lengthy rant. I will write another blog post to follow up on this to explain my rationale, as it gets pretty philosophical, but short version is I was not supported by the majority of Council on opposing this.

Festival Grant Committee: Request for additional funding for Sapperton Day Street Festival
I recognize the value of Sapperton Day, and have enjoyed it for the many years it has been running. However, having just gone through the Festival and Partnership granting process where we gave out more than our ~$600,000 in budgeted grant money, Council was not in the mood to re-open the process and add another $25,000. To the best of my knowledge, Sapperton Days did not apply for this funding back in December when every other festival organization did, which led the Grant Committee (of which I was a member) to understand that they were satisfied with the $11,100 grant in cash and city services they were already granted for 2019 as part of the 3-year agreement with the City. I am hoping staff can connect with them around how to make things work within their existing budget, or they can work on alternative funding models, but to throw $25,000 more at them at this stage would be unfair to every granted festival in the City, not to mention the ones we found we just didn’t have the budget to grant in 2019.


We then did our readings of bylaws, and many went through first, second, and third, but there are the Bylaws for Adoption:

Building Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8084, 2019
This was the Bylaw we rescinded and fixed after second reading, and adjusts some of the fees and fines under the building bylaw. Council approved it, and it is now the Law of the Land.

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8094, 2019
This Bylaw adjusts some of the fees we charge for various development process, permit application and the such. Council approved it, and it is now the Law of the Land.


We then addressed a bit of New Business, as is becoming the trend:

Motion: Neighbourhood Learning Centres
Councillor Das brought forward this motion to ask staff to work with the School District to provide an update on “Neighbourhoods of Learning Pilot Project”, and to update us on plans for an integration centre as part of the new high School neighbourhood learning space plans.

Motion: Creation of Office of the Renters Advocate
Councillor Puchmayr brought forward this motion after Councillor Nakagawa raised the need for an independent provincial Renters Advocate at a recent community forum. The idea is that the advocate could work on the same models as the Advocate for Youth or Seniors Advocate to hold the government accountable for how their various programs and initiatives are impacts in housing affordability and the availability of rental housing in the province. For increasing numbers of our working population, renting isn’t a wacky phase of life, but their only foreseeable access to housing. New West will bring this motion to the Lower Mainland LGA and the UBCM, hoping to get more communities to call upon the province to make this a reality.

Bylaw 8085

For the second week in a row, we had a Council meeting where many people came to speak to a bylaw that is meant to reduce the incidence of renoviction in the City. Ironically, this week’s bylaw has much more far-reaching implications than the very limited rezoning discussion of the previous meeting, but we had nary a landlord or members of the development community come to speak against this move. We did, however, have a large number of people come to speak about the real human impacts of renoviction in our community, and remind us why these kinds of aggressive actions are needed.

As a bit of nuance, this was not a Public Hearing as constituted by the Local Government Act, like we had last week. This was an Opportunity to be Heard. We effectively operate these like a Public Hearings in New West, but they don’t have the same regulatory baggage. In short, it is a non-regulatory opportunity for the public to either send us a letter or come and speak to Council on a point of public interest.

Business Regulations and Licensing (Rental Units) Amendment Bylaw No. 8085, 2019
As I said about last week’s Bylaw to protect 18 properties in the City with Rental Tenure Zoning, we are going to need many more tools to address housing affordability in the City. This step is another bold measure that will give the City more ability to protect people who are precariously housed. This and last week’s bylaw are part of a larger Rental Housing Revitalization Initiative that will provide both metaphorical carrots and sticks within our legal authority to protect safe, secure, and affordable housing in the City and hopefully mitigate the current rental crunch and its impact on lower-income residents.

The step being adopted here is to use a tool that is not typically considered when dealing with land use tenure: our business licensing powers. Cities typically look at demo- or reno-viction through a planning context, which invokes zoning or building bylaws. However, it happens that all businesses operating rental buildings in the city require a business license to do so, and we have great flexibility in how we administer our business regulations, as long as they are fair to all businesses. Our staff have found a creative way to apply these regulatory powers to create new protections against renoviction.

Nothing on this Bylaw prevents renovation of older rental stock buildings. Instead, the Bylaw requires that the building owner provide the City a demonstration of the efforts they have taken to accommodate the residency needs of tenants prior to the City providing them a permit to perform a major renovation that requires tenant displacement. This may include providing them alternative accommodation, providing them priority to rent the same unit after renovation, or other methods to assure the resident is not made homeless. This also gives the City the ability to determine if a renovation even requires tenant removal or not.

The City can apply fines and/or a business license surcharge if these conditions are not met, and those charges may be built upon each other. We can even pull a business licence if the violations are egregious enough. Of course, exceptions are considered for life safety improvements, immediate repairs necessitated by an emergency or natural disaster, or other reasonable causes.

Much like the previous Bylaw, this change will not stand alone, and indeed the few criticisms I have heard of the Bylaw are based on thinking that it does. We cannot stop renovating our older building stock, or the most affordable housing in the City will eventually become the least livable. This is why these Bylaws exist within the framework of a wider Rental Housing Revitalization Initiative. The entire program includes an updated Rental Replacement Policy to create clear guidelines for the development community about how and when we would address the replacement of any rental stock lost through development, and an incentive program through fee and tax reductions to encourage and make more affordable the renovation of older buildings.

This is a comprehensive program that will help assure there continues to be market rental in New Westminster that is safe and livable, but stays at the affordable end of the market rental scale. This, in turn, is enhanced by the admittedly less-affordable new rental stock that is coming on line in the City which will help on the supply side and hopefully put downward pressure on market rent costs. Of course, this also relies on all three levels of government working together to bring more non-market housing on line, because “the market” will never supply the type of affordable housing needed by those 500+ families currently on the waiting list for supportive housing in New Westminster.

The work goes on. Housing affordability is a pernicious problem and we are indeed in a crisis situation in the Lower Mainland. I am proud to sit on a Council where we support taking bold action, and thank our staff – planning, business license, and legal – who have worked to find creative ways for the City to address the problem. Mostly, though, I want to thank the residents of New Westminster who live in rental buildings (44% of our residents!), some of them in somewhat precarious financial situations, for uniting and bravely bringing your voices to Council so that we have the political support to do the right thing, and so that the rest of your community can understand why the need for bold, progressive housing action exists.

Council – February 4, 2019

Another week, another long Council meeting, as we heard from the public about our efforts to address the renoviction issue. Again, there is much to say about the public delegation part of the evening, but I am going to hold that off for a follow-up post, while this one summarizes all of the other important stuff on the Agenda that you may have missed.

We started with Opportunities to be Heard on three issues:

Development Variance Permit for 381 Keary Street (DVP00659)
This property owner in Sapperton wishes to create a legal secondary suite, but their house has no back alley access, nor is there room beside their house for a driveway to a back parking lot. So they want to create a front yard parking pad, which is a violation our zoning. That said, Keary Street is one where almost every house already has a front driveway and many have front parking pads – actually, this house already has a parking pad over most of this area, so we are more permitting a non-conforming use that is common on the street.

We received three pieces of correspondence (two supporting the application, one against), and no-one came to speak on the Variance. Council moved to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit for 341 Johnston Street (DVP00658)
This is one of those cases where a DVP is required because a proposed and reasonable subdivision of a lot will result in the frontage being less than 10% of the circumference of the property because of the unusual depth of the lot. This is one of those arbitrary rules that serves as a check on how lot lines are developed in the City, and one for which a variance is usually approved if the lot frontage is reasonable.

No-one wrote or appeared to address this variance, and Council moved to approve it. We also move that future parcels created from this property will be exempt from the same rule.

Business Regulations and Licensing (Rental Units) Amendment Bylaw No. 8085, 2019
This was the agenda item that got the most attention, and we had something like 30 delegations and even more correspondence on it, almost all in favour. I will write more about this in a follow-up post, but for now suffice to say we are taking some creative action to protect tenants from unnecessary renoviction in the City as part of our larger Rental Revitalization program.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Investment Report to December 31, 2018
The City has $163 Million in the bank, which is $6.6 Million more than at the beginning of last year. Our savings are in a combination of commercial bank savings accounts and Municipal Finance Authority investment funds. We are expected to make a little more than the $2.3 Million we budgeted in interest for this fiscal year.

I need to point out, this is more than the amount of debt we have issued, and we are making more on our investments than we are paying interest on our debts.

It is also important to note that most of this “savings” is not money we can take out and spend at will or use to reduce your tax rates this year. Most of it is restricted to a specific use, such as the $15 Million or so we have saved up to spend on the Canada Games Pool replacement, or the money we have collected from DCCs to invest in sewer upgrades when they are required. I wrote a primer on this here.

Major Purchases September 1st to December 31st, 2018
This is out three-times-a-year report on our major purchases, for those interested in the results of our public procurement processes, be that sole-sourced or tenured.

Recruitment 2019: Appointment to the Intelligent City Advisory Committee
We have named a representative from the Ministry of Transportation in Infrastructure to the ICAC This position exists for a couple of reasons: MOTI owned conduit and right of way through which much optical fibre stretches, and because intelligent transportation systems is a major area of interest for both the MOTI and the City.

Phase I Infill Housing Program: One-Year Update and Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8067, 2019 – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The City passed a new Official Community Plan in 2017 after more than three years of intensive community conversations. Once the plan was passed, staff moved onto creating policies that will see the vision of the OCP realized – the “implementation phase” in planner-speak.

Part of the OCP vision was to see more gentle infill density to increase housing choice in the majority of our City that is still designated for single family detached homes. This includes encouraging small townhouse (strata tenue) and rowhome (freehold tenure) developments around the periphery of the SFD zones, and Laneway and Carriage houses within the SFD zones. At the time, we asked Staff to track the success of this, and report back to us on how the guidelines and policies were going – recognizing the land use economics can shift quickly and best laid plans can age quickly.

Short version: we have had 22 formal applications for laneway and carriage houses after more than 100 inquiries. Some are being built today. The townhouse/rowhome side is not moving very quickly, with two applications in process (representing up to 59 homes), though both have local gradient situations that require some adaption from the guidelines.

At the same time, staff are proposing some modest changes in the bylaws and guidelines. A couple would follow under the category of “housekeeping”, the rest are subtle changes in how FSR is calculated in one of these developments to meet the massing-control and other goals of the original guidelines while providing more flexibility for the builder and designer to make a livable space. These changes would need to go to a Public Hearing, so watch this space.

Keary Street Sewer Installation (Royal Columbian Hospital Project): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Installing storm sewer upgrades on Keary Street below east Columbia as part of the RCH project will require some nighttime work during late February and early March, but not on weekends. They need a Noise Bylaw exemption to make this happen.

Building Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8084, 2019: Rescind Second and Third Readings and Amend Bylaw – Consideration of Readings
We are getting sloppy. Once again we read the wrong version of a bylaw at first and second reading. So we need to rescind second and third, replace it with the right one, and do it again. We’re busy, stuff happens. Good to know we got it right the second time!

Development Services Fees and Rates Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw No. 8094, 2019: Bylaw for Three Readings
This is a follow-up to Bylaw 8084 where we do some housekeeping to assure the language is clear and the new requirements mesh well with existing regulations. Unless you are deeply engrained in the details of “Occupancy Certificates” and “Building Officials”, this may no impact your life.

Quayside Drive Speed Humps & Raised Crosswalks
Speed humps were installed by Metro Vancouver on Quayside Drive as a temporary measure in anticipation that the extended Front Street closure would result in heavier traffic and associated unsafe driving on Quayside Drive. Once they were installed, the City received both kudos and criticism from Quayside residents, as is to be expected. Some don’t like the rougher ride, some like the reduced speeds. Despite a few of them being installed in a way that actually made crosswalks less accessible (since fixed), the data indicated that the speed humps had a marginal effect on average and 85th percentile speeds, but did significantly reduce the number of excessive speeders. So in that sense, they work.

Given some mixed reaction from the neighbourhood, staff is going to go to the Quayside RA and to residents in general to decide whether the speed humps should stay or go.

European Chafer Management Program Update
The City is going to continue the subsidized nematode program to keep a few dozen private lawns tidy and unsustainably monocultural in the City for another year. Insert expressionless face emoji here.

New Westminster Urban Solar Garden – Installation of Second Array
We have reached the point where enough people have signed up for a second array for the Solar Garden project. This might be the coolest little community action thing I have ever had the pleasure to approve. It shows that people, when given the tools, want to take personal action to find local solutions to global issues. You can still buy a panel here, but act fast.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Pier West Development, 660 Quayside Drive – Construction Update
This is an update on the construction project on the waterfront that has been causing some disruption, both to the physical space and to the peace and quiet of the neighbourhood. I will probably write a follow-up blog on this, but the short version is that we all realized this was going to be a big and disruptive piece of construction, but recognized that the end result was going to be a great addition to our Riverfront. The developer and their construction contractors have had some challenges with the alternative pile driving strategy, and there were two incidents where the contractor on site violated the agreement they had with the City around construction timing, and both times Bosa was fined. They have subsequently worked with city staff to resolve the scheduling conflicts that resulted in the fines, and have taken efforts to reach out to the Downtown business community and residents. Meanwhile they are adapting their construction plans to address challenges as they arise in what is an incredibly challenging project – both in its technical nature and in the jurisdictional challenges.

The current secant pile work will be going on until March, and it is possible that the impact drivers will be operating one or two days a week during regular construction hours during this time. Bosa are working with the City to maintain accessibility to the River Market and the Pier Park, and have set up a project website to communicate with the community, and are even holding a community meeting next week (follow that last link for details) to let the neighbourhood know what is going on.

Royal City Taxi Ltd./Queen City (Bonnie’s) Taxi Ltd: Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw No. 8091, 2019 to Add Vehicles – Bylaw for Three Readings
Once again the local taxi companies are applying to the City and the Passenger Transportation Board of the province to add vehicles to their fleets so you won’t have to wait a half hour for one to show up. Royal City Taxi was permitted 9 new vehicles, none of which is required to be an accessible vehicle. Queen City Taxi was permitted 2 new vehicles (they applied for three). Neither of which is required to be an accessible taxi.
The justification of the Passenger Transportation Board for the lack of new accessible taxis was, essentially, that 17% of the local fleet is accessible, and both of these operators have 17% or more of their fleet accessible, which is perfect circular reasoning. Unfortunately, it did not address the concern raised by this Council last year (brought to our attention by the Access Ability Advisory Committee) that the local accessible fleet is inadequate. Council even wrote them a letter to the effect, asking them to increase the accessible fleet next time they g o through this exercise.

Clearly they were no compelled by our letter, so we are going to send them another one, asking them why not. Because that would be the polite thing to do.

Short Term Rental Regulation: Proposed Approach and Next Steps
The issue of Short Term Rentals (AirBnB, VRBO, and the such) has been bubbling along below the surface for a couple of years. I even hosted a Metro Conversation in New Westminster on the topic two years ago, where we talked frankly about the opportunities, and potential problems, related to this “disruptive” industry and the regulation of it.

Vancouver recently passed a set of regulations for STRs in their community, and a few other communities from Nelson to Victoria have taken somewhat different approaches to the regulation. The City of New West has decided to take the Vancouver model, and use that as a framework to be adapted through a public consultation process in order to make a modified set of regulations to fit our situation. This will be going out to the STR operator community and the public, so watch this space!

Restorative Justice Committee: Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Motion for Support of the Indigenous Court System
Council is taking a motion to the UBCM asking the federal government to invest in a restorative justice and community based court system for indigenous peoples, as part of a larger effort to address the systemic flaws in our existing justice system that sees indigenous people incarcerated at an unbelievably higher rate than the rest of the Canadian Population.


We read a bunch of Bylaws including adoption of the following:

Bylaw Notice Enforcement Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw No. 7960, 2019 and
Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw No. 8077, 2019
These Bylaws that clear up our ticketing bylaws and update our fines for a variety of offences, including some of the ones that make our pedestrian spaces less safe, as discussed at the January 28 meeting, were adopted by Council.

Bylaw 8078

The Public Hearing on Monday was well attended, with a couple of dozen people presenting on both sides of the issue. We received a significant amount of correspondence going into the public hearing, and some media attention after. I am going to try to outline here what decision Council made, and talk about my motivations for voting the way I did. You might want to put on some tea.

The Bylaw being debated, Zoning Amendment [Multi-Family Residential Rental Tenure] Bylaw No. 8078, 2019, changes the zoning of 18 properties in the City to a new designation called “Residential Rental Tenure”. This new zoning type was recently permitted by the provincial government to provide local governments another tool in addressing housing affordability. Twelve of the properties are City-owned lands, and no one raised any concerns with this. However, the remaining 6 are multi-family buildings that have always operated as rental buildings, and though each building is owned by a single entity (Corporation or Limited Partnership), they have carried Strata title for many years. This detail is important to what the City is trying to achieve here by this slightly clunky method, and that requires some background.

The City has had a moratorium on stratification since the mid-1970s, which means buildings operating as rental in the City have not been able to shift their title to Strata and convert to condos. This was enacted to protect the affordable rental housing stock in the City, and has been largely successful. Last year a building in the Brow of the Hill that had operated for 40+ years as a rental was sold, and the new owners renovicted the tenants and sold off the condos as individual units. When the City looked into this apparent violation of the moratorium, it was discovered that the building had always been titled as Strata, though all of the units belonged to a single owner who had operated as a rental. The moratorium did not apply, and there was nothing the City could do to prevent (effective if not literal) stratification of this rental building.

In doing this research, staff discovered that there were 6 other buildings in the City, representing about 250 rental suites, where a building was built as purpose-built rental before the Strata Title Act was implemented in 1966 or was stratified at the time of construction and has operated as a rental building since that initial construction. These six buildings could potentially do a similar conversion to condo units, violating the spirit of the moratorium, and the City would not have any ability to prevent this.

The reasoning behind applying the new zoning to these 6 buildings was to create a disincentive to the stratification of these buildings (I use that term recognizing the buildings are already strata title – so perhaps “effectively stratify” would be a more accurate description?). The property owners who delegated to Council, and their supporters from LandLord BC and the development community, argue that this was an arbitrary “downzoning” of the properties, that the City has stolen value from the property owners in a capricious way that will chill the market for future development in the City. The tenants and their supporters who delegated were glad that the City was being creative and proactive in preventing eviction of renters from their affordable homes.

But don’t let me put words in their mouth, you can watch the video here.

I have spent a couple of weeks thinking about this Bylaw and its implications, reading 50+ pieces of correspondence, and listening to Public Delegations. In this, I have compiled a long list of things I would like to say about it, but risk veering off onto a long stream-or consciousness rant about affordable housing and things that we within and outside of the City’s jurisdiction and how those often do not overlap so well with things that are within our duty to our residents. That may still happen below, but I am going to try to keep this short (Too Late!) and hit on only three points.

1: This Bylaw does not stand alone. This Bylaw is one tool the City has, and we are applying it in a very limited way to address one small part of the vast spectrum of housing affordability. It isn’t going to make new apartments more affordable and it is not going to protect all affordable apartments from renoviction. It wasn’t meant to do those things. It is going to create a disincentive for renoviction for 250 rental homes in our community. Whenever the City or another government does any small move to address a regional housing affordability crisis, the public response gets bogged down in “whataboutism” about the other problems we are not solving. The housing crises are a complex problem affecting every level or housing, and it will take a combination of tools to make housing secure for everyone in our City.

2: This action was not arbitrary. Much of the rhetoric from the development community and other opponents of this Bylaw suggested this was an arbitrary act by Council that this was applied in a random way, and would send a chilling message to developers that New Westminster was no longer a safe place to invest in new rental housing because this may happen to them. That is hyperbolic and not reflected by the reality of what this Bylaw does, or how this Council operates.

The Bylaw was applied to 12 City-owned properties to send the signal to the community and future councils that the priority for those lands should be purpose-built rental and affordable rental. It was also applied to 6 privately-owned properties that are not protected by our 40-year-old moratorium on conversion of rental buildings to condominiums. Although it does not change the tenure of the current buildings, it does remove some incentive to convert these buildings into condominiums like happened to the building I mentioned above.

We have a current incentive program to encourage developers to build purpose-built rental in the City. It has been somewhat successful, and there have been something more than 1,000 new rental units opened in the City over the last year. All of these developments occurred because the City offered the developer some incentive to make it economic for them to build the rental, in exchange for the developer entering in to a “Housing Agreement” with the City, which secures the use of the building as a rental for (typically) 60 years. We are expanding our incentives for building non-market affordable housing as part of new developments, and you see the initial results of that now. There is no reason why this more recent Bylaw to limit future use of 6 stratified buildings that have always operated a rental, has any impact on how those incentivized rental developments occur. The economics for those developers has not changed.

3: There was a reason to act. Renoviction has been the one part of our affordable housing crisis that we have not yet found tools to address, and you would have to have been in media blackout not to know how this issue has been impacting our community. If you need a primer, read this, or this, or this, or even this.

I know that the owners of the buildings impacted by this Bylaw have assured us that renoviction was not part of their plan for their properties. Thee UDI and LandLordBC representatives came to Council and said none of their members ever do renovictions. Everyone who came to Council to argue against this Bylaw said that they would never support renoviction – they all agree it is an unacceptable situation. Yet renovictions are happening in our City, in at least 15 buildings representing more than 340 units – 340 affordable homes – in the last three years. And it is pretty obvious why.

As an elected official, I hear form these residents. I live in the Brow of the Hill, these people are my neighbours. I see them at coffee shops, and they literally knock on my door and ask me what the City can do to help them. For the last couple of years, I have pointed them at City resources, connected them with our Social Planners and other support organizations, tried to made sure they knew their rights, and the responsibilities of their landlord. I tell them we are advocating to the provincial government to get more tools to help them. I tell them we are making progress, that more tools are coming, and I hope they can hold on. Looking at my neighbour Laverne when she tells me about the real fear she has about becoming homeless after 28 years in the same apartment and telling her there is nothing I could do but she should try to hold on hits me hard. This shit gets personal really fast.

I didn’t get into this job to be a housing advocate. I am an environmentalist, a sustainability guy, an active transportation advocate, someone who wants to see activation of our public spaces. Those were my fights to have. But if four years on this job doesn’t make you an affordable housing advocate, you have no soul. so now this is the fight I have to have.

Here we have a case where staff have identified affordable units that are potential targets for eviction, and the provincial government has provided us a tool to address that risk. All this during a housing crisis that is hitting New Westminster hard. We have been talking about the crisis for a few years, it is time we started acting like it is a crisis. The provincial government is taking steps, and so are we (including considering a few more bold moves at the February 4th Council meeting). The only way we will get out of this crisis situation is by challenging the status quo and taking action when it is available to us. The status quo is residents on our city being priced out of the City – priced out of one of the most affordable cities in the lower mainland. And I cannot stand still while that happens.

Council – Jan 28, 2019

Our January 28th meeting started with a well-attended public hearing, which I am not going to talk about here, because the topic deserves another blog post on its own. So, other than the Public Hearing and resultant Bylaws, we started our regular Agenda with approving the following items on Consent:

Alternative Approval Process for Electric Utility Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8041, 2018
We need to build a new electrical substation in Queensborough. The electrical utility needs to borrow up to $30Million to do that. Since it will take more than 5 years to pay that loan back (as it will be paid back out of the profit we make in electrical sales), we need authorization from the public to draw that loan. I hate the Alternative Approval Method, but it is the only tool given to us under the Community Charter to get this important infrastructure built, so here we are.

If you are opposed to the City’s electrical utility borrowing to build a substation, and are an eligible voter (New West resident or property owner, Canadian Citizen, over 18, etc.) you will have a 30+ day period to submit your opposition to the City. Come to the front desk at City Hall and fill out the form before March 11 at 7:00pm.

Recruitment 2019 Appointments to Advisory Committees, Commissions, Boards and Panels
This is the official release of the residents and stakeholders selected to serve on council Advisory Committees and other boards and panels in the City. If you applied for any of the above, look for your name here! If you don’t find your name, please don’t take it personally, we literally have hundreds of applications, and most of them were really good. It is hard to say “no thanks” to someone who is willing to stand up and take part in their community this way, but committees of 30 don’t work. Please apply again next year, as we are always trying to balance out experienced committee members with new brains to keep things fresh.

If you were named to ACTBiPed, Access Ability, the Electrical Commission, the Intelligent City Advisory Committee, I’ll see you at City Hall!

Recruitment 2019: Appointment of Council Representatives and Co-Chairs to 2019 Advisory Bodies of Council
This is some last-minute shuffles of Council Advisory Committee chairs and co-chairs, as the new Council figures out their schedules and attempts to find some kind of balance.

Recruitment 2019: Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) Rescindment
One of the appointments to the youth Advisory committee has to change, on account of the Terms of Reference.

Disposition of City Owned Lands: Road Allowances in the Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node
The City is proposing to sell off two slices of roadway that are not, strictly, roadway, as they have never been opened up and paved and otherwise made road. These are both part of a larger vision for the Queensborough Triangle – a piece of land that has been under development review for a number of years. The City first advertised this land being potentially for sale through a public RFP in 2017, and staff entertained a few offers. They are now ready to move forward on the sale

2019 Community Grant Recommendations – Additional Information
Coming off of our approval of community grants, there were two items that were removed from the regular approval process to get more information about the applications and applicants. We moved the staff recommendations to provide some funds to a tumbling club, and to move New West TV to a different category and find a more appropriate way to support them.

2019 Festival Grant Recommendations
We spend a lot of money on Festivals in this City. But that said, the #1 positive thing people say about New West these days is that they love that so much is happening in this City. Every one of these Festival Grants is supporting a program or event that is primarily NOT run by the City, but by other organizations in the city, large and small. The City provides engineering and support services (though we need to account for them here as “in kind donations”), and we give a little bit of cash, concentrating the latter on supporting new up-and-coming events over more established events which we encourage to adopt more of an self-supporting model over time. Alas, New Westminster is a small City, and all of these organizers and events compete for limited sponsorship dollars.

Support festivals! Show up, spend money in their booths, send out social media messages about the event. And if you own a business, think about sponsoring the events that make New Westminster the funnest City in the lower mainland.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Amendments to Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) Terms of Reference
The Terms of Reference of the EDAC is being adjusted to make the committee work better in the context of the new Economic Development Plan for the City.

Bylaw Notice Enforcement Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw No. 7960, 2019 and New Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw No. 8077, 2019: Bylaws for Consideration of Three Readings
Included in this report is a bit of information about the two types of power our Bylaw Officers have: the Bylaw Offence Notice (BON) process which is limited to a $500 fine and is basically an in-house operation that is adjudicated at City Hall, and a Municipal Ticketing Information (MTI) process, which is adjudicated by the courts, but can include a fine up to $1000. The City almost exclusively uses the BON model since it was introduced to the City in 2009.

Every time we make and adjustment to a Bylaw that changes the type of offences or fines, we also need to amend the Bylaw that regulates these fines so the two are congruent. These amendments pile up to make the Bylaws unwieldy at times, and internal inconsistencies sneak in. So staff does these housekeeping edits to fix some of those inconsistencies.

While we are at it, we are boosting the fines for refusing to allow inspection of property (the cost of the City going to a Justice of the Peace to get an Entry Warrant is going up), and are adding Transit Police to our Bylaws to give them more flexibility to enforce City Bylaws around transit stations (i.e. smoking).

Happy to report we are also increasing fines for motorists that do things that impact pedestrian safety such as driving or stopping on a sidewalk or failing to yield for a pedestrian (which aligns well with our Master Transportation Plan). I support this move, but think we are actually not going far enough

[Trigger warning – War on Cars rhetoric coming!] According to the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, and corroborated by research out of the City of Vancouver, the #1 cause of pedestrian injury and death is vehicles failing to yield in a crosswalk where the pedestrian had the right of way. Pedestrian collisions result in more than 2,000 injuries and 50 deaths on average every year in BC – all of those preventable and the majority to no fault of the pedestrian. I think a $125 fine for this violation is not high enough, compared to a $200 fine for blocking traffic or for fixing your car while it is parked in front of your house. I also feel the fines for other significant pedestrian hazards, such as parking too close to a crosswalk or an intersection, are too low. As an aside, I also suggest the word “jaywalking” needs to be removed from our Bylaws. The term itself is pejorative towards vulnerable road users, and has racist and classist roots that do not fit well with modern thinking about the residents of our city.

I appreciate the changes being made, and supported the recommended changes. But I wanted Council and staff to recognize that one of my goals for this council term is to prioritize pedestrian safety through education and enforcement so we can meet the goals of the MTP. This will include review of enforcement activities and fines related directly to creating safer pedestrian spaces. [Off my soap box].

Official Community Plan Implementation: Work Program for endorsement
We want to do it all. New Westminster, despite our visions and dreams, is still a relatively small municipality, and we need to allocate and prioritize resources based on our relatively small tax base. This includes prioritizing the workload of our planning staff. It is a busy time in the city, the OCP implementation is coming along at the same time as we are pushing the envelope on rental protection and affordable housing and development is happening at a pace that requires careful review. This report is about our Planning staff setting priorities for their work plans for the next couple of years, and giving Council a change to weigh in on whether the priorities are aligned with Council’s expectations.

We ended up sending back this report with a few recommendations about what our priorities are, specifically some of the policy work around creating infill density guidelines for duplexes and triplexes was identified as something some on council don’t want to delay on. I was a little challenged, because setting priorities is hard, for staff and for Council, and we cannot afford to do it all. We are going through some strategic planning work on Council right now, setting goals for the term, so perhaps that process will help inform this a bit before it comes back to Council. But the question will ultimately be – do we do a little less, or do we add more resources?

Queen’s [sic] Park Traffic Calming Review
Our engineering staff do these neighbourhood-level traffic reviews on a regular rotating basis, and Queens Park (the neighbourhood, not Queen’s Park the Park) came up in 2017-2018. After public consultation, on-site analysis and data-gathering, more public meetings, and engineering analysis by an external consultant, some modest proposals are presented to help address what are, in the grand scheme of things, pretty modest traffic management issues.

Not surprisingly , the 85th percentile speed on some of the wider roads exceeds the posted speed limits.

I did raise some questions about whether road narrowing was considered in a few places where road widths are really wide (i.e. Second Street at Queens Ave is 18m wide – crazy wide for what is ostensibly a two-lane road), and though it may cost more than simply installing a 4-way stop, it may improve the pedestrian experience while adding to the “friction” of the road that results in lower travelling speeds.

There is also an interesting trial proposed here – closing the bottom of Park Row to deal with high speeds on that road, and a difficult intersection and pedestrian space where Second Road, Park Row and Royal Ave all meet. I generally like the idea, but recognize that the impact on local residents and on Bonson Road (which is really just an alley) will take some monitoring.


Among our Bylaw readings was Adoption of the following:

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8080, 2019
This Bylaw that updates the fees we charge for various engineering fees was Adopted by Council. Consider yourself CPI updated.


Finally, we had a single piece of New Business:

Sanctuary City
Council agreed with Councillor Das’ motion asking staff to report back on the feasibility of establishing New Westminster as a Sanctuary city. This seems an easy and appropriate step towards making our City more inclusive.

That was the end of a long night, and I will follow up with a post about the Public Hearing.

Council – Jan 14, 2019

The Happy New Year 2019 edition of New Westminster City Council had a packed Agenda, and started off with a presentation on Innovation Week, which is coming in the beginning of March and is something you should definitely check out.


We started our Council Action by moving the following items on Consent:

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Report for 2017 and 2018
This is our annual report on how staff managed Freedom of Information requests and Privacy inquiries. The FOI applications are trending downward over the last few years, at least partly because we have an Open Data portal that makes more data accessible to the public without having to engage the FOI process. The other side of that equation is that we have more and more privacy protection concerns, and have to be pretty cautious with how we manage information so we don’t violate the “Privacy Protection” part of the Act.

The best news is that staff are processing the FOIs in a timely manner, and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner seems happy.

New Westminster Aquatics and Community Centre Loan Authorization Bylaw and Temporary Borrowing Bylaw
We need to get Loan Authorization Bylaws lined up so we can move ahead on the Canada Games Pool replacement project. Because of how the borrowing laws for local governments in BC work, we are preparing for two types of loans. First is a Temporary Loan Bylaw which will allow us to borrow cash to pay the bills as we are going along, which must be paid back within 5 years. The second is a longer-term Loan Authorization that allows us to amortize the costs of the project over 20 years. We will use this second one to pay off the first one once we have everything completed.

The plan is to secure the authority to borrow up to $93.6Million. This is, essentially, the maximum project cost ($114M) less the reserves we have saved up for the project ($20.4M). That does not mean we will spend all of the $93.6 Million, in fact we are going through this process right now to facilitate application for a Federal Infrastructure Grant. If we were to get that grant, it would come right off of this loan amount. We are also relatively early in the detail design of the new facility, and where cost savings can be found, they can also reduce this amount.

The Loan Authorization Bylaw will have to go through the Alternative Approval Process – meaning that we will ask the public whether they feel this is an appropriate expenditure (albeit through ha less-than-ideal negative-option process). So expect to hear more about this in the coming months.

Council Remuneration
Here we go again. Being an elected official responsible for budgets means you need to, at some point, authorize your own wages, and take the shit show that comes with it. Our current policy was adjusted by the previous Council, and involves a review every 4 years (i.e. once per Council term) to compare compensation to a representative cohort across the region. As there is a bit of a spanner in the regular works this year when the federal government made a significant shift in how local government elected officials wages are taxed. Most (all?) municipalities are increasing Mayor and Council wages to “make them whole”, but there is still a lot of uncertainty about how to handle this.

The recommendation by staff here is that we send this out to an independent HR consultant who can apply HR industry guidelines and make a recommendation about what compensation levels Council should get, and how we should implement future changes. This will be a public report, and at arms-length to Mayor and Council, which I think is the only fair and accountable way to deal with prickly topics like this.

Multi-Family Residential Rental Tenure Zoning: Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8078, 2019 – For Consideration of First and Second Readings
The City has had a moratorium on conversion of purpose-built rental multi-family buildings into Strata properties (“stratification”) since 1978, part of our long-term commitment to protecting affordable housing within our legal ability to do so.

New zoning powers were granted by the province last year that mean local governments can now limit land use in some residential zones to only include rental-only tenure. There are several properties in the City that were built as purpose built rental, some even receiving zoning benefits or support from CMHC because they were rentals, but are not subject to the moratorium due to a variety of historic factors. The City is moving to rezone them as rental-only, in an effort to assure they are not converted. At the same time, we are pre-applying rental zoning to a tract of City-owned lands in Queensborough to help inform future use of the lands.

This will be going to a Public Hearing, which I suspect will be a spirited one.

381 Keary Street: Development Variance Permit to Permit a Parking Space to be Designated in the Front Yard – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
This property owner wants to have a legal secondary suite, but has no back alley, and not enough sideyard to put a driveway to the back yard. As the City has a policy against front yard parking in residential areas, they need a DVP to permit a front parking pad. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on February 4th if you have any concerns, C’mon out and let us know what you think.

341 Johnston Street: Development Variance Permit to Permit Lot Frontages of 8.9 Percent of the Perimeter – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
This property owner wants to subdivide their property in Queensborough to create two 32.5ft-wide lots, but because their lot is150ft deep, that means the frontage will be less than 10% of the total perimeter, so a DVP is required. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on February 4th if you have any concerns, C’mon out and let us know what you think.

Energy Step Code and Building Bylaw Amendments: Bylaw for Consideration of Three Readings
We are moving forward with Step Code implementation. This sets the energy efficiency levels (as classified by the BC Building code) of new buildings being constructed on New Westminster. We have already adopted a Bylaw for single family homes, and are now bringing in a phased program for multi-family and commercial buildings.

One interesting wrinkle here is that we will allow a slightly less efficient building to be built if it’s primary thermal energy source is a low-carbon source (like ground source geothermal or sewer heat recovery). This recognizes that the GHG emission reduction is the most important part of energy efficiency, as GHG are the most pressing concern. Council moved to give this Bylaw three readings.

New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre Grant Application for Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program
We are applying for the grant. Although the combined Federal/Provincial infrastructure program will fund up to 73% of eligible projects (40% from the Feds, 33% from the Province), the entire program is only $134 Million to be spread across BC, so the chance of us getting funding at that level is pretty remote. BC is a big province, New West is 1.5% of the population, every community has needs and many have projects they want to get built. Do the math.

The good news is that this project meets all of the criteria for a hefty grant. It literally checks every box: cultural, recreational, and community infrastructure improvement, it is a significant GHG-reduction project, it is a service to vulnerable populations, and it is developed to a point where we can be assured that the project can be completed. So we are going to ask for the maximum funding for which we are applicable, and see where it goes.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8080, 2019
There was a clerical error in the amendment to the Engineering User Fees Bylaw we passed back in late 2018. This amendment corrects that error.

Tree Protection Bylaw Administration: Update on Staffing Pilot Project and Potential Amendments and Incentives
The tree protection Bylaw is still being adjusted to make it work better. We have moved the administration of Tree Permits within City hall to make it more transparent to applicants when tree permit are required, and to help trigger to staff when tree protection measures are required. We are also making it easier for a resident to use a consulting arbourist in the cases where an arbourist is needed, and are creating a bit of a reliance model so we don’t have the City arbourist doing redundant work.

This is a work in progress, and Council remains committed to the tree bylaw, to tree protection, and the urban Forest Management Strategy, but that doesn’t stop staff from working on making the bylaw work as smoothly, efficiently, and transparently as possible.


We gave a bunch of Bylaws readings (Which I am not going to list in these reports anymore), but only one was a Bylaw for Adoption:

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment (Cannabis) Bylaw No. 8076, 2018
This Bylaw adjusts our development fees bylaw so that we can collect the appropriate fees for the development of cannabis retail outlets in the City. It was adopted by Council.


We then had an extraordinary amount of New Business:

Fresh Voices #LostVotes Campaign
This Motion form Councillor Nakagawa was bolstered by a delegation from the Lost Voices campaign – young adults from our community who are immigrants to Canada, most of them not yet citizens but long-time Permanent Residents who would like to have a voice in how their adopted City and School District are run. They are asking cities to campaign to the province (through the UBCM) to extend local government voting rights to Permanent Residents.

Council agreed to take this issue to UBCM on their behalf, where I am sure it is going to be a spirited debate.

Clothing and Donation Bins
This is once again a topic that popped to the top of regional interest as yet again (in another community) a person died by getting trapped in a clothing donation bin. Some Councils have banned them outright, which I think is a knee-jerk reaction. As proposed by Councillor Trentadue, we have asked staff to report back to us immediately with steps we can do to improve safety. This may result in us banning some types, and we did make it clear to staff that they should not wait for us if they feel they need to act to protect public safety. However, I know we will also be hearing from agencies that rely on the donations, and from those who feel a safer bin design is possible.

Proposed Rental Housing Revitalization Initiative
Some of the most affordable housing in New Westminster is the housing most under threat: our older purpose built rental stock. This is where the risk of demoviction is highest (see the Rental Zoning item about) and this is where we are seeing a distressing amount of rennoviction. We have struggled to create policy to prevent rennoviction in the City within our limited powers, but our Planning and other staff have brainstormed and come up with some potential actions the City can do to prevent these rennovictions from making people in our community homeless.

There is a lot to digest here, and some of it is in relatively preliminary form, but the multi-prong approach includes a Rental Replacement Policy that will formally dictate how much and what type of rental tenure housing will have to be built if a developer plans to demolish a purpose-built rental building. We are also looking at using our Business Licensing powers to make rennoviction more difficult. Finally, we are going to look at a Rental Revitalization Program to make it easier for owners to perform necessary upgrades, efficiency improvements and repairs to our lower-cost rental stock without the need to evict the current tenants.

There is going to be quite a bit of talk about this over the next few months, but I am happy that our staff are finding creative solutions to protect the most vulnerable part of our current housing spectrum – the important gap between subsidized housing and new market rental.


Happy New Year, New West!

Council – December 10, 2018

The last Council Meeting of 2018 was an eventful one, as you can see in the Agenda here. We started with two pretty lackluster Opportunities to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit DVP00657 for 41 Duncan Street (490 Furness Street) (Child Care)
Variances are required for this childcare project because the measured set-backs between the childcare building and the edges of the lot they are constructed on are reduced (in part because of the development plan for the overall site, in part to give better playspace. No-one sent any correspondence and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council moved to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00656 for 618 Carnarvon Street (Sign Bylaw Variance)
A sign bylaw variance is required because the measured area of the sign, not the printed copy, but the entire field of paint, exceeds the Bylaw No-one sent any correspondence and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council moved to approve the variance.


The following items were Moved on Consent without discussion:

2019 Child Care Grant Recommendations
This is an annual $40,000 grant program to support capital improvements to non-profit childcare operations in the City. Council moved to grant a total of $39,321 to eight Child Care projects in the City representing over 400 child care spaces, with the remaining $679 to be allocated through the Child Care Action Team to subsidize education or training to non-profit childcare providers in the City.

2019 Heritage Grant Recommendations
This is an annual $25,000 grant program to support heritage initiatives in the City. There were 3 applications totaling $15,992, and the committee recommended granting them all. Council agreed.

800 Boyd Street (Queensborough Mini Storage): Consideration of Development Permit for Issuance
The landowner at this Queensborough property wants to expand the existing self-storage place to include a third building, and needs a Development Permit to do it. It has been supported by the Residents Association, and their public open house to receive comment on the application was attended by zero members of the public. The Design Panel also approve of the project. Council move to approve the Development Permit.

Q to Q Pilot Ferry Service – Update
This is an update on the QtoQ ferry service, which is seeing much less use than in the summer (as expected). There are a consistent 120 trips a day during the week, indicating a base level of service for commuters (what we kind of hoped would happen), with between 200 and 300 rides a day on the weekends, depending on the weather. Staff are going to do some more monitoring, hoping that they can adjust operations to best suit the needs of the passengers and hopefully save a little on operational cost.

Of bigger concern, there are a few operational concerns with the Port Royal dock, and the Port of Vancouver does not approve of the efforts the City wants to implement to make it work better, because of navigational risks for the log boom operators next door. So we have some more work to do.

Small Dog Off-Leash Area Trial in Moody Park
After some public engagement and a short trial, Parks are ready to install a permanent “small dog only” off-leash play area in Moody Park. Through the public consultation, it is pretty clear that some portion of the dog-loving public is not going to like the approach the City takes, no matter what that approach is, as there are many divergent views on every aspect of dog parks. Of course, a larger facility in another part of the park might be desired by most users, but there is limited space in Moody Park, and having two separate dog areas in that constrained and very busy park is just not fair to other park users.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2019 Amateur Sports Fund Committee Grant Recommendations
This grant fund is a legacy of the 1973(!) Canada Games, along with some Casino funding added in 2000. There is an endowment with the interest paid out as grants to support amateur sports programs in the city. We had $323,000 in requests, and $35,000 budget. Council moved to approve the recommendation that the entire $35,000 budget be allocated to 10 sports organizations in the city, representing almost 2,700 athletes.

2019 Arts & Culture Grant Recommendations
This is an annual $30,000 grant program to support independent Arts & Culture programs in the City. The Grant Committee reviewed requests totaling just over $39,000. Council Moved to approve the recommended granting of a total of $30,000 to 13 different programs.

2019 Community Grant Recommendations
This grant program is meant to support projects which contribute to the community livability of the city, and grant recommendations made by a volunteer committee of New West residents. There is a $75,000 budget for this grant program. There were 24 applications totaling $105,000, and the committee recommended providing grant to 19 projects totaling $63,393, and the transfer of the $11,000 surplus to the Youth Counselling program under the Partnership Grant (see below).

2019 Environmental Grant Recommendations
This is an annual $20,000 grant program to support environmental initiatives in the City. There were $32,000 in requests, and Council supported the committee recommendation to grant a total of $20,000 to 6 programs.

2019 City Partnership Grant Recommendations
This grant program is meant to assist incorporated not -for-profit organizations with delivery of major services to the community. The services must assist the City to fulfill its vision statement and requests are reviewed by a Review Panel. The best way to think about partnership grants is that these are things some might expect a City (or senior government) to do, but it is easier and less expensive for us to grant money to others and let them do it.

Hence, this is the biggest grant category – established programs tend towards here, and it takes on the character of a “catch all”. In this lies the trouble. There is a $485,000 budget for this grant program, but there were 23 applications totaling $1,061,755. Clearly, hard choices need to be made here.

One concern this year is that several organizations that asked for 3-year grant commitments rely on that stability to not only create consistent programming, but also to allow them to leverage other grant sources – both goals we want to see from partnership grants. But if every grant is promised for three years, we have no room for new (and potentially really beneficial) programs to develop.

Alas, this is mess, not because of the work of the review committee, but because we as Council have not done the work to provide clear guidance and priority to inform their work. In the end, Council moved to refer these recommendations back to the committee for more work with a bit of guidance. More to come in January.

Committee Governing Documents
This is an update to the terms of reference of a bunch of our Council Advisory Committees, to explicitly open spaces for representatives from a First Nation, to open up opportunities for co-chairs to make committees work better if needed, and to allow Council to remove representatives that don’t actually show up.

We got into a bit of a debate here about some of the wording, which might have sounded bureaucratic to some, but I think speaks to our cautious approach to reconciliation. The wording of opening up a seat for a “representative of a First Nation” is potentially more limiting than we intended. I think our intent was to incent participation on our committees by people with indigenous experience, but the term “First Nation representative” may be read to mean representative from the governance of a First Nation as a stakeholder as opposed to a community member who can add to our conversation. Nothing wrong with the former, but I think we also want to encourage the latter. At a second level, the term “First Nation” is generally thought to not include Metis or Inuit, which may preclude the urban aboriginal residents we want to hear form. Short version: we can’t make these gestures without considered intent, otherwise they risk becoming token gestures that don’t actually move us towards a meaningful dialogue. So we will do a bit of a review of our language here and make sure the language fits our intent. Let’s make sure we are doing this right.

Rent Bank Program: Update and Request
The Rent Bank is working. It is providing no-interest emergency loans to prevent a small catastrophes from making a people homeless – as serious concern in our tight rental market, as we can stop the vicious cycle of homelessness right at the start. The City provides administration funding for the program (the cooperating Credit Unions provide the loans). It also acts as a point of contact for people facing homelessness, so even if they do not qualify for the emergency loan, they may find out about other programs that can provide them support at a crisis time in their lives. The program in its short history has prevented a couple of dozen people becoming homeless – helping them, but also saving the provincial government a lot of money.

Council moved to increase our funding to help with this administration, and to ask the Province to help fund the program now that it has been demonstrated to be viable and something that is likely saving the Province orders of magnitude more money.

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw: Retail Sale of Cannabis – Bylaw for Three Readings
This is a Bylaw we adopted back on November 19, but it had the wrong Schedule B attached at the time due to a clerical error. Staff caught the error, so now we are going to amend it to include the appropriate schedule.

Proposed BC Energy Step Code Requirements for New Part 3 Multi-Residential and Commercial Buildings
The Province has been working on updates of the building code to make buildings in BC more energy efficient in order to meet our long-range energy and emissions reduction goals. There is a lot going on here, but the very short version is that the province has termed it the “Step Code”, with the idea that Cities can phase implementation towards higher “steps”, with the top step being zero energy buildings – those that are so efficient they can be heated by waste energy already in the house (like the back of your fridge and the human bodies in the house). The idea being that this buffers homebuilders, the construction industry, regulators and inspectors from an all-at-once change, and instead we can phase in improvement over time.

The City is already implementing a Step Code strategy for single family homes, and all buildings up to three stories and 600m2, we are now moving into the larger-building sector (condos and purpose built rental). By 2020, new buildings will have to hit Step 3, unless they have a Low Carbon Energy System, in which case they will be required to hit Step 2. The result is basically the same from greenhouse gas emission sense – either they switch to non-carbon energy sources, or they useless energy.

We are also going to look at requiring homebuilders to apply energy ratings on their new buildings, so owners will know what they are buying. Like knowing the fuel consumption of the car you buy or the KW/h usage of your clothes dryer, you really should know what the energy costs of your new house or apartment is.

Update on the City’s Snow and Ice Response Preparations
This is a timely update on the City’s snow and ice response plan, following up on requests last year and the year before to review how snow removal from sidewalks and pedestrian areas are managed in the City. The City is going to do more to get the information out about residents’ responsibility to clear their sidewalks, and to address the issue of lane-ways creating pedestrian barriers.

However, I don’t think we are going far enough. Since we adopted a Master Transportation Plan that prioritizes active transportation (walking and cycling), then public transit, over personal automobile use, it seems incongruous that we spend so much money and resources keeping roads free of ice and cleared of snow, but rely on the neighbourliness of our residents to do the same for our sidewalks and bus stops. This is also in opposition to our Age-Friendly Community Strategy, and our goals to become a more accessible City.

Therefore, I moved that we ask staff to let us know what the practicalities and costs are of the City taking over the responsibility for sidewalk plowing, at least in a set of pedestrian priority areas (in the same way that we prioritize roads). If we can’t afford it, I want to know what that cost is. If we need to move priorities to make it happen, I need to have the data to support that.

September 6, 2018 Arts Commission Recommendation re Cultural Services
The Arts Commission has a recommendation about how we structure Cultural Services in the City. This will likely be a part of our strategic planning process for the coming term, and will no doubt interact with the Arts Strategy which we discussed during the Open Workshop portion of today’s meeting. More to come here…


We then had one item of New Business:

Draft Inclusionary Housing Policy for Rezoning Application Negotiation
The City now has the authority to require that any development above a certain size to include an affordable housing component, in the form of below-market rental. We have the ability to make this a condition of OCP amendment or rezoning. There are a lot of details here, and this is sure to cause a lot of public conversation – and raise a bit of concern among the development community.

The City has already negotiated two below-market affordable housing projects as parts of larger developments – 159 units in Victoria Hill completed in 2017, and 66 units on Carnarvon Street about to break ground now. But the need is increasing, so this policy will allow us to move beyond the ad-hoc process we currently use. This is a preliminary report, and these will be public consultation on this. I am looking forward to learning more as we go along.


We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Council Indemnification Bylaw No. 8075, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that outlines when Council members are and are not indemnified in relation to their Council work was adopted by Council.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8062, 2018
Also discussed last meeting, this amendment to the Five-Year Financial Plan to include some financing for the replacement of the Canada Games pool was adopted by Council.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8071, 2018
Discussed at some length, this Bylaw that formalizes the utility rate increases for 2019 was adopted by Council.

Development Cost Charge Reserve Funds Expenditure Bylaw No. 8072, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that allows us to build things with the money we collected from the development community through DCCs was adopted by Council.

Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8066, 2018
This annual update to our Parks and Recreation fees, as discussed last meeting, was adopted by Council.


Whew! It was a content-dense last meeting of the year. I am taking a bit of a vacation, so will probably not be blogging much for the next few weeks. If you want t know where I am, find me on Instagram or Facebook, as I will try to send updates from the vacation. I hope you have a good holidays, and your 2019 is full of the best kinds of excitement!

Council – Dec 3, 2018

Proving my prognostication skills are as terrible as I always suspected, here is my report on this week’s Council meeting. You can follow along on the Agenda here, and note that I thought those new business items were just Notices of Motion, not topics of discussion this week, which is kinda how I missed them earlier. I’m such a rookie at this.

We started the Meeting with an Opportunity for Public Comment:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8062, 2018
This Bylaw provides us the authority to borrow the money we need to build the proposed Canada Games Pool replacement. We do not yet have a detailed design, and our cost estimates at this point are “Class D” and put the project at about $100 Million, or $114 Million if we expand the facility to provide all of the competition-supporting changes that the swim club was asking for. The rush here is the timing of the Federal government infrastructure grant process, and the requirement that we have a financing plan in place and approved prior to us completing that application.

We had one person ask a few questions regarding the structure of the Five-Year Financial Plan and the planned structure of the loan if and when the City decides to go forward with the project. There will be a *lot* of discussion of this project in 2019 as the design and planning come along and we get all of the details of financing the largest capital project in the city’s history together. In the meantime, Council gave this amendment three readings.


The following items were Moved on Consent without discussion.

New Westminster City Council Indemnification Bylaw
The City’s Solicitor is updating some of the practices in the City, including clarifying the limitations of liability for Council. This is a little meta to how Council operates, but as the executive to a large organization, we have some protection from legal liability if we make decisions in good faith that have bad results. This protection is much less robust if we act dishonestly or in violation of the law.

Engineering User Fees and Utility Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8071, 2018
We talked about utility rates last meeting, and I have been writing a few blog posts about it. This is the Bylaw that makes the water, sewer, and solid waste rates for the next year official, and we gave the Bylaw three readings.

DCC Expenditure Bylaw No. 8072, 2018
Development Cost Charges are money the City collects from developers that the City is required by law to spend on designated infrastructure improvement projects directly related to the impacts of population growth. If we need to replace the water pipes under your street due to it being old and leaky, that is paid for out of your utility rates (through utility reserve funds, usually). However, if we have to build a bigger water pipe to accommodate the new multi-family building on your block, the marginal cost of that expansion is paid for with DCCs collected from the developer of that multi-family building. Like everything else in this City, we need a Bylaw to permit the pulling of the money out of the DCC accounts and spending it on the projects.

For example, there are a couple of drainage projects in Queensborough, one related to Ewen Street redesign, the other a major pump station at the end of Wood Street. They are going to cost a combined $6.4Million. About $4.5M of that (or 70%) will be paid for out of our reserves (ie. paid by all users), while $1.9M (or 30%) will be paid by DCC funds collected through density increases in Queensborough.

Council gave the Bylaw, which authorizes the spending of a little more than $3 Million of DCC funds on various projects.

Code of Conduct for City Council
We have not operated with a modern Code of Conduct for Council. This is something many Cities have adopted, partly because of increased expectations for respectful workplaces, and partly from observing examples from other cities where the municipal operations were hampered by poor conduct on the part of a few disruptive Council members. So, no sign of problems here, just our City Clerk being proactive as part of our general effort to make City Hall and Council function as well as possible. Council move to approve the Code.

Recruitment 2018: ICAC Appointment
The School Board representative to the Intelligent City Advisory Committee is changing due to some staffing shifts at the School District. Moved!

2018 Heritage Register Update – Addition of Five Properties and Removal of One Property
The Heritage Registry is a database of significant heritage assets in the City (mostly single family homes) that have statements of significance, and the owners are able to avail themselves of some special provisions of the BC Building Code to support the protection and preservation of the buildings. Some (not all) are protected from demolition or modification. New houses granted property rights through Heritage Restoration Agreements are commonly added to the Register every now and then, and this time, a building demolished after a fire a couple of years ago has been stricken from the Register.

Recreational Cannabis: Nuisance Monitoring Program
As I’ve said a few times, the biggest hassle we are going to have to deal with as a City with the legalization of cannabis is the inevitable complaints about exposure to second-hand smoke. I am of the opinion that the actual nuisance will not be increasing substantially (because I don’t think legalization is going to come with a substantial increase in users), but I am confident the number of complaints will as people are less sensitive to how their personal use impacts others. Staff have some tools in place, but will provided this report to let us know they will be collecting data and will report back to us about how the nuisance issue plays out in the City.

SkyTrain Stations (TransLink): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
SkyTrain works often involve working at times when the SkyTrain is not running, for some pretty obvious reasons, which usually requires a construction noise bylaw exemption. We are granting one until December 24th, then again starting in January so TransLink can wire up their new announcement system.

Pattullo Bridge Seismic Upgrading: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
As plans for a replacement for the Pattullo bridge proceed, the old structure is still going to carry traffic through to 2023. TransLink has concerns about its ability to withstand high seismic and wind loads events, and want to install an early warning system to close the bridge in the event of a bad event. The work to install some of this will have to happen at night to not impact drivers. So they came to us for a construction noise exemption.

CP Rail Pipe Crossing Agreement – Proposed Watermain Crossing on Braid Street
We need to replace a piece of water main, and it goes under railroad tracks. So we need to get separate approvals from all three rail operators. This is the CP one. This is also related to the reason why the sidewalk improvements along Braid have not been completed to date. The water line thing has to happen first.

Amendment to the Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw (resubmitted)
This is a second shot at updating our Parks and Recreation fees, as we do annually, after a few recommendations came from Council last meeting. Council moved to approve them this time.


We then adopted a few Bylaws

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 8038, 2018
As discussed last meeting, This Bylaw that allows us to borrow a bit of money if we need to spend a little bit more cash than we strictly have on hand to get past short term (less than a year) cash crunch was adopted by Council. I have no idea if staff ever use this flexibility, but they are definitely happy to have it.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8058, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that formalizes the annual CPI-related increases in Engineering Fees to assure cost recovery was adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment (1102, 1110, 1116 and 1122 Salter Street) Bylaw No. 8034, 2018
As discussed back in June, given Third Reading on July 25th, and just approved by the Ministry of Transportation, this Bylaw that supports the development of a combined townhouse, rowhome and detached house development in Queensborough was adopted by Council.


Now for those New Business items I thought were Notices of Motion:

Poverty Reduction
Council resolved that: the City of New Westminster support the Coalition’s ABC Plan for an accountable, bold and comprehensive poverty reduction plan for BC; and that this council advocate to the provincial government to develop and implement a provincial poverty reduction strategy that includes the measures within the ABC Plan before February 2019, with the commitment that this council will work with the provincial government in implementing this plan.

This is a motion to ask the Provincial government to include the framework and items in the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s “ABC Plan” for an Accountable, Bold and Comprehensive poverty reduction plan for BC. Beyond just a good idea at a good time, it is important to realize that although the costs of poverty often fall on municipalities to manage, the causes of poverty are firmly in senior governments’ jurisdiction. We do what we can in New Westminster to mitigate the effects, but the root causes will need serious senior government action.

Truth and Reconciliation
Council resolved to endorse the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that the City use the Declaration as a framework for truth and reconciliation.

The City has been working on a reconciliation plan since 2017, and are quickly entering a phase where Council will and the public will be engaging in conversations, and the City will be opening opportunities for truths to be shared. We have taking a cautious approach, but based on the messaging of the recent election campaigns, we will be integrating reconciliation into our strategic planning for the term. In the meantime, it is timely that the City endorse the principles that will provide the framework for those actions.

All on Board Campaign
Finally, Council also resolved to endorse the #AllOnBoard Campaign; the City write a letter to the TransLink Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, the TransLink Board, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction asking TransLink to work with the provincial government regarding funding and developing a plan that will provide free public transit for minors (ages 0-18), and reduced price transit based on a sliding scale using the Market Basket Measure for all low-income people regardless of their demographic profile;
and that the City write a separate letter to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation and the TransLink Board asking them to 1) require TransLink adopt a poverty reduction/equity mandate in order to address the outstanding issue of lack of affordability measures to ensure those who need public transit the most can access the essential service of transit, and 2) to request TransLink immediately and without delay amend existing by-laws and cease ticketing all and any minors for fare evasion as the first step towards the full implementation of free transit for children and youth 0-18, and allow low-income adults to access community service and/or culturally appropriate restorative justice community service as an alternative to the financial penalty of a fare evasion ticket;

I have been an outspoken supporter of providing free transit for youth, and the All on Board campaign has pushed this issue forward in recent months.

My only caveat with this motion is my concern that poverty mitigation efforts undertaking by TransLink do not come at the cost of reducing transit service or increasing fares for other users. Reducing accessibility to or reliability of public transit will ultimately hurt those with lower incomes worse than those who have access to other options. I will not support sliding scale or subsidized transit passes for the lowest income categories if it comes at the cost of increasing fares for the next economic tiers. It is not progressive or fair for the marginally poor to be asked to subsidize the poorest sector of society. The provincial government must fund any low-income transit subsidy from general revenue. It is the only just way to address this issue.


Clearly, we have a new Council, one ready to jump in with two feet and get some things done. It should be an exciting term!