Council – March 23 2020

We held a special Council meeting on Monday, and I’m sorry I’m so late getting this out. It was recorded on video, despite the slightly-strange chambers set-up to accommodate social distancing, you should be able to follow along with the conversation that occurred. Also note that Monday was a year ago with the pace of change here, so some of the below is updated, some is not. Any discrepancy between the following and today’s reality is likely a product of that lag.

There is one question you may have about why we were physically meeting at all, considering that some participants were able to call in. Short version is that the Community Charter and our Procedure Bylaw require us to have a physical quorum (at least 4 voting members) in the Chambers for it to be a legally constituted meeting, but we will fix that with the first item on the Agenda.

Amendments to the Procedure Bylaw No. 6910, 2004 to Allow for Changes in Notice, and Electronic Meetings
The City has a Procedure Bylaw that outlines, among other things, how we meet the Community Charter requirements for meeting notices, and what constitutes Quorum in Council. These proposed amendments will change the language of that Bylaw to match updated procedures.

The current Procedure Bylaw does not allow Council Meetings to be held remotely through telecommunications – there must be at least 4 members of Council present in chambers to constitute a quorum, otherwise the legal work we do (reading and adopting Bylaws) is not valid. Note the BC Government introduced some legislative changes today to change this, but we were meeting a few days ago, and suspect we still need ot enact our Bylaw to keep everything up to snuff.

We are still required to post notice of meetings in City Hall, but with City Hall closed, we are adding the City’s Website to that requirement (which is good idea for the future anyway). We are also replacing the need to put a notice of a Special Meeting in Council Member’s Personal mailboxes with the need to notify Council Members by E-mail, because it is 2008. Finally, as we need to receive Public Input before changing the Procedures Bylaw, we will be asking for this until the April 3 Special Council Meeting. Which I guess means we are having an April 3 Special Meeting. If you have comments or concerns, please send us an e-mail or letter.

Changes to Council Meetings during the period of the COVID-19 Pandemic
This is, by all definitions, a capital-E Emergency, so staff is suggestion some changes in how we meet as a Council during this time, balancing the need to get work done with the need to follow health authority orders and respecting social distancing protocols.

Our upcoming meetings will not include Open Delegations. There is just no reason to bring your concern in person to Council right now. Write us an e-mail.

We are going to ask Council to be very prudent in suggesting Notices of Motions, and the Mayor will act as a screen to assure we only bring up time-sensitive or important motions. Staff is wanting to avoid the situation like we had last meeting where a Council Member brought a motion that resulted in community outcry and a packed chamber of people from around the region to speak for and against it. We just don’t need that hassle at this time. As an aside, that specific Notice of Motion will be tabled until a more appropriate time.

As much public consultation and committee meetings cannot happen right now, but there is some concern that ongoing work that is important (even to the point of being crises – housing, childcare, climate action) will get delayed because Emergency > Crisis. Though we are putting some work aside right now, starting with cancelling next week’s public hearings, I do want us to think creatively about how we can bring some of those things back on-line, as this situation may stretch on for months, and lost progress will hurt.

I am especially interested to see how we can (technically, and legally) accommodate on-line submissions, set up an online submittal form, facilitate recorded video or audio input to public meetings, etc. Staff right now is pretty over-tasked adapting as much as they can to the emergency situation, so this is best thought of as work we can start once we get ourselves established into a new normal.

Scope of Work of Five COVID-19 Working Groups: Council Approval
As City Committees and Task Forces and much internal work in the City is grinding to a halt, there are some areas of specific need in the City. Staff have set up some temporary working groups/ task forces aligned with the biggest priorities right now. They will be working groups of City Staff, Senior Gov’t agencies, not-for-profit partners and business groups in town, depending on where the subject matter experts are.

There are three out-ward looking working group: At-risk and Vulnerable Populations; Seniors and Persons with Disabilities; and Business Continuity and Local Economy;

We also have two inward-looking working groups to address City operations: Human Resources; and Emergency Operations and IT.

Since the Agenda was put together, there have been two new outward-looking working groups: Childcare; and Education and Enforcement.

This will be the framework for future meetings and reports, so I won’t belabour them too much here.

Protection for Renters during COVID-19 Pandemic
As I blogged earlier, the City doesn’t have a lot of cash lying around, and measures to address the unexpected have to be funded. Staff are making some suggestions of how we can free up some reserve funds (money we have on hand already earmarked for specific purposes), and there is more discussions of budget down below. However, right now there are a lot of people worried about making rent on April 1st, because they have been laid off or their regular income sources are shut down. The City already supports a Rent Bank operated by the Purpose Society and supported by the Province and local Credit Unions. It is suggested that there may be a significant increase in need for this service the months ahead, and it is recommended we move money form the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund into this.

This conversation we knowingly a couple of days before the provincial government introduced their renter-protection measures, but we agreed to commit to a $100,000 infusion from our Affordable Housing Reserve in case it is needed, with a general wiliness to explore other supports that the City may be able to provide through that reserve fund.

COVID-19 New Westminster Emergency Response and Provincial Government Support Request
We are going to need senior government supports here. People, businesses and not-for-profits are lining up asking for supports of various kinds. Local Governments need to assure we are clear with what we need to support our communities and the priorities of our communities. We are prioritizing our requests to help with supply chain for our first responders in Fire and Rescue, Police, and Emergency Operations. Things like masks, sanitizer, gloves and other necessities are challenging to procure now, and the Provincial government has the power to control those supply chains to assure they get to those who need them the most. We also need to prioritize first responders for testing protocols, as they are by necessity, in close contact with many people all day. We need support for the Emergency Operations Centre, and for emergency shelter for the homeless and vulnerable people.

We have also identified an expanded Property Tax Deferral program, some help to replace lost local government revenues (like Casino revenues), and for a ban on eviction for renters. We also asked that some similar consideration be given to business lease-holders, those small businesses that are prevented from operating right now and will, ultimately, be the core of our economic recovery when this is all over.

2020 Budget
Obviously, things have changed since we put our draft budget together last month. We have always referred to it as “draft”, recognizing small adjustments may be necessary, but never in the history of the Local Government Act has so much changed in two weeks as the last two. We need to have a Budget Bylaw and 5-year Financial Plan approved by May, and the unprecedented amount of public consultation and discussion occurred outside of this shit show. Best laid plans. (insert grumpy face emoji).

Council moved to pull back on most of the enhancements in the budget for 2020, excepting those that are already “baked in” – such as changes in interest rates, insurance costs, collective agreements, and such. A 0% tax increase is a fanciful notion, as we have already made significant commitments to 2020 that cannot be undone, and other revenue sources aside from taxation (Casino revenues, parking revenues, recreation and program fees, etc.) are likely going to be much lower than expected. Of course, some savings will be found in not providing some services and there may be some layoffs of staff as some programs simply cannot operate. Problem is, our assumptions about the budget are more tentative than ever, as we don’t know how deep into our 2020-2021 budget year this disruption will continue, we have no idea what our emergency responses are going to cost, and we don’t know how much senior government support is coming to help. That’s a lot of uncertainty for what is usually a very tight and conservative budget process.

It is with a pretty heavy heart that I have to accept that some of the enhancements that we anticipated on 2020 will have to be deferred at least until the 2021 budget year. This does not mean we don’t support those programs, it’s just that with the uncertainty ahead, it is prudent for us to tighten the belt as much as we can to not get into a cash crunch problem.

Staff also suggested, due to the uncertainty of what the emergency response is going to cost, that we re-allocate the 1% Capital Levy to an Emergency Fund. I disagreed, as I think the capital program is still going to need to be funded. However, Council voted to support this change, and in the end the difference between the two approaches is more an instruction to staff about how to prioritize spending than a change in how much revenue we will bring in.

This situation is throwing a wrench on our capital plans for 2020-2024. Some projects will no doubt need to be delayed, though much of our Capital budget is mission-critical maintenance and replacement that will still have to go forward. There will be much more discussion of this in upcoming meetings.

There was a bit of closing roundtable after these items were addressed, to raise a few issues that were not on the agenda. I think the takeaway is that this is really uncharted water for everyone. We have an Emergency Plan and an Pandemic Response Plan, but the first is challenging as it may see a typical emergency as a single short-duration event with long recovery (think flood, earthquake, ice storm) which is clearly not the pattern here, and the latter has never been invoked before. Our emergency services and first responders are managing excellently, staff is doing their best to understand what the new priorities are, and how to address them while obviously being concerned about their own health and that of their families. Council is, ultimately, charged with making the budget and prioritization decisions based on best advice, but we have never had to rely as heavily on this advice (thank you Dr. Henry!) and feedback from residents and the business community about what the community’s priorities are.

Everyone is anxious, but everyone is doing their job as best they can. I think the Mayor and our Management Staff have shown great leadership and flexibility, and I left the meeting no less concerned about the impacts of this pandemic, but more assured that there are positive things we can do to help our community, to keep people safe, and to prepare for the inevitable after-effects on our community.

Reach out (metaphorically) to each other, folks. Find out what your neighbour needs, and if you can help. If you can think about those half-dozen small businesses in town that really make you proud to live in New West, now would be a good time to reach out to them and see if they have on-line offerings or delivery, or if there is any way you can help them bridge through this time. And if you need help, please reach out to the City, either through the Council e-mails, or through the City’s website (see a special section here). Take care of each other!

Council – Mar. 9, 2020

The March 9th Council meeting was a long one, and at time frustrating. We had the annual draw of the May Day Royal Suite, which is always fun for kids and parents, except when there is random political posturing. Then we had a large number of public delegations from across the lower mainland about an issue that was completely inappropriate for debate in a City Council chamber in New Westminster, especially when we had a full agenda of work to do… ugh.

We had a daytime workshop where we worked through some more details of the annual budget, but I’ll hold off on detailing more of that here until we get some Bylaws coming to City Council later in the Month. If you have opinions about the draft Budget, go here and get the data you need to make an argument, then some time in the next two weeks would be a great time to send Mayor and Council an e-mail.

The first Item of the night was a presentation:

Memorandum of Understanding between the City and Century House Association
I assume most people in New West know Century House exists, but not as many know it was a ground-breaking model when opened 60 years ago – the first stand-alone municipal “Seniors’ Centre” in Canada. And since 1958 or so, the running of Century House has been a collaboration between city staff and a non-profit volunteer society called the Century House Association.

Staff and the CHA have been working on an MOU to formalize this relationship and assure it continues to support the programming and operation of Century House. Nothing is changing here in the relationship between the City and the CHA, but there are advantages for both parties to having a non-binding MOU that clarifies roles and responsibilities ad avoids future conflicts.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Appointment of Acting Director of Finance
Our Finance Director is changing Municipalities, and we need to formally name a new one because of a statutory requirement under the Local Government Act. We are doing so in an Acting role until we can complete a search.

Withdrawal of Motions Resubmitted to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LGA)
This is what happens when Councilors don’t do their homework and show up at a meeting and try to make decisions on the fly. The late add-on of two resolutions to the Lower Mainland LGA resolutions list last meeting were not required, because the resolutions had already gone to the UBCM executive and been endorsed. So we are withdrawing them now.

909 First Street: Rezoning and Development Permit for Infill Townhouses – Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8188, 2020 for Two Readings
This proposal is to rezone a property in Glenbrook North to replace the single family house with four townhouses. The lot is a little smaller than envisioned in the Infill Townhouse and Rowhouse zoning (though still over 9,000 square feet), but is a corner lot with alley adjacent and the neighbouring property is also a large lot, so this application could be thought of as a bit of a test whether this type of development fits well in that specific instance.

This project will go to Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.

45 East Eighth Avenue: Rezoning and Development Permit for a Four Unit Rowhouse Project – Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8189, 2020 for Two Readings
This proposal is to rezone a lot in the Massey Victory Heights neighbourhood to build four rowhomes. There would be fee-simple row homes of the type that are not common in New West, but we are hoping to see more of as a “missing middle” housing form.

This project will go to Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.

Metro Vancouver 2018 Regional Parking Study
TransLink and Metro Vancouver recently did a study of regional residential parking supply and demand, and we can use that 2018 data to inform how we plan and allocate parking in new developments.

The region-wide study looked at 73 buildings, included 5 Strata buildings in New West, two in Sapperton, two Downtown, and one in Queensborough. All are relatively recent builds, but all build (and therefore had their parking allocated) prior to the 2014 changes in New Westminster’s off-street parking requirements for buildings near SkyTrian. Unfortunately, there was sparse rental building data in the study.

The big take-away is that apartment parking supply exceeds use across the region – we are building too much parking. This is doubly true near SkyTrain. And interesting related finding is that bicycle storage is poorly executed across the region in multi-family buildings, and this is actively discouraging cycling. That said, our Zoning Bylaw provides incentives to reduce parking requirements (such as end-of-trip cycling facilities, car-share parking, etc.) align well with the findings of the study.

There is a lot more in this study, and I look forward to a deeper dive. As we look at updating these parking requirements, this study will provide us some good data to underpin new policy. More to come here!

Port Royal Dog Off-leash Area Update and Launch of City-Wide Strategy for Dogs
We are still looking at a new off-leash dog area at Port Royal since the one near the old animal shelter need to be closed. We had some proposals that went to public consultation, and all of them had significant push-back from neighboring properties. Everybody wants a dog park nearby; no-one wants a dog park too nearby, and hence governance is hard.

The City is going to step back and launch a City-Wide Strategy for Dogs. We have unmet need in a couple of neighbourhoods for dog socializing and exercise areas, increased demand on parks space for all users, and no real unified vision of how to manage this.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Inter-Municipal Ride-Hailing Business Licence Bylaws: Bylaws for Three Readings and Opportunity to be Heard
This introduction of a multi-jurisdictional business license scheme for ride-hailing businesses was a more monumental task than most people will ever realize. It had to happen fast because it really could not be developed until the provincial regulatory framework was made clear, and getting 25 of 31 Municipalities to agree on a framework and roll out a comprehensive Bylaw in such short notice is unprecedented outside of wartime. Serious kudos to the Mayor’s Council and its Chair for guiding the region through these challenging political discussions, to the Bylaws staff in those 25 Municipalities for doing the work, and to Vancouver for taking on the extra administrative burden for the rest of the region of being the licensing authority for the region.

I am still not convinced that the current ride-hailing model provides a net benefit to the region, or that the well-established safety, traffic congestion, workers’ rights, emissions, and equity issues that result from it are offset by the convenience gains for so few. However, it is clear that society has accepted those costs, that the provincial government is not interested in proactively addressing them, and that local governments will, once again, be required to take on those burdens without a proportionate share of the revenue. If a regulatory approach is available to local governments, it will be through Business Licensing, and we may be able to react with regulatory measures when these operations start to show local impacts that residents will inevitably be asking us to address.

The sharing of data from the ride-hailing providers that will allow the region to track how the service is being used is a significant win, and will provide vital data to any future regulatory changes.

New West has to pass its own Bylaws to support this regional initiative, and an opportunity to be Heard on these Bylaws will occur on March 30, 2020, C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Interim Business Property Tax Relief Program
Our property tax system is borked. It is not progressive, and as a policy framework it creates a variety of intended and unintended economic signals. However, it is the system we have, and many have ideas how to fiddle with the edges to address those unintended impacts.

One problem has been identified in how properties are assessed at “highest and best use”, which means as a growing region develops and puts pressure on land use, underdeveloped lands see their value increase as much as developed lands adjacent – which is a structural problem exacerbated when land values are much higher than the value of the buildings/improvements on that land. Over decades, our property tax system has also become skewed to charge much more on commercial and industrial lands than on residential lands, and most business leases make the tenant, not the landowner, responsible for paying taxes. Pile all of this up, and increased tax pressure is most felt by small businesses.

The provincial has looked at this issue, and proposed an interim tax relief regime for 5 years starting in 2020 to be offered to a locally-derived list of small business types, not-for-profits and/or arts and culture organizations. There are some problems with this plan, including a lack of time to properly implement it in a way that would be fair and immune from court challenges, especially as we already in the middle of putting together our 2020 budget bylaws right now.

Several cities have signed onto a letter drafted by a group of a dozen Mayors saying “No Thank you, please give us Split Assessments instead”. This is the idea that a piece of land can be split so the value at current use can be changed one tax rate, and the difference between that and “highest and best use” can be charged a different, presumably lower, tax rate. I have my own concerns with that proposal as well as it appears to provide a significant financial incentive to leave land vacant or underdeveloped (not a great economic signal in a housing crisis) and act to encourage speculative holding of that land as an investment. With those concerns in mind, I see no reason to sign onto this letter – I don’t like asking the province for something unless I am sure I want it.

Council decided not to sign on to this letter, but we will have a report beck form staff on potential property tax changes that may be available to us to address some of the structural issues this idea is meant address.

Motions Passed at the December 4, 2019 Meeting of ACTBiPed and the February 27, 2020 Meeting of YAC
The last meeting of ACTBiPed (it has been replaced with a Sustainable Transportation Advisory Committee) was a busy one, with discussions resulting in two calls for better cycling and pedestrian infrastructure related to two of the bigger development in the near future of New West: The High School replacement and the Sapperton Green project at Braid Station.

Thanks to some pressure applied by the local HUB chapter, a safe cycling connection between the Crosstown Greenway and the new high school has been identified by staff and Council as a priority, and staff have proposed that a connection on the Moody Park side (8th Street) can be accomplished by the time the high school opens. HUB has identified a connection along 6th Street as preferable, and are asking that it be built by the time the School opens. Staff has several technical reasons why this is a much more difficult project to complete (mostly due to the need to accommodate safe and accessible transit stops and a lack of road width available). They are not saying it is impossible, they are saying there are challenges that make it very difficult to get it done in short order, and unlikely to get through those hoops before the School opens.

I am not comfortable moving other cycling and pedestrian priorities to this project, and would rather the connection via 6th be completed as part of the planned upgrades to the Crosstown Greenway. We equally need to support students taking transit and walking to school, and making all three integrate is a challenge we need time o address responsible. We have committed to having a safe separated cycling route vie the Moody Park route, and will incorporate a 6th Street connection along with the work we are doing to change the 6th Street streetscape in the next year or two.

On the Sapperton Green project, the ACTBiPed were asked to opine on the plans for the site, and felt that it was not as “car light” as it could be, considering its location on a Transit Station and the “blank slate” that the developers have been given to work with. It still looks like the dominant mode at surface is cars, and that avoiding cars will be the #1 priority of people attempting to walk or roll across the site. Cars will be the #1 concern of residents walking their kids to daycare, to the community centre, to school. I would support changes that reduced the surface expression of car space and reduced parking requirements for the site.

We then did our regular Bylaw Shuffle (with a nuanced difference that only the most astute Council-watchers will notice) including the following Bylaws for Adoption:

Housing Agreement (65 First Street) Bylaw No. 8178, 2020
This Housing Agreement that will provide some security for the renting residents of this strata complex that is being sold for potential redevelopment was Adopted by Council. It’s the Law of the Land.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Amendment Bylaw (815 Milton Street) No. 8179, 2020
This Bylaw that amends the Heritage Revitalization Agreement for this heritage house so it can be slightly raised and have tandem parking was Adopted by Council. Lift away!

We had a couple of pieces of New Business</b:

Partnership with Earth Day Canada
Motion THAT the City of New Westminster partner with Earth Day Canada and Potentially Local Environmental Groups to coordinator an annual Earth Day
celebration or activity in our community.

The Mayor moved this idea that the City support a bump up in our earth day participation, and partner with groups to make it happen. This is totally in line with the work we are doing to address the Climate Emergency and raise awareness of the work we need to do as a community and a society to reduce our impact on the ecosystems that support us. Council moved unanimously to support this.

Notice of Motion: A Resolution to Oppose the Indian Government’s Citizens Amendment Act and National Registration of Citizens, and to Seek Action from the Canadian Government
Therefore be it resolved, that the City of New Westminster asks the federal government to take a position in opposition of these regressive discriminatory acts, and that the parliament of Canada supports the pluralist coexistence of all residents of India regardless of culture, religion or caste.

This Notice of Motion (a notice that the Motion will come to Council next meeting) was the source of almost two hours of delegations at Council from people across Greater Vancouver, about equal numbers supporting the motion and opposing. Although I learned a variety of things about the internal politics of India during the delegations, I was pretty frustrated that this was how we spent the bulk of our meeting time. As much as I am troubled by some actions of the current Indian government, I feel completely uninformed about this specific issue, and honestly do not have the time or energy to do the research necessary to inform myself on this issue enough to support any position. I heard the passion of the people who delegated, and I am sure this issue is close to their heart, so I do not want to take anything away from them, but this is not an issue I am comfortable with New Westminster City Council getting involved in.


Monday’s meeting (which I rambled on about here) was also one where several resolutions were passed. All were timely, some because of current events, some because the deadline for submission to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association is approaching. Endorsement by this area association improves the odds that the resolution will make the floor and be endorsed by the Union of BC Municipalities.

Resolutions are one way that Local Governments raise issues not strictly within our jurisdiction but still relevant to our community, and formally call upon senior governments to take actions that we don’t have the power to take. These types of resolutions are typically directed at senior governments and are a pretty standard practice in local governments across BC and Canada.

You can read the full text of the resolutions at the end of our Agenda here, so for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to skip over the “whereas” statements that create the context for them, and pare them down to the specific call, then add a few of my comments after. All of the following resolutions were supported by Council:

National Pharmacare Program Councillor Nakagawa

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster write a letter calling on the Federal Government to work with the provinces and territories to develop and implement a Universal Public National Pharmacare program as a top priority; and

THAT this letter be forwarded to all BC municipalities asking to write expressing their support for a National Pharmacare Program.

THAT the following resolution be submitted to FCM:

THAT the Federation of Canadian Municipalities calls on the Federal Government to work with the provinces and territories to develop and implement a Universal Public National Pharmacare program as a top priority.

The time for national Pharmacare is now. It was actually a few decades ago, when most modern social democracies included pharamcare as part of their national healthcare systems, but hindsight is as powerful as prescription glasses. It has been said that Canada’s is the least socialized of all socialized healthcare systems in the industrialized world, as so many parts of health care considered primary in progressive nations (pharmacare, dental care, vision care, etc) are not part of our “universal” care.

Four of the 5 Parties in the House of Commons, representing 67% of the seats, have publicly supported publicly funded Phamacare, it really comes down to whether the party with the plurality is going to follow through this time, or continue to pull a Lucy with the football.

Declaration of Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Councillor Nakagawa

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster calls on the Governments of British Columbia and Canada to suspend permits authorizing construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline and commence good-faith consultation with the Wet’suwet’en People;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster calls on the Governments of British Columbia and Canada to end any attempt at forced removal of Wet’suwet’en People from their traditional territories and refrain from any use of coercive force against Wet’suwet’en People seeking to prevent the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through non-violent methods.

This resolution seems to have garnered more attention than the others, including the usual Facebook calls for Council to “stay in its own lane” and “stop wasting time”. These appeared to mostly come from people who, by reading their comments, I assume did not read the resolution.

I’ve been slow to enter the on-line fray about the ongoing protests launched by the arrest of land defenders in the Wet’suwe’ten territory. I am not even sure how to talk about this without centering myself in the conversation, and as the conversation is not lacking in middle aged white guys from urban areas with a hot take, I’m not I add value to the discourse.

Since the road directly in front of my office was occupied for a few hours last week, I was able to watch the orderly challenging of all that is disorderly in one of the busiest car/pedestrian/transit intersections in Vancouver. I spent a bit of time in that crowd after work, and tried my best to listen and to reflect on what this disruption means, and how its impact compares to the strong feelings I had coming out the Climate Strike last September. But ultimately, I don’t think my feelings or ideas are what this is about. This is about whether the words of reconciliation, so easily invoked by those in power, have meaning when the boots (and pipes) hit the ground.

As New Westminster engages in relationship-building with local First Nations, I think it is valuable for us, as a Council to have conversations about what these events mean in the bigger context, both here in New West and with a wider community. We need to be open to understand the relationship between the colonization that was our modern community’s founding and the ongoing colonization of unceded territory in British Columbia. Like pharmacare (above) and transportation (below), this resolution is not “outside our lane”, but the exact appropriate process in our empowering legislation for us to communicate our desires to the other orders of Government.

I thanked Councillor Nakagawa for a well-written and nuanced resolution (which, again, seems to have been missed by most Facebook commenters). It calls for good-faith consultation with the entire Wet’suwe’ten community and for an end to violence and forced removal. Those latter tools are the ones Canada has traditionally used – and often later apologized for using – when Indigenous people have tried to protect their lands, commonly following bad-faith consultation. This pattern needs to stop. The resolution is not about natural gas or benefits agreements or about traditional vs. elected leadership; it is about fostering a new form of respect for Indigenous people in light of UNDRIP. I am for respectful dialogue and against violence, so I am proud to support this resolution.

#AllOnBoardCampaign Councillor Johnstone

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the provincial government work to make transit access more equitable by supporting free public transit across BC for youth under 19 years of age; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the provincial government support a sliding scale monthly pass system based on income; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT BC Transit and TransLink proactively end the practice of fare evasion ticketing of minors, and introduce community service and restorative justice options for adults as an alternative to fare evasion tickets.

Similar resolutions were sent to UBCM last year from several communities, in support of this ongoing regional campaign being led by anti-poverty groups and including labour groups, business groups and other stakeholders, but they were not considered due to being bumped by a similar-sounding but quite different resolution around increasing Transportation Assistance for Low-Income Individuals. So we have updated the language to better address existing Provincial policy statements, and are trying again.

Clean vehicle incentives Councillor Johnstone

BE IT RESOLVED THAT: the provincial government expand the Clean Energy Vehicle program to include financial incentives for the purchase of electric assist cycles in scale with the incentives provided for the purchase of electric automobiles.

E-assist cycles are a growing market, and bridge the gap to cycling accessibility for many people. As a regular cycle commuter, I see the increase in numbers of people using e-assist bicycles to extend their cycling commute, and to get them past barriers like the hills of New Westminster. It is especially noticeable that users of e-assist bikes fit a different demographic than your typically hardy cycling commuter, and are generally older and include more women. My octogenarian mother in law has an e-assist trike that she now uses for more and more of her daily trips because the hills she used to be able to ride up are now accessible to her again. The e-assist allows people to carry groceries and other needs on the bike. It really is a game-changer

The big impact of e-assist technology is not making people on bikes faster (they are speed regulated), but in getting people out of cars. Replacing some portion of car trips for people who find cycling a barrier. As such, there is no public policy or community benefit to electric cars that is not also achieved through the use of e-assist cycles, and as such, subsidies given by government to people fortunate enough to be able to afford a $50,000 car should be extended to people purchasing $1,500 e-assist cycles.

School Bus Safety Councillor Johnstone

BE IT RESOLVED THAT UBCM call upon the BC Ministry of Education and the BC Ministry of Public Safety to mandate that all buses transporting students in British Columbia be equipped with seat belts that meet Transport-Canada regulatory standards and institute programs to assure those belts are used safely.

A similar resolution went to UBCM last year after a resident of Queensborough raised this issue to Council, however it was not considered by the membership at UBCM due to timing. In the year since, Transport Canada has developed new guidelines and is piloting a school bus seatbelt safety project. This resolution is still relevant in the modified form as it asks the relevant departments of the Provincial Government to follow up on the initiative launched by Transport Canada.

Council – Feb 24, 2020

I start the occasional council report talking about busy weeks, but this was a seriously busy week. Two evening meetings, public hearings, workshops, and budget, budget, budget. There is a lot to report though it being busy makes it hard for me to find time to write stuff, so I am breaking this up into a few blog posts. I am not going to talk about the budget discussions now, as those conversations deserve their own space, so I am going to cover the rest of Council here. You can watch the video here, which is extra interesting to my Mom on account of the Acting Mayor thing and all.

After a proclamation on Pink Shirt Day, our Regular Agenda began with two presentations:

Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project Update
Staff from the Ministry of Transportation Project team came to give Council and the public an update on the project. We can expect that some preliminary geotechnical work (drilling holes to confirm soil conditions) will start soon, and the main work on the bridge starting this spring. There was also some info about community outreach the construction team is going to do to manage inevitable construction conflicts.

I’m excited to see this project actually moving. It has been a good decade of conversation and false starts, and the public consultation has been comprehensive. At this point, the real focus for the city will be making sure the final design details for the landing on the New West side will integrate as well as possible into the urban area around it. I am especially concerned that the east-west movements past the bridge entrance are improved, so Victoria Hill residents can feel more connected to Downtown, and vice versa. You can get project info here.

Sapperton Green Master Plan Update (97 Braid Street)
The development called Sapperton Green, which is proposed to replace the warehouses between Braid Station and Hume Park, was presented as a Master Plan back in 2017. It has recently been revised to support affordable housing in alignment with the City’s Inclusionary Housing Policy. As presented, this change could bring a bunch of affordable housing, but would represent a 23% increase in residential density on the site.

There was also some discussion about the Phasing of the project, which would see the Braid Street frontage built up as part of a Phase 1, including affordable, purpose built rental, and strata housing along with some commercial space. Phase 2 would cover the area around the Braid Station and where the current Amazon warehouse is, then a third Phase would build the Hume Park side.

Council moved to endorse the changes to the Master Plan in concept prior to them going to Public Consultation. There will be some open houses and a chance for public feedback, you can get some details here.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Recruitment 2020 Appointment to Board of Variance
We appoint people to the Board of Variance, a provincially-regulated commission in the City. As one of the people selected to serve on it for a three-year term is now in conflict due to getting a job working for the City, so we need to replace them, which we did.

Arts Commission Representative to the Public Art Advisory Committee
There is a rep of the Arts Commission on the PAAC, nominated by the Art Commission itself, which Council now ratifies.

65 First Street: Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8178, 2020 for First, Second and Third Readings
This is an interesting case. An older mid-rise condo building near the Pattullo has been sold to a developer, which means some majority of the owners of the Strata units have agreed to the sale. As a complicating factor, the building apparently has some long-standing maintenance issues. However, many of the units are currently being rented out at relatively low rent levels, suggesting that the sale may result in renoviction or demovictions of some lower-income residents.

The developer wants to develop the property, but no development proposal has come to Council yet. The developer would like to continue to rent the units until such a time as a development plan can be hammered out and approved, but the renters in the building are in limbo. So staff is recommending the City and the developer enter into a Housing Agreement to provide some protection for those residents.

That housing agreement stipulates that the rentals will follow the City’s Business Regulations Bylaw (the one that was just upheld by the Courts), and the Residential Tenancy Act, and that the existing rental units (22 of the 61 units in the building) will have the same rent as prior to the sale, and only have RTA-available annual increases, as long as the current tenants are there. There will also be extra tenant protection measures in the event a Development Plan for the property is approved by Council at some time in the future.

There may be some further discussion of the details, but this seems like a reasonable and compassionate approach – it protects the current vulnerable tenants, allows the owners with a bunch of sunk equity in to the condos to move on as they choose, and gives the developer a clear pathway to redevelopment of their property. Council moved to ask staff to put together the Housing Agreement.

Miscellaneous Zoning Bylaw Amendments: Zoning Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bylaw No. 8172, 2020 for Two Readings
This is an update of our existing Zoning Bylaw to fix a few inconsistencies, like references to senior government legislation that may have changed overtime, clarifying some definitions, renumbering some sections to be internally consistent, etc. This will not change how zoning works in the City, just make them internally and externally consistent. As this is a Zoning Bylaw amendment, it will go to Public Hearing on March 30th. Read Attachment 2, then come out to tell us what you think!

Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Grant Application Council Resolution
The City has a poverty reduction committee, led by the City but involving the various non-profits operating in the City to address poverty and its impacts. We are applying for a Provincial Grant to support two programs as part of that initiative; and application that requires a Council Resolution in support.

2020 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
This is the first snowpack / ENSO report of the season. We typically get these between the middle of winter until after freshet in order to evaluate the flood risk in the CIty and allow us time to put any mitigative measures in place if risk is higher than usual. Snowpack is a bit high, ENSO conditions are predicted to be neutral, so risk is slightly elevated for spring floods, but nothing to respond to yet.

Recommendations from Intelligent City Advisory Committee
The last Meeting of the Intelligent City Advisory Committee mostly involved discussion about the fate of the program after the Advisory committee is disbanded. There is an Intelligent City Strategy, and an operational plan for the three pillars of the Strategy. We have staffed up and have the work in the strategy included in the staff work plans. The three pillars of the strategy will be parsed out to existing advisory committees, and a staff member is specifically assigned to manage the coordination between the three and is accountable for the measureable goals of the Strategy. A staff working group will continue to draw on the expertise of the community members who have been so instrumental in getting the Intelligent City program off the ground and working.

We then broke and started our Public Hearing for the night:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (2223 Ninth Avenue) No. 8180, 2020
This property in Connaught Heights has an older house on it, and due to some historic redevelopment practices dealing with slopes in Connaught Heights, it is sitting at a lower grade than the properties on either side. The owner wants to redevelop the property and build a house similar in grade and size to the ones on either side, but that requires a rezoning. The house will have a secondary suite and a Laneway house.

No-one sent Council correspondence on this request, and no-one came to address the Public Hearing. Council moved to give the application Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (719 Colborne Street) No. 8176, 2020
This property in Glenbrooke North is on a unique narrow-but-long lot and a single family home on it with a large garage built during original development. The owner wants to formalize a basement suite and a small accessory living unit above the garage. This will not increase the footprint of the buildings in any way, but is simply a conversion in use of existing buildings.

There was one piece of correspondence received on this application, expressing some concerns about the intended use. The proponent and one neighbor in opposition (over street parking and traffic concerns) came to address Council at the Public Hearing. Council moved to give the application Third Reading and Adoption.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Amendment Bylaw (815 Milton Street) No. 8179, 2020
This heritage home in the Brow of the Hill neighborhood is protected by a Heritage Designation Bylaw, and the owner proposes to lift the house 4 inches to make the basement livable, and put in a legal basement suite. For a few complicate reasons related to the protection of the house, this minor change requires an amendment of the HRA Bylaw. No-one wrote to Council about this or came ot the Public Hearing to speak to the matter, and Council moved to give the amendment Bylaw Third Reading.

We then had two <b<Opportunities to be Heard on Development Variances:

Development Variance Permit DVP00673 for 301 Stewardson Way
This is a Development Variance request to allow for a variance of the Sign Bylaw to support Key West’s new signage program as part of their overall site redevelopment that is being buttoned up as we speak. The signage plan is not out of scale with the building or design, and nothing unexpected for a business of this style.

We had one neighbor come and express concern about light intrusion from the car dealerships. I have some sympathy for this concern, as having large parking lots that can be seen from the surface of the moon at night is good for security of the site and presence, but is a questionable practice in light of a variety of health and environmental concerns related to light pollution. However, the sign variance was not one that was going to make this situation worse, nor was it an appropriate method through which to address outdoor business lighting in the City. Council vote to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00675 for 510 St. George Street
This is a variance to allow a heritage home in Queens Park to be lifted by three feet to make the basement a livable space. It would exceed the zoning for building height by quite a bit (almost 5 feet), but would not be completely out of context of surrounding heritage buildings. They are also doing some heritage restorations of the building along with the lifting. We received no correspondence and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council moved to grant the variance.

We then went back into Regular Council to address the items Removed from Consent for discussion:

Amendments to the Sign Bylaw: Election Signs
After a recent discussion of the sign bylaw as it relates to election signs, Staff have worked on the language of the proposed Bylaw changes, and are prepping a bylaw to take out to public consultation. This consultation will include stakeholder consultation with the Provincial and Federal parties, and all of the candidates who ran in the most recent Local Government elections.

Land Use Policy: Work Program for Endorsement
This is a bit of Staff asking Council where to prioritize their work for 2020-2021, given a tight budget and a lot of demands. Council has asked for Staff to provide some visioning of a “car-light” master plan for the 22nd Street Station area, or Connaught Heights and immediately adjacent areas of the West End. We had previously asked for some guidance on Infill housing to allow more duplex and triplex development in the city, which would mean deferring the Infill housing initiative.

I was torn about this, as I have a reflex response that says “let’s do what we already said we were going to do before we take on something new”. However, this is a case where the Climate Emergency declaration means we need to think about priorities and how we shift them to address the emergency at hand. It is clear that the redevelopment of a low-density area immediately adjacent to a SkyTrain station following Transit-Oriented Development principles and adding on a visionary layer of what a “Car Light” or even “car Free” community looks like in the decade ahead is a chance to push the envelope a bit.

We need to take bold moves when they are offered to us. So I support the change.

Recruitment 2020: Appointment of Members to the Massey Theatre Working Group
The Massey Theatre is going to be a City Asset next year, as the School District hands the building (and all of it’s maintenance and operational costs) over to the City. The City has struck a task force to oversee this transition and advise Council on making it as smooth as possible for everyone concerned. We appointed Councillors Trentadue and McEvoy to that Task force.

We then went through Bylaws including the following adoptions:

Housing Agreement (228 Nelson’s Crescent) Amendment Bylaw No. 8149, 2019
Housing Agreement (268 Nelson’s Court) Bylaw No. 8148, 2019
These Housing Agreements that will guarantee Purpose Built Rental in two new buildings at the Brewery District were adopted by Council. PBR is still being built in New West, and is still needed!

Official Community Plan Amendment (1111 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No.8145, 2019
Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1111 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No.8146, 2019
These Bylaws support the construction of a Daycare and accessory building adjacent to the heritage church in the Brow of the Hill were adopted by Council.

And that was the Agenda except for a few Resolutions, which I think I’ll write about in a follow-up post, because I think I’ll give people time to actually read them before they comment on them.

Budget 2020!

This week in Council we are going to be talking about the Budget, and are asking people to once again provide us some feedback on budget issues. Providing this feedback is difficult for many people, or it is hard to understand how your feedback will be incorporated, because municipal finance is a little bit arcane. So I thought before the meeting, with the reports and tables on line here, I would give you a bit of a run-down of how the budget process works.

We have already had some lengthy discussions about the capital budget. This is the budget we use to pay for things like buildings and vehicles and computers. These are (mostly) one-time items, though most need periodic replacement, and (mostly) tangible objects, though we can use capital funds to fund planning for tangible objects, like hiring a consultant to develop an Urban Forest Strategy that will result in capital expenses to buy and maintain trees.

The City is required to balance its budget over a five-year financial plan, so when we talk about “Budget2020”, we are talking about an excerpt of the overall 2020-2024 Financial Plan. Following from this, our 2020 Capital Budget is part of a 5-year Capital Plan, which makes sense because most large infrastructure works cannot be planned, financed, completed and paid for in a single year.

Our draft budget has a 5-year capital plan to spend ~$468 Million on new buildings, infrastructure and equipment, with a some of that representing a few major projects: The ~$100M Canada Games Pool, $54M for a district energy utility, a ~$40M electrical substation in Queensborough, ~$17M to fix up the Massey Theatre, $20M in road paving, etc. This includes the Utility capital investments ($123M for Electrical, $50M for Sewer, $25M for water, and $1.6M for solid waste). In 2020, we are budgeting to spend ~$140 Million of that total.

The City has three options to pay for any capital expenditure: reserves, debt or revenue. Reserves are the monies we have in the bank, some to assure financial solvency, some earmarked specifically for projects, like the money we have put aside for the Canada Games Pool replacement. If there is a reserve fund appropriate for the spending we plan, then drawing from those reserves make sense, though we have to be cautious about drawing those accounts too low because they provide us some financial resiliency, and improve the rates we get from banks when we borrow. Borrowing to pay for infrastructure makes sense for a recreation centre much the way it makes sense to get a mortgage for your house: the people using it pay for its use while it is being used. We have a *lot* of debt room in the City as far as regulations and good financial planning are concerned, but we have to address the public tolerance to take on debt (through a public process when we take out loans), and of course manage the cost of borrowing. The third option is to draw from revenues in the year we have the expense, be those revenues in the form of a grant from senior government or through raising taxes. These both, of course, have limits.

The part of the annual budget that directly impacts your tax rates is the Operational Budget. It is from this budget that we pay staff and buy paper and diesel. Sometimes a pundit in town will chagrin “most of the City’s spending goes directly to salaries!”, to which my only retort is “Yeah, and?” The City provides services more than we build widgets. Widget ore is not as big and expense as delivery of those services, which are delivered by people, from lifeguards to librarians to police officers. Sure, we buy asphalt and pipes, and firefighters need firetrucks, but most of our budget is service delivered by people.

We spend most of the year operating the City based on the operating budget set in the previous spring. As the year goes along, staff, Council and the public identify places where the City can do things differently, where our service is not meeting demands, or where new services are being pondered. Some small things may get done as staff find space in their existing budget to make them happen (or stop doing other things to make the room). But some things are more costly or need more staff time to manage, so managers put forward an “enhancement request” – they ask for more money.

Part of the task of our senior management team is to review all of these enhancement requests, and decide what is reasonable and what isn’t, then set some priorities. Council is not directly involved in that process, but the priority-setting is based on a framework of Strategic Planning created by Council. One of the questions staff need to ask themselves and each other at this stage is – does this enhancement meet a strategic goal of the Council? Then ask if we can afford it. Which is where Council comes in.

Before these enhancement requests, the draft 2020 budget sees costs equaling a 3.9% tax increase already baked into our 5-year financial plan. These are things like increased debt servicing, annual salary increases, inflationary pressures and financing of earlier enhancement commitments already made by Council in previous budgets. Staff have brought forward new enhancement requests equaling just under another 2% of taxes. They then recommended that about half of these enhancements be included in the 2020 budget, and the other half deferred to a future year. This equals out to a draft 4.9% tax increase.

There is an interaction between the Capital and Operational budget. The interest we earn on our reserves is a revenue that is included in our operational budget, so draw those reserves down and we have less revenue. Similarly, the interest we pay on our loans is an operational expense. There is also an operational impact to many capital projects: the NWACC will cost money to heat and light, and will need to be staffed. It will also bring in revenues. Those numbers will be different for the NWACC as they are for the current CGP. These changes have to be budgeted towards.

Since we have a regulatory requirement to balance the budget at the end of the year, if we pull in more revenue (through taxes, charges for services like parking and permits, grants from senior governments, investment income, etc.) in a year than we spend (on salaries, supplies, grants, etc.) that extra money (“profit!”) goes into our reserves and helps offset future capital budget costs. The corollary to this, of course, is that a large capital budget requires us to raise taxes a bit to keep these reserves at a stable level and to pay debt servicing costs.

(I have almost completely skipped utilities in this discussion, I talked a bit about them, with fancy coloured diagrams to show how those work in this blog post from a couple of years ago)

So, this week Council will be asked in two meetings (Monday AND Tuesday nights) to review the budget, review the results of the public consultations that occurred around the budget, and provide one more public meeting where people can come and address council with their concerns regarding the budget. We will review the capital budget commitments for 2020, and will review the recommended and non-recommended enhancements. Council will then make recommendations on any changes, and staff will take those away and work on putting together the necessary Bylaws to make the budget a reality. By the end of the Tuesday special meeting, we should have a pretty good idea what our budget increase will look like for 2020, but looking at the reports, it will likely be something around 5%.

Council – Feb 10, 2020

We had a special Council meeting this week. Instead of a regular night of councilly business, we reviewed four Section 57 filings. We do these on non-regular meeting nights, because they are a little more like a hearing than a regular council meeting, as the owners of the subject properties are able to come and hear their case, and address Council with their concerns.

A Section 57 Notice on Title is a form of soft enforcement the City can apply on property owners who have been found to be non-compliant to building or zoning Bylaws. A notice goes on the on the property title indicating that the property is not compliant with bylaws, and that the City has ordered the property owner to take corrective action. If the corrective action is taken the notice can be removed, but until then the owner may have difficulty selling the property or securing a mortgage on the property. Most importantly, it lets any potential purchaser know that the property is non-compliant, so they don’t get caught by surprise.

The City doesn’t do too many of these, as they are a bit of a hassle and not the only enforcement tool staff have, but they have a purposeful role. I think we have done fewer than a half dozen in my time on Council. The four reviewed during this meeting were:

1: A house in Queensborough where the owner enclosed an outdoor deck and built a living space into the back of their tandem garage. These works were done without a building permit or inspections, and the resultant living space in the house exceeds the zoning allowance by 319 square feet. The original issues were first identified by Bylaws staff back in 2016, and the owner has shown no proactive measures to address the non-compliance.

2: A house in the West End where the owner enclosed an outdoor deck and built an extension onto an elevated rear deck resulting in a house that is 46 Square Feet above the floor space allowed by zoning and 63 square feet more lot coverage than allowed. These works were done without a building permit or inspections. The issues were first identified in 2016, and the owner has not taken any proactive measures to address the issues.

3: A House in Connaught Heights with a slightly complicated ownership history that has made enforcement difficult. This property also had an unlawfully enclosed deck and an illegal secondary suite with significant safety concerns. The livable floor space exceed zoning allowance by 250 square feet, and these works were done without permits or inspections. Enforcement activities have been going on since 2013, and the owner has refused to comply to previous orders.

4: An industrial property in the Braid Industrial Area where three buildings (two tent-like storage buildings and one office space) were constructed without permits or inspections. This site has a complicated history, in part related to the industrial activity on the site.

Council moved to place the Section 57 notices on all 4 properties. Hopefully, this will compel the owners to bring them into compliance, and no further enforcement action will be required.

Council – Feb 3, 2020

February is upon us, the bleakest of months, but nothing brightens up the winter like a Council Meeting! Our Agenda this week began with a couple of presentations from staff:

Economic Development Plan Implementation Update
We got a report on the next phases of implementation in the City’s Economic Development Plan.

Some good stuff has been done, including setting up a “how to” guide to help guide businesses hoping to set up in New West. We are currently working on a “customer journey” audit to better understand the challenges and pitfalls that businesses may have in trying to work with City hall in setting up, hoping to find some efficiencies and help staff see the various processes through the eyes of the applicant coming to City Hall. There is a how to guide available on-line to help new businesses understand the easiest pathway between inevitable hoops. And there are more metrics being collected and reported out on-line to track business growth and economic impact in the City. And some Bylaw service changes to support business licensing better, which came up next.

Update on Licensing and Integrated Services Division
“Integrated Services” is one of those names that could mean basically anything, but in New West it means the department that deals with enforcing (most) bylaws and licensing in the City. Despite the significant growth in the City over the last dozen years, the increased emphasis on progressive enforcement and community outreach, and the introduction of new areas of work (anti-demoviction actions, cannabis retail, ride-hailing, etc.), the department has not grown in staff over that time. They work hard in the Integrated Services division, and it is not easy work. You might want to read the appendix to this report to understand the challenges that our enforcement officers sometimes face when they are at the intersection of unsafe premises, people in distress, and the need to assure public safety.

That doesn’t mean we can’t find better ways to provide the service with the resources we have. This report covers some changes happening in the department to better meet today’s needs. One idea is to shift the License Coordinator position over to a more customer-focused Business License Ambassador role, and more integration with the Economic Development office to assure we are providing the right kind of support for the community. Another is to shift our bylaw enforcement staff from regional coverage (i.e. each take a third of the City) to one where they are responsible for a major category of bylaws – tenant support, construction impacts, and property use.

This is a good news story about staff working hard, achieving great results, and finding efficiencies to reduce the costs.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Budget 2020 Process – Engagement Results
The 2020 Budget process marks the beginning of a new way of doing things. Staff is working hard to engage the public in a more open dialogue about the budget than we have ever done before. We have had council workshops, public open houses, and on-line surveys to inform people about the budget process, and ask them to help us set priorities. Long before decisions are made, we provided the spreadsheets to the public to show what the plan looks like, and have asked them to give us feedback. This report provides some of that feedback.

I don’t think I want to dive too deep in to the feedback here. I’ve read the detailed report, and there will be time to discuss the ideas in it as the budget process is ongoing. I found it especially valuable to be present at the public workshop and hear the conversations going on around the need to invest in infrastructure, the need to take bold action on climate, and concerns about how much money those things may costs. It is also clear (and noted in the report) that there is a lack of clear consensus, which is what you expect from public consultation.

Massey Theatre Working Group Terms of Reference
This is a follow-up on the motion Councillor Trentadue put forward a couple of meetings ago to put together a task force charged with coordinating the details of a new working agreement between Massey Theatre Society and the City in light of the imminent transfer of the Theatre from the School District to the City. If you are into theatres, committees, or terms of reference, this is good reading! If you are into all three, you really should already be on the board of the Massey Theatre Society (or the Royal City Musical theatre, the Vagabond Players, the Arts Council, or any of the other incredible performing arts-supporting organization in this city!)

815 Milton Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement (815 Milton Street) Amendment Bylaw – Consideration of First and Second Readings
This heritage house in the Brow of the Hill was protected as part of an HRA in 2005. They now want to make improvements to the house to allow a secondary suite, that includes raising the house by four inches (yes, that is 10 centimeters) and to allow the single off-street parking space to be converted to two tandem parking spots. Because of the HRA an amendment would be needed to make this legal. This application will go to public hearing, but because of the relatively minor nature of the changes and the new streamlined process the city is trying to encourage, there will be no public open house or presentation to the RA. If you have concerns, let us know, or show up at the Public Hearing on February 24th.

510 St. George Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Height Limit – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
This homeowner in Queens Park wants to lift their house by 3 feet, in order to have a full basement and basement suite, which would move the roof, which is already a little above permitted, to a little plus three feet. The house is subject to the Heritage Conservation Area Bylaw, but is not an HRA protected house. This change will require a zoning variance that will come to an Opportunity to be Hear on February 24th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

2223 Ninth Avenue: Rezoning for a Single Detached Dwelling including a Secondary Suite and Detached Accessory Building in a Comprehensive Development Zone – Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8180, 2020 for Two Readings
This is an application to rezone a single family lot at the top of Connaught Heights where small house still stand between two much larger houses that sit at higher grade (due to some weirdness that used to exist in our zoning bylaw around grade modifications). So the rezoning also includes some relaxations of the definitions of basement and cellar to allow it to be built in a comparable form to the houses on either side. There will be a Public Hearing on February 24th, so join us for this discussion!

Application for Grant Funding for West End Sewer Separation Program to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – Green Infrastructure Environmental Quality
The City of New West still has some significant areas of combined sewer. This means that the stuff you flush mixes with the stuff that runs off or your yard and the streets and it all goes to the sewer treatment plant. Most modern cities (and newer parts of New West) run parallel systems where the flushing goes to the treatment plant, the rain runoff goes to the river. The bad part about combined is that we pay to pump all of that rainwater to the plant, and now that it is mixed with your unmentionables, we need to pay to treat it all. Also, in really bad rain events, there simply isn’t enough capacity to move all that water to the plant, so some of it overflows into the river –taking your previously unmentioned stuff with it.

So the City is in a multi-year, and terribly expensive, process of sewer separation. We have in the past received grants from senior governments to help pay for this, because the environmental benefits of doing this work expand beyond New West. This report informs everyone that we are applying for more grants to do some more of this work in the West End. Our costs for this come out of your sewer fees, senior government grants will reduce the need to increase your sewer fees. Cross your fingers.

719 Colborne Street: Rezoning and Minor Development Permit Applications for Two Accessory Dwellings – Bylaw for Two Readings
This is an application to rezone a single family home on Glenbrook North to formalize a basement suite and convert the existing accessory building to a laneway house. It is a bit of a unique property, with “two fronts”, one on Colborne and one on Park Crescent. The application will go to Public Hearing on what is starting to look like a busy February 24th meeting. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

457 East Columbia Street: Rezoning and Liquor Primary, Family Friendly Endorsement for Arcade – Report for Information
The Arcade in Sapperton has now been operating for a while under their Temporary Use Permit, and looking to apply for a rezoning for permanent use and a liquor license. There will be some community consultation, and we expect this to come back to Council (and to a Public Hearing) this Spring, so keep your ears open.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Update on Intelligent New West Event Planning
The successful Innovation Week programming of the last couple of years is taking on a new form and a new format. One of the concerns of the existing event was that many people wanted to attend multiple sessions, but simply couldn’t afford to take 3 or 4 consecutive days off to see it all. So the week is now broken up to 4 “Intelligent New West” one-day events, spread across the year.

The first will be an expo on February 20th will be the popular Innovation Expo, where local entrepreneurs and business can learn about how to connect with governments, be that earning government procurement contracts or seeking grants or funding for innovative businesses ideas and growth.

The next will be on March 11th at City Hall, where the Department of Nation Defense is sponsoring an event on “Allies and Modern Trades”, how we can create more space in the Trades (including Technology trades) for women, both as employers and as allies. This will be interesting for people training and/or hoping to work in the trades and employers working with trades.

Amendments to the Sign Bylaw regarding Election Signs
Every election year, we get some feedback on election signs. Many don’t like them, some see them as necessary evil, and very, very, few (outside of the printing and coroplast industries) celebrate new election sign season. With some feedback arising from the 2018 election, staff are recommending some bylaw changes. Biggest among them is doing what some other communities have done, limiting election signs to the 2’ x 2’ “lawn sign” size, and restricting the larger billboard signs. This will reduce the visual hazard of signs, and also level the playing field a bit, as the large signs (and their supporting infrastructure) are expensive. There is also a proposal to ban all “car signs” – meaning (as I interpret it), you can neither apply a sign to a moving vehicle, nor “wrap” your vehicle in a sign. The MayorMobile will roll no more.

As this is (obviously) an area fraught with potential political bias, staff are recommending we take these proposed Bylaw changes out to the public for feedback, and also connect with all of the recent electoral candidates (successful or not) to get feedback prior to asking the Council to vote on a revised Bylaw.

Urban Forest Management Strategy – Community Outreach
We want to increase our tree canopy in the City to help meet our Climate Action goals, and to make for a more livable community. Some of the thousands of new trees we will need to plant will be on City lands (Parks, boulevards, etc.), and some will need ot be on private lands (your yard!). So we want encourage new trees on private yards. This report talks about how we will do that.

We will hold an annual tree sale – every property owner can purchase up to two trees at a subsidized cost of $10. There will be a selection of species appropriate for our climate, and staff will provide some instructions on which type fits best in your chosen location and how to keep your tree alive the for couple of years until it is established;

We will also provide a rebate program for residents that choose to go to the nursery and purchase their own tree for their property. Much like the nematode program, you buy a tree, you put it on your property, you keep it alive, we will give you $20.

Finally, we are going to introduce a program to “adopt” the boulevard tree in front of your house, to connect the homeowner with sources of info to keep their boulevard trees healthy- such as summer watering schedules, mulching, and giving the city notice if the tree is looking damaged or unhealthy.

And that was the work part of Council this week, though we had some interesting delegations that you can enjoy on the Video!

Council – Jan 27, 2020

Our meeting this week was a short one agenda-wise, but we made up for it with and afternoon workshop that involved discussion about the upcoming Climate Action public consultation, Council expense policy, and the Regional Growth Strategy. More on those in later posts. We also had some Public Hearings, but we got through our Regular Agenda first:

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Report for 2019
The City is subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which means we have staff who answer to requests for info, and through the framework of the FOIPPA, screen that info for privacy protection concerns before releasing it to the applicant. Annually, they report out on the number of requests and response rate.

Requests have been going up in the last few years. Most applications are related to insurance or legal claims, usually between parties that do not include the City – so things like car crash reports and building inspection reports are common targets. Staff have provided responses within the regulated timeline (30 days) in all cases, which is the goal. Of the 86 requests in 2019, two were forwarded to the provincial Commissioner.

Carter St. Access Road Project – 2019 Budget Variance
As the TMH project in Queensborough is finally coming along, the work the City has long been planning to do to improve the road access to the Queensborough Community Centre coincides with the need to provide road access to the housing – the so-called “Carter Street”. Building roads and bringing old ones up to modern standards in Q’boro is expensive because of soil conditions. In this case, it is a cost-sharing between BC Housing and our existing paving and sewer rehabilitation programs. This cost was always anticipated, but timing has changed, and with the 2020-2024 Financial Plan not completed yet and the road needing to get built, we need to give official authorization to pay for this work (which would normally come with that Financial Plan)

Recruitment 2020: Appointments to Advisory Committees, Commissions, Boards and Panels
Here are the new Committee members. We changed a bit how appointments were made this time around, with staff providing an early screening and recommendations based on providing appropriate skill sets and lived experience from across our community. But Council ultimately has to approve the appointments. If you applied, look for your name here. If you were not selected, please apply again next year, because the new selection process should also increase the turnover of applicants. For everyone who volunteers for City committees, thank you! For those on the FIPRAC and STAC, we will see you soon!

Recruitment 2020: Appointments to the New Westminster Library Board
We also appoint people to serve on the Library Board!

Release of Council Resolution from Closed Meeting: Massey Theatre Working Group
Now that the Theatre Strategy is passed and being implemented, the timing is appropriate for us to have a conversation with the Massey Theatre Society to determine how we can get the most out of our continued relationship in both the Anvil Theatre and the Massey Theatre.

301 Stewardson Way: Development Variance Permit to Vary Sign Bylaw Requirements – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
You might have noticed Key West Ford did a bunch of renovations to their buildings at their dealership at 3rd and Stewardson. They now want to replace their signage, and the unique character of a car dealership doesn’t really mesh cleanly with our Sign Bylaw, which is meant to reflect somewhat more urban settings. So Key West is asking for a sign Bylaw variance. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on February 24th, so come on out and tell us what you think.

Major Purchases September 1st to December 31st, 2019
This is our every-four-months report on major purchases by the City, so you can see how we spend your money, and the results of our public procurement processes. This also discloses and sole-source contracts we give out, to keep our spending transparent. .

2019 New West Grand Prix
This is a reporting out on the New West Grand Prix, which has become one of the keystone summer events in New West. We have more sponsors coming on, and attendance is up, even if the weather wasn’t perfect this year. Some of the goals around supporting the kids race and getting downtown businesses more engaged were met, and we had (as always – thank you New West!) a tonne of volunteers. We also underspent the budget thanks to some cost efficiencies by staff and 1/3 of it being covered by expanded sponsorship. On to 2020!

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Proposed Child Care Facility Ownership and Management Policy and Provincial Child Care Funding Update
The City is supportive of new Childcare facilities. It is well known that there is a childcare crisis in the City, and has been for a while, but both the City and the provincial government are working hard to address that gap. Of course, “available” and “affordable” are two different things, and we need to improve both.

The current model for most affordable daycare is to have some form of not-for-profit receive subsidies to provide the service that the market simply will not fulfill. The big start-up capital cost is impossible for that model, so the City is making spaces available in City buildings (the QCC, and the CGP replacement, for example) and is leveraging development amenities to get childcare spaces built as part of new buildings.

This policy will help guide what type of operator is appropriate for these City-supported facilities, and where the division of responsibilities lie, like who is responsible for building repairs or utilities in these models? The report here outlines a proposed policy framework to answer these questions and provide some certainty for the operators.

Investment Report to December 31, 2019
This is our regular end-of year report on our investments, for the public record. The City has about $179 Million in the “bank”, most in reserves set aside for upcoming capital projects. We made $4.3M on those investments this year, but the City invests in a pretty low-risk way.

Following up on previous motions from Council to look at divestment from fossil fuels, there has been some progress through the City of New West lobbying the Municipal Finance Authority and other municipalities interested in climate action. It is too early to make any kind of official announcement, but the MFA is working on it, and we may hear something as soon as this spring.

We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Development Approval Procedures Amendment Bylaw No. 8152, 2019 and
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8153,2019
As discussed on December 9th, these Bylaws that adjust the fees for some development service fees as part of our larger process streamlining were adopted by Council.

Building Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8161, 2020
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that changes the Building Bylaw to help us support higher-efficiency buildings through the BC Energy Step Code and applying a performance bond on new buildings, was adopted by Council.

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8177, 2020
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw to adjust Development fees (once again!) to increase out Preliminary Application Review Fee was adopted by Council.

We also had a single item of New Business

271 Francis Way
We had a delegation a few months ago about a conflict between Onni and a Strata in Victoria Hill around parking. Our staff has looked deeper into the issue, and in this motion, Council directs staff to take no further action on this issue. I don’t want to talk further about it right now, because this involves a conflict between two parties in the City and I think it would be inappropriate for me to interject myself in this blog.

And after a short break, we had three Public Hearings:

Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 8151, 2019
This is a bit of an Omnibus OCP amendment to fix a few anomalies in the existing Official Community Plan.

This includes shifts in the Land Use Designation for four specific properties. These are not rezonings of the properties, and are not the result of anticipated change in land use, but the shifting the OCP designation to reflect current use.

361 Keary Street: this property is designated as residential detached on the OCP, but is zoned as multi-family low rise, and has a small apartment building on it. Not fixing the designation during the OCP update was an oversight, and we can fix that now.

345 Keary Street: This property was meant to be designated as residential detached during the OCP process, but was delayed to give a chance to consult with the owner. That consultation has happened now, so staff are proposing the change now.

1906 River Drive: This property is designated as residential detached, but has been zoned heavy industrial for some time, so the designation will be changed to reflect the zoning.

522 Fader Street: this property is designated as residential detached, but is owned by the School District and they requested that it be changed to Major Institutional.

There are also some changes in in language in the Queensborough Community Plan to make the language match the 2017 OCP, and a few grammatical changes in the OCP.

Finally, there are a few process changes here in how we do approvals to streamline the processes. Some Development Permit approvals are being delegated to the Director of Development Services (with an ability to raise them to Council if there are complaints or conflicts arising). Also, some minor DPs (e.g. under $100,000 in improvements) will go straight to staff.

We had one written response and one speaker at the Public Hearing, mostly seeking clarification about how this differs from a rezoning, and expressing concern about one of the properties changing use. Council gave the OCP change Third Reading and Adopted it.

Zoning Amendment (111 First Street, 115 & 117 First Street, and 118 Park Row) Bylaw No. 8175, 2019
There are three properties in the Queens Park neighbourhood around First and Royal that have duplexes on them, but back in 1987 for reasons unknown (but rumored about), they were re-zoned as residential single detached without the consent of the owners. We are now changing them back.

We received three written submissions in support, and a couple of delegations. A couple of the delegations raising concern were confused about the meaning of the rezoning and about the history of one of the sites, but it was never clear to me what their actual concern was- as they never expressed a reason for opposing the change, except that they didn’t understand it. Council gave the Bylaw Third Reading and Adoption.

Zoning Text Amendment Bylaw (230 Keary Street, 268 Nelson’s Court and 228 Nelson’s Crescent (Brewery District)) No. 8164, 2019
The developer of the Brewery District wants to shift some of the land use for the buildings on the site. Wesgroup would like to provide more “Purpose Built Rental”, or Market Rental (as opposed to strata condo ownership) in the Brewery District in exchange for more height (but no increase in density – so taller-but-narrower) for another building on site. This will also shift some of the formerly “omnibus” landuse- which is kind of an open designation that will allow any of residential, commercial, or health care.

It is a bit complicated, but this is how the land use for the three buildings breaks down:

Building 5 (228 Nelson Court) is under construction:
Approved: 80,000SQFT Strata Residential, 82,000 SQFT Market Rental.
Change: 162,000 SQFT Market Rental.

Building 7 (268 Nelson Court) is not yet started:
Approved: 260,000 SQFT “Omnibus”
Change: 210,000 SQFT Market Rental, 50,000SQFT Health/Commercial

Building 8 (230 Keary Street) is not yet started:
Approved: 300,000 SQFT Health/Commercial
Change: 200,000 SQFT “Omnibus”, 100,000 SQFT Health/Commercial

So the end result if these changes are approved:

Landuse             Before SQFT     After SQFT
Strata                     81,000                   0
PBR                        82,000                  371,000
Health Services   300,000                150,000
Omnibus               260,000               200,000

We received on letter in opposition and one delegation from the proponent. In a split vote, Council votes to give this change Third Reading. To me, the commitment to more purpose built and secured market rental in the Sapperton Neighbourhood (more than a quadrupling of the rental density) was the most important consideration. We have been building a lot of rental in New West, but are no-where near closing the rental gap. Seeing the development community commit to rental in New West is a positive for the community.

And that was a night’s work!

Council – Jan. 13, 2020!

The first Council meeting of 2020 was a long one, though the agenda was fairly short. We had a proclamation, and had several open delegations on the both the 2020 capital plan and the recycling centre (along with other topics, as is the nature of open delegations) but this report as always is on the business of the day. I’ll talk in an future blog post about the recycling centre discussion (though this provides some background info), and the 2020 budget will no doubt be the topic of many discussions between now and May!

The following items were Moved on Consent:

263 Jardine Street: Temporary Protection Order Update
Back in November, Council approved a temporary protection order for a single family home in the Queensborough after the owner applied for a demolition permit and the Community Heritage commission requested that efforts be made to save the house for its heritage value. The temporary order gave staff time to connect with the owner and assure they knew of the various incentives and benefits of heritage protection. The owner, once fully informed, decided to go on with demolishing the house and building a new house, as is their right under the zoning entitlement. So Council is lifting the protection order.

The following items were Removed From Consent for discussion:

High Performance “Bond” for Energy Step Code Buildings at Level 3 and Higher, and Select Increases to Building and Development Fees – Bylaws for Consideration of Readings
This report is a proposal from staff to make a few changes to building application fees in the City. It includes a significant increase in the application fee for a “preliminary review” of a significant development project, the introduction of a performance bod for high efficiency buildings to assure they meet step code goals, and a few minor “housekeeping” bylaw language changes.

The preliminary review application fee is pretty significant – up to $5,000. But staff have consulted with the development community, and they see a real value in this “early check in” model for the review of major projects, and as it is an optional approach ot any development, it is not causing anyone to pull their hair out, which is interesting for any fee increase.

The Performance Bond is a good way to incentivize compliance, but not so high that it disincentives building new homes during an ongoing housing supply crisis. And it helps us meet our building efficiency goals for the community. Council moved to approve these changes being read into a Bylaw.

Zoning Bylaw Work Program to Address Sustainable Transportation and Accessibility Objectives
Zoning policy is transportation policy, and vice versa. Smart growth means building transit-oriented communities where people have a lower risk of using a car, or even of owning a car, and a lower risk for being car-dependent for their everyday lives.

This is a heads-up from staff of some policy work for which Council has been asking for a while, to update the type and amount of off-street parking we require in new development to better reflect our strategic plans, our Master Transportation Plan, and the Climate Emergency goals. As this is preliminary, there is policy development work to be done, and bylaw changes will come back to Council, but I wanted to assure staff were thinking along the lines of looking a signficiant reductions in parking requirements for our transit-oriented development areas, and are thinking about end-of-trip facilities for both bicycles and e-bikes, and how those are managed in Condo buildings. The current “required bike room” bylaws do not always assure safe storage is available for residents and renters in multi-family, and this is will be an increasing need in our community as we start to transition to a car-light community.

Child Protection Policy and Procedures
This is a follow-up report on work our staff have been doing to update training and practices in all public buildings to better protect children from harm and exploitation.

We also had an Opportunity to be Heard on a Variance:

Development Variance Permit DVP00672 for 312 Fifth Street
As mentioned in a previous meeting, this heritage restoration project went sideways. Though the house will still be more or less preserved, there has been enough modification of the building materials that the restoration no longer meets nationally-recognized heritage conservation guidelines, so the benefits afforded the owner through the Heritage Restoration Agreement were rescinded. The work on the house still requires a couple of minor variances, and therefore we have to have an Opportunity to be Heard to assure the public has an opportunity to opine on those variances.

We received a single piece of correspondence (a neighbour’s letter of support) and no-one came to speak the variances. Council moved to approve these variances.

We had some Bylaws to adopt:

Sign Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8132, 2019
This Bylaw Amendment, which we gave Three Readings back on December 9th, makes some changes to our Sign Bylaw in order to reduce the need for variance applications and bring the Bylaw more in line with recent practice in regulating signs. Adopted by council, and now it’s the Law of the Land!

Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designation (312 Fifth Street) Rescinding Bylaw No. 8171, 2019
This is the official removal of Heritage Designation and removal of the benefits provided the homeowner by the HRA, related to the variance application earlier in the meeting.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (647 Ewen) Bylaw No. 8068, 2019
Heritage Designation Bylaw (647 Ewen Avenue) No. 8069, 2019

This is the Bylaw that formally protects the Slovak Hall and provides the HRA that supports the development of a small townhouse development attached to the hall. Adopted by Council, and now the law.

Finally, we had an item of New Business:

Motion: A Welcoming and Inclusive City
Councillor Nakagawa brought forward this motion asking staff to look into several different potential ways to improve consultation in the City, and make the work that Council does more accessible to more people. Some of it is right along the line of our Public Engagement Strategy and Work Plan that came out of the Public Engagement Task from last term, others are somewhat more general accessibility and inclusion ideas that should make for a more welcoming and inclusive community. This motion asked staff to report back with ideas of how to implement these. Council voted unanimously to support the motion.

Year of the Beard

I’ve been taking a serious year-end break. I took a couple of weeks off work, got out of town just after the last Council meeting. I’m taking a social media break as well, though I do hazard a short lurk once in a while to assure myself #NewWest still exists. I brought a few City documents on the road with me, and I am spending a bit of down time reading capital budget stuff (January is coming on soon!)but it’s been nice to turn most things off for a bit, ride my bike, sit on a beach, and chill with @MsNWimby.

That said, the week between Christmas and the New Year is ripe for these “year in review” things, so here goes mine. 2019 was a strange and interesting year, and I have a hard time summing my 2019 up.

One big change for me personally in 2019 is a change in my work/life balance. I went back to more regular “work” outside of Council. When elected in 2014, I was working full time. After almost two years of increasingly strained attempts at making it work, I had to be honest that I was not giving the attention or energy my 40-a-week professional job deserved, and decided to quit. For the balance of my first Council term I was doing a bit of consulting work, but nowhere near full time. Being honest about the effort and time I could put in with this council work (and my volunteer work with the CEA, CSAP, and LMLGA), I had found a couple of clients that offered the right level or workload, though I think @MsNWimby would have liked a more equitable contribution to household expenses.

In early 2019, I had an opportunity to take a real job working in my field that was half time – a solid 20 hours a week at a proper professional wage. It is work I am very familiar with so the learning curve was easy to get past, and I was able to provide value right up front. The employer is super flexible, and we have a great relationship around planning a work load for the weeks ahead, so I can assure scheduling conflicts are avoided. It all seems very “millennial” in work conditions, but it is working for everyone, and I am staying connected in my field. It has been a fun team to get to know as well, and the work is really interesting. so all’s good!

I also spent a bit of time in 2019 volunteering on the local federal election campaign. This was mostly a good news story – Peter Julian is an easy Member of Parliament to support, he had a great team working for him, and it is fun to knock on doors and make phone calls when you are stumping for such a popular guy!

The disappointment side of the 2019 Federal Election, personally, is a regret that I didn’t spend more time over in Coquitlam/Port Moody helping Bonita Zarrillo’s campaign. I have known Bonita from local government stuff for a few years, and was really excited to hear she was going to represent the NDP in Fin Donnelly’s riding. She is passionate, smart, caring, and hardworking, and she loves her home in the Tri Cities. In the end, she lost a squeaker to a parachuted-in ultra-conservative who failed to meaningfully campaign when she arrived. To see such a brilliant local leader lose to a party-issue hack form central casting is sad. To me a Member of Parliament is representative of your community in Ottawa, not a representative of the Party in your community. I feel disappointment that I didn’t have the foresight to invest more of my volunteer time to help Bonita, when she just needed a few hundred votes to get over the top. Sorry Bonita, but I am glad we are still working together in Local Government in the Lower Mainland.

In the local political realm, New West Council had probably the most quietly challenging year I have ever experienced. From my seat, it seemed there were very few big splashes, yet we pushed some really bold stuff forward. I have felt a tremendous amount of personal growth in how I approach the work, and the organization’s growth in some of the functional changes we are making at City Hall and in Council Chambers. We are making the organization more efficient and effective, though some of this is a bit out of sight for all but the vigilant council-watcher. This is alongside the real progress and growth reflected across the organization on files like climate and reconciliation. I think our Strategic Plan is (perhaps) too aggressive in wanting to achieve much more in a short time period than will be easy for a City our size. That said, I can’t disagree with the bold vision created, and hope we can continue to build the political will to be the most progressive and forward-looking local government in the province, if not in Canada. The shift represented by our Council and Staff’s embrace of aggressive climate actions is an encouraging example of progress that can be made when we are all on the same page, and I’m glad this community is still pushing us forward on that front.

In looking back at the direction we are forging, I find myself using words like “aggressive” and “bold”. Still, it feels like we are being given the clear political push from the public to get this work done. The community is telling us they can be just as bold as this Council, and perhaps through us providing transparency and a clear set of underlying values and vision, I am more confident in our ability to make this progress.

It is a bit funny, but you sometimes need to go outside to see how good things are inside. Our Council has ways of disagreeing – even new ways different than the last Council –and can drive each other nuts with our 7 different ways of approaching solutions, but if our paddles sometimes cross, we are all at least rowing the same direction. It is mostly at regional or provincial conferences where our cohort reminds us that New West is functional and punching way above its weight in the local government actions, and we do it while avoiding so much of the hijinks afflicting other less-functional Councils around the region. They get headlines, we get work done. That is a good feeling.

2019 had challenges, but I think the year ahead will be more challenging. We are deep into Capital Budget discussions right now, and are asking for the public’s help in setting those priorities. Translating an aggressive capital plan into a sustainable operational budget is the hard work part. We will be having some conversations not just about the things we want to do, but our vision for the 5 years ahead is going to have to include some conversations about what we are not going to do, or are going to stop doing. And New Westminster is not as good at letting things go as we are at starting new things (and by that I mean Council, City Staff, and the Public!). These conversations will be at times hard, but worth while. I’m looking forward to the work!

With all of this going on, I hardly had time to ride my bike for recreation, my blog here has been suffering from lack of attention (but blogs as a media are deader than dead, so who knows the future of this?), and my garden was a pretty dismal failure, except for all the tomatoes. I also found myself intentionally stepping back a bit from some things in 2019, mostly because of my new work & commuting schedule: fewer of those “I should make an appearance” events, and less patience for social media. I’m not sure what to make of my nascent impression that our local political challenges have become pettier, despite the good work we are doing (see above). I am not sure if that is a product of the changing social media landscape, or just the natural result of me settling in after five (5!) years of elected life. Or maybe I’m getting older.

Which brings the big personal news – I turned 50 in 2019. I’m not sure how that happened, but it just kinda snuck up on me and now I am looking down the second half of middle age. @MsNWimby threw a hell of a party, and I really haven’t taken the time to thank everyone who came out to celebrate. 50 makes you ornery, I guess. Or gives you a ready excuse to be so. Thank you for the great party, and for being a great support network for me and @MsNWimby.

Let me wrap my 2019 in review by thanking the wider network of great people in New West working to build this unique, progressive, compassionate community. There are so many people in this town who are doing so much to make it a great place to live. My Council colleagues are constantly challenging and surprising me, and the Mayor has really grown into a strong leader who earns more respect every day. There are true leaders in the School District, in the Arts community, in our BIAs and local businesses, in the many service agencies that make New West tick. Please keep up your good work, though it may feel you are fighting against the tide, your contributions are noticed and appreciated. If I have one resolution for 2020, it will be consciously spending less time worrying about the boo-birds on Facebook, and more time expressing gratitude to the many people around New West actually working every day to make this community so great. Happy New Year!