Council – September 14, 2020

There is so much going on, I almost forgot to write this meeting up. We had a Council Meeting on September 14th, but it was the day after the fire and senior management and the Mayor were pretty busy with various activities around the emergency response, so we cut back on the Agenda, deferring many items to next meeting, and only moved things that were supported on consent or were time-sensitive.

We started with a presentation from the Fire Chief about the Pier Park Fire (which I am not going to try to summarize here, as it is now a few days old and much has evolved, but you can see the video here), then a Presentation from Fraser Health:

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital) Phase 2 and Phase 3 Redevelopment – Update from August 31 Meeting
Last meeting, Council pushed back a bit at Fraser Health on some of the transportation aspects of the RCH expansion projects. Not out of the blue, but based on a couple of years of attempts to shift the thinking of Fraser Health to meet community expectations. I talked about it in that post linked to above, but did not include Council’s request that the Hospital meet the City’s expectations (set out in our zoning Bylaw) for accessible parking allocation.

Fraser Health has come back with a response to our comments. I don’t want to dig too deep here, but you can watch the video if you want all of the details, but on the accessible parking requirement (The City requested 10% of parking be accessible, Fraser Health argues that 5% meets the needs of their customers), Fraser Health notes that this hospital will have much higher accessible parking standards than any other in the province, but more importantly, FH has made a commitment to undergo ongoing monitoring of parking and accessible parking need and adjust with demand.

On the seamless connection to SkyTrain, FH provided some updated drawings and designs that will not turn the hospital around, but will serve to assure an accessible, at-grade connection and appropriate entrance design for the corner of the Hospital near SkyTrain.

On the East Columbia vs. Brunette Ave traffic load concerns, I remain unsatisfied by where the project is, but am satisfied that Fraser Health hears these concerns, and that they will continue to work in good faith with our Staff, TransLink, MOTI, and other partners to develop better long-term transportation plans, and that we will encode this commitment in our Development Agreement process.

I’ve ranted enough about this, but I need to reinforce. My intention is not to stop or get in the way of building the Hospital, but to assure the project is built in a way that serves the community, and meets the stated objectives of the community and of the province. We cannot miss the opportunity to think about what our community and our province will look like in 10 year, 20 years, 30 years if we intend to take the actions that are behind our bold words around climate.

If there is any intention on the part of Fraser Health to act on the commitments this province has made, this country has made, and this city has made, to meet our Paris Targets, we cannot continue to use assumptions that Brunette Avenue will always operate as it does today – carrying 40,000 or 50,000 vehicles a day. We certainly cannot build infrastructure to reinforce those assumptions. If we do, we are just blowing smoke, literally and figuratively.

When I read that “The City is obligated to minimize any negative impacts to the people and goods movement capacity of the corridor”, I retort that the Province is under no such obligation, and they alone have the power to shift this obligation if need be to make this hospital fit better. I challenge this “obligation” as being counter to the obligation we have to future generations to leave them a viable planet. If the time when we are investing more than a billion dollars in infrastructure is not the time to make that shift – when is?

I appreciate and value the serious TDM commitments made by FH, and am comfortable with moving forward with rezoning, but still expect that Fraser Health will endeavor to address these core issues as we go through development agreements.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Appointment of Director of Finance
We have a new Director of Finance, and Council has to officially appoint her, because she has regulatory powers and such under the Community Charter.

Proposed Sister Community Agreement with the Tŝilhqot’in National Government
This has been in the works for a while, but the City of New Westminster is establishing a Sister City relationship with communities in the Tŝilhqot’in, as a demonstration of our desire for relationship-building with indigenous communities with which we have a shared history. Assuring that cultural exchange and shared learning can go on is a foundation of our reconciliation plan.

Recruitment 2020: Committee Appointments
Some council advisory committee people are changing roles within the organizations they represent, and new members are swapping it. It’s all very complicated, but we have to rescind the out, appoint the in!

Alternative Approval Process – Grimston Park Amendment Bylaw No. 8219, 2020
There were some land transfers related to the re-configuration of the Queensborough Bridge connections back in 2008, and the installations of the new car underpass on Stewardson last year. There is a hunk of land at the foot of the ramp that the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure needed to lease to land the ramp, and we now need to transfer the property to the Province. Discharging property designated a Park by Bylaw actually requires the approval of the voters, either by referendum or the Alternate Approval Process. So we have to launch that process and ask if people have opinions about this. If 10% of the voting population (a little more than 5,000 people) fill out forms to express concern about this, we go to referendum. It’s a silly process, but that’s the law.

Pre-1900 Heritage House Policy: Update to Rolling Date
As part of the City’s heritage protection policies, any building from 1900 or earlier that is subject to a permits triggers a heritage review to determine if there is a heritage value to the building that may be lost through the permitted activity. This report is suggesting that policy be changed from “any house from 1900 and earlier” to “any house 100 years old or older. This would mean extra reviews for about 1,000 buildings in the City, about 15% of which are already protected.

Investment Report to August 31, 2020
The City has money in the bank, more than usual because the province has deferred the date when we need to send them the School Tax money, and because we have deferred some capital projects on account of the COVID. Some of our funds are up, some of them are down, but overall we made $3.8M in interest over the year.

License to Occupy BC Hydro Lands for Pollinator Meadow
We have been working on Pollinator Meadows in the City, finding places to plant mixes of pollinator-friendly species of plants to provide habitat and food for birds, bees, and other species. A great site for this is the unutilized greenspace in Connaught Heights that belongs to BC Hydro. We need a license agreement with them to modify their property for this purpose. I really love this initiative, as it represents one of the few ways we can support healthier ecology in a fully urbanized city.


We them adopted a couple of Bylaws:

Parks and Recreation Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 8212, 2020
This Bylaw that sets our parks and rec fees for the next year was adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (45 East Eighth Avenue) No. 8189, 2020
This bylaw that amends the zoning bylaw to permit a “missing middle” townhouse development in Massey Victory Heights, was adopted by Council.


We also had one time-sensitive piece of New Business:

MOTION: Universal access to no-cost prescription contraception

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT
the City of New Westminster write to the Provincial Minister of Finance, the Provincial Minister of Health, the Premier of BC, and the local MLA supporting universal no-cost access to all prescription contraception available in BC under the Medical Services Plan; and THAT
this letter be forwarded to all BC municipalities asking to write their support as well.

This Motion supports two resolutions at the 2020 UBCM conference which will occur next week, and Council unanimously supported it.


And that was it for a relatively quick meeting. Better days ahead.

Council – Aug 31, 2020

We had a pretty long agenda in our first meeting after a summer break like no other. It was, again, a remote meeting (and more about that below), so you can hear the recording if that is your thing. Otherwise, here’s what we talked about based on my memory. Right off the start we had a presentation:

824 Agnes Street Commemorative Park Design – Preferred Design Concept
There is a City-owned space in Downtown about the size of a small single residential lot that has operated most recently as a dog park, but has a much richer history. It was once an important location in the community for residents of Chinese descent. The City has leveraged adjacent development to fund improvements to the area to build a proper public park space. It is a bit of a challenging space, with a significant grade change making it hard to assure the park is universally accessible. But the city led a few stakeholder and public meetings and went through various design concepts. We have now settled on a final design that reflect the history of the site while being an accessible, functional, public greenspace Downtown.

This is the design concept, but we don’t yet have a timeline on the park’s development, as we have no funds set aside for the park re-design. Those funds will only arrive through the approved development process for the adjacent property, as that developer is paying the bills here.


We then moved the following items on Consent:

805 Boyd Street (Queensborough Landing): Proposed Text Amendment to the Large Format Commercial District (C-10) Zone to include Self- Improvement School as a Use – Preliminary Report
A tutoring business wants to operate in the Queensborough Landing commercial complex, but the existing zoning language does not include that use, so Council is considering updating the zoning language to allow it. This is a preliminary report to let us know that Staff will do the work needed to bring it to us. Let us know of you have an opinion.

811 Columbia Street (Plaza 88): Development Variance Permit Application to Vary the Sign Area and Channel Lettering Provision for the Sign Bylaw to Permit a Fascia Sign for Landmark Cinemas
Landmark Cinemas wants to add a swoosh to their existing sign to align with their existing branding, but the sign will be a little bigger than permitted by our sign bylaw, but not really a substantial change to the sign they already have. But it needs a Sign Bylaw variance, so that process is beginning and Council will make a decision next Opportunity to be Heard. If you have an opinion, let us know!

219 and 221 Manitoba Street: Heritage Register Addition and Heritage Designations – Bylaws for First and Second Readings
Two heritage homes have been oved to this newly subdivided property in Queens Park, and we are now adding them to the Heritage Register so they will be there forever. This will go to a Public Hearing – if you have an opinion, let us know.

Imposition of Remedial Action Requirement for 1823 Hamilton Street
This is a difficult situation where a homeowner has been non-compliant with City bylaws for several years, creating (in the opinion of neighbours) a persistent nuisance, and (in the opinion of our building bylaw staff) an unsafe condition. A roof that has been tarped for years, unfinished exterior walls, scaffolding, and an unpermitted retaining wall are all points of contention, but the real issue here is that the work on the property began in 2007 without an appropriate permit, and has been non-compliant since at least 2013. The owner has refused to take remedial action, and cannot find a qualified engineer to sign off on the work. Last year, Council finally issued a Remedial Order, and a Hearing was given to the property owner. However, the work to make the property compliant is still not completed, nor is there any evidence it has seriously begun.

Staff is now requesting the authority to tender the work, have it done, and send the owner the bill.

Applications for Grant Funding to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities – Municipal Asset Management Program and UBCM Local Government Program Service 2020 Asset Management Planning Program
The City is doing a comprehensive Asset Management Program, and there are grant funds available from FCM and UBCM to help pay to get this work done, so we are applying.

2021 Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw Amendment
We annually review our Parks and Recreation fees through Bylaw amendment. Generally, we try to adjust fees to match inflation every year, but the overall strategy is to recover costs for most services, while assuring our fees are not out of scale with adjacent municipalities. Generally our fees for most things (like ice rental in our arenas) are at the lower end compared to adjacent communities or for-profit providers. For obvious reasons, this is not the year to be making big changes other than a simple CPI increase so we don’t lose pace with inflation.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
This is our regular report out form our 5 COVID-19 response Task Forces. There are more details in the report, but these are two items that were raised for discussion:

Vulnerable Populations: The Food Bank is losing its current church space, and will be looking to relocate ASAP. The current proposal is Tipperary Park as a compliment to the Farmers Market, and the Farmers Market is looking at relocating to Tipperary for the winter. That may work out well, but Council raised some concerns about moving the foodbank outdoors in winter weather. Staff will be bringing us a report on their work to secure a space for this vital food security service.
Business and Local Economy: The patio program that we launched to support food service establishments during COVID coincided with a Provincial program that expires in October. We need to provide some clarity to businesses about how/if we are going to extend past October, and if/how we are going to look at supporting the accommodation of temporary shelter, heaters, etc. to extend the patio program over the winter, or at least survey businesses for interest? Staff will be bringing us a report.

Planning for Potential “Second Wave” of COVID-19
A Second wave of COVID-19 may be upon us already, it is almost certainly going to hit us, and staff is planning for it. The “phases” of restart from the pandemic shutdown are dictated by the provincial health authorities (we are in Phase 3 right now), but it is not yet clear how the province will (or won’t?) respond to a second wave. So the City has developed three scenarios with a response plan for each. “Managed Outbreaks” would be a scenario where we stay at Phase 3 and react in a directed way to outbreaks if they occur within our staff or in a public facility to contain and manage the outbreak. “Rollback to Phase 2” is a scenario where the health authority moves us back up the shutdown scale because of bad regional case numbers, and “Rollback to Phase 1” is the same, but worse.

There is much more detail in the attached report, and there are lots of intra-departmental details across the City. Suffice to say, we are planning for the bad, the worse, and the worst, while hoping for the best. Everybody is doing this for the first time, so challenges ahead, but I am feeling like we are about as prepared as we can be.

Open Delegations and Opening Council Chamber to the Public in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Council operation is one part of the re-opening plan that needs a bit of special consideration. In general, we need to figure out how to get the public back into the Council conversation, both as part of Public Hearings, and generally as our traditional Open Delegations. As Council continues to meet remotely, the challenges many have with on-line communications and video conferencing have to be addressed.

Regular Council meetings go on, we do them through video conference, and recordings are available, so the conversation is still open and in the public record, but it is hard for the public to participate. One of our challenges is that the Council Chamber is a limited space, and we can never predict how many people want to attend a Public Hearing, and we are not legally able to limit the number of people. Our past practice of allowing anyone to attend and get 5 minutes on any topic as an Open Delegation makes it even harder to plan. So we are going to continue to hold Public Hearings with electronic participation so we don’t have to worry about Social Distancing, and do our best to accommodate people’s uncertainty with the technology.

As for Council attending chambers, we had a good discussion about it. I went into the meeting thinking this had to be all or none, to keep the conversation level and fair, with my preference towards all. But it became clear to me through the meeting that I am in a very low risk group, don’t live with vulnerable people, and my risk tolerance is higher than some others. I think it is difficult for us to compel people who perhaps are not as low-risk as I am to attend if it is not within their comfort zone, and further should not be making people declare their personal or health situations that may impact their comfort zone. So I generally agree that we can continue to meet remotely until we have more certainty around the management of risk.

Public Hearings afford different challenges as well, as the room has to be set up differently (partly because we cannot limit participants), so we are going move Public Hearings to a different date – The Thursday before the regular Monday Meeting where the item will receive consideration for Third Reading. This is another challenge that we can talk about later (the inability for Council Members to hear new evidence between Public Hearing and Third Reading), which perhaps ironically, makes it possible that Council will look like they are being non-transparent about their opinions on a contentious project specifically because they are required by law to respect that process, but that’s a hit we will have to take, I guess. Again, we are doing this for the first time, so some patience will be required.

466 Rousseau Street (Urban Academy): Zoning Amendment Bylaw Text Amendment – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The private school on Sapperton, which was permitted in 2017 and opened just last year, is now looking to expand their operations. They want to expand their 4th and 5th stories by a total of 6,500 square feet (a 13% increase in floor space) to accommodate 100 more students (a 22% increase). There would not be an increase in overall height above what is currently permitted for the site, the expansion is within their allotted zoning envelope, but the population increase is outside of the zoning language, and needs changing.

The proposal went to the Sapperton Residents Association in pre-Pandemic times, and mail-dropped invitations to neighboring homes for an open house in 2019 had no response, with 7 people showing up for a follow-up open house in February. The Sapperton Residents Association has send a letter to Council listing concerns about the school, all related to pressure on free public parking space and people in cars acting irresponsibly on public streets causing risk to other people, as usual. Staff have some recommendations on how to make the road space of Rousseau safer, and it will be interesting to see if the community supports them.

This is proposal that will go to Public Hearing in September, so I won’t make too many more comments. If you have opinion, let us know!

100 Braid Street: Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment and Development Permit to Facilitate Provision of Secured Market Rental Housing with Art Gallery/Studio Space
Right next door, the Wesgroup development of the 100 Braid Street property is also looking to move ahead. The proponent wants to change the proposal that was approved in 2016 by shifting to a Purpose Built Rental building instead of condos. In exchange for this, they are asking for a 50% increase in density, an increase in height of 80%, and a parking relaxation. This would bring the unit count up to 424 residential rental units. They are also hoping to make some of the units (about 20%) less-than-market if they can get CMHC support for this – though they will not meet the City’s definition of “below market”, so will not meet the criteria for supportive “affordable housing”.

Council had some questions and concerns about whether the community benefit (shift to PBR from condos, and a less-than-clear affordability component) is really worth the increased density granted. I raised a concern last time this came to us about the loss of mature street trees on City lands to support this development. The Staff report indicates the developer will pay a tree removal fee, which will allow for the sooner planting of 100-150 trees as part of our urban Forest Management strategy. That seems like a significant tree benefit in the longer term.

In the end, Council agreed to let the proposal move forward to committee and public review prior to further Council discussion and likely a Public Hearing in the future, so perhaps through that process some of the amenity vs. density math with clarify. If you have opinions, let us know!

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital): Zoning Amendment Bylaw for Phase 2 and 3 of the Redevelopment Plan – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
You may have noticed RCH is going through a major renovation – near replacement at double the capacity. As this is a Provincial project, a significant regional health asset, and the City’s largest employer, the relationship between Council and the “developer” is different than most. As they come to ask to ask for a zoning amendment for Phase 2 and 3 (the major expansion of the main building), there is some question what the City’s power actually it.

If this was a private developer building a commercial building, we would make some very specific asks in regards to how their building fits into the neighborhood, and would, through the City’s zoning powers, have the ability to force them to make changes, up to the point where they just take their ball and go home if we ask too much.

Fraser Health is not going to take their ball and go home, they have a significant investment in the physical plant at RCH, and much to Richard Stewart’s chagrin, they are not going to move the hospital to Coquitlam. You would think that gives the City a lot more power to control how the Hospital fits in our neighborhood. But you would be wrong, because a municipality is ultimately the “child of the province” and if the Province cares to do so, they will just tell us to get bent and build what they want.

So here we are. The Province wishes to go through the right procedures to get a zoning amendment. There is a lot involved in this that the public would not usually see (be it the province or a regular developer) like determining how much sewer pipe the new facility will need how much water supply and electricity and how much the developer will pay to install that increased capacity. But there is also a lot the public will see, like the scale and shape of the building and the transportation connections, so we spend a lot of time in Council arguing about and negotiating these conditions. I contend that this project is failing those requirements in the transportation realm.

I had a bit of a rant on this, and will repeat it in a follow-up blog post, but in summary we gave the project First and Second reading, and I made clear to Fraser Health and staff the kinds of changes I want to see Fraser Health agree to if I am going to support Third and Fourth reading on this.

At-Risk and Vulnerable Populations and Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Task Forces Funding Request for the Remainder of 2020
This task force was set up early in the pandemic Response to assure that the people in our community most at risk from the pandemic and those with the least resources to address those risks, were being supported. There were some (ultimately, very small) costs related to some of the responses that came out of this taskforce, and there will be some more costs related to keeping some efforts ongoing (though scaled back as we move through stages of recovery).

Cannabis Retail Locations: Updates and Bylaws for Readings
We are making a few changes to the local Bylaws that regulate cannabis retail location in the community, some that I spoke to last Council meeting. We are changing the Bylaws to allow the retail sale of edible products (to catch up to the federal regulatory change), and are allowing transparent windows now that the Province has allowed this change. This will bring cannabis retail more in line with the look of other types of retail in the community. Both of these are easy for me to support.

It looks like one of the currently-permitted operators ran into some trouble getting up and running due to some apparent conflict with the building owner(s), so they have withdrawn their application. As our original intake process dictated, this leaves the “Uptown” business area with no current applicants. The other two Uptown applicants that passed initial screening back in 2018 were asked if they were still interested, and only one of them was able to move forward, so we have provided them the opportunity to apply.

Contrary to some social media speculation, this will not replace the (still-COVID-closed) Rivers Reach Pub, but will be located next door, adjacent to the beer and wine store. As this application will go to a Public Hearing, I won’t comment further at this time. Drop us a line if you have an opinion.

141 East Columbia Street: Site Specific Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment to Allow for Health Related Office and Retail Use (Including Pharmacy) – Preliminary Report
The owner of this Sapperton property is hoping to operate a pharmacy, as the current restaurant is not renewing their lease. The zoning language doesn’t specifically allow a pharmacy in the space, so we need to change that zoning text to allow it. This is a preliminary report, and will go to some review, so more to come here. Let us know if you have an opinion.

Downtown Transportation Plan
This neighborhood traffic plan in our most traffic-constrained neighborhood started in late 2017, and the last steps were a bit borked by COVID. Although the bulk of the planning preceded the Climate Emergency response by Council, the Pandemic response (and Streets for People motion that followed), and the Declaration of Resilience for Cities, the direction of the plan mostly supports those initiatives. I think staff did a great job bringing this plan together, and it is written in such a way to address those late-emerging ideas. I carry a bit of a concern that the proposed rate of implementation may not be aggressive enough to meet those larger goals, but that will be on Council to put the money where our mouth is here and get this shit done. The Agnes Greenway and the changes to lower 8th Street are the top priority for me, but maybe I’ll follow up with a more detailed blog post about it.

Streets for People in 2020 – Update
This is an update on the many small shifts in our transportation realm that rolled out in the last two months and includes areas where staff have been really poactive at making shifts in how some of the changes were implemented over time. Like most on Council, and I’m sure staff, I have received some public feedback, both good and bad, and it is human nature to concentrate on the negative feedback, but I think there is instructive value to all of the feedback, and appreciate the nods in here to organizing the feedback into actionable responses.

Now is the time to have a bigger conversation about these changes, and the City is working on a an aggressive schedule for September to talk to the public and stakeholders about what worked, what didn’t and how folks would like to see the streets operate differently in the future. It should be a great conversation with the community.


We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8212, 2020
As discussed above, our Bylaw that makes annual changes to recreation fees was given three readings and adopted by Council. Make your own CPI adjustments please.

Soil Deposit and Removal Regulation Bylaw No. 8106, 2019
Municipal Ticket Information Amendment Bylaw No. 8127, 2019 and
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 8126, 2019
As discussed way back last May, this Bylaw the updates our regulations on how large soils movements in the City are managed during development is now Adopted, along with the amendments to the ticketing and enforcement Bylaws that empower the fines in the first. I’m digging it.


And that was the meeting for August, see you after Labour Day!

Council – Aug 10, 2020

We had a brief Council meeting on Monday to address some time-sensitive issues. It was pretty bare-bones, and I was Acting Mayor, so it was not the smooth production you may be used to. Here is the recording if you want to poke fun, or if you want to see the Agenda that started with the official receipt of our Annual Report for 2019:

2019 Annual Report
Every year, the City is required to put out an annual report, which includes our annual financial reporting and some measures of what the City accomplished in the previous year. Council moved to receive the report.

Obviously 2020 is a challenging year in ways we could not have predicted, but it is still valuable to look back at 2019, now that the numbers are in and note the achievements of the City, getting more done than any other City in the Lower Mainland, regardless of size. We sometimes forget New Westminster is a small municipality surrounded by much larger ones, but we continue to punch above our weight on things that matter, including housing policy, addressing poverty and homelessness, and taking meaningful climate action.

One of the bigger achievements of 2019 is clearly the 7 Bold Steps in response to a Climate Emergency. Turn on the news this week, and you can read about collapsing ice shelves in the Arctic, record heat and wildfires consuming 10,000 square km of Siberia, and (to those like me who follow climate science at greater depth) the recent report by Woods Hole researchers published in PNAS that demonstrated the RCP 8.5 CO2 emissions pathway, which was previously used as a “Worst Case Scenario”, has turned out to be the most accurate pathway for first half of the 20th century. We have a lot of work to do, and I’m proud to be part of a Council that put actions to their words, and set serious, concrete goals not just for 2050 Paris targets, but for 2030 so that we can no longer put off actions today if we plan to meet those targets.

We also took bold steps in 2019 to address the eviction crisis in the community. Once again New Westminster was a regional leader in housing policy, and I see that other Municipalities are now following our lead. This along with the 745 new purpose built rental units that came on line in 2019, are meaningful steps to take local action on ta regional housing crisis.

I also want to emphasize something that staff did that didn’t show up in this report, but a bulk of the work was done in 2019 – and that was a new and more transparent approach to the annual budget process. Public Consultation takes time, it costs money, and it takes a willingness to both teach and learn through discussion where people’s concerns are. Of course, the COVID crisis has forced some shift of those budget assumptions, but with a foundation of solid public consultation, we have built better trust, and better understanding, which allows us to pivot when needed. And bring that experience and knowledge into our work on COVID recovery which is so going to define our 2020. Again, kudos to staff for engaging in that work so effectively.

I’m proud of the work the City has done, and thank our staff for being bold and dedicated to seeing New West become the most vibrant, compassionate, and sustainable city it can.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2020 Declaration for Resilience to Canadian Cities: Feedback on Metro Vancouver Amendments to Meet Regional Goals
The Mayor endorsed a Declaration for resilience in Canadian Cities, and this is a report asking that Council endorse a suite of ideas and actions to meet these goals. As it is a pan-Canadian declaration, staff included a regional and jurisdictional analysis of the Metro Vancouver and New Westminster context for the goals.

There are a bunch of recommendations coming out of this, and we spoke a bit to minor tweaks that could be made to the declaration text to be specific to our local conditions. Council was able to provide a bit of feedback to staff on where some of the language could serve to be adjusted, but in no way did we “step back” from the goals, more we defined specifically how each reflects our own understanding of the City’s role in meeting the bigger goals. I don’t want to belabor it too much here, as this is overall really great document. Perhaps I’ll write a follow-up blog post about my personal take on some of the recommendations.

Small Sites Affordable Housing Initiative: Queensborough Recommended Proponent and Connaught Heights Next Steps
We talked earlier in the year about, and did some initial community consultation on, the next phase of the City’s ongoing Small Sites Affordable Housing program. This is where the City identifies available City-owned land for affordable housing, and hopes that BC Housing and a non-profit provider can do the heavy lifting of getting some affordable housing built. We already have two of these up and running (one Downtown and one in Queensborough), and were hoping to get at least one new project into the 2021 Funding window from BC Housing.

Staff identified two potential sites, one in Queensborough and one in Connaught Heights, and both asked for Housing providers to make proposals about how they would best use the site, and went out to the community to get feedback on the two sites and initial proposals. Staff then reviewed the proposals, and found a preferred approach for the Queensborough site. Staff were not able to recommend a preferred proponent for the Connaught Site, and recognized there needed to be some work done both with the applicants and with the community, and recognized the 2021 funding window was probably not viable for that site.

This also means we need some staff to put development of the Queensborough site into their work plan for the rest of 2020, which means a few of the other policy areas planning staff were working on will be delayed but a few months (or even up to a year), so they checked in with Council to make sure that was OK. Unfortunately, we are just not in a position right now to commit to funding more staff to get everything done as there remains some uncertainty around COVID recovery and the City’s financial situation, so a bit of policy work delay was seen as the most prudent path right now, and more affordable housing was seen as an appropriate place to prioritize staff time.

The Queensborough site will go through an expedited version of development review. It will go to both proponent-led and City-led public consultation, external and committee review including Design Panel, and a Public Hearing (hopefully) in early 2021. The proposal will no doubt shift through this process, but right now it looks to include 51 units in a three-story rental apartment building, with about 15 units “affordable” for moderate incomes, 25 with rent tied to income levels, and 11 “deeply subsidized” for very low incomes.

The Connaught Heights project needs more work, including clarifying the Crown Grant through which the City was given the land and how it impacts the available used of the site. The history of the land is interesting and somewhat complicated, and was something that came up through public consultation. There is more detail in the report here, but chasing the paper trail from 50 years ago was interesting!


Finally, we had this Motion that I brought to the meeting:

Cannabis and Edibles

THAT Council direct staff to bring forward the necessary amending bylaws to allow cannabis retails stores to sell edible cannabis products for off-site consumption and that staff not enforce the local prohibition of the sale of cannabis edibles for off-site consumption pending a decision of Council regarding such amending bylaws.

There are two cannabis retailers operating in the City (and a few more approved and going through the steps to get their doors opened). Upon opening, the two discovered that edible cannabis products were not permitted for sale in New West. The local retailers were surprised when our local Bylaw enforcement told them (correctly) that the City prohibits edibles.

The background is that edible products were not legal when we were putting the Bylaws together in 2018, though it was noted at the time that they would likely be legal some time in 2019. I’m not sure if we anticipated at the time that no retailers would actually be open until mid-2020. As a result, we are more restrictive than the federal government or the provincial government who both made edible products with appropriate labelling and controls to manage the extra public safety concerns, legal.

So, my goal here is to bring our business and zoning bylaw in line with provincial and federal regs as quickly as possible, and to allow the retailers to (if possible) ask the City’s bylaws enforcers to not enforce that part of the bylaw recognizing the unique situation here and the intent of Council. The motion was supported unanimously by Council.


And that was all we had for the meeting. I’m still basically avoiding the big Social Media platforms for August, so drop me an e-mail (as opposed to Twitter or Facebook) if you want to get in touch. Otherwise, get out and enjoy the sun in a safe, distanced, calm and kind way!

Council – July 13, 2020 (pt2)

The last New Westminster Council meeting before the summer break had a long Agenda. I reported out on the first half a couple of days ago, here is the rest, starting with the items Removed from Consent for discussion:

Update on the City’s Recovery Plan
This is a report on the things we are planning for the fourth quarter of 2020 as part of the anticipated recovery from the pandemic response, set out by the City’s 7 main operating departments. There is a lot of detail in here, and every department is being guided by Provincial Health Orders and the priorities set out by Council in previous meetings.

The biggest news here for many is that the Library will be re-opening in early August, with some adjustments to service and new safety protocols (including an early opening hour exclusively for seniors). Most parks and rec facilities will be gradually re-opening and programming resuming through Q4, but the pace of this will rely on how the public health response shifts. We are still very much still in the middle of the Pandemic, and we cannot anticipate what the case rate or risk will be in October, so this will be a plan in motion.

As each Municipality is interpreting orders a little differently, and each community has different priorities and financial situations, I predict we will spend much of the rest of 2020 with members of every municipality saying some version of “Community X is doing Y, why don’t we do Y?” This will be a challenge to manage form a communications point of view, but seems inevitable at this point.

Anvil Theatre Fees & Charges Bylaw
We are adjusting the fee structure for theater and rental spaces in the Anvil Centre to support re-opening and modified use relating to Phase 3 recovery. As this is a City Fee for service, we need to set the fees in a Bylaw. This biggest part of this change is not that the fees are changing, but that we are giving the Manager of the Theatre more flexibility to introduce scaled fees in response to reduced capacity related to COVID-19 without having to come to Council to get variances.

Interim COVID-19 Food Truck Policy
Some may remember the conversations we had back in 2015 and 2016 about a Food Truck policy in the City. There was a really extensive program to review the community interest in food trucks, to identify potential conflicts, and develop a program that balanced the interests of this emergent business with those of the existing business community. We created a program that took limited uptake, at least in part because it was seen as onerous for operators. We also took some flak for being “no fun” because we didn’t have the food trucks that other communities seemed to enjoy.

Now that people are spending more time enjoying outdoor spaces, possibly because of the pandemic, we have a few more applicants going through the onerous program. Some business owners have expressed concern, as they themselves are suffering and don’t want to see competition showing up in a way that impacts their type of business.

We had a pretty lengthy Council discussion on this. My thinking was very much that we spent 2 years putting together a program that was transparent to all stakeholders and the public. Changing that program now based on a few complaints seems arbitrary and reactionary, and is not in line with the work that people did in 2015 and 2016 in good faith to put together a comprehensive program. It also feels unfair to the operator who went through all of the necessary City hoops and challenges in good faith to get approval to operate as clearly laid out in our Bylaws if we now move the goalposts. If we are going to favour one business type over another, we better have clear policy and make it transparent why we are acting.

Staff made a series of recommendations, trying to thread this needle a bit, and Council agreed to some but not all of them. In the end, we are going to suspend for the summer granting new licenses for operations on City lands, but let existing licenses continue and allow licenses on private property to continue. We are also asking staff to see if they can encourage operators to not locate on a few conflict-causing spots.

909 – 915 Twelfth Street: Official Community Plan Amendment, Rezoning and Development Permit Application
This is a preliminary report on an application to build a 5-story residential building at the corner of Twelfth Street and London in the Moody Park Neighbourhood. It would replace a used car lot and two smaller commercial buildings with 40 homes, including “ground oriented” two-story units. The proposal is to build a highly energy-efficient building (Step Code Level 4). This would also require the purchase of a piece of City land that provides laneway access to one of the existing businesses.

There was some discussion about the role of commercial at grade along this part of 12th Street. This has been an ongoing discussion as far back as the OCP update, and staff are working on a 12th Street Retail Strategy. Everyone agrees that the unique character of 12th Street retail is something we want to help support, but there is some difference in opinion about what the best way to support it is. Storefronts are good, empty storefronts that can’t be leased are bad. Homes along the corridor are good to bring more local customers, but this also needs to be balanced with the need for commercial space. The answers here are neither easy nor obvious.

This is a preliminary application, and Council agree (in a split vote) to allow the application to move forward to public consultation and committee review. If all goes well for the proponent, this would eventually come to a Public Hearing, so no decision has been made yet on the project itself, and I am sure there will be a bunch of conversation about this. If you have opinions, let us know!

100 Braid Street: Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment, Development Permit and Housing Agreement Principles – Preliminary Report
A couple of years ago, the developer Wesgroup and Urban Academy partnered to buy a piece of land near Braid Station and build a new school, with the plan outlined at the time that the other half of the property (the current 100 Braid Studios) would be developed into high-rise residential development in the nearish future. This is a preliminary report indicating that future is approaching. The original rezoning supporting this was completed in 2016, and as market forces and incentives have changed, Wesgroup wants to revisit the zoning. This is a preliminary report, so it is yet to go to public consultation or external review.

They are currently approved to build a 213-foot (21 storey) tower with ~250 strata units, they now would like to build a 390-foot (35 storey) tower with 424 secured market rental suites. There is some provision for below-market rentals, but that is contingent on CMHC support, and is not a commitment being made that is aligned with our Affordable Housing program – it is more a commercial decision made by the applicant. They also want to reduce the number of off-street parking stalls.

Council asked some questions about the Affordable Housing aspect, and about how the Art Space would be managed. The proponent wants to remove some mature trees on City lands to improve “buildability”, and I want to assure that the City is appropriately compensated for this in recognition of our overall strategy to improve the City’s tree canopy. However, it was the uncertainty about the Affordable Housing commitments and how it would or wouldn’t work that ended up compelling Council to ask Staff to fill a few information gaps with the proponent prior to this application moving on to the next steps in public and stakeholder consultation. If you have an opinion, let us know, but there is more work coming on this one.

Emergency Response Centre Update and Relocation Options
The City has been helping administer an Emergency Response Centre to help people without secure housing during the Pandemic. BC Housing has done the real work, the School District really stepped up to permit the use of the unused gym at Massey, and a housing provider bent over backward to get a dry roof over a few dozen people who would have otherwise gone without. There were some neighbourhood concerns raised, and the housing provider took measures to help address those. The good news story here is that people got help when they needed it as an emergency response.

Due to site constraints, the centre cannot be expanded beyond its original permit expiration on July 11th, and the people more recently housed there have been provided alternative housing, some in New West, some not. Meanwhile BC Housing is looking for alternative locations for this type of emergency transitional housing in New West to meet local needs. The un-used Corporate Inn building on 12th Street is being considered, but would need to go through some City reviews under a Temporary Use Permit, and the owner would have to agree to a lease. Let’s see where this goes.

Small Sites Affordable Housing Initiative: Next Steps
The City has had some success with a few small affordable housing projects on our ever-diminishing City-owned lands. We have been looking at a few other sites that belong to the City and don’t currently serve any longer-term strategic purpose. Two appropriate sites have been identified, and we asked affordable housing providers to submit ideas about how they could turn these fallow sites into much-needed affordable housing. The City recently took these initial proposals to neighborhood consultation.

It is important to note – there are no developed projects for either of these sites. The goal is to include what the City calls “below market” (for households earning between $30,000 and $75,000 – think two people working minimum wage jobs) and “non-market” (income below $30,000 a year, akin to one minimum-wage worker or person living on social assistance). Details around size/shape/form of buildings, number of residents at each level of affordability are all still up in the air and subject to the development model the housing providers are giving to the City. If a preferred applicant is found for one or both sites, that would mark the start of the development application process. There are lots of details to work out here, and we will need to balance the community benefit, neighbourhood concerns, and financial viability for housing providers, so there is no certainty these will get built. Work to do!

Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project – Application to Deposit Plan – Charge Holder
I had to google what this is. Seriously – “Application to Deposit Plan”? What does that even mean? What happens if I don’t approve? Do we have any negotiation ability here? If we don’t sign this thing, does the bridge not get built? Should we be asking them for money for this? If we have no decision to make, no options, I cannot imagine any value to this coming to Council. This job is silly, sometimes.

So I took the excuse to ask staff if we are planning to have an open meeting with the Pattullo Bridge project team to discuss some concerns raised in the community around the active transportation links for the bridge. That meeting looks to be coming at the end of the summer.

Uptown Streetscape Vision – Big Ideas and Public Realm Elements
This is a report for information on the long-awaited Uptown Streetscape update. This will define some design principles and larger goals for the transportation realm in the commercial area of Uptown, to support the “Great Streets” vision outlined in the Master Transportation Plan. That’s lots of planning talk for how we want the area to look and work. As we do street improvements and landowners redevelop lots, this will guide what we build, or let them build. The vision can be summarized as more active transportation space, more active sidewalks, better allocated curb space, improves accessibility (universal accessibility as a goal) and more green.

This was somewhat developed before the current COVID temporary measures for road space re-allocation Uptown, but the temporary measures can definitely help inform traffic management implications of these changes. One of the bigger elements is the introduction of a Pedestrian Scramble at 6th and 6th – an intersection where part of the traffic cycle is a period where all crossing traffic is stopped, and pedestrians are free to cross in any and all directions. Most people asked liked the idea, the Uptown BIA has concerns. Improvements of the Belmont Parklet and connecting NWSS to the Crosstown Greenway are also part of the math here.

There is much more here, and it will take time to realize the full vision, but some improvements will be seen in the not-to-distant future.

Cool Streets 2020 – Pilot Project
This is a cool program, along the line of some “slow street” program being implemented around the world right now. Staff have done some work to identify areas and locations where light, quick, cheap interventions can make the transportation realm work better. During the summer, people can lack access to the cooling effects of green space, especially those who live in higher density neighborhoods with limited parks space. Doing a bit of GIS data-analysis, staff identified areas in the City with higher population density, higher seniors population density, lower incomes, and lack of parks space overlap, then identified the “greenest” routes through those spaces. These are identified as “cool streets” – in the temperature sense, not the Fonzie sense. Staff will put in some cheap interventions to those routes signage, “local traffic only” barriers, etc. to encourage people to walk, roll, even sit along these routes. Giving streets to people in 2020. Also cool in the Fonzie sense.

Request for Proposal Re: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Anti –Racism Framework
The City is continuing to work on our internal inclusion work, ensuring we are working towards having a workplace that reflects the community it serves, and addresses systemic barriers within our employment and business practices. This is a body of work that is probably best done by an external consultant working for out HR department, both because of capacity issues and because something like this would probably benefit from the review being arms-length. This is just a report to Council that an RFP for this work is going out and a chance to review the request.


We then had a Temporary Use Permit to issue:

TUP00023 for #8 – 30 Capilano Way
As mentioned in a previous meeting, The owner of a pinball-refurbishing and renting business wants to operate part of their business as an arcade so people can play the games they usually rent out to pubs and stores. This would be a non-conforming use in an industrial-zoned area. As the owner indicates they only want to do it to get over the COVID hump for his business, he is applying for a TUP. He initially applied for a 3-year TUP, and Council last meeting suggested a 2-year TUP would be more appropriate.

We received two pieces of correspondence from neighbouring businesses, both expressing support. Council moved to approve the TUP.


We then adopted a few Bylaws:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2019-2023) Amendment Bylaw 8207, 2020
As talked about earlier in the agenda, the updated 5-Year Financial Plan was adopted by Council.

Anvil Theatre Fees and Rates Bylaw No. 8209, 2020
As talked about earlier in the agenda, the shift to Anvil theatre charges in light of pandemic recovery needs to be in a Bylaw, and here we adopted that Bylaw.

Deferral of Tax Sale Bylaw No. 8210, 2020
As discussed earlier in the agenda, not having a tax sale in 2020 needs to be codified in a Bylaw, and here we adopted that Bylaw.

Inter-Municipal TNS Business Licence Agreement Bylaw No. 8187, 2020
As discussed at some length in earlier meetings, the Bylaw that empowers the coordinated multi-City business licensing scheme for ride-hailing businesses is now law here in New West.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (230 Keary Street, 268 Nelson’s Court, and 228 Nelson’s Crescent) No. 8164, 2019
As discussed last year, and given Public Hearing back in January, the zoning amendment changes to bring more secured market rental to the Brewery District was adopted by Council now that the agreements have been worked out.

And that was a meeting complete, except for a couple of extraneous Motions, which I will talk about in yet another post, when I get to it.

Council – June 22, 2020

We had a busy Council meeting on Monday, including our first attempt at a “remote” Public Hearing and Opportunity to the Heard, which was a bit of an adventure. I will talk about those in a follow-up post, and will here just get through the regular Agenda:

First off, we had to start by making it all legal:

Ministerial Order No. M192: Continuation of Electronic Council Meetings during the COVID-19 Pandemic
We have been meeting electronically during the pandemic, almost weekly since mid-March. There are procedural and legislative stuff we need to do to permit this, and the provincial government has facilitated that though Ministerial Orders. As the older MO 139 has been repealed and replaced with MO 192, we need to have a resolution to adopt this.

We recognize public participation in Council Meetings has been hampered, and local government in BC has always operated on a principle of transparency and giving space for public participation. This meeting has our first “Public Hearing” under new protocols, but we are still strictly operating through electronic and remote means. Staff are working on how to safely implement Open Delegations and a re-opening of the Council Chambers to public attendance and participation during the “reopening” phases of the pandemic response. In the meantime, we are doing what we can to assure the process of City Council and the decisions made are as transparent as possible, and the public have opportunities to provide feedback to Mayor and Council. As always, send e-mails, call us up. Drop us a line. We can’t be in the room together, but we need to keep the communication happening.

Then we had a Presentation:

Downtown Transportation Plan – Key Directions and Implementation Plan
The City’s Master Transportation Plan was adopted in 2015, but it had a pretty significant “grey area” around downtown. The overarching goals of the MTP (pedestrian priority, reducing car trips, etc.) still apply to downtown planning decisions, but the details of downtown are complicated. It was recognized in 2015 that more detailed work and more consultation with stakeholders had to happen to make Downtown fit into the bigger plan. For two years, we have been working on a Downtown Transportation Plan, and it would have been unveiled already if COVID hadn’t rudely intruded in March. This is the draft plan being passed by Council prior to it going out to stakeholders one more time. With a little tweaking, we can adopt in July.

There is a lot in here, so I’ll keep my points of interest short. The proposed plan outlines two types of bike routes: primary “All Ages and Abilities” routes and a network of secondary ones. I am more interested in completing this primary network than the sharrows & signage of the secondaries, and question whether 10th Street should even be on the secondary list, but the priority routes are good, and overdue. Especially Agnes Street Greenway, which has the potential to redefine Downtown New West to the same scale that Pier Park did.

There are some pretty exciting changes proposed for the bottom of 8th Street. This is the new great crossroads of our City, and it is a pedestrian crossroads. Unfortunately, cars still rule the space, making for crowded sidewalks and inconvenient traffic signals. The current design does not reflect current use. I lament some of the design choices we made in the last decade around putting parking garage entrances and loading bays on this street. I loudly lamented them at the time, and still lament them, as they make our job today recreating a safe, comfortable, and functional pedestrian space much harder. My only hope is that we can move faster on the proposed changes, and see them in our current 5-year financial plan.

I love this diagram:

This is a great acknowledgement that in a busy, dense, mixed-use urban area like Downtown, curb space is a valuable commodity. Arguably, it is even more valuable than road lanes, and often too valuable to waste on car storage. This prioritization of how that valuable space will be allocated is important, because the curb is where many transportation battles are fought, and we need to have policy guidance to inform how we address those conflicts.

Overall, this is a good document, with maybe a few tweaks. The big grey oval in the Master Transportation Plan still has a few smaller grey ovals within, but we are moving along.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Submission to the Department of Canadian Heritage Museum Assistance Program for COVID-19 Emergency Support Funding
We are applying for federal support to help with financial shortfalls at the Museum and Archives related to COVID though a targeted support program.

709 Cumberland Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – for Preliminary Review
There was a heritage house near the Canada Games Pool that was knocked down by the owner in violation of its protection covenant a few years ago. A new owner now wants to repurpose the site, including bringing a heritage house from Royal Avenue and re-building the original heritage house. This will require a new Heritage Revitalization Agreement. There would need to be a few zoning relaxations (minimum lot size, FSR, and setbacks). This is an early check in to see if Council is OK for it going to public consultation, heritage review, etc., so more to come here.

Submission to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Green Municipal Fund (GMF) for Feasibility Study of Agnes Greenway
As mentioned above, we are working on the plans for the Agnes Greenway, and there is a federal infrastructure planning fund we can apply to for a grant to help pay for the design work. We are applying for this.

2019 Consolidated Financial Statements
This is the official submission we send off to the Province to comply with regulations around financial reporting; the audited financial report from last fiscal year. What details do you want? The City ended the fiscal year with $203M in fiscal assets and $153M in liabilities, which puts us $50M in the black (financially). We also have $705M in capital assets (buildings, roads, pipes, vehicles, lawnmowers, etc.). We took in $226M in revenue last year ($85M in the form of Property Taxes), and spent $195M, which means we added $31M to our accumulated surplus. We ended the year with $116M in financial investments, and $66M in long-term debt. We are in good shape financially, and are ready to invest in a significant capital program. Of course, COVID is throwing a wrench into this, but that is the task ahead of us.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Draft Recovery Action Plan for Council’s Consideration
We are working out the details of the recovery plan here for the City, now that it looks like the provincial government is leading that way. Of course, we will continue to follow provincial health and safety guidance, and need to be prepared for setbacks and second waves, but we also need to start supporting concrete moves to the post-COVID world.

The work is everything from re-designing how the City facilities work to permit physical distancing to determining which staff re-assignments need to occur when, and how and when to bring some auxiliary staff back, based on which services we can restart. This is a monumental amount of work, more so when you realize none of the staff have done anything like this before. We will make mistakes, but hopefully if we have strong principles and recognize everyone’s limitations, this can hopefully reduce, not increase, the anxiety and stress of re-opening the City.

For Council, the difficulty here is that we are still in uncertain financial times. Despite the good financial shape the City was in at the end of 2019 (see above), things have clearly changed for the general economy and for the cash flow of the City. At the same time, response to the emergency is going to require some investments – the community needs support in new ways, and we need to be ready to provide that support. If we approach recover with a mindset that we simply cannot afford to do these important things, the recovery will be more difficult. Finding the balance between cost savings and meeting the goals and expectations of the community is always the tension at the heart of this work. I will continue to challenge an austerity approach at any level of government when the community is in need.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
As we have done since late March, every meeting we get a reporting out from our COVID response working groups in the City. This is a good summary of the City’s work during the crisis. This includes work City staff has been doing to support vulnerable residents during this crisis, seniors, local businesses, and the general community through education.

Artist Selection – New Westminster Aquatic & Community Centre Public Art Project
The City’s Public Art program includes funding for art installations in all new major infrastructure projects. The Replacement for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre project is a big piece of infrastructure, and the Public Art Advisory Committee has identified a successful applicant in the call for public art to enhance the building. A piece by James Harry will grace the public plaza on the west side of the building.

8 – 30 Capilano Way: Temporary Use Permit – Notice of Issuance
A company that rents out pinball machines to bars has been having a hard time of it during the Pandemic, as their customers are all closed. They want to open up their warehouse in the Braid Street Industrial Area to allow people to come there and play. This is not a business type permitted within the existing zoning for his property, so they are asking for a Temporary Use Permit, similar to what the other recently-opened arcade in town received. We had some discussion about whether this is appropriate use for the city’s limited industrial space, but a shorter Temporary Use permit seemed to meet consensus at Council.

There are some concerns about how an arcade would operate during the Pandemic, but apparently there are Phase 3 protocols for amusements. There will be both limited capacity, and no food or alcohol service. Council will receive public feedback on this application until July 13th, then consider the application at the Council meeting. If you have an opinion, let us know.

Front Street Temporary 2020 Summer Weekend Opening to Pedestrians and Cyclists
We need more outdoor space this summer, which will be, unfortunately, the summer without festivals. Previous closures of Front Street have permitted gathering, and great connections between Pier Park and Sapperton Landing Park. There have been suggestions this year that closing Front over the weekend may give people more reason to go outside and more space to enjoy outside. Unfortunately, the Railways will not permit access from the east end of Pier Park, but connecting Downtown to Sapperton Landing and creating a large flexible open space along the water all summer was supported by council.


We had three Development Variance Permits that received public comment and were ready for Council approval:

DVP00678 to Vary Off-Street Parking Requirements at 1065 Quayside Drive
As I talked about last meeting, there is a high-rise in the Quay that houses an antenna for the 911 system, and its back-up generator needs replacing with a larger unit, which means the building will lose a parking spot for which they need a development variance permit, since their original development permit required a minimum number of parking spots. We asked if people had opinions about this, and we got 7 letters, mostly seeking clarification (which makes sense as this is a bit strange) but none strenuously opposed. Council moved to issue the DVP.

DVP00679 to Vary Off-Street Parking at 327 East Columbia Street
Also mentioned last meeting, a daycare in Sapperton wants to expand but doesn’t have sufficient parking for the zoning requirement for that expansion, so they want a variance to open with less than the minimum parking stalls. We asked for your input and didn’t get any correspondence. Council voted to approve issuance of the DVP.

DVP00681 to Vary Rear Yard Setback at 427 Fourth Street
Finally, we talked last meeting about this homeowner who wishes to put an addition on his house, but at least in part of a strange subdivision of his property dating back to 1912, this will result in his addition being too close to the back lot line (though it will be in line with the existing house), so this needs a variance. We asked for public consultation, and received two letters, both form neighbours, and both opposed due to proximity issues. I general agree with the staff assessment that the variance is minor, and is consistent with the existing landscape of the house. Council voted to approve issuance of the DVP.


Finally, we had one motion in New Business:

COVID-19 Data Collection Councillor Nakagawa

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster write to the provincial and federal Ministers of Health requesting that they collect disaggregated data including race, socioeconomic class, and disability that will allow for evidence-based health care and social program interventions; and
THAT the data are analyzed and interpreted with community leadership and input; and
THAT the data are collected with the intention of being understood as indicators of systemic and structural oppression to identify root causes of disparity; and
THAT this letter be forwarded to all BC municipalities asking to write their support as well.

I think the motion speaks for itself.

And that was it for our main business, but we had a Public Hearing and Opportunities to be Heard, which I will outline in a follow-up blog post.

Council – June 1 2020

Ugh. What a terrible time we are in. I’ve been trying to step back a bit from social media right now, the chaos is a good time for people to listen to voices other than mine. But I’ve been doing these reports since I started on Council more than 5 years ago, and as long as the City is doing work and Council is making decisions that impact your community, I feel the need to put these out.

As always, you should read the Agenda and Reports or go to the recording if you want the full story. Now more than ever, you need to be aware that everyone brings their personal filters to information, sometimes even unintentional ones, and that includes me. Every one of us has blinders in our view, and by their very purpose we cannot see them. It takes effort to understand the impact they are having on our own outlook. So here goes.

COVID-19 Draft Recovery Plan
This is our report on planning the City is doing to support the BC Restart Plan. It includes proposed timing for the reopening of City facilities, re-start of suspended City programs, and an outline of what kind of guidance will be used to inform safety protocols needed to make public spaces safe for residents and staff.

There is a bit of prioritization on assuring services essential for vulnerable populations, such as planning for opening Moody Park Outdoor pool and cooling centers in the event we have a heat wave. Some other facilities will be more of a challenge, and will need more work to fulfill safety and comfort requirements for users. Some will have to wait until the Fall (depending on what the pace of change is in the Provincial Health Authority requirements), and the QtoQ Ferry is especially challenging, and may not be running again until 2021.

There is more detail in this report, it is worth a read. Also, recognize this is the best laid plan as of the end of May, as the Province is entering Phase 2 of the recovery. It will surely be adjusted as the recovery is either accelerated or slowed depending on how the Pandemic evolves.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Inter-Municipal Transportation Network Systems (TNS) Business Licence Bylaws
I am still not happy with the damaging impacts to community and workers’ rights that are represented by the current structure of TNS like Uber, but there is nothing a local government in BC can practically do to stop them, and the only hope we have to regulate and manage some of these externalities is through business licensing. I think the Inter-Municipal Business License is the practical model to do this. We are a little late to getting this Bylaw approved here in New West, more due to our work load than any specific political direction, but we have a Bylaw matching 23 others already established across the region ready to test in an Opportunity to be Heard on June 22. C’mon out (virtually) and tell us what you think.

427 Fourth Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Rear Yard Setback
How refreshing to be looking at Development Variance Permits again. This heritage home on a uniquely-shaped lot in Queens Park that was strangely subdivided more than 100 years ago. The owner wishes to put an attachment on the house, but to continue the existing lines of the house, this requires a variance to be 7 feet closer to the rear fence than permitted (11 feet, as the existing house is, as opposed to 18 feet). At this point, we are issuing official notice that we intend to review this Variance request at the June 22 meeting. Let us know if you have concerns or comments.

1065 Quayside Drive: Development Variance Permit to Vary Off-Street Parking Requirements
Try to follow this one. There is an E-Comm 911 antenna on a high-rise in the Quayside. It (naturally) requires an emergency back-up generator. They need ot replace the generator, an the new one has bigger footprint than the old one. Its installation requires the removal of a parking spot, which is something counted in our zoning bylaws. This building, it turns out, is already 14 parking spots “deficient” according to our Bylaws (it has 126 spots and 10 visitor spots for 98 units) so the replacement of the generator requires a Development Variance to formalize the current deficiency of (now) 15 parking spaces. Council hereby issues official notice that we intend to review this Variance request at the June 22 meeting. Let us know if you have concerns or comments.

327 East Columbia Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Off-Street Parking
There is a Daycare development in a commercial building next to Sapperton Park that wishes to open with fewer off-street parking spaces that required under the zoning Bylaw, requiring a variance. Once again, this is just official notice that we intend to review this Variance request at the June 22 meeting. You can send us your opinions.

General Principles for Recommending Waiving of a Public Hearing and Consideration of Public Hearings for Three Bylaws: 909 First Street, 45 East Eighth Avenue, and Miscellaneous Zoning Amendment Bylaws
Public Hearings are difficult right now (they are often difficult at the best of times, and horrendous in the worst of times, but that’s another rant). Council has generally been in support of waiving some Public Hearings at this time, due to the difficulty of managing them and the need to provide procedural fairness to applicants in the City. But procedural fairness works both ways, and changing how hearings work requires that we develop a clear set of guidelines of when waiving is and is not appropriate. This report sets them out for Council approval.

That is, if the application is consistent with City policy or strategic priorities already established by Council, if the applicant responds effectively to public and staff feedback in reviews, and the proposal is consistent with the OCP, then Council will be asked to waive that hearing. All three hurdles need to be passed.

It is important to note that the Public Hearing is only one form of review of any project. Residents and other impacted parties have several other ways available to them to comment to Mayor and Council about whether they like or dislike any particular project. The Public Hearing also comes very late in the process, where potentially better forms of engagement happen earlier when clear issues or changes to the project can be addressed more effectively by applicants, or directed by staff.

There were two applications caught mid-process when the whole COVID thing came down, and we will not waive those Public Hearings, but will pilot a virtual Public Hearing process.

2019 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report
The City collects more than 1,000 water samples from around our water system every year, and sends them for analysis of E.coli, coliform, HPC, chlorine residuals, metals, temperature, turbidity, and byproducts of the disinfection process (DBPs, THMs, and HAAs). We annually report out on this sampling program. The water is good.

New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre (NWACC) – Project Status
There is more to talk about here, and I am sure this deserves a follow-up blog post, but here are the short version details for now. The City did not get an ICIP Grant for the Canada Games Pool Replacement. As per our earlier discussions about how much pool the City can afford without this senior government funding report, we are now concentrating on the 8-lane 50m pool model (with a second recreation pool) that is still significantly larger than the existing Canada Games Pool, but not the 10-Lane pool the Hyack Swim Club would have liked to see built.

We are ready to tender construction documents, but there is significant uncertainty in both the construction market and the City’s medium-term financial status due to the COVID crisis. For that reason, we are not taking the next step in sending this out for tender until at least the end of the summer, when we have a better handle on the financial status. At this time, this is the prudent thing to do.

Community Events and Festivals during COVID-19
This will be a summer with fewer events. No parade, no bike race, and if there is a revamped “Fridays on Front”, it will be later in the summer, and we wouldn’t know what it will look like yet. However, there is still going to be some activity around Canada Day. No fireworks, and distributed events as opposed to big gatherings, but something.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Public Engagement Strategy on Recovery Planning and Post-Pandemic Vision
To help inform the above-referenced recovery planning, the City is launching a public engagement initiative to connect with residents about the shape of our recovery plan, with an effort to identify inequities in how we have engaged in the past.

This is actually a natural follow-up to the Public Engagement Strategy the City developed a few years ago, but have not until recently fully funded and resourced. There were some plans this spring to concentrate on Climate Emergency response as an opportunity to do more directed engagement, but as we have moved so much of this resource over to COVID response that it seems there is little staff capacity to do this.

This is going to take some resources to do right, and will eat up some engagement bandwidth (i.e. the public can only engage so much with the City before they get back to the other things they need to do in their lives), so finding the balance between this initiative and existing Climate Emergency engagement initiative is the question. And one we will continue to work on.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Speaking of moving resources over the COVID response, here is our weekly report on what our task forces have been up to. As with last week, there is a gradual transition to maintenance and recovery going on, after so much exceptional and amazing work has been done by the staff of the City.

Sidewalk/Street Patios and Parklets to Support Business Recovery
Patios and Parklets are getting fast tracked, both because they support the economic recovery of our hard-hit commercial and restaurant sectors, and because they support the Streets for People motion to re-think how we use our streets and sidewalks to accommodate physical distancing and the needs of active transportation users.

There will be a fast-racked “temporary” application process for those who want to set up immediately, which will cover them until the end of October and get them through the busy summer season and what we hope is the bulk of the recovery time. This coincides with recent changes in Provincial regulation to permit alcohol service on expanded patio areas as a temporary measure. There are several changes here, including amending our Zoning Bylaw to allow them to repurpose parking on their own land to patio space, if that is the path they want to take. There would also be an opportunity for establishments to re-purpose street parking in front of or attached to their business to full service patios.

We are also accelerating the installation of public parklets in select locations. These would not have “restaurant service”, but would support take-out seating. We will work with the adjacent restaurants of food service businesses to have them help with day-to-day maintenance (trash clearing, for the most part) of the parklets.

The big take-away point here is that the City is doing everything we can to accelerate this this process and make the most out of recent changes of provincial regulations – we want to get out of the way and let businesses find out how to make this work best for them.

Stage 1 Sustainable Transportation Zoning Bylaw Amendments for Two Readings – Bylaw 8184, 2020
Land use policy is transportation policy, and vice versa. Our Zoning Bylaw includes regulations that directly impact sustainable transportation opportunities. It has been a while since we did this type of review to assure those regulations are concordant with our Master Transportation Plan goals and principles. This first stage will be improve the clarity and administration of those Bylaws, future stages will bring more significant changes in how we regulate parking requirements.


We then went through a slightly less rhythmic on-line version of the Bylaw reading process, including Adopting these Bylaws:

Sidewalk Café Encroachment Amendment Bylaw No. 8204, 2020
This Bylaw that supports patios as talked about above was given three readings adopted by Council. Get your sunglasses out!

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1935 Eighth Ave) Bylaw No. 7846, 2019 and
Heritage Designation (1935 Eighth Ave) Bylaw No. 7847, 2019
These Bylaws that support subdivision of a residential lot in the West End and permanent protection of the heritage house in the lot were given Third Reading back in 2019, and are now adopted, making them the law of the land and forever preserving a single family house 300m from a Skytrain station in 2020.

And that is all we have for now. Take care of each other folks.

Council – May 25 2020

Sorry, there is too much going on and no time to sit down and bash out these notes. Amazing how busy we can be when we rarely leave our house. We had a Council Meeting on May 25, as always, follow this link to the Agenda and reports for more information, because the stuff below is (inevitably) a view through my filter, and not official positions of anyone other than me:


The following items were Moved on Consent:

At-Risk and Vulnerable Populations Task Force: Food Security Planning and Responses During COVID-19 Recovery
This was actually a tough one for me. One of the local food service organizations has lost its senior government funding. Until another founder (potentially a charity?) can be found, they have asked the City to help. So we have the choice of seeing people go without needed food or stepping in to help. Standing by while people go hungry seems like the worst outcome, so I will support this temporary measure. But not without calling out senior governments who get 92% of tax revenues, and are completely failing here such that local food security teams are forced to go hat-in-hand to charities to assure people have access to food. I’m not the fiscal conservative on Council, but how much blood are we expecting to get from this stone?

That said, there is a second request here for the city to help with some coordination in the food security role. Again, assuring people in poverty have food is probably something best handled by the province, but we definitely are best positioned right now to provide local coordination. I think this is an appropriate use of Affordable Housing Reserve fund and an interim measure.

516 Brunette Avenue: BNSF Railway Telecommunication Tower – Statement of Concurrence
BNSF wants to build a communications tower on their property in Sapperton. The City has no power to regulate this, but BNSF are required to let us know they are doing it, and we have at least theoretical ability to take any concerns to Industry Canada. However, there are no concerns being raised by the City.

Bosa Development: 660 Quayside Drive – Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
A new pedestrian connection to Pier Park at the end of 6th Street is being provided in partnership with Bosa, and it requires a span over the rail lines along Front Street. That span needs to be installed with a crane, and due to traffic and rail safety concerns, that work needs to happen at night. There will be some disruptions of traffic and work during one late Saturday night in June or early July. Council approved a noise bylaw exemption to allow this to happen.

2020 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
Still keeping an eye on the snowpack, as freshet flooding is still possible. Some higher-than-average April temperatures helped remove some snowmelt, reducing flood risk a bit, but it is noteworthy that snowpacks in the mid- and upper-Fraser basins is among the highest ever recorded at this time of year, so there is still significant risk of flooding depending on how the weather between now and late June turns out. The City is doing some flood preparation work and dike patrols, just in case.

Major Purchases January 1 to April 30, 2020
Here is our every-four-months report on significant purchases the City has made, and the results of our open procurement policy. Want to know how we spend money, the details are in here.

Investment Report to April 30, 2020
This is our regular report on how our investments are doing. The City has significant reserve funds right now because we have been putting money aside for a couple of large projects, most notably the Canada Games Pool, and a pretty typical delay on delivery of a few capital projects. The City earned $1.3M on its investments over the year ending April 30. Notably the TSE Index went down 10% over that same period. We will naturally be impacted by the general market downturn related to COVID, but the City is required by law and by policy to be very conservative in its investment strategy, so our risk is lower than most.

2019 Filming Activity Update
Film revenue in the City was a little down in 2019 compared to the average over the previous 5 years but there were still 140 filming days in the City with almost $800K in revenue.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five COVID-19 Task Forces
This is the regular report on our COVID response, organized by Task Force. Want to know what the City is doing, it is here. The general trend these days is less organizing and preparing, more operations and planning for a transition to a recovery or post-Pandemic phase.

Education and Enforcement Task Force: Lessons Learned and Proposed Reprioritization
Right up front, I think the Covid Compliance Hotline was a positive initiative – it is unfortunate that the local media (social- and traditional-) chose to use a pejorative in referring to it, but it was effective at reducing the load on Police and 911 calls and providing people a place to address their concerns. It also provided an opportunity to educate the public at a time when many are clearly feeling anxiety, no doubt ramped up by so much bad information circulating through local media platforms where there is no editorial control to filter it. It also allowed the City and its communications staff to better understand where the anxieties were in the community so we can assure we are being effective in our response.

We are transitioning to more of a “personal responsibility” phase, with more expectation that people will be self-policing and less need for direct staff intervention across the City. The presence of compliance officers and Champions in public spaces, along with the rapid response to signage and communication was really excellent, but staff now feel we can scale back a bit.

We are still going to communicate and track compliance. I read a comment last week that came ti mind during this discussion: “Public health policy is predicated on the idea that common sense doesn’t scale up to society, because it’s individually defined, and often self-interested. ‘Common sense’ won’t protect other people from your selfishness. You can’t run a government on “just use your common sense””. – Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley

Sidewalk/Street Patios and Parklets to Support Business Recovery
The City is moving forward with support for re-allocation of space for patios and decks, through streamlining applications and working to implement the changes in the Provincial Liquor rules announced last week by the Attorney General. I’m excited to see how we can support businesses in making our streetscapes more active and functional, including the re-allocation of curbside parking.

There are a few models of this – public parklets open to everyone that restaurant customers can use as a sort of place to sit with their “take out”; extended patios in the “Montreal Style” where they occupy much of the sidewalk, but an alternative boardwalk is installed in the parking lane to assure accessible 2m of sidewalk is maintained, or having a restaurant license a parking spot or two for food/drink service.

This isn’t as simple as we think, there are still provincial and City rules that need to be aligned, and food-primary, liquor-primary and liquor-manufacturing are three different provincial categories that need their own approaches. We also need to remember some “red tape” exists for a great reason- like assuring that street/sidewalk furniture doesn’t create an accessibility barrier for people who need the sidewalk, and assuring transit service is not disrupted, but Council was pretty clear to staff that we want the City to try to do this as quick as possible so restaurants can other businesses can make this part of their re-opening plans. If it takes two or three months, it will be too late to provide the assistance small business need right now.

Pop-Up Recycling Events
As the closure of the recycling centre was earlier than expected due to the Pandemic, and the construction of the new facility on the New West/Coquitlam Border is still ongoing, we have a gap to fill. The planned pop-up recycling events were delayed due to the Public Health Officer orders, but they can now be run, with the first one planned for May 30th at the Public Works Yard on First Street in Glenbrook North. Unfortunately, neither Recycle BC nor any other contractor will accept Styrofoam right now, so that cannot be included. Yes, our recycling system is broken, but add that to the pile.

And that was a Council meeting! See you next week!

Council – May 11 2020

Another week, and other Council meeting. It didn’t look like that picture above, but I thought i would add that to remind us of the before-times. We are going to start moving towards a more regular schedule again soon (see below), but for now the updates keep coming so we keep meeting. As always, we are recording the audio stream (though we are meeting using video), so you can follow along the recording or see the agenda here. We started with a significant report:

Provincial Restart Plan and City of New Westminster Recovery Plan Presentation
We have talked a lot in the last two months about response to the pandemic situation, and as I suggested last week, we are starting to talk about what recovery is going to look like. As the Provincial announcements made clear last week, we are not past the danger phase, but with most of the response now planned and being implemented, it is time to start talking about what happens where we start moving to post-emergency operations. We had a lengthy reporting out from senior staff on what this looks like for Parks, Recreation, and the Library.

As with the rest of the emergency response, this is mostly following the lead of the provincial health officer’s directions, so we don’t have control over the pace here, only the choice of actions we will take. As the report says right up front – the City has three responsibilities – it is a regulator, it is an employer, and it is a service provider. All three roles need to be considered through this process.

There is a perhaps counter-intuitive issue with facilities opening sooner than the City anticipated in its financial modelling. Opening City facilities will mean some of the cost savings from them being closed will be lost, and potentially bringing some auxiliary staff back sooner than anticipated. This is likely to start to happen before the concomitant return of traditional revenue sources, so this could ironically make our financial situation worse, not better.

For now, some parks facilities will be opening up, and we will be monitoring how that kind of thing goes, and will be working in coordination with adjacent municipalities to try to make this entire thing not be so confusing that people will have a hard time complying. A good time to remind everyone that everybody is doing all of this for this first time, and we need to work together.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

COVID-19 Pandemic The New Normal: Council and Committee Processes
We are adapting the way we are running Council meetings again, this time taking away a few of the restrictions we put in when things were first hitting the fan in late March. We are also establishing a more reasonable schedule going into the summer to replace our current weekly meetings, and trying to get more “regular” business done instead of being all-emergency-all-the-time.

The Province has provided us some extraordinary flexibility in how we run meetings under a Ministerial Order (M139) so we can do business during the emergency, with physical distancing protocols, and outside of the Council Chambers if needed. This replaced the earlier Order (M083) which we were previously operating under, so we need a refresh in our procedures.

City Advisory Committees were suspended in April, and we are now looking at re-launching some of them electronically, especially the Board of Variance and Advisory Planning Commission as needed. Most committees, however, will continue to be suspended until the end of the summer. Unfortunately, Public Delegations are still difficult to organize and manage for staff, and will remain suspended. If you wish to address Council in the meantime, please send us an e-mail or letter, and contact the Clerk’s office if you have questions about how to connect.

We are also going to look at getting electronic Public Hearings happening. This will allow anyone with access to a computer, tablet, or telephone to take part in an on-line meeting. Of course, you can still provide input to public hearings by writing an e-mail or old-skool letter to Council. If the technical stuff can get worked out, we will likely have a Public Hearing for some backlogged projects in late May.

Sapperton Pump Station: 1 Cumberland Street – Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
That big sewer pump station being built below Sapperton is almost done. This is a request to do some night work to remove a bulkhead within the “wet well” – work that has to happen in the middle of the night on a night when the weather has been dry for some time because it is much, much easier to do when the sewer flows are at their lowest. Council granted a nighttime construction noise exemption to permit this work.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Our weekly updates from the operating Task Forces. We are still working on food security, a “Hey Neighbour” initiative to help forge social connections in multi-family buildings, the Friendly Caller program to help isolated seniors is going well, and we are partnering to open an emergency shelter at the empty gym attached to the Massey Theatre. Staff have reached out to most businesses in town, including door-to-door delivering support information in multiple languages to the businesses along 12th Street that don’t have the umbrella of a formal or informal BIA to help with communications. And this is just a few of the things City Staff are doing to keep our community connected and safe.

Also part of this was the need for us to approve spending $82,000 on two emergency food hamper programs. Because government is funny that way, we needed to approve the spending even if it is just flowing through us. I am burying the lede a bit here, as these were both the result of large grants provided by the Vancouver Foundation to local non-profit providers after the City helped with application and coordination. This is great news, as more than 1,500 food hampers will be delivered to those most in need in our community over the next 12 weeks.

COVID-19 At-Risk and Vulnerable Populations Task Force: Information and Resource Dissemination Actions
This is a reporting out on the numerous communications actions the city has taken, and tools that have been developed to assure that we are sharing information about the pandemic response and supports available, from a summary of financial supports from various government programs to a food resources calendar.

I do want to pull out of this an important initiative that came out of our Intelligent City program and a partnership with Douglas College. We are providing recycles WiFi-enabled devices and Wifi hotspots in the City. Of course, much info people need to get through the crisis is available on-line, and access to many program relies on internet connectivity to sign up or get vital information. However, lots of people in New West (especially those who most need the supports above) do not have a consistent connection to the internet. The Library is an important source of Wifi and devices/desktops to connect for many people, but it has been closed for almost two months now, as are other places where public (Anvil Centre) or private (Coffee shops) WiFi connections are available. At the same time so much information about the current crisis and supports available are easiest to find on the internet. Hopefully this program will help more people get connected.

COVID-19 Council Review of 2020 Community Grants Program
Many of the Grants the City awarded in 2020 will not be used, simply because they are for events that cannot happen due to the physical distancing requirements, and because some organizations that were awarded these grants will simply not have capacity to use them this year. Staff reached out to the awardees and did an informal survey to find out which grants will still be used (or were already used), which will not, and which the applicant would like to repurpose in light of the Pandemic situation. We are currently estimating we will still see a reduction of about 1/3 of the ~$1 Million (cash and City services) in grants awarded.

Physical Distancing on City Streets
This report talks about some of the great work our Transportation Department has done to open up pedestrian spaces in the City to help with physical distancing. It also outlines some of the next steps (and a few of the challenges along the way). Many may have noticed that Sixth Ave in Uptown had its sidewalks extended with temporary measures today. More to come, and of course I have a bunch to say about this, considering this motion came right after it:


We had two pieces of New Business:

Motion: Streets for People in 2020

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster move quickly in 2020 to expand road re-allocation toward pedestrian, cyclist, and public gathering space, using temporary measures where necessary with a mind towards more permanent solutions that can be applied after the period of crisis has passed; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Transportation Task Force make rapid reallocation of road space a priority work item, are empowered to immediately apply temporary measures in 2020, and accelerate the timeline towards the 10% space reallocation goal set out in Bold Step 7 of the City’s Climate Action Plan

I put this motion forward, and will talk about it at length in one of my patented “I’ll have to write a follow-up blog post about this” follow-up blog posts about this.

Motion: Public Engagement Strategy for COVID Recovery

BE IT RESOLVED THAT staff prepare a public engagement strategy for involving the community in COVID-19 recovery planning with particular focus on addressing systemic inequities and building a stronger, more vibrant and connected, climate change resilient community; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the plan proposes ways to address barriers to participation that have resulted in lack of representation by communities of colour, tenants and underhoused, lower income community members, disabled people, and other underrepresented groups that have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic.

Councillor Nakagawa put this motion forward, recognizing that we are starting the conversation about how things are going to change in Post-pandemic times. There is already a lot of talk about “the new normal”, which suggests that things were “normal” before and that the crises we have experienced throughout our community and social systems was solely a result of this virus. The pandemic only cast light on the cracks in our society that were there all along, and provided us a lens though which rapid action could be applied to, however temporarily, address them. It also provides us an opportunity to talk about whether we are going to allow things to go back to how they were, or whether a new path can be taken.

To get there, we need to have a bigger conversation with the community. Not the people who read this blog, or watch council meetings (though your input is always appreciated). We need to take this opportunity to talk to people most impacted by this crisis, most of whom we have not had a lot so success connecting with in the past. This is a Public Engagement challenge, but one we have some pieces in place to achieve through our Public Engagement Strategy.

And that was a Council Meeting.

Council – May 4 2020

We had an uncharacteristically short council meeting this week, at least the open part. There was a fair amount of good info and important stuff in the reports we read and received along with the Agenda, there was just not a lot of detail discussion among Council about it.

We started with this item Removed from Consent for discussion:

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
This is our weekly reporting out by the task forces put together in the City to address the pandemic response. If you want to know what the City is doing, read this report for the latest summary.

Of course, these are just the extra things City staff are doing. There is still much “regular” business going on in the City. Buildings are being inspected, Bylaws enforced, police doing police work, fire department responding to calls, grass being mowed, planters being tended, financial reports being prepared and audited, trash being removed, etc. etc. All of these things still go on even as staff are having to adjust how they do them.

So when you look at this list of Task force works – it is above and beyond the usual work load. This includes coordinating food distribution by the Food Bank and other service agencies to assure the most vulnerable in our community at least have the dignity and security of a regular meal. There was a recent announcement that the Vancouver Foundation provided a huge grant to local food security in New West, and thanks to this work, 80 families will receive a weekly food hamper every week for three months to help get through the crisis time.

This means working with BC Housing to assure that those without a roof, or in threat of being without a roof have access to a safe, dry place where they can be connected with other resources they may need. This also means assuring that isolated seniors in the community who have been separated from their usual community supports due to physical distancing and their higher risk status have a friendly voice to talk to and someone who can ask them about their needs.

The City is also connecting with every business in the City to assure they know about the supports available to them from senior governments, to talk about their security or social distancing concerns, and to help them determine what kind of supports they are going to need in the recovery phase after this crisis passes so the City is ready to help with those supports. It means coordinating a Support Local campaign to assure residents know what businesses are operating, and need customers to support them now.

Then there is the education and enforcement part of managing physical distancing and the use of City spaces. There are staff reviewing daily the federal and provincial announcements, so that we are on top of the changes, and can change our operations and the info we provide to the public appropriately. There are City staff re-assigned to getting out into parks and public spaces to talk to residents, creating signage, adjusting our Bylaws so that enforcement was possible, making determinations about what uses are still OK, and which need to be adjusted, closed, or adapted. Staff have identified pedestrian areas that need to be improved to permit physical distancing and have made that happen. They have also been managing inquiries from the public through a special hotline, both to educate and to follow up on concerns the public may have.

None of this was in anybody’s work plan in February, none of it built into any departments budget. Our staff have, in my opinion, done a spectacular job adjusting to a new reality that is changing every day, and our community is coming through this strong. It isn’t over, but we can start to put some resources towards looking towards that time. We will be talking more about that next meeting.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw to Reflect COVID-19 Interim Development Review Process: Bylaw for Three Readings and Adoption
Last meeting, we talked about some changes to the development review process in light of the ongoing physical distancing requirements and limitation on meetings in City Hall. The cost of internal processes for reviewing developments falls on the developer on a fee-for-service basis, which requires a bylaw, which needs to be edited slightly due to some of the changes we approved last week. This report outlines the edits to that Bylaw which we adopted below.

618 Carnarvon (Urban One Project): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The property at 618 Carnarvon was given approval for development last year, and includes some work immediately adjacent to the SkyTrain guideway. Some of this work needs to happen at night when the SkyTrain is not running. Right now that is just a night or two of work to install a fence to keep the guideway and construction site separate. This requires a Construction Noise Bylaw exemption to permit the night work.

2020 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8196, 2020
As we approved a financial plan last meeting, we must now establish formally the property tax rates for 2020 to match that financial plan. Property taxes will increase 3.1% this year, plus the 1% Capital Levy will be redirected to a reserve to specifically pay for COVID-19 emergency measures. As always, your personal tax experience will vary based on how your property value changed this year relative the average property value in the City. The average residential property value in the City dropped 7.1% last year. My own property dropped 0.3% last year, so I will be paying about 10% higher municipal property tax than last year.

Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 8197, 2020
We had previously established some Electrical Utility rate increases this year to mirror BC Hydro rate changes, along with a shift from mirroring the old BC Hydro “Rate Rider” model to putting part of that into a special levy to help pay for some Climate Action plans within the utility. Due to the change in how BC Hydro is rolling out rate changes in light of the COVID-19 emergency, we are putting off those plans for now, and maintaining the same rates for 2020, which means we need to change the Bylaw again to go back to where it previously was.


We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8196, 2020
As discussed above, this Bylaw that sets our Property Tax rates for 2020 was adopted by Council.

Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 8197, 2020
As discussed above, this Bylaw that re-adjusts our Electrical Rates for 2020 was adopted by Council.

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8198, 2020
And again as discussed above, this Bylaw that changes the language in our Development Fees Bylaw to match the recent changes in process was adopted by Council.


And that was a meeting, short & sweet. I promise there will be more exciting conversation next week, as I plan to start talking about this.

Council – April 27, 2020

We had more of a regular longer-agenda meeting this week, though of course many of the topics were not “normal”, and we did things on-line, so normal as normal can be. Again, if you go here you can read the agenda and reports, and even listen to a recording of the meeting to see where the conversations went.

We started with two presentations on the City’s budget:

Financial Plan, 2020-2024
As discussed last week, we have a 5-year Financial Plan ready to go to Bylaw. This is a slightly pared-back budget compared to the earlier version presented before the current chaos arrived, with a somewhat less ambitious capital plan and all new spending suspended other than funds already committed, reflecting the uncertainty of the times. People asking for a “property tax freeze”, this is about as close as we can get while maintaining legal and contractual obligations.

The City’s Financial Sustainability and Changes to City Services and Major Projects – COVID 19 Implications
This report is a broader discussion of the City’s potential financial position as this crisis unfolds. We have had many discussions in both open and closed Council as we have worked to better understand revenue impacts, human resources effects, and the service changes that are resulting from the state of emergency. It is clear this is uncharted territory for us, and for every local government. City staff have been doing heroic work (and they are all humans like you and me, feeling the same stresses about their families, their livelihoods, the future of their community, which has not made this work easier) trying to assure we have the necessary information to make our best estimates about where we are going, so we can make as informed decisions as possible.

Staff have developed a few revenue models based on how long the current public health restrictions go on, and how fast the economic recovery is. There is a best case and a worst case, and staff further developed the “medium” case. This scenario would see about a $50 Million drop in cash flow in the second quarter of 2020. Some of these revenues would be lost forever, some only deferred until later in the year or 2021. We expect (again, in this moderate scenario) that we would be missing $35M in cash flow over all of 2020, and a little more than $11M of revenue would be gone forever.

We have already done some work to prepare to operate with the reduced cash flow, the overall lost-forever revenue will take significant changes in plans. The report outlines where $11M in reduced expenses might be found: reduced shifts to auxiliary staff, freezing hiring for vacant positions and reducing overtime spending primary among them. We would also be putting off some contracted work, and seriously reducing our supplies and materials budget.

As far as the Capital Budget goes, staff have worked through the capital plan and prioritized projects scheduled for 2020. Some will have to continue because they represent business continuity, life safety, and core operations. Some are possible to delay three months or longer to assist with the cash flow situation, and some are going to be punted down the road further.

Each of the 10 departments in the City have presented some cost savings plans to reflect the above, and a short report is attached from each. There is a lot of detail here about programs that are considered essential, and those that are being delayed.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

TransLink/SkyTrain Guideway (22nd Street Station to New Westminster Station): Construction Update
This is just a note to update Council that the delayed work being done on rail and rail pad replacements between 22nd Street Station and New West Station is finally going to start up, and occur in April and May. This may mean some noise at night for nearby residents.

2020 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
This is our update on snowpack in the Fraser Basin as is usual for this time of year to allow us to plan if freshet floods are more or less likely this year. It looks like snow packs are higher than average and quite a bit higher in the mid-basin areas. The flood risk is higher than usual, but the weather for the month ahead will be the determining factor. Our emergency services have done a bit of prep work (dike inspections and sandbag procurement), but no-one is panicking yet.

Statistical update from the New Westminster Police Department
This is an interesting statistical report on the impact of the pandemic on crime rates. Counts of reported offences of most types for March 2020 are below 2019, and property offences for 2020 are below the 5-year average, though persons offences are slightly above the average. Bucking the trend, thefts from vehicles are going up, as are break-and-enter offences.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Six Task Forces
This is our weekly update on what the six working groups on COVID response are doing.
Again, I encourage you to read these reports, and I don’t want to transcribe them here. There is a lot going on in the City to address the impacts of the crisis, and it is interesting as they are starting to transition from the figuring-things-out to the get-things-done phases.

Parks Regulation Amendment Bylaw No. 8193, 2020 – A Bylaw to Amend Parks Regulation Bylaw No. 3646 in response to the COVID-19
A few may have noticed that not all residents are taking the closures and limits to use of some parks infrastructure as seriously as others. Some equipment and areas, such as tennis courts and playground equipment, have been closed because their use was not consistent with physical distancing requirements. Unfortunately, some people have taken to ignoring these closures, even going to far as to remove fencing and cutting locks to access some facilities. As is not unusual, 95% of people will respect community safety measures if they are provided good information as to why and how; for them education is the key. The other 5% need enforcement or at least the threat of enforcement.

We can use trespassing laws to enforce closures, but they are harsh, and are therefore more difficult to enforce. We are instead adapting the Parks Bylaw and ticketing bylaw to clearly define the offence and make it easier for Bylaw Officers to issue tickets for scofflaws. There will also be new signage installed informing of the fines and the increased intent to enforce them. We also had a bit of a conversation about assuring the fines were not used punitively, but were reserved for serious scofflaws that were clearly not interested in respecting the public health concerns of the community.

COVID-19 Pandemic: Food Security Planning and Responses
This crisis had been hard on people in the City who are food insecure. The Food Bank and other organizations have had to change how they operate to address physical distancing protocols. Fortunately, there are a great number of organizations providing for the food security of those in desperate need, and the City is helping them coordinate their programs. The Salvation Army, the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar in Queensborough, Prupose society, Union gospel Mission, and even a few businesses are helping out with hot meals and food hampers, along with the Food Bank operating out of Tipperary Park alongside the Farmers Market every Thursday. This was a report for information, but we had a bit of discussion about upcoming opportunities for the City to further expand this program during this time of need.

Covid-19: Interim Development Review Process
The development review process has slowed down in the City. This is a problem for several reasons, not the least being the ongoing housing crisis and rental availability crisis, but also is a problem for homeowners wanting to do significant renovations and other projects in the City for things like childcare and services. There is also the concept of procedural fairness – if you own a property in the City, you have a right under provincial law to fair process and the City has a responsibility to do whatever they can to provide it.

Staff have still been working these processes internally, but some need to come to committee or Council for their next steps. Not a problem for Council 9we can do this work in our now-regular virtual meetings), but many committees are not meeting, and public engagement is difficult. Public Hearings are especially difficult as provincial legislation was developed with personal appearance in Council Chambers the default Public Hearing participation method. We can debate (and have!) whether this is the right process in the internet age, but we are kinda stuck without better guidance from the provincial government.

This report outlines a few adjustments, including some of the City Advisory committees meeting virtually, and putting the onus on developers to demonstrate ways they are performing Public Engagement through mail, media, or other methods during the physical distancing era. We have a few very active Residents Associations with long contact lists, which may help in this case, but there is more work to be done here. Finally, staff will be reporting back in May on potential new guidance on Public Hearings after consulting with the provincial government.

Waste Reduction and Recycling Community Engagement Results
The closing of the recycling centre next to the Canada Games Pool and integration of some of our recycling services with neighboring communities has resulted in a lot of conversation about recycling in the City. This is happening at a time when regional and global recycling systems are going through major transitions, resulting in the “bottom falling out” of most recycled material commodity markets. Still, people want to recycle, and it is difficult right now to re-negotiate contracts with product stewardship agencies that would take recycled materials, or set up new or temporary collection systems.

That said, over the months before the pandemic, the City ran a series of community events to collect info about peoples recycling needs and desires. This is the reporting out of the results of that engagement. Glass, Styrofoam and soft plastic are the three top identified materials that were challenging to recycle. No surprise those are the three materials that are most difficult to recycle once collected by the City. Some concerns were also raised about green waste.

For green waste, the City allows unlimited curbside collection (in kraft paper bags) and the City covers the cost of depositing green waste at the Coquitlam transfer station until the new facility on the New West/Coquitlam border is opened. Curbside and free drop-off are both available, take your choice.

The report outlines the potential for adding curbside glass pickup. This would require new containers, and a bit of additional labour cost. Glass is worth very little in the recycling market (the ~125 Tonnes we would expect to collect per year would yield something like $10,000), so the resultant cost per single family home is estimated at about $11 per year. Council asked staff to look into this a little more and develop a detailed proposal for Council to consider.

Staff is also going to look into more options for soft plastic and Styrofoam, beyond the three current locations in the City where they can be dropped off. I am less optimistic about this, as these products have no value right now, and the cost for us to collect and get them to RecycleBC is probably prohibitive.

I see a structural problem here in how the “Extended Product Responsibility” (EPR) model run my RecycleBC works. Recycle BC is an industry-led consortium that is empowered by provincial law to facilitate recycling, and the cost of processing recycled materials is meant to be borne by industry and worked in to the purchase price of products. When you buy this packaging material, you pay for the recycling of it; that is how the EPR system is meant to work. But if you are expected to pay more (through property taxes or utility fees) to get the material to the recycling centre, you are effectively paying twice for recycling.

This become a political discussion between the City and the provincial government, and cannot be disconnected from nascent efforts to limit of ban single-use plastics and non-recyclable materials in the province. More to come here, but probably no-one had bandwidth to dig too deeply into it until after the COVID times.

2020 Property Tax Payment Due and Penalty Dates
The City is recognizing that many residents may be in a difficult financial situation this spring, Council is approving a waiving of late penalties until October 1st. The due date for your taxes is still July 2nd, and if you have the ability, please pay them then, as it reduces the risk that the City will have to borrow money to cover temporary cash flow. If you are not able to pay until October 1st, the penalty we usually charge (5% on July 2nd, another 5% on September 2nd) will not be applied in 2020.


We then Adopted a few Bylaws:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2020 – 2024) Bylaw No. 8183, 2020
As discussed at length for the last 4 months, and detailed above, the Financial Plan Bylaw was approved by Council.

Parks Regulation Bylaw Amending Bylaw No. 8193, 2020
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 8194, 2020 and
Municipal Ticket Information Amendment Bylaw No. 8195, 2020
As discussed above, these Bylaws that provide ticketing and fining power to Bylaw Officers for scofflaws ignoring parks closure signage and warnings were adopted by Council.


Finally, we had one piece of New Business

Graffiti Removal Councillor Puchmayr

BE IT RESOLVED THAT during this pandemic crisis, while many local businesses are closed and not able to provide a higher degree of vigilance, that the City of New Westminster waive the current graffiti remediation policy and deploy a graffiti remediation crew to deal with new graffiti as quickly as possible.

This idea was referred to the two task forces that are operating to support Business Continuity and the Education and Enforcement aspects of the pandemic response.


And that ended the new strange (face it, this is not normal) meeting for the week.