Council – November 25, 2019

The last council meeting of the month usually includes a Public Hearing meeting, and November 25th was no exception. What was different was we changed the timing so we had a full hour of meeting before the public hearing, which made it much easier for us to get some of the non-public-hearing work done and let some of our staff go home a little earlier. So my order of things may be a little off here, but the Agenda was something like this:

Proposed 2020-2024 Capital Program
We started off with a presentation on the (still very draft) Capital Plan to fit into the 2020-2024 financial plan. The biggest part of this work right now is not deciding what things we could do in the next 5 years, but what we are NOT going to do, because the Capital plan as presented in preceding months is simply too big. The NWAAC is blowing a $100 Million hole through the plan, and other things are going to need to be scaled back or deferred.

I will talk more about this in the months ahead, but more importantly, Council endorsed a public engagement plan to have the public help us set capital priorities, and hopefully get some feed back on where we see the budget going. How do we prioritize? This is a conversation Council has to have, and a conversation we need to have with the residents of New West.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

263 Jardine Street: Temporary Protection Order
The owner of a 1922 house in Queensborough wants to demolish it, and presumably replace it with a new house. The City has a policy that 60+ year old houses up for demolition pass through the Community Heritage Commission prior to demo approval, and the community has raised some concerns about the heritage value of this house. The CHC recommend we put a 60-day stay on the demolition order to try to convince the owner to not knock it down, or find alternatives.

Heritage Register Update
4 houses in the City that have received some sort of zoning entitlement through Heritage Restoration Agreements are being added to the Heritage Register.

Amendment to Water Shortage Response Bylaw
This is a housekeeping amendment to bring the water shortage fees and fines into the regular engineering rates bylaw so they can have synchronized annual review. This changes literally nothing except how we operationally account for the fees and the process required to change them in the future.

660 Quayside Drive (Pier West BOSA Development) – Status of Construction
This is an update on construction activities at the Pier West site on the waterfront. After some difficult issues arose last summer, Bosa has spent more time communicating with stakeholders in the neighbourhood and has worked out some of those issues. The overpass at Sixth Street is delayed by railway approvals (but coming along). There are still some “in river works” that need to happen this winter during the “fisheries window” when they will have the least impact on fish in the river due to seasonal migration. The eventual closure of Quayside Drive at Begbie is delayed until 2023, and will be limited to 6-8 weeks; the earlier scenario of a year or longer closure has been avoided though creative project management and some shifting of how the underground parking will be structured.

There have been some challenges maintaining accessibility through the site, as Bosa have committed to do until the Sixth Street overpass is completed. City Staff and Bosa are continuing to work through some of these issues, and Bosa has been fast to make necessary improvements when identified.

User Fees and Rates Review for 2020, Amendment Bylaws for Three Readings
After a review in principle last meeting, Staff have now sketched up the necessary Bylaws to adjust our Users Fees and Rates for 2020. The Shoe Shine Stand business license rate remains unchanged at $95.98 for up to 5 chairs, and $17.77 per chair for 6 or more.

Electrical and Engineering Utility Amendment Bylaw report
After a review in principle back in the November 4 meeting, Staff have now sketched up the necessary Bylaws to adjust our Utility fees for the next year. Water (7%) Sewer (7%) and Solid Waste (12%) increases are what was projected last year, and reflect our current 5-year financial plan so no change there. Electric utility will be going up 3.8%, which is from the already-project 2.8% increase plus a 1% increase to the Rate Rider which (along with half of the existing 5% Rate Rider) be directed to a Climate Action reserve fund to pay for some of the Climate Action initiatives in the community.

Justice Committee Terms of Reference – Unit Coordinator of the New Westminster Victim Assistance Association
We are adjusting the terms for this committee to assure a member of the New Westminster Victim Assistance Association is included.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Tourism New Westminster request for financial support for Municipal Regional District Tax application
Our local Destination Marketing Organization has an opportunity to implement a local 2% – 3% tax on local hotel rooms, as is common throughout BC. This fund would go directly to fund the Tourism New West operations, and would finally establish consistent funding for their operations. They are requesting some seed money to set up the most robust application. This one-time request will come from existing budget in the CAO’s office.

Council Procedure Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8162, 2019 – Second and Third Readings
We are making a subtle change in how our Public Delegations work, mostly to assure time-sensitive business can get done on Council nights and to help assure delegation space at council remains accessible to as many people as possible. Hopefully, things will run a little more efficiently in the New Year.

230 Keary Street, 268 Nelson’s Court and 228 Nelson’s Crescent (Brewery District): Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Text Amendment) for First and Second Readings and Housing Agreement Amendment Bylaw for Three Readings
Wesgroup is hoping to shift some land use in the next phases of the Brewery District development. They are not increasing density, but want to shift one building (Building 5) from a mix of market rental and strata condo to all market rental, and shift the next building (Building 7) to mostly Market Rental with a smaller commercial/office component, then switch the final all-commercial/office building (Building 8) to be switched to up to 2/3 residential, with the remaining commercial/office. This would also include a significant change in the shape of Building 8 (taller and narrower) but no net increase in density.

I expressed some concerns about how this change will impact some of the other goals we have for Building 8 (i.e. the building of accessible and seamless access between the SkyTrain Station and RCH) and how these changes would impacts the assumptions for traffic impacts and parking needs built into earlier approvals on the site. I was mostly interested in better understanding how our processes to secure commitments around these items fit in this slightly unusual process.

This Bylaw amendment will go to Public Hearing, so I will hold off on further comment until then.

Ride-Hailing: Guiding Principles for Responding to Ride-Hailing
The ride-hailing legislation by the province both gives to and takes away from some powers local governments have in how we regulate businesses and road use in our City. For example, we cannot (sorry Mayor McCallum and Councillor Jackson) stop ride-hailing companies from operating in our City, or even regulate the number of vehicles operating. We can, however, require business licenses for anyone operating on our community, and regulate things like pick-up and drop off rules.

As we are now required to adjust our regulatory environment, staff sought Council support for a set of guiding principles to outline how they should go about putting that regulator environment together.

Not speaking on behalf of Council now, but I believe the rules for ride hailing services should be similar to taxis: they need a business license to operate (and we should take part in any initiative to develop inter-municipal business license agreements with the rest of Greater Vancouver), and that we should regulate pick-up and drop off to assure that public safety, especially that of vulnerable road users, is paramount. I also believe that usage data would be a vital tool to allow municipalities to manage the negative road and traffic system impacts of ride hailing seen in other cities, and it is important that Cities that want it have access to this data.

As far as I can tell, we do not have the regularly authority as a local government to require accessibility standards for the fleet, but this is something we should advocate towards, and I agree with the Provincially proposed approach that a tax be placed on non-accessible rides to fund accessibility upgrades, but I have no idea if this is even functionally possible. We are also unclear if there is even a legislative ability to do per-trip fees, like the City of Vancouver is proposing.

In the end, Council agreed to the guiding principles staff put together to provide a framework for legislation. Staff will continue to work with our neighboring communities to try as best we can to assure that there is some sort of coordinated approach here, as we all agree a patchwork of local regulations will be both hard to enforce, and confusing for the public.

Period Promise Campaign
The City of New Westminster is following the lead of our own School District and a few other communities like the City of Victoria in assuring that Civic Facilities that have washrooms and distribute free toilet paper and paper towels, also provide fee menstrual products. The cost of this program is low in the scale of our public facilities operation budget, but reflects the need to for equity in our public service offerings. In hindsight, it is remarkable it took us this long to think this is right.


We had a single piece of Correspondence with a follow-up action:

Metro Vancouver letter dated November 4, 2019 regarding consent to Metro Vancouver Regional Parks Service Amendment Bylaw No. 1290
We are a member of Metro Vancouver, and therefore part owner of the Regional Parks. There is a park on the edge of Metro Vancouver in Langley that overlaps into adjacent Abbotsford (“Aldergrove Regional Park”), and we need to agree to allow Metro Vancouver to maintain a park that is not, strictly, within Metro Vancouver. 2/3 of Metro Vancouver communities have to consent to this idea, and New Westminster formally consented to it.


We also had to Late Additions to the Agenda:

318 Columbia Street life safety
Bylaws brought to our attention a commercial property that had some unapproved residential units in it that presented some life safety issues. They updated us on some proposed enforcement actions, and will work with the building owner to bring things into compliance.

Closed motion letter to Port Moody
This is a weird one. New West Council was communicating with another municipality over some board appointment issues, and someone in that municipality provided to the media information about closed correspondence, which is clearly a violation of Section 90 of the Community Charter. This put members of our Council in a difficult situation where we were asked to comment about closed deliberations, which would have put us in violation of the Charter. So our Clerk decided it was best to release the correspondence from closed so that we were free to discuss it. I will write more about this in a future post. It’s gross, but here we are.


We then held our Public Hearing and addressed the Bylaws being considered:

Official Community Plan Amendment (Removal of Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area Related Protection from Seven Properties) Bylaw No. 8156, 2019
This Bylaw would wrap up the largest part of work related to the Heritage Conservation Area in Queens Park. When the HCA Bylaw was adopted, there was a division between protected heritage houses and unprotected non-heritage houses. There were 86 properties (out of ~700) that were old enough to qualify for heritage protection, but had other confounding factors that made it difficult to determine at first pass if they qualified to be protected. We have since been going through a systematic process to move all of these to Protected or Not Protected, based on their heritage merit, potential to achieve zoning entitlements, and building condition.

At a second more detailed screening back in 2018, 33 were removed from protection based on heritage merit, and 6 more are recommended for such removal now after a third level of screening. Of the 47 remaining, one more is recommended for removal due to zoning entitlement issues, which would move the remaining 46 into fully protected status.

We received several pieces of correspondence, some opposing any removals, one opposing a specific removal, a few agreeing with removals, and a few asking to have their property added to the removed list. The public delegations were mostly representing that last group, with a few showing support for the HCA process that got us this far.

Council Gave the Bylaw Third Reading and Adoption after the Public Hearing.

Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw (1111 Sixth Avenue) No. 8145, 2019 and
Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw (1111 Sixth Avenue) No. 8146, 2019
This project would remove the small office-type building that is adjacent to the historic Shiloh Sixth Avenue United Church and replace it (and the empty parking lot next door) with a larger 4-story building with underground parking. There would be a sizeable (114 spaces!) childcare facility in that new building. In the meantime, a conservation plan would further protect the adjacent Shiloh Church building according to a conservation plan.

We had a few people come to speak to Council, mostly concerned about the impact on the alleyway and the ability for it to handle the inferred traffic increases related to the Daycare. None was strongly opposed, just worried that the City address these impacts.

Council moved to support Third reading for both of these bylaws.


We then had Opportunities to be Heard on some variance permits:

Development Variance Permit DVP00670 for 221 St Patrick Street
The applicant wants to raise their house to make the basement space 8’, which means lifting the house by 1.2 feet. The house is already 0.7 feet above allowable height limit, this will put it 1.9 feet above, which is not out of scale with adjacent properties. No-one came to speak to Council on the matter, and Council moved to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00671 for 330 E. Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital)
The Hospital needs wayfinding signage, and it doesn’t meet the strict guidelines of our sign bylaw, so they need a variance. No-one came to speak to Council on the matter, and Council moved to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00669 for 550 Sixth Street
The CIBC at Sixth and Sixth wants to update their signage, and though it is very similar to the exiting signage, it doesn’t meet the strict guidelines of our sign bylaw, so they need a variance. No-one came to speak to Council on the matter, and Council moved to approve the variance.


Finally, we adopted the following Bylaw:

Development Cost Charge Reserve Funds Expenditure Bylaw No. 8159, 2019
This Bylaw releases money from our DCCs (the money developers pay us to pay for utility and other upgrades related to development-related growth) to pay for several of the infrastructure upgrades they paid for.

One more Council Meeting until Christmas!

UBCM 2019

This year’s Union of BC Municipalities meeting was a crazy week for me, and I didn’t report out right away because I got behind on e-mail and council stuff and my other work and enough excuses I have a bit of time this weekend so here we go. Being a month and a half after actual event, I will try to keep this short, and if you want to hear longer details about what happens when a couple of thousand local government types get together and talk policy, you will have to buy me a beer, I guess.

Yes, there is a socializing/networking part to UBCM like any convention. It is often inspiring to meet your cohort from other Municipalities, like the super cool and visionary leadership of the District of Squamish.

The annual UBCM conference has several different elements for most participants, but I am going to skip past the AGM and appointment of executive stuff that is pretty inside baseball. The big three elements, and the reason we are all there, are the resolutions, the workshops, and the meetings. With so much going on, it is impossible to attend them all, but here were my experiences this year:

The Meetings: The City of New West had official meetings with several Ministers and senior provincial government staff to discuss specific issues. We share the load between my Council colleagues a bit on these meetings, so I was not able to attend them all. I did get to take part in the meeting with the Premier to discuss some aspects of our capital and strategic plans, and ways we thought the province could help us achieve them (and, of course, how us achieving them helps the provincial government meet some of their goals!). I’m not sure of the Premier deciding to put on his Victoria Shamrocks cap as he saw the New West contingent enter the meeting room was a good sign. New West Council also met with Ministers to discuss the future of the Massey Theatre site, the state of Indigenous Courts in New West, and the urgent need for support in building Child Care in New West.

I also serve a role on the executive of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, which is kind of a professional association for local government elected officials and acts as a sort of local chapter of the UBCM serving the Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and Sea to Sky areas. The Lower Mainland LGA has its own resolution sessions at our spring conference, and the Executive takes the highest-priority resolutions from the conference and requests meetings with the appropriate Ministers to lobby on the resolution topics.

Through this process, I was able to attend a meeting with senior officials in the Ministry of Environment, calling on them to match Local Governments’ commitment to climate action by declaring a Climate Emergency and consummate acceleration of their efforts to get BC in line with the emissions targets in the Paris Agreement. I took part in a meeting with the Attorney General asking for better support for the Indigenous Court System, with the Ministry of Transportation reiterating our need to make it easier for Local Governments to reduce speed limits within our jurisdictions, and with the Minister of Finance to discuss expansion of the vacancy tax and speculation tax programs. Finally, we had a meeting with the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation where he and his staff outlined the Province’s intentions in introducing UNDRIP legislation.

The Resolutions:
This is the part of UBCM where the group collectively calls on senior governments to change policy or provide funding. The UBCM resolutions session is a bit of a gong show, not in the least because there were more than 200 resolutions on the agenda this year. As the meeting has a fixed schedule, there was no chance we would get through them all. Some are moved through a “consent” block, but some others take a long time to work through as amendments and debate are inevitable, especially when talking about potentially divisive topics like whether we are killing the planet and maybe should do something about that.

Yes, they literally throw you on the Big Screen when delegating on resolutions. It’s true what they say about TV adding 5 pounds to your beard.

New Westminster had seven (7!) resolutions, but only 6 were being considered:

B80: Declaration of Employee Compensation as Part of Annual SOFI Reporting was endorsed by the Membership. This was covered a bit here, and I was happy to hear that the members of UBCM supported this move to reduce harassment in our workplaces, especially for our public-facing workers.

B109: Fresh Voices #LostVotes Campaign call to open up voting in local elections to Permanent Residents was endorsed by the membership after a hearty debate lead by Councillor Nakagawa, and framed brilliantly by Councillor Sharmarke Dubow of Victoria.

B174: Investments in Local Government and Not-For-Profit Seniors’ Services and Supports;
B184: Creation of the Office of the Renters Advocate;
B194: School Bus Safety; and
B207: Support of Indigenous Court System.
None of these resolutions made it to the floor for debate. Simply put, the resolution session ran out of time, before these items got to the floor. We had about 220 resolutions (plus more than 60 “C” category resolution, see below), and only got through the first 168. These resolutions are “referred back to the Executive”, which means for the most part, they will disappear into a black hole. Some we may try to bring back next year.

C14: #AllOnBoardCampaign. This was the City of New West joining the call on the Province to make transit more equitable by removing fares for those under 18 years of age and to address the punitive structure of fare evasion fines for youth and those with low or no incomes. As a “C” category resolution, it was put aside in favour of another resolution that was thought to materially address the same topic. In this case, the UBCM resolutions committee saw Resolutions B113 and B114 by Burnaby (which addressed youth and restorative justice in fines, and increasing the low-income transportation subsidy, respectively) as being a more comprehensive approach to the issue, which is, in the technical term, bullshit. So we will have to go again next on this one with a better-structured resolution.

Alas, the resolutions session at UBCM is both exciting and frustrating. I can’t help but feel there needs to be a refresh of how resolutions are prioritized, and how the session is managed, as letting half of the resolutions die on the floor for lack of time is unsatisfactory to everyone. There is also a strange dichotomy of debate on the floor. I pledge next year to do a “slippery slope count” for how many times that phrase is used in an argument to not make change because it implies some sort of endorsement of much larger change. Not only is the “slippery slope” a logical fallacy – indeed I think it is the only logical fallacy we actually name while we make it – I think it is too often used to defend a status quo that even the delegate admits is not functional. Ah, governance.

Workshops:
This is the most typical “conference” part of the conference, where there are workshops and forums that let local government types find out what is happening around the province, what legislation is changing, what we could do better or stop doing badly so we can be better at our jobs.

Yes, passenger vehicles are a complex legislative framework in Canada and BC. And it is all going to have to change.

I attended a Policy Session on Ride Hailing “Passenger Directed Vehicle Services” legislation that was a bit of a hot mess, as it is clear that the provincial government is trying to responsibly regulate an industry whose business model is based on lack of regulatory oversight, and the audience’s essential message was “I want” despite the regulatory hurdles – which is a weird piece of cognitive dissonance for elected officials. I attended a Plenary on BC’s Energy Futures where the need to take immediate and meaningful action on climate was moderated against not asking a few “resource dependent” communities to change.Yes, this is a Panel on Energy Policy in local government featuring some powerful and intelligent local leaders, and some guy from Langley who was there for undefined reasons.

I was at the Large Cities Forum, where the dominant topic of conversation was clearly the housing crisis and the housing affordability crisis. I attended a workshop in the changing face of waste management and recycling as this area is shifting fast as the amount of waste we are generating is starting to increase again at the same time as global markets for recycling products is shrinking, and what that means for the targets we have set. I also attended a Cabinet Town Hall on Infrastructure investment.

there are always lots of bar charts at UBCM, and like every Homer ever, I am always looking to see how we measure up, even in the bad news statistics.

We heard addresses by the Premier (well done, funny at times, nothing ground-breaking, and clearly more directed towards the more rural communities present), the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Green Party. The star of the room, however, was Selena Robinson, who as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is clearly getting a lot done and is building a lot of respect across party lines for the work she is doing.

I took part in the BC Municipal Climate Leadership breakfast with members of the Council and representatives from all three Provincial parties to discuss the alignment of local and provincial goals towards climate action. I am also the Chair of the Community Energy Association, so I was tasked with a bit of Awards Ceremony MCing, as the Minister of Energy and Mines handed out Climate and Energy Action Awards to local government across the province that have done exceptional work or are breaking new ground on reducing energy use and GHG emissions in their community.

So, yeah, looking back, it was a busy three days.

Council – Nov 4, 2019

We had a shorter Agenda in our Council Meeting this week, but a couple of important pieces were presented right at the beginning as Presentations:

Strategic Plan
Our Strategic Plan was presented by the Mayor himself. This was formally adopted in a meeting more than month ago, but we never had a chance to describe it in detail because that was a busy and long meeting. This outlines our vision, our strategic priorities as a Council, and some of the measures we will use to guide our decision making through to the end of this term. As we start delving deeper into discussions of our budget in the months ahead, this is our guiding document. You can read the entire document here.

2020 Climate Action Budgeting Framework and Ten Year Carbon Targets: New Westminster’s Seven Bold Steps
This report answers the oft-repeated question: What does a declaration of a Climate Emergency really mean?

When Council moved to support this declaration we gave staff clear direction: We want the City to set emissions goals that get us to where the Paris Agreement says Canada has to be, and we want staff to be bold in telling us what that transition looks like. We also wanted to make clear for the public where we are going so that operational and budget changes made in light of this declaration fit within a context.

This report outlines some ambitious goals for the first 10 years of this transition, with the hope to get our emissions down by 45% by 2030 by prioritizing the biggest sources of greenhouses gas emissions in the City. It includes 7 Bold Steps, each with a clear measure for 2030.

But more than these 7 steps, it is clear from this report that Climate Action is an all-hands-on-deck operation. It will be part of every departmental work plan, and our city ide priorities are going to be viewed through a climate lens. It is also going to come with some costs in the short term that we are going to have to bake into our financial plans. We will have, in the 2020-2024 Five Year Financial Plan, the first carbon-focused budget for the City.

I’m clearly not done talking about this, and as we go through the implementation of these ideas and shift in our budgeting, there will be a lot more discussion, but overall I am excited about this work. And note that by happy coincidence, the things that will change in the City to reduce emissions are also things that will make the City a more livable and healthy place: fewer cars burning less gas, more efficient housing, a more robust energy grid, and more green spaces.

2020 Utility Rates
As we are going through work on our budget, it is time to set some utility rates for next year. We have four utilities in New West, and the biggest cost driver in all of them is the cost of the stuff the utility provides – be that water, sewage treatment, tippage fees for solid waste, or wholesale electricity. I had fun drawing flow diagrams last year to show where this money goes, which you can see here.

The proposed increases for water/sewer/trash are consistent with what we talked about last year (we do this as part of 5-year plans), so nothing changed here.

The Electrical Utility, however, is proposing to shift how the 5% Rate Rider is managed. Instead of going into general utility revenue (like the BC Hydro Rate Rider that it was originally modeled on) we are taking a portion of the rate rider revenues to fund a Climate Action Reserve to fund the acceleration of some climate actions.

These are the proposed rate changes, and Council supported them in principle. This will now get baked into a Bylaw and Council will review again.


We then moved the following items on Consent:

Completion of Appointment of Members to the new Grant Committees
We talked last meeting about re-alignment of committees, but skipped over the Grant Committees, as they are a bit unique – they exist to provide community input to the job of sifting through our many grant applications to determine who gets those grants. We are also assigning a senior staff member to each of those grant committees to help guide the process from a policy side.

Recruitment 2020: Appointment of Chairs to 2020 Advisory Bodies of Council and External Organizations
This is our annual appointment of Council members to Advisory Committees, and internal and external boards. With the change in committee structures, there is quite a bit of shifting around here. I’m on the Electrical Utility Commission, the new Facilities, Infrastructure and Public Realm Advisory Committee, and will Chair the Sustainable Transportation Committee. I will also be a member of the Environment and Climate Task Force, the Facilities, Infrastructure and Public Realm Task Force, and the Sustainable Transportation Task Force.

TransLink/SkyTrain Guideway (22nd Street Station to New Westminster Station): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Translink is doing some guideway maintenance of the SkyTrain, which simply cannot happen during the day when the rails are energized and have trains running on them. They need a construction noise exemption to do this work.

Provincial Housing Needs Report Program
The provincial government now requires local governments to do annual Housing Needs Assessments. I was ready to get all huffy about downloading work, but the Provincial Government also provided funding to do the work! More good news is that Metro Vancouver is going to coordinate collective data collection to inform these reports as part of their work plan. So we are going to apply for the provincial funding to pay for the part of the report we need to do, and join our metro partners in the group data collection. I love it when governments work together.

705 Queen’s Avenue: Temporary Use Permit for Group Living Facility – Preliminary Report
Westminster House provides residential programs for women recovering from addiction. They run several support houses in residential areas in New Westminster. This is another house they would like to use for the same purpose, but need a Temporary Use Permit because the type of service they provide doesn’t strictly fit the zoning. This is a preliminary report, and the application will go to public consultation and an Opportunity to be Heard, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

550 Sixth Street (CIBC): Development Variance Permit to Vary Sign Bylaw Requirements – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
The Bank at 6th and 6th wants to replace their fascia signs, and though they are basically consistent with what is there now, they but they would not comply with the Sign Bylaw, so they are asking for a variance. This will go to an Opportunity to be Heard, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital): Development Variance Permit to Vary Sign Bylaw Requirements – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
Perhaps not surprisingly, our Sign Bylaw also doesn’t reflect the unique signage needs of a Hospital, so RCH is applying for a variance for the signage on their new building, and some wayfinding signage around the campus. This will go to public consultation and an Opportunity to be Heard, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

221 St. Patrick Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Height Limit – Consideration of Opportunity to be Heard
This property owner in Queens Park wants to lift their house to make an underheight basement in to a livable space. This requires a variance because the height of the house would be about two feet higher than currently allowed. This will go to an Opportunity to be Heard, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Special Limited Category Study Completion – Official Community Plan Amendment for Consideration of First and Second Readings and Direction on Proposed Zoning Bylaw Amendment
This is our ongoing refinement of the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area. In the original Bylaw, we had 86 properties in the “special study” netherworld between protected and not protected. Through further study, 33 of those were removed from protection, leaving 53. Through yet again, another level of evaluating the remaining houses, we are now looking at removing 7 more, leaving 46 which we would move into the protected category, which requires an OCP amendment.

We also had a request to formalize the zoning of a duplex in Queens Park, and identified two more that are in the same state – long-standing duplex, without the consummate zoning. Duplexes are exempt from protection in the QP Heritage Area, but all three of these duplexes are too young to subject to protection anyway.

This will, as you may have guessed, be going to a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

DCC Expenditure Bylaw No. 8159, 2019
Development Cost Charges are money we collect from developers to pay for infrastructure upgrades identified to be required because of the increased density that comes with development. To release money from the DCC reserves to pay for that infrastructure work, we need an authorizing bylaw, which this is.

1111 Sixth Avenue (Wisdom Forest Early Learning Centre): Official Community Plan Amendment and Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Bylaws for First and Second Readings
The Shiloh Church on Sixth Ave near 12th Street is a designated heritage building, but the owners want to replace the accessory building beside with a new building to host a childcare centre. Because the property is designated, that need an OCP amendment to make this happen. This will go to Public Hearing on November 25th, C’mon out and tell us what you think.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Amendment to the 2020 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
We are going to adjust how we do Public Hearing days, starting our regular meetings at 6:00 and starting Public Hearings at 7:00. This has a couple of advantages. We can get some priority work done before the Public Hearing starts, reducing the amount of staff who have to stick around late into the evening for longer Public Hearings, and it gives people with busy schedules an commutes a little more time to get to City Hall if they want to take part in the Public Hearing. We will try this out a few times, and I suspect it will work better.

User Fees and Rates Review
As part of our annual budget work, we review our fees for everything from cemetery plots to renting studio space to connecting your house to electrical service. Each department compares the fees to the actual cost to provide the service, and compares us to other municipalities and comes up with recommended changes. Most changes are linked to CPI (a 2% increase this year). One thing going up more is the charge for car storage in public space, which we talked about last meeting. We also removed the charge for casket services for infants, which I think is a subtle nod to being a more compassionate City.


We then did our usual multiple-reading bylaw exercise, which included moving Adoption fo the following Bylaws:

Delegation Bylaw Amendment No. 8163, 2019
This Bylaw that shifts some language in the Bylaw that delegates some of Council’s responsibility to senior staff so they can do their jobs without waiting for us to meet and review everything was adopted by Council.

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 8158, 2019
This Bylaw that allows the City to borrow up to $3Million in the very short term to keep us from going overdraft, which we renew every year and hardly ever use was nonetheless adopted by Council.

Street and Traffic Amendment Bylaw No. 8160, 2019
This shift in how we define “truck” to better coincide with neighbouring communities was adopted by Council. Keep on Truckin’, but please stick to regulated Truck Routes.

Public Hearing- Oct. 28, 2019

Of course last Council meeting was a long one less because of all of the business I reported earlier, and more because there were Public Hearings on 4 items:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (837-841 Twelfth Street) No. 8139, 2019
This project would see a 5-storey residential building built where there is currently an empty lot on 12th Street at Dublin Street. This is a project that has shifted a lot over the time it has been through public and committee review, including reducing from 6 stories and a shift in unit mix. It landed at Public Hearing with 29 residential units, 8 of them being three-bedroom and 21 being two-bedroom, with 4 units ground-level townhouse style units facing 12th Street. It would also meet “Step 4” of the BC Step code making it the most energy efficient multi-family building in New West.

We had no written submissions, but two neighbours came to speak with concerns about the massing, and about the impact of pile driving during construction (this issue was raised during public consultation, and the builder provided a geotechnical report indicating there would not be pile driving required during the construction).

Council moved unanimously to approve giving this project three readings.

Zoning Bylaw Amendment (540 Ewen Avenue – Cannabis Retail Location) No. 8108, 2019
This was the application that had the most delegations for the evening. The application is to permit the sale of cannabis in an empty retail storefront in Queensborough. This was the first of two cannabis retail applications for review this evening (with three other locations – Uptown, 12th Ave and Queensborough Landing already approved), but it certainly was the most contentious application we reviewed. We received something like 600 pieces of correspondence on this application, with more than 500 of those individually signed copies of a form letter in opposition. Of the other correspondence, it was evenly mixed between people in favour and those opposed. We had about two dozen people delegate to Council, with a few more in favour than opposed.

Much of the discussion both for and against seemed to be re-litigating the case for cannabis legalization. One of my council colleagues wisely pointed out that the fears people have about cannabis legalization are based not on ignorance or prudishness, but on the legacy of a century of Canadian government, schools, police, and other “authorities” telling people that cannabis was evil and one of the most dangerous things their kids could ever be exposed to. People are afraid of cannabis because they have been relentlessly told to fear it their entire lives. That the federal government has now made it legal, and is not investing any time or energy undoing those narratives has essentially set people up, and communities up, for these conflicts of conscience.

Even in much of the discussion of this specific location, much of the concern was related to fears of the product. It shouldn’t be near a toddler daycare, 150m is not far enough from a playground, and a general idea that people will feel “unsafe” near the store. I did have more time for people concerned about noise and nuisance in a location that is near several residential properties, but the application is being made by a local business owner with deep roots in the community and experience running a nearby neighbourhood pub and is experienced at managing these type of issues, helped assuage some of these concerns for me.

On the bigger issue of cannabis retailing, I do hear people’s fears and concerns. It has been decades since I was a cannabis user (hey, I grew up in the Kootenays!) but I am aware how ubiquitous it is in British Columbia. I don’t believe it is a harmless product, but I think the potential for harm is much lower than alcohol or tobacco, and those harms are best managed through a legalized and regulated industry, not through prohibition. Pot exists, and is not going away, lets allow a regulatory regime suck all of the cool out of it and saturate the black market out of it, and it will be easier to address the externalities.

So I voted to support this location, and in a split decision, Council voted to approve the location.

Zoning Bylaw Amendment (71 Sixth Street – Cannabis Retail Location) No. 8107, 2019
This second Cannabis Retail application of the night did not draw quite as much response as the first. The location is in a corner store location on Sixth Street and Agnes in the Downtown. We had 5 written submissions, and about a dozen people came to speak to the Public Hearing, about evenly mixed between those in favour and those opposed. There were some difficult delegations, as the conversation moved to a bigger discussion of the current addiction and fentanyl crises, though the understanding of what the role of Cannabis regulation (and other aspects of “safe supply”) was not really explored at length.

In the end Council voted unanimously to support this application.

Official Community Plan Amendment (318 Fourth Street) Bylaw No. 8147, 2019
This application was to remove a house from protection under the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area. The house is old enough (1908) to merit protection, but there is a process through which people can apply to have the protection removed through a combination of limited heritage merit, low potential for restoration, or unreasonable impairment of zoning entitlement. There is a scoring system developed to guide evaluation of the merit of these applications, and houses that score 61% or higher are not recommended for removal. This house scored 60%, which means it is recommended for removal by staff, but is obviously right on the edge, and ultimately, this decision is up to Council. Because removing protection requires an amendment of the Official Community Plan, they must go to Public Hearing.

We had 14 written submissions on this application, almost all opposed to removal of protection. We also had 11 people come and delegate to Council, all excepting the applicant opposed to removal.

The argument for removal was that the homeowner wanted to build a different style of house, and did not feel that the exiting house could be renovated in an affordable way to meet his family’s needs. This 0.47 FSR house on a 7000 SqFt lot could be replaced with a slightly larger (up to 0.50 FSR) house. With the incentives available through the HCA program, an extension or carriage house totaling more than 0.70FSR could be built with preservation of the house. I would argue that his zoning entitlements are much better (by 1,600+ Square Feet) with preservation.

In the end, the house is intact, and there was no compelling evidence provided that preservation was particularly onerous. Arguably, this is the type of house that the incentive programs were developed to encourage the preservation of, and I believe the spirit of the HRA was reflected in its protection. Council moved unanimously to not permit removal.

Council – Oct. 28, 2019

We had a long council meeting this week after a full day of meetings made longer by the awareness that it was glorious and sunny outside and more rational people were frolicking in sun. The Mayor did not see the wisdom in my suggesting we move the meeting to a hiking train nearby, so doomed to Council Chambers we were. The meeting was made longer by a couple of Public Hearing topics that had significant public input, but I am going to skip past those (watch for the next blog post) and just get to the Regular Council Agenda:

After the Public Hearing we started our regular meeting with an Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit DVP00666 for 331 Richmond Street (Richard McBride Elementary)
The replacement school at McBride needs a few variances, because the unusual nature of the building and it’s zoning. We received a bit of correspondence, and had two people come to the Opportunity to be Heard about the height variance. Many homes on School and Devoy Streets do have spectacular views up the Fraser River due to the steep grades in upper Sapperton, and are concerned a three-storey school blocking that. The variance requested, however, was less than 4 feet over the allowable height, and with the grade of the school site and surrounding roads, I am of the impression the change in visual impact will be minor. And we need to replace the School.

Council voted to approve the variance.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Recruitment 2019: Committee Rescindments
We have had a couple of members of committees change their life situations and have to leave some committees, as commonly happens. We do this official rescindment so their lack of presence doesn’t have a big an impact on the quorum requirements for the volunteer committees

A Bylaw to Amend Delegation Bylaw No. 7176, 2015
This Bylaw defines the things that staff (our CAO or her delegate) can decide that are typically within Council purview. We are updating this Bylaw for the first time since 2015, mostly to update the names of departments and job roles that have shifted. The biggest difference is shifting the awarding for Grants from a direct Council decision to a staff decision based on Council policy guidance, which should remove some of the politics from the process.

City Small Sites Affordable Housing Projects: Recommended Sites for Two New Developments and Calls for Proposal
The City has supported small-lot affordable housing projects by providing grants of City-owned land to providers able to put housing there. This addresses one of the major hurdles to affordable housing in the lower mainland – the high cost of land. Unfortunately, the City of New Westminster simply doesn’t own very much land, so these opportunities are limited. Staff have, however, identified two undeveloped City-owned properties where housing may be appropriate; one in Queensborough and one in Connaught Heights. We will now reach out to Affordable Housing providers to see if anyone has the resources to put housing on these spots.

404 Salter Street (Summit Earthworks): Update on Port of Vancouver Permit Review Process for Soil Transfer Facility
These two related projects on Port of Vancouver lands in Queensborough are raising some concern in the adjacent neighbourhood. The lands are within Port jurisdiction and designated industrial by the Port, so the City has little to no jurisdiction over their use, we are essentially a “stakeholder” in the consultation much like the neighbours. We have asked the Port for some feedback on some significant points (traffic impacts, dike improvements, rainwater runoff management, etc.) and we will see where this goes. If you have concerns or want to learn more, the Port’s information page is here.

Development Approval Process Streamlining: Proposed Changes to Development Permit Process and Official Community Plan Updates
We have been working on shifting some of the established ways we run City Hall to make things more efficient and to stop getting in our own way on some of the strategic goals the City has. Staff in Planning have identified some practices in the how we do development approvals that make it smoother, quicker, and more consistent for applicants, the public, and staff. Some changes are internal practices that don’t need any official approval, but some others require that Council amend the OCP. Those latter ones are outlined here, and will need to be put into a Bylaw, and will need a Public Hearing after a bit of public consultation about what the changes mean in a practical sense. Council moved to approve this going to a bylaw.

909 First Street: Rezoning and Development Permit – Report for Information
This applicant would like to build a compact 4-unit townhouse development on a large single family lot behind the City Works Yard in Glenbrooke North. The site coverage is less than what would be regularly permitted, and the FSR is well within permitted, so no variances are expected from the Infill Townhouse and Rowhouse Design Guidelines. This is the first development of this type in this neighbourhood, though, so this is a “check in” report to Council to raise any red flags before it goes to public consultation and the rigmarole of committee reviews and eventually a Public Hearing if it gets that far. Council raised no concerns.

2018 Corporate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Update
The Greenhouse Gasses produced by our corporate activity (running garbage trucks and police cars and lawnmowers and swimming pools and libraries, etc.) have gone down in the 10 years since we established a Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan, even as our City has grown. In 2008 we set the target of a 15% overall reduction from 2007 levels by 2017. We managed to make that reduction 12.6%, or just short of the target, for 2018. However, this is not a consistent number, as our overall emissions change every year based on things like the amount of snowclearing we need to do.

This is a look back, but we are now, through our Climate Emergency action plan, looking at some very aggressive targets in the decade ahead, ultimately aiming to be truly zero carbon by 2050. There is a lot to unpack here, and our accelerated Climate Emergency approach is going to be reported out soon, so stay tuned, planet-watchers!

Street and Traffic Bylaw No. 7664, 2015 – Revision to Harmonize Truck Definition
Like most cities, we have a Bylaw that regulates how our roads operate above and beside the boundaries of the Motor Vehicle Act. Unfortunately, there are parts of these Bylaws that vary from other Cities (they should all be like us!), and one of those is the definition of “truck” for truck routes. We are aligning these through the regional committee of engineers from all of these cities (“RTAC”). So we need to update our Bylaw to make that alignment work. Adjust your truck definitions accordingly.

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 8158, 2019
Every year, about this time, we update our borrowing authorization so that we can borrow some cash in case it is needed between the end of our spending year and when the next pile of tax payments come it. We have authorization to borrow up to $3M as a kind of “line of credit” for one year, but we are unlikely to use it.


The following items were, late in the evening, Removed From Consent for discussion:

Amendments to the Council Procedure Bylaw No. 6910, 2004
We talked last meeting quite a bit about proposed changes in the Council Procedures Bylaw, and this following some workshopping and a lot of hand-wringing over what works and what doesn’t with our current structure The changes are subtle, but will hopefully act to remind everyone involved that time in Council meetings is expensive and valuable, and that we need to make this time as equitable as possible so a greater diversity of voices can be heard. Council moved (in a split vote) to bring this Bylaw to a public Opportunity to be Heard on November 25. C’mon out and tell us that you think.

New Advisory Committee and Task Force Structure
We are changing the Committees and Task Forces that provide advice to Council. There is a tonne to say here, and this is already a long agenda, so I will only give a bit of a summary here and will talk more about it in a stand-alone blog post. The City currently has 38 (!) committees, way more than any other City in the region, and these committees eat up a lot of staff and volunteer time. We want to make sure we are getting the most value from that time, and have pared the committees down to those that directly relate to Council’s strategic plan, and those where lived experience and technical expertise do not exist in our staff or council to assure we are hearing voices that need to be heard in order for us to move forward on priority areas.

We are amalgamating some committees, moving some into internal staff-only working groups, and are starting a new committee. We will be reducing our total count of volunteer committees and staff task forces to 27 (with a couple of the amalgamated ones running for one more year to wrap up some ongoing projects).

Compassionate City Charter: Recommendation from Community and Social Issues Committee
The New West Hospice Society has done great work raising awareness and support for compassionate dying in New Westminster, but their great public profile raising may belie the point that there are no hospice beds currently offered anywhere in New Westminster. We, as a community, have a lot of work to do!

Hospice is, fundamentally, a health care issue that should be a regular part of our health care system, and that is 100% on the provincial government, but the City has found some resources to help the Hospice Society do its great work in the City. I am happy to continue that level of support (including grants and resource assistance with things like the Festival of Loss and Healing), but some of the wide reaching expectations in the Compassionate City Charter are not within our current budget or work plans, and likely exceed what would typically be expected of a City of 70,000 people. Council moved to support the principles of the Charter, and to continue to provide assistance to Hospice within existing budgets, and to continue the discussion about some of the larger goals and deliverables.

Five-Year Approach to On-Street Parking Fees & Rates
It has been a long time since the City did a comprehensive review of the pricing for car storage on public lands. We have not done a serious review during my time on Council, and with ongoing implementation of our newish Master Transportation Plan and further work on bringing in policies congruent with the Climate Emergency declaration, it is well worth us reviewing how car storage fits in our larger strategic visions for the City.

On-street vehicle parking is a valuable resource in urbanized communities, especially in commercial districts, around major institutions, and near rapid transit stations.” I may need to take an entire blog post to deconstruct this single sentence. I actually want to write a novel that deconstructs this sentence… but I digress. The point staff is getting at is that space for car storage is at a premium, so it has a value, and we need to price it appropriately to allocate that space, or it will not work well. To know if it is working well, we need to be clear about what we want from street storage of cars (aside from “MOAR!”)

The report outlines a good set of guiding principles: On-street parking should be priced equal to or higher than off-street, to encourage cars being stored off of the street; using a car should be transparently more expensive than using Transit; and Parking Permit rates should act to encourage use of private land for private car storage. I agree with all of these.

The report has suggested (and Council agreed) that we increase our rates for street storage of cars, especially since our meter rates are now lower than the regional median (often much lower than dense parts of Vancouver, Richmond, North Van, Burnaby) and on-street meters are currently cheaper than off-street garages. Part of this increase will be a Climate Action Levy (or something similarly named) to be dedicated to a Climate Action Fund in the City to pay for initiatives that reduce our community or corporate GHG emissions.

Drainage Improvement Program and Ditch Enclosure in Queensborough
Open drainage watercourses (“ditches”) in Queensborough are a long-standing issue. During the last election, they were easily the #1 issue in the part of the community where they are still present. We had a pretty comprehensive review of them back in 2015, and this report updates that a bit.

I think this is yet another topic I need to write an entire blog post about, because the answers are not simple. But some of the present issues with open ditches can be addressed without the monumental cost of installing complete covered storm sewers across the island. There are also places where open drainage is always going to be present because the flood storage capacity and resiliency offered by them cannot be replicated with underground storm sewers, not to mention the ecological habitat values of some of the canals.

We were shown pictures, and anyone who walks down there during the winter rain season recognizes that the drainage system is not operating in a way that encourages walking, or even guarantees access to some houses. This is related to downstream drainage capacity, sometime to illegal modifications of the ditches to widen driveways or provide street-side parking. Ultimate long-term fixes will sometimes require complete regrading of properties that have houses on them now.

This is a report for information coming out of a public delegation a few weeks ago, and there are some details here about the longer-term planning for drainage infrastructure in Q’Boro, and some operational strategies to address maintenance and illegal filling.

Brow of the Hill Neighbourhood Park Site Acquisition (1009 Cornwall Street)
The City does things like real estate transactions in camera for good reason – you can’t negotiate a business transaction like this in public, but it is great to be able to announce that we were able to secure a fair price for the undeveloped lot in the middle of the Brow of the Hill which the community definitely showed an interest in us acquiring as a passive park area. No big plans for it yet, but the City will do some minor maintenance with a bit of a passive park model.

Multiculturalism Advisory Committee: Formation of a Multicultural Festival Working Group
The Multicultural Festival on July 1st has become a mainstay of the City’s Canada Day celebrations, but it has up to now been run on a shoestring by a volunteer group from the local Philippine community with some grant support from the City. Our MAC is putting together a working group to see if they can provide more direction ans support to make the event more sustainable.


We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw No. 8150, 2019
This is our annual Bylaw to grant permissive property tax exemptions to charitable and civic uses in the City.

Zoning Amendment (886 Boyd Street) Bylaw No. 8100, 2019
This Zoning Bylaw amendment is to allow an electrical substation in the M-1(light industrial) zone so we can build a new substation in Queensborough to make the grid there more robust. We gave this a Public Hearing back in April, and have now adopted the Bylaw. Law of the land, folks.


Finally, we had one piece of New Business:

Motion: Renaming Begbie Square and Begbie Street
Be it resolved that New Westminster Council proceeds with removing the name of Begbie Square and begin a process to identify an appropriate new name for this important civic space;

Be it further resolved that through the City’s examination of our street naming policy that we review the name of Begbie Street; and

Be it further resolved that through our reconciliation process the City find a way to acknowledge, recognize and tell the history of the wrongful conviction and execution of the six Tŝilhqot’in chiefs in Qunellemouth and New Westminster.

This motion removes the name Begbie from the Square in front of the Courthouse, for reasons similar to this. The changing of a street name is a bit of a more complicated legal process, as people have addresses and such, and we have not yet completed the work on our new Street Naming Policy, so this motion does not change Begbie Street, but prioritizes its place in the policy once we get that developed. I was happy to support this motion, and Council supported it unanimously, but humbly.

Council, October 7, 2019

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

The following items were Moved on Consent:

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

This is a great program, happy to support it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following Bylaw was adopted:

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


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

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

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

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

Council – Sept 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We then had a single Opportunity to be Heard:

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

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


The following item was Moved on Consent:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We then adopted the following Bylaws</b:

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

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

And that was the work of the day

Climate Emergency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council – Sept 9, 2019

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


We opened with an Opportunity for Public Comment:

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


We had one item of Unfinished Business:

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


The following items were Moved on Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Our Bylaws adopted were as follows:

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

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

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


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

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

Council – August 26, 2019

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

The following items were Moved on Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following items were Removed form Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Finally, we adopted the following Bylaws:

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

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

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

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

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