Ask Pat: Recycling

This is not strictly an “Ask Pat”, but an e-mail I received from a resident. As the conversation was timely and I wanted to take the time to write a complete response, I asked the writer if I could copy the letter (with a little editing for space and to remove personal info) and answer on my Blog, and she agreed. So here goes:

Resident asked:

I would like to add my voice to the chorus of those New Westminster residents who are dismayed and, frankly, a little incredulous, that the recycling depot is being removed from our community. At a time when it seems the entire world is bending over backwards to reverse the damage of our disposable society, New Westminster is going in the opposite direction by making it harder for residents to do the right thing.

If one of the main motivators behind the decision was to save money, I suspect we are going to spend as much as we were going to save to appease the significant number of concerned (read “outraged” from much of what I’ve been reading and hearing) citizens. Council made a mistake by not having a proper consultation with residents about this. (And we know that the process was lacking simply by the number of us who were surprised by the move.) It seems as if burying the removal of a well-used community service in the construction activities of another much needed community amenity was purposeful. If not, it suggests that our respected Mayor and Council are really less dialed into the community than they care to think.

As reasonable as you thought the move and as short-sighted and backward as it seems to many of the rest of us, I do understand that we are stuck with it. In the interest of being more positive than negative (which may not seem to the case at this point in my missive), I would like to offer some constructive suggestions to get us back on track saving the earth. I understand from latest reports we only have 18 months, so I suggest we get cracking:

  1. Some of us with big yards cart up to 25 (!!) bags of leaves and miscellaneous crap that drop from the mature trees/yards. The quick jaunt to the depot will be no more, so how about unlimited pickup of yard / compost waste bags from September 1 to December 31.
  2. Start picking up glass, styrofoam, and plastic wrap in our blue bins (or another TBD bin). This is an obvious one. The condo I used to live in at least took glass, not sure why this is not possible in QP.
  3. Dedicated ongoing mini-stations (partner with existing NW businesses?) for batteries, cardboard, lights, paint, etc. This seems to work well with the Salvation Army and electronics but because of the increased density down at the water front, this is becoming a more difficult drop point.

There are a ton of smart, thoughtful people in New Westminster who will have more and better ideas than these. I have no doubt that the best solutions will come from residents. At this point, any attempts to placate an engaged and rather intelligent audience with platitudes about the “5 minute drive” to the new station may fall on deaf and already inflamed ears.

I would be delighted to learn how Mayor and Council are planning to develop solutions and would of course be prepared to contribute to the process.

Unfortunately, you are probably right that we have not effectively communicated the situation with the recycling centre. Of course, we also haven’t made any changes yet. We have, however, committed to long-term partnerships with adjacent communities to share some recycling costs a year down the road (as I talked about in this Council report) so the process of reviewing how we provide recycling services is ongoing. This is recognizing the space problem on the current CGP site, but we cannot ignore the other issues impacting our regional EPR systems.

Every time we make any change in the City, we are met with a loud chorus of calls to maintain the status quo, usually with little acknowledgement of the pressures behind the changes. And to that point, you are right, we should have done a better job communicating those challenges.

I take a bit of umbrage at the idea that Council has tried to bury this or hide the reality of the challenges in regards to recycling and space on the CGP site. We are still trying to understand what changes we need to make, and how we can support a system that works as well as possible for all users in our City. The idea that we are sitting in a back room trying to find the most devious way to undermine the environmental efforts of our own residents plays well in the barber shop or on a politically-motivated on-line petition, but is ridiculous on the face of it.

The location of the current recycling centre is problematic. We are committed to building a new 114,000+ square foot aquatic centre and recreation facility adjacent to the current Canada Games Pool. We have also committed to keeping the current pool and Centennial Community Centre operating and programmed during construction. That means that it will be a 2- or 3-year period where much of the existing parking for the CGP, CCC, and the Royal City Curling Club (which also hosts gymnastics programming and roller derby in the summer) will be covered by construction and construction staging. To keep these major community destinations operating during construction means impacts on the all-weather field, the current recycling centre, and even how Fire Rescue uses their space. As we move forward on construction planning, these compromises are still being worked out, but suffice to say space will be very much at demand on the site. The road accessing the current recycling yard will most certainly NOT be accessible for much of that period, as accessing it would require driving through an active construction site. This means status quo is not viable, so we need to look at what our other options are.

I want to address your suggestions, While recognizing that our recycling system (in New West, in BC, and across North America) has a bunch of inherent complications that are not clear to the general public. This is likely because successive governments have made (in my mind, misguided) efforts to make recycling as seamless and simple for the waste-generating public as tossing trash in the garbage was. This is based on a perverse idea that for North American consumers to “do the right thing”, it must be as easy as doing “the wrong thing”, and preferably cheaper. Unfortunately, responsibly managing our waste streams is neither cheap nor easy, and if we try to make it so, the responsible part inevitably goes away.

To modify an old adage: Cheap, Easy, or Environmentally Friendly. For waste management, you can pick any two.

So to the suggestions:

1: The removal of green waste from our garbage stream was and still is a good thing. The City supports it by allowing you to place paper yard waste bags (up to 50lbs per bag), next to your green bin for collection. This comes at a significant cost for the City (hassle + staffing + >$100/Tonne in disposal fees), but this is offset a bit in reduced cost compared to that green material going into the garbage. We are spending a bit more to do the environmentally friendly thing here and make it easier for residents who are fortunate enough to have a big yard. We are already doing what you are suggesting.

2: We can’t put glass, Styrofoam, and plastic bags in our blue bins. Simply, there are no services available in the Lower Mainland to separate those wastes at the MURF (“MUlti Re-use Facility”), and no market for the recycled materials that result. Your old condo may have had a separate glass receptacle, it may have had an older “Dirty MRF” contract that took glass, but dollars to donuts that contract no longer exists, or they may simply been taking the mixed waste to the landfill/incinerator. There are, however, several places in the City  and nearby (see below) where you can take Styrofoam or soft plastic, though these services are becoming strained as the market for the recycled material is shifting.

Some Cities (e.g. Vancouver and Burnaby) still take glass in separate curb-side bins. When New Westminster decided in 2011 to move towards comingled collection of recyclables I spoke out against it, because it was my opinion that we were sacrificing the longer-term more environmentally-friendly approach for the cheaper and easier in the short term ones. It is possible that I was under-informed at the time and that the change made perfect sense with where it looked like recycling was going in 2011. There is no doubt we saved a bunch of money in the last decade. But now we need to work within the limits created by that decision. I am almost certain that no-one in the City wants to spend the money to go back to curbside separation, just to make it easier to manage the glass waste stream.

This speaks to something else I think we need to have better discussions about: recycling glass jars may not “the right thing” when it comes to recycling. Glass is inert (i.e. it does no harm environmentally when landfilled) and it’s value as a raw material is very limited outside of a few very niche product streams that are of questionable economic value and likely result in equal or more energy and resource use once full life cycle costs are considered. As we have a necessarily limited budget to manage waste streams, there may be better cost-benefit approaches as far as the environment goes than subsidizing the use of glass peanut butter jars. But I’m headed down a rabbit hole here, so let’s get back on track.

3: There are drop-off points around the City for these things, and many of them are indeed part of local businesses. London Drugs takes batteries. Save-on-Foods takes plastic bags, Rona takes paint, the EnCorp Return-it businesses take a variety of wastes that can’t go in your recycling bin. There is even a Metro Vancouver tool to map out where you can take any material if you want to recycle it (and there is an App for that, natch). Enter you city and your material, and out pops a map like this:

For plastic bags there are a lot of places, for Coffee Pods there are only a few (because coffee pods are evil and the environment got screwed the moment you bought them). The larger point, however, is that there is no single recycling stream, there are many. Even the current City recycling depot takes many things but not everything, and the replacement depot we will share with the Tri-Cities will take a wider variety of things than the current depot. In one sense, it will be easier because more things can go to the one spot. In another sense, it will be less easy, because it is further away for many people who are accustomed to using the current facility. Some of them may make the extra trip, some may decide to use another facility closer to them, depending on what they are trying to dispose of. Your example of the Sally Anne and electronics demonstrate that people have different motivations for using different spots (should these locations be near densified communities to allow non-auto-dependent drop off, or away from them because traffic in dense areas make drop off harder?)

Every recycling stream has its own inherent complications. Collecting plastic seems like the quick win, but it is really complex. There are varieties of plastics, and introduction of the wrong type of plastic (or a metal film attached to a plastic, or a shard of broken glass) into a stream can pollute it and remove most or all value that might be attained from recycling. Never mind when people inadvertently or ignorantly toss a little bit of organics or (gross) biohazard like a diaper or dog waste into the mix – often this means the entire load needs to go to the landfill. Because of this, the wholesalers of the recycleables will pay the city a little bit for some recycle materials, in the order of $100/tonne for most plastics, if there is a staff person attending the collection and assuring the load is “clean”. Without that attendant, we would likely need to pay $100 to have someone take that same tonne of material. And the material is as likely to be “recycled” into fuel for the local concrete plant as to be made into new consumer items. I don’t think that is the kind of recycling that most people would consider a good thing.

I guess a lot of this is addressing your final point, fully recognizing that some of my writing here may come across as dismissive or defeatist. I have been working in sustainability, rabble-rousing about trash, and wailing on-line about recycling for more than decade (I have been known to tour waste recycling facilities on my vacation even before I was elected to Local Government!), and I am still only beginning to learn the complications inherent in these systems. Meanwhile, the ground below our feet is shifting all the time. I can almost guarantee you Mayor and Council are not going to come up with some clever idea to make our waste stream easier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Yes, New Westminster is full of smart, engaged people, but there are teams of engineers and planners in local governments, Metro Vancouver, RecyclingBC, and similar organizations across the continent working to address these complex issues. There are professional people whose entire careers are based on this work. I put my confidence in them to come up with solutions.

That said, the role of Mayor and Council is to help communicate these potential solutions, and to hear from our residents and businesses what kind of solutions they would like to see applied. We also need to sometimes explain why we won’t apply them if they ultimately don’t meet our goals, no matter how sexy they look in that Facebook video. The hardest part of our job is to be clear about the cost/ease/sustainability compromises of all the solutions offered (as translated to us by actual subject matter experts) so that the public can let us know if the balance we strike is the right one. I think we will find a way to help people get more of their waste into recycling, but it will definitely be looking different in the decade ahead than it does now.

Unfortunately, the compromises to be considered cannot be summarized in even this stretching-to-2,000 word essay, never mind a simple on-line petition. There are no simple answers, but we need to continue to work on addressing our waste stream, and to start having more serious conversations about the upstream management of materials before they enter our waste stream. We had it pretty good thing going for the last decade: organics recycling came on stream, and people across Asia were happy to take our mixed plastics and papers and electronic waste. We managed to keep the cost of waste management in the City down relative to other costs, in part because of these things. It is clear those good times are coming to an end, and costs are going to be going up because of regional and global socio-economic trends. I guess the bright light in the current inevitable move of the recycling centre – this shift of the status quo – is an opportunity to open this discussion about what the next phase is in managing our waste.

Council – July 8, 2019

Our last Council meeting until the end of August happened on July 8. So let’s get through this report together, and we can all move on to enjoying our summers. We had lots of cool stuff on the agenda, starting with an Opportunity to be Heard:

Five Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8136, 2018
The City is required by law to have a 5-year financial plan that as closely as possible estimates our finances for the next 5 years. When reality varies from those estimates in a significant way, we need to update the 5-year plan.

The changes here are exactly what you might expect as our finance folks try to estimate future costs and revenues. For example, a few of the capital projects we were hoping to get done in fiscal 2018 were delayed, meaning the DCC accounts and other places from which we drew the money to pay for them need to be updated to reflect that we didn’t spend this money this year, and that we plan to spend that money next year instead. There are also things like estimating the value of tangible capital assets (things like pipes in the ground and sidewalks) that developers are supposed to deliver the City through development, as it is hard to put a cost to those until the development happen and the assets are actually in the ground and start depreciating. Municipal finance is exasperating and never ending in its reporting.

This is somewhat arcane stuff, but we are required to give the public an opportunity to comment on the changes, so did so, and not surprisingly we received no correspondence or public comment.


We then went into a couple of Staff Reports for action:

New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre – Design Update
The project team continues to work on the replacement for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre, now acronymically called the NWACC (“NEW-ak”) – but more on that in the next item in the Agenda. The conceptual design was passed through the New West Design Panel, generally to good reviews, with a few suggested improvements. We are starting to now have a clearer understanding of what the facility will look like, some of the shape driven by site constraints and the programming needs of the various elements, but also responding to energy efficiency, buildability, and the long public consultation around how the public wants this new Community Centre to work. We have our Budget Bylaw in place, the next task is to do some more accurate cost estimating now that major design components are agreed upon, and any time that Senior Governments want to announce infrastructure grants, that would be great!

New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre: Process to Develop Facility Name
The project team is also shifting some of the Public Consultation energy away from programming and design elements now and talking about branding. What are we going to call this place? Obviously, Canada Games Pool does not make sense, as the new project will not be a legacy of the Games like the old one was. And Centennial Community Centre was named to mark the Centennial of New Westminster or Canada or something.

There has already been some consultation on this, and to answer your first question, we will not be naming it Pooly McPoolface. There is a strong community interest in using this first major infrastructure project in the City after launching our reconciliation strategy to assure there be some components of the facility reflecting Indigenous cultures of the area, both as programming elements and in the design. I suspect that this will also be reflected in the naming. But I do not want to pre-judge the process too much, and we will strike a Facility Naming Advisory Panel to guide the community through this. We named Councillor Das to that Panel.

Riverfront Park (660 Quayside Drive) – Preferred Design Concept
The Bosa Development project on the waterfront includes the delivery of a 2-acre public park as an extension of the existing Pier Park, and a continuation of the waterfront esplanade between Pier Park and the River Market. There has been some public consultation on design concepts for this space, which is being reported out now.

This park is a few years out yet, but preliminary designs need to be considered as part of the engineering work for the underground parkade that will exist under the park. Things like structural loads, air vents, stairs and such need to integrate between the underground and the park. So the City led three Open Houses, had pop-up booths at a Fridays on Front and the Farmers Market, held a stakeholder workshop, and went through a few Council advisory committees. We do a lot of consultation.

The draft models show a combination of active and passive spaces, a mix of hardsurface and green space, and a lot of emphasis on flow through the space. Altogether it is a great compliment to the design principles of the existing Pier Park. There is a LOT in this report, almost overwhelming all of the detail here, but I really appreciate the consideration that went into this work, and the public who took time to help our staff come up with concepts.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Recruitment 2019: Committee Rescindments
Ongoing committee shifts, as one community volunteer took a job in the City that prevented her from continuing to serve on a committee, another changed jobs, and a third moved out of town.

1209 – 1217 Eighth Avenue: Infill Townhouses – Consideration of Development Permit Issuance
This project would see 22 townhouses built where there are currently 5 single family detached homes. The project had a Public Open House (attended by 15 people) and went to the Residents’ Association (a meeting attended by 9 people), was supported (with some recommendations) by the Design Panel and APC, and had a Public Hearing on May 27, 2019. Council moved to approve the Development Permit.

I am whole-heartedly in support of this type of development in New West. This represents 22 new family-friendly homes that will be priced lower than the single detached houses they replace, but provide space and amenity appropriate for medium-sized families. This is the “missing middle” that is so lacking in New Westminster, while also bringing more people into the 12th Street business district to make that area more vibrant. The scale is sensitive to the houses already there, but also points us to a direction where more people can afford to live in size-appropriate housing in New West.

Pedestrian Clearance Interval Times – Best Practices and Implementation Plan
We had a presentation for the Walkers Caucus last year concerned that some of our pedestrian walking signals did not provide sufficient crossing time for some of our more vulnerable pedestrians, which seemed at odds with our Master Transportation Plan principles of placing pedestrians and vulnerable road users at the top of our transportation hierarchy. Staff (with the help of a co-op student project) determined that yep, we have historically used a crossing speed assumption based on older data, and that we could do better.

So staff is beginning a program of re-programming many of our pedestrian-activated crossings to assume pedestrian crossing speeds about 20% slower than we currently do, and that we should expect more pedestrians to clear the crossing before the “flashing hand” or yellow signal activates to improve pedestrian comfort and safety. This especially will reduce conflict between pedestrians and drivers turning through the intersection while only minimally increasing the stop timing for drivers.

Response to HUB New West Delegation to Council (June 10, 2019)
Staff are responding in this Report for Information to the HUB presentation to Council back on June 10th, where HUB listed what they see as the biggest priorities to improve cycling infrastructure in the City. Essentially, staff are thanking HUB for their input and aside from assuring that the concerns raised are entered into the record through this report, are also reiterating that HUB is an important partner in the design and implementation of cycling infrastructure on the City, and will continue to be consulted as they have been in the past as we set priorities.

I think I’ll say more about this in a follow-up blog post, now that it is summer and I have time.

Transportation Development Review – New Fee
When the City reviews proposed developments, one of the many tasks it undertakes is to evaluate the transportation impacts of the project. We do this because “traffic” and “parking” are the most common concerns raised by the public about every project or any shape of size everywhere (except new single family homes, which are actually the cause of more traffic and on-street parking problems, but I digress). So it is incumbent on us to be informed of those impacts before we approve or deny any project, and for staff to work with a developer to determine if impacts can be mitigated through a change in design or through engineering changes on the City side.

This work is getting more complex and time consuming, partially because of the number of developments staff are tasked with reviewing, and partly because our new Master Transportation Plan requires higher levels of pedestrian and other active transportation infrastructure. As with most review of private development, we expect the developer to pay for it on a cost-recovery basis, and this report is asking for a new fee to be attached to new development applications to cover this extra cost – essentially to pay for the staff we need to do this work so property tax doesn’t have to.

Proposed Speed Hump Policy
Our transportation department has brought back a proposed policy around where and how we will install speed humps in the event that a resident raises the request. In the past, this was an ad-hoc process based on volume of complaint, but this is not an equitable way to manage infrastructure and it isn’t the most efficient way to use our transportation funds. This came to Council in the spring, and we asked that it be reviewed based on two concerns: the sense that put the emphasis on “homeowner” consultation and the way that would emphasize improvements in single family neighbourhoods over that in areas with more rentals, and the sense that engineering evaluation of the need/benefit should not be subordinate to community demand, but should either support or not support it.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2019 – 2022 Strategic Plan – Vision, Core Values and Priority Areas and Key Directions
While the rest of City business has been banging along, Council has been working with staff on Strategic Planning since the election last fall. I am glad to be able to share the preliminary parts of this work, with more detail to come after the summer.

I think it is clear we are an activist Council, we are all here because we want to get things done, and want to continue to build on the leadership this City has shown in housing, in addressing inequality, in improving the livability of the community. I think the big push this coming term will be from the addition of Climate Action and Reconciliation to this workload.

Frankly, New Westminster is still a smallish city despite our very big-city dreams. We have 72,000 residents who want the services and amenities of a much larger City, which means that much of our work here is about setting priorities. My experience through our strategic planning was a struggle to reduce the number of priorities my Council colleagues will attest my common use of the phrase “if you prioritize everything, you prioritize nothing”.

So with this preliminary report, I just want to emphasize the Vision and Value Statements, and the 7 Key Directions. These should guide how the Council approaches decisions over the term, and if you want to push Council on a topic, it might be worth your time to read this and determine how your specific interest keys into these key directions – it will make your delegation more compelling and will make it easier for the Council to say YES to your idea. There are the principles we are holding ourselves accountable for. Use that!

Front Street and Begbie Street Intersection (Pier West Project): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The portion of Front Street behind Hyack Square was ripped up during utility servicing works to support the Pier West project needs to be repaved. They want to do this work at night to reduce the impacts on traffic, and are asking for a construction Noise Bylaw Exemption.

Demonstrating how dangerous blanket statements by elected officials are, I stated last meeting that I would no longer vote for night time noise exemptions when their only interest is to reduce the impact on through-traffic, arguing that our residents’ ability to sleep is more important to livability than regional commuters’ ability to have a less-impeded drive through New West. And here I am in the very next meeting concerned about ongoing access impacts on the River Market from surrounding projects and realizing there may be exceptions to even this rule. The traffic situation around the River Market and Quayside drive has been challenged quite a bit over the last year, and will be for the next year or two with the new project to the east of the Market.

Governance is a funny thing.

616 – 640 Sixth Street (Market Rental): Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8131, 2019 – Consideration of Three Readings
This project recently given Third Reading by Council requires a Housing Agreement – that is an agreement with the City that the promised 95 secured market rental suites will be operated as rentals for 60 years or the “life of the building”, and will be owned by a single entity for that term, who will manage the rental operation. This agreement is secured with a legal covenant between the city and the Owner.

I opened up discussion on what is usually a simple process here because I want to talk about parking in secured market rental buildings. There has been increased demand for street parking around some of our recent market rental buildings, and we have had issues with parking allocation in some of the secured rental buildings in Victoria Hill, and I wanted to clarify what policy guidance we have around parking in secured rental, be it market or non-market.

If the owner of a secured market rental building charges for parking above what regular rent is, then that is an incentive for a renter to save that $100 or more a month and park on the street, impacting their neighbors and businesses, and creating the impression that we are not building enough underground parking. In neighbourhoods where we have permit parking, we charge much less than this for street parking permits for our residents ($15.year) than they would pay for a month underground. I think the thing none of us want to see is streets saturated with cars parking for free and underground garages sitting relatively empty – so I want to be sure we are not creating economic incentives towards this.

One of the principles in our housing agreements is that “off-street vehicle parking and storage be made available to tenants at a reasonable cost”. I am asking Staff to bring back a bit of a policy analysis about what that “reasonable” cost is, how we determine it, and whether there is a public policy reason why we don’t insist that parking be provided as part of rent. We tables the Housing Agreement until next meeting, hoping to get that feedback first.

268 Nelson’s Court (Brewery District Building 7): Development Permit Application for a Proposed High Rise Mixed Use Development – Consideration of Development Permit Issuance
This DP is for building 7 of the Brewery District project – a 32-story tower that has 257 strata units, 52,000 sqft of office, a 9,600 sqft daycare, and 4,600 sqft of retail, as per the existing zoning entitlements. That said, there is an active rezoning for this site that would not change the shape or form of this building, but could shift the condo portion to market rental in exchange for changes in shape and form of other buildings. This is a little strange, but at this point we are NOT evaluating that rezoning, only the form and character of this building, whether it becomes strata or rental is a conversation we will have later.

Participation in Regional Recycling Depot – Public Information Update
The City is committed to taking part in a regional recycling facility near the New West / Coquitlam border in partnership with the Tri-Cities when it opens some time in late 2020. Around that time (and subject to some construction timing) we are no longer going to operate the recycling centre next to the Canada Games pool, because that site is going to be part of the construction project of the NWAAC. Despite some of the hyperbole you may read online, this doesn’t mean the City is abandoning the idea of recycling glass, Styrofoam or soft plastics. Instead, we are going to look at more creative ways to make recycling these materials work for residents, especially those without access to cars, and the >90% of New West residents who don’t use the current recycling yard.

We have at least another year to work on any transition plans we may need to assure residents have access to the recycling they need. Part of this is obviously pointing out the recycling options people already have access to (there are several places in New West other than the current recycling centre that take glass, plastics and Styrofoam!) and part of it is identifying the gaps in the recycling system and ways the City can creatively address them. Some of the operational constraints we are dealing with (TIL: the corporate entities that take our recycling materials away will not accept materials from unstaffed recycling stations) are daunting, and the entire region’s recycling system is under strain right now because of global economic conditions and the collapsing market for recycled materials. I can almost guarantee you that the City’s costs (and therefore your cost) for recycling are going up significantly in the coming years, and we are looking for ways to address that.

I know change is hard for some people, but this system needs to change to be sustainable. We can look at this as an opportunity for the City to improve how it provides recycling, and for citizens to think about their own actions around consumption and taking responsibility for your waste stream.

Amendment to the Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw
Every year, Parks and Rec staff review the fees for their various programs, and make adjustments. The main drivers of cost for our programs are wages of the staff who provide those services (our collective agreement with union staff have a 2% CPI increase this year) and inflation (about 2% this year). We also adjust to assure our fees are representative of regional “market value’ for such services. No fees are going up more than 5% this year, and most are either staying the same or increasing much less an 5%.

As was promised during the last election, we are expanding our “low cost” programs, like $2 Public Skates and some $2 swims and fitness admissions for CGP, so in these senses, some fees are going down this year.

There are some facts buried in this report that are worth calling attention to, and as a City we don’t celebrate enough. New Westminster has the lowest ice use fees in the Lower Mainland – we charge Minor Hockey users 22% to 44% less than the average across the region. Our swim and skate fees are all below the regional average, and our playing field rentals are well below regional average. Use of our recreation services are a bargain in New West, so get out there and recreate!

Community Heritage Commission (CHC) Recommendations to Council
The Community Heritage Commission made a few recommendations to Council, and we moved to accept the Staff responses – mostly “we are already doing this”, but these will all be things brought back to Council as part of further work, so let’s see where it goes.


We bumped a few Bylaws along, including the following Adoptions:

Housing Agreement (228 Nelson’s Crescent) Amendment Bylaw No. 8135, 2019
This is the Housing Agreement that secures Market Rental use for the building at 288 Nelson Crescent that we needed to amend to make CMHC happy with the language, as discussed on June 24th. Council moved to adopt it.

Road Closure (Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node) Bylaw No. 8093, 2019; and
Zoning Amendment (Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node) Bylaw No. 8092, 2019
These are the Bylaws that empower the road closure in Queensborough that were subject to a June 24th Public Hearing. Now adopted and the Law of the Land.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1002 – 1004 and 1006 – 1008 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8117, 2019;
Heritage Designation (1002 – 1004 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8118, 2019; and
Heritage Designation (1006 – 1008 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8119, 2019
This is the HRA and designation Bylaws for those two brick duplexes in the Brow of the Hill, addressed at Public Hearing last week, where no-one came to speak to the applications, and no-one on Council voted against the issuing of Third Reading. One Councilor voted against Adopting these Bylaws for no articulated reason after supporting the project every step until now, so read into that for what it is. The rest of Council voted to support the Adoption.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (632 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8120, 2019; and
Heritage Designation (632 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8121, 2019
These are the Bylaws that empower the HRA and heritage designation of a single family home in Glenbrook North that were subject to a June 24th Public Hearing. Now adopted and the Law of the Land.

Zoning Amendment (1209-1217 Eighth Avenue) Bylaw No. 8099, 2019
This Zoning Amendment Bylaw supports Rezoning a few single family lots just off 12th Street to build 22 Family-friendly Townhouses, and was Adopted by Council.

Subdivision and Development Control Amendment Bylaw No. 8128, 2019
This Bylaw updates the Bylaw that regulates how new developments hook up to some city Utilities to make sure they are meeting bigger City and Regional goals around sustainability of the utilities. It was adopted unanimously by Council.


Finally, we had two items of New Business:

Motion: Council Meetings – Efficiencies, Councillor Trentadue

Therefore be it resolved that,
Council asks staff to report back on efficiencies that Council can consider to make our meetings more efficient therefore ensuring that all members of the Community and members of Council have an opportunity to speak.

Efficiencies to be included but not limited are:
• consideration of time limits for Council members comments and questions
• limiting the number of times a Councillor might comment, unless with new Information

We have been having long meetings, with long agendas, and we don’t necessarily use our time all that efficiently. It isn’t just Council time, but it is staff time (which is expensive), and public time (which tries the patience of even the most diligent Council watcher). It also results in council making decision late in the evening when we may not be our sharpest, and it results in items further down the agenda not seeing the scrutiny or open discussion that items at the top of the agenda get. That’s not a model for good governance.

We have not had a serious look at our Council Procedures Bylaw since we moved away from Committee of the Whole early in my first term and put all of our regular business on the public meeting agenda, and it might be worth looking at what other Cities do to make sure the conversation and deliberation are fulsome, but that speaking space is equally distributed and provides for a more succinct and efficient meeting.

Council moved in a split vote to support this after a lengthy deliberation, natch.

Motion in response to Reclaiming Power and Place, Councillor Nakagawa and Councillor Johnstone

Therefore be it resolved that
A the City of New Westminster affirm the report’s findings that the actions of
governments have constituted genocide; and

That the City of New Westminster formally call upon the New Westminster Police Board to respond to the Calls to Justice, specifically 9.1 through 9.11, and request that they champion and lead the establishment of a regional police task force to address the Calls to Justice; and

That the City of New Westminster formally call upon the Prime Minister and the Member of Parliament for New Westminster to respond to the Calls to Justice that require action on the part of the federal government of Canada; and

That the City of New Westminster formally call upon Premier of British Columbia and the New Westminster Members of the Legislative Assembly to respond to the Calls to justice that require action on the part of the provincial government; and

That the City of New Westminster formally call upon New Westminster School Board to respond to the Calls to Justice that refer to public education, specifically 11.1 through 11.2; and

That the New Westminster Restorative Justice Committee be called upon to provide recommendations to Council and/or the provincial court system to inform a local approach to the Calls to Justice that refer to the court system; and

That the Calls to Justice be incorporated into the City’s reconciliation work.

I will write more about this in a follow-up post, because it is a topic deserving of its own space, but short version is that having read the reports and recommendations that came out of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, there is clear direction that cities should take, and we want New Westminster to take those actions. We are relatively early adopters here (I think only Winnipeg and Saskatoon have taken similar actions), but I hope this is an area where we can show regional leadership. More to come here.

And that was a wrap for the spring session! Many Ask Pats in the queue, so I will be blogging in the break, between summer vacations, trips to the Kootenays or Saturna to visit mamily, Music by the River, Fridays on Front, Columbia StrEAT Foot Truck Fest, Uptown Live, Pride Street Fest, and whatever bike rides the Fraser River Fuggitivi have organized for me. Enjoy the season, folks.

JUNE 24 PUBLIC HEARING (PART 3)

The June 24th Public Hearing had a lot of items on a diverse set of topics. I covered most of them in this post and this post. The last item was a new development project in Uptown:

Zoning Amendment (616 and 640 Sixth Street) Bylaw No. 7997, 2019
This proposal would see a 29-story mixed-use building built in Uptown. This is the first high rise development (indeed the first development of any scale), approved in the Uptown in a decade – since Bob Osterman and Betty MacIntosh were on the Council! The proposed building has 145 Market strata units and 95 secured market rental units. All would meet the City’s Family Friendly Housing requirements as far as 2- and 3-bedroom suites. There would also be more than 12,000 square feet of commercial space in the three-story podium.

The project has evolved quite a bit since it was first proposed a couple of years ago, including an increase in rental units, and a changed shape and form of the building to make the pedestal 3 stories instead of the originally-proposed 5 stories, which is a significant improvement to the street presence of the building and supports a more human-scaled street.

The Design Panel and Advisory Planning Commission reviewed and approved the project, and the two adjacent Residents Associations also expressed no opposition. The public open house had more mixed responses, with a significant number of direct neighbours opposed for the reasons you would expect: loss of views, adjacency to their building, construction impacts and traffic. Always traffic. We received 44 written submissions, the vast majority of them supporting the project.

Some were anticipating a large and fractious Public Hearing on this project due to a directed and active social media campaign against it. For the first time in my experience on Council, an anonymous person actually purchased Facebook ads (laden with dishonest and disingenuous rhetoric) in an attempt to rally people in opposition to the project. Surprisingly, the people leading that campaign decided not to show up at the Public Hearing. Instead, several neighbours did come to express concerns about the project while and a few people spoke in favour, so I want to go through a bit of what I took from their delegations.

The issue of pedestrian safety on Princess Street is an issue I take seriously. Although using the term “congestion” to describe Princess Street may be out of scale with other streets, I agree that there is a need to improve the pedestrian experience in this location, mostly because there are a lot more pedestrians using that space than was probably anticipated back when the Royal City Centre mall was designed. A strange design choice back then had the loading bay end of the mall across the street from the main entrance to several residential buildings, and the single mid-block pedestrian crossing is not well marked or located where many users would choose to cross. Making the Greenway on 7th Ave less safe (by creating another conflict-zone driveway crossing immediately adjacent to a significant intersection) is not the solution, improving to Princess is, and I look forward to seeing what those changes could look like.

There were some typically hyperbolic moments in the Public Hearing delegations. A person who is not a Professional Engineer represented himself as a Professional Engineer then raised frankly bizarre concerns about impacts on the Telus tower (200 feet away) and other fanciful geotechnical anxieties. A delegate suggested that 327 parking spaces are designed to accommodate 480 cars. We heard we live in the “the most congested City in Canada” and the suggestion that this one building will “destroy everything about the City”. I recently visited Hong Kong, and I can say with complete confidence that one residential tower at FSR under 7 approved per decade does not make New Westminster indistinguishable from Hong Kong. But the Public Hearing is ultimately about arguing rhetoric rather than about a solemn testing of evidence, which challenges the idea that this process is meant to be “semi-judicial”.  Some day I will rant at greater length about this.

The issue of separate entrances for the Market Rental and Strata components of the building did raise some concerns in the community and at Council. I challenge the contention that this represents “poor doors”, the pejorative applied to separate entrances when included in projects in New York or London where market units are combined with non-market (affordable or otherwise subsidized) units. This proposal does not even include subsidized or low-income housing, but is all market rate housing.

The City has some policy work to do here, as we are working on Inclusionary Zoning policy, and the subject of how to integrate market and non-market housing forms and address shared or separated amenities is an important one. Especially as BC Housing and other non-profit housing providers – organizations absolutely required to get on board if we hope to make non-market housing viable – have clearly stated that shared amenities and entrances with Stratas creates operational and management issues for the providers of affordable housing. These issues were, unfortunately, conflated by some delegates at this Public Hearing, resulting in some confusion in the public (and, indeed on Council) about the issue.

The issue of class segregation and fairness of zoning decisions was raised in a more compelling way by one delegate in opposition to this project because (and I am paraphrasing a 5-minute long delegation) he felt it didn’t do enough to address the housing crisis. Why not all rental? Why not affordable rental on this site? And why is this 240 units of housing OK if this council would not approve even the most modest infill density proposals one block to the east?

In the end, this is about building housing. Supply is (as we often hear) not the entire answer to the housing affordability crunch, but choking off supply will definitely not improve the situation. Still, no single project can be expected to provide every solution to housing;  much like the Ovation project downtown will provide one type of supportive housing, this will bring much-needed Purpose Built Rental to a part of town that has oodles of services, but has not seen any new housing in a decade. It is not lost on me that almost 100 market rental units are being committed to weeks after we had Landlord BC and UDI come to a New West Council meeting to tell us that our aggressive renoviction prevention measures were going to cause purpose built rental building to grind to a halt in the City. The housing crisis and recent market shift have caused hyperbole on all sides, but as a City Council we need to be driven not by reacting to hyperbole, but by solid, defensible housing policy. I am confident that this is an area where New Westminster is still leading the region.

The delegate who was an uptown business owner, and the Uptown BIA through their letter of support, showed that they feel more residential density in the neighbourhood is a good thing for the Uptown community. the developers of this property are long-time New Westminster property owners, locals interested in building housing for their community and for the long-term. More people living in places where they can support local businesses, more people within a walk of their daily needs and living on a Frequent Transit Network, these represent the goals of our Official Community Plan, and the vision for New Westminster in the decades ahead.

Council voted 6-1 in favour of supporting the project, and I was one of the 6.

JUNE 24 PUBLIC HEARING (PART 2)

More Public Hearing goodness from June 24th. We had 5 items that got somewhat less attention at the meeting, which I will go through now:

Zoning Amendment (Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node) Bylaw No. 8092, 2019; and
Road Closure (Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node) Bylaw No. 8093, 2019
The eloquently-named Eastern Node neighbourhood in Queensborough is part of a long-term plan to bring a node of “mixed use” development to the transition area between Port Royal and the rest of Q’Boro. This will (finally) bring a renewed neighbourhood-serving retail node to the Port Royal area, something the community is definitely in need of. There are two unopened roads within the plan area of the Eastern Node, that is pieces of land that belong to the City for the ostensible future use as roads that have never been actually used as roads. To re-purpose them, they need to be officially “closed” (which means make then into titled, taxable lands) and rezoned. These are the Bylaws necessary to make that happen.

We received no written submissions on these Bylaws, and we had one delegate speak in favour (though she did express concern that the city was not getting a fair price for the lands). Council voted to support the Bylaws.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1002 – 1004 and 1006 – 1008 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8117, 2019;
Heritage Designation (1002 – 1004 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8118, 2019; and
Heritage Designation (1006 – 1008 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8119, 2019
Those two unique brick duplexes at 10th and Third are getting a bit of a renovation, which is almost completely interior work, but they nonetheless are going through the HRA route and will be permanently protected through Heritage Designation. The Community Heritage Commission, Advisory Planning Commission, and Brow RA all approved of it. We had no written submissions and no-one came to speak to the application. Council moved to approve the Bylaws.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (632 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8120, 2019; and
Heritage Designation (632 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8121, 2019
This property owner wants to fix up a heritage house in Glenbrook North, give it permanent protection and subdivide the relatively large lot it is on to build a second infill house on the lot. The Community Heritage commission, Advisory Planning commission, and Residents Association all expressed approval for the plan. We received 7 written submissions for neighbours, all in favour of the application. We also had about a half dozen people come and speak to council about the application – some in favour, some opposed.

To place those delegations in context, I note that this proposal would provide two modest sized houses, both with suites, on a site that would currently allow a large ~4,000 square foot house. To me, our Official Community Plan is better supported by the subdivision and providing increased flexibility of housing close to schools on a Greenway than it is by having a single house that would be much larger and more out of context with the neighbourhood.

One neighbor was concerned about the proximity of the new house to their existing home, but there is no variance of the setback being requested here – if we didn’t approve this, the owner could build their 4,00 square foot house on the same footprint and have the same impact on this neighbor. There were also some concerns expressed about parking (natch) and the safety of the 7th Ave Greenway for bikes. I think that second topic is going to be a great discussion over the next year or so (I have some ideas here, even led a Jane’s Walk on the topic), but this project will not shift the landscape on 7th in a meaningful way. Council moved to support these Bylaws.

Official Community Plan Amendment (Queensborough Residential Low Density) Bylaw No. 8122, 2019;
Heritage Revitalization Agreement (647 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 8068, 2019;
and
Heritage Designation (647 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 8069, 2019
This property owner wants to build a small townhouse development in Queensborough, along with preserving and repurposing the historic Slovak Hall, to convert it into two townhouse-style units.

This proposal is supported by the Community Heritage Commission, the Advisory Planning Commission, and the Design Panel. We received no written submissions on this, we had two delegations: the proponent (in favour) and the direct neighbor (not completely opposed, but with concerns).

I think this was a creative approach to infill density in Queensborough, and the Slovak Hall is a unique structure that will continue to add it the interesting streetscape (avenuescape?) on Ewen Avenue. Council voted to approve the OCP Amendment and Bylaws.

June 24 Public Hearing (Part 1)

We had a lengthy Public Hearing last Council meeting with 8 different items, so I’m going to talk about it in sections. and try to work through it over the long weekend. I’ll start with the last two items of the evening:

Zoning Amendment – Cannabis Retail Location: 532 Sixth Street Bylaw 8111, 2019 and
8. Zoning Amendment – Cannabis Retail Location: 710 Twelfth Street Bylaw No. 8109, 2019
These are the first two applications for cannabis retail locations that have reached this last stage of City approvals; one on 6th Street in Uptown and one on 12th Street.

We have spent more than a year and a half in the process that got us here. This link points you to the reams of public documents and conversations we have had about how best to synch our local land use and business regulations with the federal and provincial regulations, made no less easy as we were waiting for the details from senior governments to trickle in as we were going along. I wrote a few relevant blog posts along the way, and even answered some questions on my blog page. You can go there and search “cannabis” to follow along and see where my mind was as we went through things.

We had our first open Council Workshop back on October 30, 2017, a full year before federal legalization. Staff led us through a pretty detailed discussion about the issues, and you really need to watch the video from the workshop to get a sense of the discussion. It was clear that Council had varying concerns and levels of comfort with the legalization regime, but staff did a pretty good job of working us towards consensus on a framework for local regulations, which they brought back to us for another open Council Workshop on January 29, 2018 where Council once again found several points to disagree on, yet worked our way towards some early principles to build draft Bylaws on.

We then hired a consultant to put together some presentation materials based on the framework, and put it out to two Public Open Houses and a meeting with the local business community. The feedback was generally favourable. We had an on-line survey that was advertised in the local paper, at City Hall, and through social media, and received more than 300 responses. We held a Council Town Hall, inviting people to come in and tell Council what they think we need to do, not do, or adjust.

This feedback was drafted into a set of Zoning and Business Bylaw amendments, which were put to a Public Hearing, with all the notice that entails. We had two people come and speak to that Public Hearing – one telling us we were moving too slow, and one telling us we were moving too fast. Such is the nature of Public Consultation.

At this point, applications started coming into the City for retail locations. They were reviewed by staff based on the framework established, and 5 locations were approved (again, at a public meeting) to go to final approval. We received quite a few delegations at this point, mostly from proponents who had not been selected in their first round. The two applicants in front of us at this Public Hearing were the first to clear all of the required provincial regulatory hurdles to get to this final Public Hearing Stage.

So, after all of that, I do not take at face value a delegate at the Public Hearing who claims that this process was rushed, secretive, and failed to include public input. It is ridiculous on the face of it.

There were some concerns raised about traffic on the 12th Street site. However, the location is an existing retail space, and I don’t see how a cannabis retail location will present greater traffic concerns than a book store, a pub, or a coffee shop.

There are some requirements we agreed upon as a Council that I frankly don’t understand. The requirement for opaque windows is not congruent with vibrant retail street design. This and the “buffer from schools” are requirements based on an outmoded and Puritan idea that we can protect children from (alleged) evil by keeping that evil out of their sight. There is an extended meme in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy about “Peril-sensitive sunglasses” that riffs off of this idea. If the idea of keeping dangerous things out of children’s sight aligned with the real risks to the life and health of children, we would quickly resolve that there are no automobiles within 500m of a school. But I digress.

In saying that, I don’t want to act dismissive of the concerns raised by parents at the meeting. It was clear they are genuinely concerned, even scared, about what the legalization of cannabis means to their children. I empathize with their fears, but I do not share their fears. The substance has always been available to youth who want it, and I think this legalization and regulation process is actually going to make it easier to have rational, fact-based conversations about the substance, its risks and responsible use. I agree it is not appropriate for children to be using cannabis at the age when I started smoking pot (full disclosure: I haven’t touched the stuff in years), but even in my I’d-still-like-to-think-it-wasn’t-that-long-ago youth, parents were less able to have rational conversations about cannabis than they were about alcohol. I suspect that is because alcohol was present in most houses in some for or other and was visible in advertising and on the street, where cannabis was counter-culture and represented (dangerous?) rebellion. I hope that these conversations will change through legalization, but recognize there will always be people unable to move past the prohibition-based status quo.

The nuisance issue with cannabis is a real one, and still one local governments across Canada are going to be challenged to address. I think the nuisance issues will never be as bad as those caused by alcohol (cannabis typically just doesn’t lead to the loud, violent rowdiness that is associated with closing time at many pubs) but they will be different. But in our land use decision-making, I think the nuisance will be more about consumption in inappropriate places (parks, bus stops) and less about where the purchase occurs.

The Uptown location received the most correspondence: 362 pieces, by far most were in favour, suggesting they already have a well established potential client base. We had about 10 people speak to this application, most opposed. It seemed to me that most were opposed to the entire idea of cannabis retail, and the opposition to this location was a sub-set of that. The 12th Street location received a single piece of correspondence (opposed), and about 10 people delegating, with the majority opposed based largely on traffic concerns and parking concerns. In the end, Council moved to approve the two locations.

Council – June 24, 2019

We had a long day on Monday. I had a task force meeting at 9:00 am, and left City Hall just before midnight. 15 hours. And much of that was spent going through the Public Hearing topics. But I’m not going to talk about the Public Hearing here, because that is going to take a whole bunch of space and time and a little more thinking on my part about how to frame my responses to the events of the evening, so I’ll just deal with the info on the Regular Agenda, which began with three Opportunities to be Heard:

Business Regulations and Licensing (Rental Units) Amendment Bylaw No. 8130, 2019
The City has been pretty aggressive at addressing the renoviction situation, after the situation was rising to crisis levels last year. I have to give kudos to our staff for finding creative ways to leverage the City’s limited regulatory power here to fill gaps in the Provincial regulations, while we wait for those regulations to hopefully be updated and strengthened. I am pretty proud that other cities are following the lead of New Westminster, and that tenants around the region are seeing better protection because of our actions.

As we are on the leading edge here, Staff have brought forward some improvements on the Bylaws we passed back in February to use our Business Licensing powers to regulate how evictions occur in the City. Learning from practical experience, these changes will make the Bylaw easier to enforce and more effective. This includes making the timing of the offence at the delivery of eviction (if that eviction is found to be non-compliant), to clarify that every day the situation is not addressed constitutes a new offence (allowing the City to pile up fines to create real deterrence), and other administrative changes.

No-one came to speak to the Bylaw, and we received no written submissions. Council moved to adopt the Bylaw.

Closing of a Portion of Boyne Street at 34 South Dyke Road Bylaw No. 8074, 2019
There is an unused road portion in Queensborough the City wants to close. That means there is a piece of land that is not a regular taxable lot, but designated as highway that belongs to the city. This piece of highway has never had need for a road on it, so it is vacant land. There is a development on one side of it, and another development happening on the other side, but the roadway is still “surplus” to the city’s needs.

As is policy in these cases, the road can be sold to the adjacent landowner and integrated into the development, as long as conditions the City needs are met. We need a bylaw to do this, to “raise title” on the land so it can be valued and taxed appropriately. No-one came to speak to the Bylaw, and we received no written correspondence. Council moved to adopt the Bylaw.

Development Variance Permit DVP00664 for 118 Regina Street
The owners of this heritage house in Queens Park want to put a 12-foot addition on the back to create a more livable back space in the house, but because the side of the existing house is closer to the property line than would be currently permitted, an addition to the back will also be too close to the property line, meaning a variance is required.

We had no speakers and no written correspondence, and Council moved approve the variance.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

NWACC Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8073, 2019 – Results from Alternative Approval Process
The replacement for the Canada games Pool and Centennial Community Centre is going to require that we borrow money beyond a 5-year term, which requires special consent from the community. The City has two alternatives under the Community Charter – a City-wide referendum or this Alternate Approval Process (AAP) where we ask the City to tell us if they oppose the idea. If 10% of the public register opposition, we need to go to referendum.

I hate the structure of the AAP, always have, but that is the process available to us if we believe (as I do) that referendums are terrible way to choose what vital service the City – or any government – is able to deliver.

Anyway, the APP was completed as per the legislation, we had 41 people let us know they opposed the borrowing Bylaw (which is short of the 5,061 required to force referendum) so we can proceed with adopting the borrowing bylaw (below).

2018 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report
The City samples your water to make sure it is safe to drink, because dysentery sucks. We have 13 sampling stations, and they measure things like coliforms and e-coli, chlorine levels, turbidity and metals. We collected more than 1,000 samples in 2018, and all passed quality criteria.

Sixth Avenue and Second Street Intersection – Open Delegation Response
We had a couple of delegates come to Council back in April to express concerns about a pedestrian improvement in Queens Park. Staff looked again at the changes, and have had discussions with the Neighbourhood Traffic Advisory Committee, the Queens Park Residents’ Association, and the NWPD, and have determined that the improvements planned are the best option for the site. With a City full of intersection improvements needed, the treatment here is the one that makes the most sense.

Glenbrook Ravine Park Invasive Plant Management Plan
Glenbrook Ravine is a green treasure in the City, but most people will not recognize that much of the green you see there represents invasive species that are actually terrible for the local ecosystem networks. Blackberry and English Ivy have completely proliferated in the ravine, where other invasives like Scotch Broom and Knotweed are still very limited in extent. Realistically, the limited extent invasive can be knocked out relatively easily, the proliferating ones cannot – but we can take efforts to reduce their impacts (i.e. stop ivy from destroying the alders),

Through ad-hoc efforts of community volunteers like Kyle Routledge and groups like the New West Environmental Partners, there have been some efforts to start addressing this problem, but the problem is bigger than these small efforts, and needs a long-term coordinated plan if it is going to make progress. This report outlines what that long-term strategy looks like!

228 Nelson’s Crescent: Housing Agreement Amendment Bylaw 8135, 2019 for Three Readings
We have a housing agreement with Wesgroup on the secured market rental building in the Brewery District, but the language of the agreement is making CMHC nervous, so we made a small modification so everyone is secure that the Feds will get paid if things go terribly wrong, I suppose.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion

330 East Columbia Street (RCH Project): Gas Service Installation on Brunette Avenue – Request for Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 Exemption
The hospital upgrade requires a gas line upgrade, which means digging up Brunette Ave in front of the Hospital. Because traffic on Brunette must flow, they are going to do this work at night, which requires an exemption from the Construction Noise Bylaw for a week in late August.

I voted against this. I’m not against the work getting done, but do it during business hours and let people sleep. Fully charged and feeling punchy after the Active Transportation Summit, I am feeling strongly that we need to start pushing back a bit against the assumptions of motordom. I’m ready to start voting against these small erosions and start prioritizing livability before traffic flow. The exemption was granted in a split vote.

Child Care Situation in Queensborough
Affordable, accessible childcare is a desperate need across the City and region, but in New West the need is most acute in Queensborough. Where most neighbourhoods in New West have childcare spaces exceeding the provincial and regional average, Queensborough stands out with only 11 spaces per 1,000 children (compared to the regional average of 18.5). For a variety of reasons, both private and non-profit daycare providers are not setting up in Queensborough.

This is just a status report, but the City and School District are going to work together to address this, and specifically ask the province to help us out. Council discussed the need to find some creative solutions, as the current model (and current funding models) simply is not providing the need.

Amendment to Subdivision and Development Control Bylaw Schedule “B” Design Criteria Sections 1, 3, 4, 5 and Part of 8
Looking at the title, does anyone have any idea what this report is about?!

Let’s see if I can break it down. We have a Bylaw that tells anyone who wants to build some things in the City what they need to do to connect that thing to the rest of the City – what kind of water, sewer, electrical, road, sidewalk, etc. connections the developer or builder will be responsible for to assure that everything works together when the building is complete, and the developer pays for their share of the costs, not downloading it onto taxpayers. Attached to that Bylaw is “Schedule B”, which describes in detail all of the designs the City requires. Parts of the Schedule, in turn, describe General Requirements, Storm Drainage System, Sanitary Sewer System, Water Distribution System, and the designs of road pavement. Not surprisingly, technology and engineering demands change over time, and so we need to update the Bylaw to reflect these changes, which we have not done, apparently, since 2006.

It seems arcane, but there are some nuggets in here. The biggest changes are in how we account for projected climate change impacts on rainfall patterns (we need to store more rain water locally or build bigger pipes to address more intense storms). Consistent with Metro Vancouver work, we are incorporating a “moderate climate change forecast” for 2050 (for most infrastructure) or 2100 (for high-risk or critical infrastructure) based on this report.

I have had discussions with people trying to build laneway or carriage houses, and one common complaint is that the rules for connecting to water and sewer do not seem to reflect the situation where we have two residences on a single lot. Some of the existing bylaws create problematic situations like having to trench across an entire property when there may be a closer second connection, or having to run a new sewer line under or through an exsiting building. Staff assured us that they are learning from the experiences of these early adopters, and these Bylaws have the adaptability to support these changes.

Q to Q Ferry Service Plan for Permanent Service
In the last year (May 2018 – June 2019) we had 80,000 rides on the QtoQ ferry, and the City subsidized the service by a bit over $700,000. Staff are asking us to enter into a new procurement for a permanent service, and though I am supportive of the QtoQ, I am challenged with the projected cost, based on the existing ridership.

I had hoped that we could extend for another year, and have some better discussions with potential partners like TransLink and the Ministry of Transportation, both of whom were at the Active Transportation Summit, and both of whom have been expressing interest in supporting more innovative and multi-modal transportation options like the QtoQ, while we continue to see if we can cost share or bring more cost efficiency to the system. However, Council voted to commit to a 5-year contract, in light of how that may provide more security for users and may result in us getting a better contract with a provider.

I do think there is room to continue those conversations with senior agencies and potential partners. In the meantime, some small service adjustments are proposed to make the system run more efficiently

2019 Council Remuneration
We once again sent the touchy issue of Council Remuneration to an outside agency for review, as we agreed to do 4 years ago last time this came up. They recommended that Council pay be increased by 15% to make up for the change in federal taxation regime, which removed the tax exemption from half of our pay, essentially reducing our take-home by 15%. Then we should continue annual CPI increases. This would make our pay fit close to the median of our comparator communities, and essentially make out take-home pay match what we got in previous years. I am happy with this recommendation.

The report also recommended an increased vehicle allowance, but that recommendation did not make it through to our report, as staff will be looking at it as part of a more comprehensive update of our council expense policy.

639 – 655 East Columbia Street: Preliminary Application Review for Infill Townhouses
This is a preliminary report on a potential land assembly and townhouse development on East Columbia right across from the Lower Hume Park entrance. There is quite a bit going on here, including designing a new entrance and intersection at Hume Park, preservation of two possibly-heritage homes and potential to “strand” one property at the extreme north end of New West.

I don’t know why preserving these two single family homes would be congruent with what the bigger goal is here – more affordable and flexible townhouse-type development. If we are going to talk about the cost of preserving these homes as providing community asset, I would rather it be more affordable housing and expansion green space adjacent to Brunette River – even a connection to the Interurban train on the south side of Brunette, and preservation of significant trees. .

Anyway, a preliminary report for review, and there is lots of work to do yet here.

City of Victoria letter to UBCM dated May 29, 2019 regarding restoring Provincial support for libraries
We received a letter from the City of Victoria requesting we support their request to the Provincial government, and we did so and will send a note to the effect. I hope they don’t get it in their head that we are over that whole stealing-of-the-Capital thing….


Finally, we had one Bylaw for Adoption:

New Westminster Aquatics and Community Centre Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8073, 2019
This Bylaw, which gives Council the authority to borrow up to $93.6 Million for a term of 20 years to build the replacement for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre was adopted by Council. Things are getting real now.

And like I said, I will follow up when I get a chance with a reporting out of my experiences at the Public Hearing. Lucky there is a long weekend coming!

Council – June 10, 2019

We had a public-delegation-full Council Meeting on Monday, I never realized how much people in New West hate basketball (I’m going to look back at this blog post in a few years and have no idea what that joke is about). To see it all, you need to watch the video, because I only report here on what we get done, and we had an agenda to get through:

Uptown Belmont Street Parklet: Proposed Redesign
The Uptown Parklet has been successful, if you measure success by its intended purpose: making a public place where people can meet, rest, socialize, and share. As a public square owned by the public, it works, better than any other parklet in the City (and yes, there are others, in Sapperton, in the Brow). We are not quite Montreal, but animating public space is a goal this council supports.

Part of the problem with this success is that some people are bothered by other people using the space. There has also been a bit of a shift in the use of the space as the original astroturf got shabby and was removed, and there were some maintenance issues with the equipment in the space. This report outlines a plan to “refresh” the space to address the second problem, and a bit of a strategy to address the first problem.

Some residents of the adjacent residential buildings are bothered by nighttime use of the parklet, especially people leaving the local pub or drinking in the parklet at night, which has lead to a lot of noise complaints. Smoking is also (as in all of our parks) a problem. In short, some neighbours want the Parklet removed. These are both community behaviour problems that occur in all of our parks and public areas, and re-locating them is not a solution. Every time I go to the Parklet and talk to people using it, they tell me how much they appreciate it being there (though many say they want it fixed up). The drinking/smoking issues are best addressed through a combination of enforcement and education. We are working with the NWPD, the Uptown BIA and the neighbours to work on these issues, and Councillor Trentadue was right on the mark (IMHO) in saying we need to look at a little more “proactive” enforcement, and a little less relying on people to call the NWPD non-emergency line.


The following items were moved on consent:

Recruitment 2019: Committee Appointments (NTAC & Arts)
We are officially appointing a new representative to the NTAC from the new Victoria Hill Ginger Drive Residents’ Association, and a new representative to the Arts Commission.

800 Block Boyd Street: Road Paving – Request for Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 Exemption
They need to re-pave Boyd Street after gas line replacement. It will happen at night to reduce the traffic impact, and a construction noise bylaw exemption is required. Council approved this.

118 Regina Street: Development Variance Permit – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
A heritage house in Queens Park is seeing an upgrade to improve the livable space, while protecting the heritage value of the house. They require a variance for side setback (how close the side of the addition can be to the property line), to reduce it from 5 feet to 3.1 feet. This will go to an Opportunity to be Heard on June 24th; C’mon out and tell us what you think.

230 Keary Street (Building 8), 268 Nelson’s Court (Building 7), and 228 Nelson’s Crescent (Building 5): Brewery District – Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment to Convert Permitted Use on Building 8 from Commercial to Omnibus Use (including Residential)
Wesgroup would like to revisit the zoning language for the next phases of the Brewery District development. The want to make the currently-designated commercial density in Building 8 into “omnibus” zoning which allows a shift towards more residential and less commercial use, along with increasing the height of the building (but not the density – a narrower, taller building), in exchange for making all of buildings 5 and 7 into market rental properties. In short, 320 units currently approved for sale as condos would become secured market rental units in exchange for no increased density, but a shift from commercial to residential.

This is a preliminary report, and has some review to go through, including a conversation with the neighbourhood and eventually a Public Hearing if it gets through all the hoops. I’m a bit challenged by this developer one again going back to the neighbourhood to ask for more height, but I am willing to see how the public and committee reviews go here, and whether the addition of more market rental is valued.

UBCM Resolution in Support of Greater Investments in Municipal and Not-for-Profit Seniors Services and Supports
The UBCM meeting in the Fall will already have a couple of New Westminster resolutions, this one was brought to us by the Healthy Aging Municipal Caucus, of which the City is a member. We are asking, along with a few other municipalities, for the UBCM to coordinate a more coordinated approach between the three orders of governments and local not-for-profits to better fund initiatives to support seniors in our communities.

2018 Statement of Financial Information
Every year we produce a SOFI for the Provincial Government, along with a report from our Auditors telling them everything is on the up-and-up. We ended this fiscal year with $51M more in financial assets than Liabilities ($4M less than last year), but have $23M more in accumulated surplus (which includes the value of all of our buildings, sewer pipes, asphalt, light poles, desktop computers, etc. etc.). We exceeded our revenue targets by $5 Million (though we collected $1M less than anticipated in taxes), and spent $9M more than we expected. We have $128M in investments, and $59M in debt.

Also on there is the remuneration info – I got paid $46,434 for Council work in fiscal year 2018, and spent $5,719 on various expenses (mostly conference attendance at FCM, UBCM, and Lower Mainland LGA). You can also see a list with the names (ugh) of every employee who got paid more than $75,000 in wages and expenses last year, and the name of every supplier from whom we purchased more than $25,000 in goods. Compelling stuff!


The following items were Removed form Consent for discussion:

Funding for Tsilhqot’in Nation reconciliation
The City has a budget line for “international relations”, which has in the past supported several international-exchange initiatives with our City Cities in China, Japan, and the Philippines. Those types of junkets are becoming less common (I have never travelled overseas on behalf of the City in my 4+ years on Council, and there hasn’t been a full council exchange in many years). We are, however, entering a new kind of City-to-Nation relationship with First Nations communities across the province. The special relationship of New Westminster and the Tsilhqot’in Nation, based on a tragic history, has been a priority for Council, and has resulted in some great relationship building leading to a positive path towards reconciliation with this Nation.

The next step in this relationship is for our two communities to come together and have a commemoration ceremony with representatives of the Tsilhqot’in, and more visits by a Councillor or two to their Nation to talk about future activities. We are, in this report, approving taking some of the International Relations budget money to pay for this, and establishing that future expenses should come from a reconciliation budget.

2019 Council Remuneration
We once again sent the touchy issue of Council Remuneration to an outside consultant for review, as we agreed to do last time this came up 4 years ago. The consultant recommended that Council pay be increased by 15% to make up for the change in federal taxation regime, which removed the tax exemption from half of our pay, essentially reducing our take-home by 15% 9or “making us whole” so we have essentially the same take-home in 2019 as we did in 2018, then continue annual CPI increases. This would make our pay once again fit close to the median of our comparator communities.

They also recommended that we increase a vehicle allowance to match that of our neighbouring communities. This I disagree with. I simply don’t think we need a vehicle allowance in a City of 15 square kilometres with excellent transit service and walkability, and if we do have legitimate travel costs for our day-to-day work, it should be managed though our expense allowance, not as something we are given outright.

Regardless, Council moved to table the report, and we will have a fuller discussion of it next meeting, no doubt after careful consideration of Facebook comments.

Arts Commission: Request to Increase Arts & Culture Grant
We are going through a process of revamping our grant process, including some review of how grants are categorized. As we are also launching a new Arts Strategy, the Arts Commission is asking that the amount of money awarded to support arts in the community, and way it is awarded, be reviewed as part of this review. There is no specific ask for a specific amount here, but we will be getting a report back from staff.


We moved the following Bylaw,:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8123, 2019 for Residential Rental Tenure
This Bylaw that updates the Rental Tenure zoning for 6 properties that have always operated a rental in the city was adopted by Council.


We also had one piece of New business:

Motion: Gender, Diversity and Inclusion
Councillor Trentadue put forward the following motion:

That staff report back on the current breakdown of departments by gender, diversity, and people with disabilities, and
That staff report back on best practices that other governments, institutions and businesses have implemented to address gender parity, diversity and inclusion; and
That staff develop hiring practices that will meet the needs of a changing workforce and improve the balance of our employee make up; and
That staff develop metrics and a reporting structure that will confirm our success
or failure to address these issues; and
That staff develop City-wide policy to which all departments can adhere and that addresses not only the issues of gender parity, diversity, and inclusion but also the integration and support of all city employees with disabilities.

The City has always had the feeling that we are doing a good job at diversity in our workforce, but there are areas (such as in the trades) where we are definitely not keeping up with the diversity of the general workforce. This motion will ask staff to actually start tracking the diversity of our workforce, and report back with practices and metrics so we can assure that barriers to employment for underrepresented groups can be identified and addressed. This is going to make us a better operation, and Council unanimously supported it.

And that was the end of the meeting, but don’t forget to tune in or drop by on June 24th when we have (count ‘em) 12 Public Hearings and 3 Opportunities to be heard. Should be an action-packed event!

Council – May 27, 2019

Our May 27 meeting was a little strange. Anticipating a large Public Hearing turnout and concomitantly late meeting along with a very long agenda, Staff decided to hold an afternoon session to assure we got through the agenda items. So things were a little out of order. For the sake of tradition, I am going to report out based on the normal sequence (Public Hearing then Regular Meeting starting with Consent Agenda).

The Public Hearing had three items:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8113, 2019 (315 and 326 Mercer Street)
The proposal here is to rezone two properties in the “eastern node” area of Queensborough. They are currently zoned light industrial, but will become part of the mixed use commercial area at the heart of the triangle of lands that connect Port Royal to the rest of Queensborough, finally bringing some retail to the east end of Q’boro.

The APC approved the rezoning, it is consistent with the Queensborough Community Plan and the long-term vision for the eastern node. We received no correspondence on this, and two people came to speak to the matter, one the proponent, the other mostly concerned with North Vancouver traffic. Council moved to give the rezoning Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8099, 2019 for 1209-1217 Eighth Avenue
This rezoning will create a special zone to allow a 22-townhouse development in the West End just off of 12th Street. The project is consitent with the new OCP and design guidelines we have adopted for infill townhouse development. It has been through the Design Panel, the APC approved the project, and it was reviewed by the RA and a public open house with no significant issues raised. We received no correspondence on the project, and no-one came to speak on the matter. Council moved to give the zoning amendment Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8123, 2019 for Residential Rental Tenure
This is essentially the same rental tenure zoning bylaw we passed back in the end of January, which applied the new Rental Tenure Zoning designation to 6 buildings in the City that have always operated as rental. Unfortunately, our staff determined that some of the information the City circulated during the original notifications for the zoning change was inaccurate, so in practicing an abundance of caution and procedural fairness, it was decided to do the process again, and do it correctly this time. At the same time, a couple of minor changes to the language of the Bylaw are included, to make the intent clearer, to correct a reference to the Societies Act, and to more clearly exempt commercial properties. Again, none of these change the effect or intent of the Bylaw adopted back in January, but serves to procedurally make it clearer.

We received 238 (!) pieces of correspondence on this, more than 200 of them as copies of a vaguely-worded form letter of unclear origin that clearly circulated around the province and appeared to support more rental buildings being built. We also had a few people who were directly impacted by the January bylaw come and speak against it (as opposed to against this specific change). Council moved to support giving this amendment third reading.


Our regular meeting included a lengthy consent agenda, and the following items were Moved on Consent:

Short Term Rental Monitoring Program
We have been talking about Short Term Rentals regulations for a while, but it has never found its way to the top of the priority list for our planning staff work plans. Recently Vancouver introduced a set of regulations, and much like other jurisdictions that have introduced local regulations (Nelson, Tofino, etc.), there have been challenges regulating these activities. It appears that successful enforcement relies on data sharing partnerships with the STR enabling corporations (AirBnB, VRBO, and others), and those providers are reluctant to enter those partnerships on anything but their own terms.

However, if we are going to formalize and regulate STR, we need to understand how it is operating in the City, and what the actual problems are that we need to manage. Staff is being directed here to launch a coordinated monitoring program, to determine how STR is operating in the City, and what the negative impacts and economic benefits are for the community. More to come here!

Business Regulations and Licensing (Rental Units) Amendment Bylaw No.8130, 2019: for Consideration of Three Readings
Much like the other Rental Protection Bylaw that we moved in Public Hearing, this change in business regulations to protect people from unnecessary renoviction needs a bit of adjustment now that staff have tried to exercise it. This is not the least bit surprising considering we are breaking new ground on rental protection here – no-one has done this before us (though a few other communities have followed our lead).

There are a few changes here, and the report lays them out, such as clarifying that this is one of those Bylaws where every day the issue is not rectified constitutes another offence (as opposed to there being only one offence when a person is evicted) and some language changes. This will go to an Opportunity to be Heard on June 24. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Safety Update for Clothing and Donation Bins in New Westminster
This is a follow-up on an earlier report about the safety of clothing donation bins. Staff followed up with all operators of clothing bins in the City (none are on City Property), and confirmed that they have retrofitted or replaced their bins such that the types that caused the deaths in Vancouver are not operating in New Westminster.

Soil Deposit and Removal Regulation Bylaw No. 8106, 2019
The City is creating a new Bylaw to better regulate the movements of large quantities of soil. This has some practical engineering uses (controlling run-off from dirt piles, protecting storm sewers and preventing flooding, etc.) and environmental benefits (mitigating the spread of invasive plants and contaminated soils). There were some minor changes since first reading to better fit into the current provincial regulatory framework, and it will now to go to the appropriate Provincial ministries for review.

2019 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
This is our regular update on snow pack and flood risk. The snow pack is slightly below average, and melting slowly despite higher-than-seasonal temperatures (probably because of less-than-seasonal rain), and there is no elevated risk of flood right now.

Bylaw No. 8074, 2019 Closing a Portion of Highway on Boyne Street at 34 South Dyke Road
Another unopened piece of road allowance in Queensborough that is surplus to the City’s needs. To remove it from “road” designation, we need to pass a bylaw. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on June 24th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Investment Report to April 30, 2019
The City has money in the bank, mostly reserves we have put aside for capital projects that are on tap, like the Canada Games Pool replacement and the Massey Theatre refurbishment, but also less sexy things like DCCs we collected from developers to pay for sewer capacity increases we will need to build. We made about $1.2 Million of income from the interest on these investments.

Major Purchases January 1st to April 30th, 2019
As I talked about in a previous blog post, we need to report how we spend the City’s money. Three times a year we put out a report like this that shows what we spent money on above $50,000. This includes the winners of our public procurement competitions, so if you didn’t get that City contract you wanted, you can see who did and how much we pay them.

632 Second Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designation – Bylaws for Consideration of Two Readings
The owner of a currently empty house in Glenbrook north wants to subdivide the lot and build an infill house on the lot, in exchange for restoring the heritage house to bring it back into good repair and have it permanently protected. This will go to Public Hearing on June 24th, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

647 Ewen Avenue: Official Community Plan Amendment, Heritage Revitalization Agreement, Heritage Designation – Bylaws for Consideration of Two Readings
The Slovak Hall is an old public assembly building in Queensborough that fell into some disrepair. A proposal to redevelop the site was modified to allow protection of the Hall by reimagining it, and sharing the lot with some townhouses. This needs an OCP amendment, which is a bit of a complicated process, but here we are. This will go to Public Hearing on what is starting to look like a busy June 24th meeting. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Restorative Justice Committee re The State of the Indigenous Court Facility in New Westminster;
Restorative Justice Committee re The State of Legal Aid and Lack of Funding ; and
Restorative Justice Committee re Communities Embracing Restorative
Action (CERA) and the Police Board

The RJC brought these three motions forward to advocate for better funding and support for restorative justice in the City, mostly calling on senior governments to support this program better.

Multiculturalism Advisory Committee re Christchurch, New Zealand Terrorist Attacks
The MAC is asking that the City formally send support to Christchurch.


The following items were Removed From Consent for discussion:

Surplus Road Allowances (Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node): Road Closure Bylaw No. 8093, 2019 and Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8092, 2019 – Bylaws for Readings
Related to the rezonings in the Eastern Node we discussed at Public Hearing, these two unused road allowances in Queensborough are proposed to be closed. These are legally “roads”, in that they are not titled lots, but there was never a road installed on either. One has a significant drainage watercourse, and the other is brush. As part of the Queensborough Eastern Node development, the watercourse will be re-aligned and new roads will be developed through this area. This requires a Bylaw to “close” the roads, which will come to a Public Hearing on June 24. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

1031 Quebec Street: Metro Vancouver’s Annacis Water Supply Tunnel Project – Update
Metro Vancouver supplies clean potable water to a couple of million people every day, and they (we?) spend a lot of money on infrastructure works to make this happen. Ongoing capacity improvements to deal with population growth South of the Fraser include building a new water crossing between New West and Surrey, in the form of a deep bored 2.6m tunnel. That tunnel will, for a variety of technical reasons, come to (near) the surface in an empty lot at the bottom of 11th Street.

After the work is done (it will take a few of years), the lot will have an underground chamber, and there will be a public amenity on top – some sort of park and interpretive facility is likely. This report shows some preliminary designs for that park space. Council asked for more trees. .

331 Richmond Street (Richard McBride Elementary): Rebuild Update
Richard McBride School is going to be replaced. The District and the Province are working out the design ideas for the site, which is a little constrained in that the new school needs to be built while the existing one is being operated. The proposed plan will also require a couple of zoning variances to fit on the site.

There are some details we need to work out with the School district around how parking and on-site dropoff occurs. Richmond is a greenway, and with all due respect to parents world-wide, school drop-off areas are among the most dangerous locations vulnerable road users. This space where a greenway passes in front of an elementary school is not an appropriate place for parents to drop off children, and I hope we can find some vision here to make it safer for all.

I am also a little concerned about the province seeking variances to avoid some of the offsite requirements. When anyone builds a new development in the city – be that a new residential development, the new hospital, or a new commercial building – the City has requirements for how the transportation links (roads and sidewalks), sewers, streetlights, telecom connections, etc. are addressed through that development. As much as I appreciate that a school is a valuable public amenity, the province should not be downloading those costs onto local governments, they are part and parcel with construction of a new building. There are some discussions to have here.

There will be an open house on June 5 at McBride. Show up and let them know what you think!

Cannabis: Retail Locations – Summary of Application Review Process
The City went through an evaluation process to filter through the first tranche of applications for cannabis retailing in the City. Perhaps not surprisingly, applicants who were not successful in this first tranche were mostly not satisfied with the process that did not place them on the top of the list. We asked staff to review some specific complaints we received, and I am satisfied with the report they are providing here.

This process is taking much longer than (most of us on) Council are happy with. Currently, we are waiting for the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch for their next steps in approval, then will go to Public Hearing on these specific applications. I had hoped that we could accelerate this process and provide more certainty to the applicants by scheduling Public Hearing and allowing those LCRB requirements to be conditions of the Adoption (like we do with many, many other Provincial Government requirements related to new developments), but Council voted against this for reasons I simply don’t understand. We did, however,  move to open up a separate review process for Provincial Cannabis stores, as we recognize that any concerns for Public and Private retail are fundamentally different.

Quayside Drive Parking Strategy & Motor Vehicle Speed Management
A tradition almost as sacred as May Day is Quayside Parking demand studies. As the development spread west along Quayside Drive over the 1990s, paring ratios were increased because it was apparent that no matter how much parking was built, it never seemed like enough. Studies in 1990, 1992, 2001 and 2017 show that there was actually enough parking, it was just poorly distributed.

There are 198 on-street parking spots on Quayside, most with no restriction on their use, meaning that some vehicles sit for months in the same spot. That said, peak usage is 86% occupation – which means at any given time, 15% of spots are available, which is actually the established ideal ratio. Scans of license plates suggest that slightly more than 33% of the cars parked on the street are registered to Quayside residents. At the same time, off-street Visitor Parking occupancy is around 55%, though it varies greatly complex-to-complex.

This study makes 4 recommendations. One we are not going to pursue (removing or consolidating bus stops to make more spots) for hopefully obvious reasons. The others were taken to consultation in the neighbourhood, and were generally approved of by a majority of residents, so the City will move forward with them.

1002 – 1004 and 1006 – 1008 Third Avenue: Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designations: Bylaws for Consideration of Two Readings
Those two unique brick duplexes at the corner of 10th street and 3rd Ave are being restored. Though the restoration changes are internal, the owner is agreeing to do this through a HRA process, providing permanent protection to these unique heritage houses. This will go to Public Hearing on June 24th, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

616 and 640 Sixth Street: Zoning Amendment Bylaw and Development Permit: Bylaw for Consideration of Two Readings
This project in uptown would be, surprisingly, the first new mutli-family approval in Uptown since 2011. The owner of the current building would like to replace it with a 29 story tower with a 3-story mixed-use podium. This includes 142 strata units and 95 secured Market Rental suites (meeting and exceeding our Family Friendly Housing requirements for 2- and 3-bedroom suites), with 12,000sqft of commercial at grade. Since first proposed a couple of years ago, the project has iterated quite a bit, including a shift of some of the residential density from strata to rental. This will go to Public Hearing on June 24th, C’mon out and tell us what you think.

There was a robust discussion about the separation of entrances between the rental and strata portions of the residential tower. A discussion worth listening to on the video, if only because it is interesting to see how council works through a sticky subject like this. I often disagree with my Council colleagues, but I really respect the way we can hash these ideas out and hear one another when working towards resolution, especially on a topic like this where it seems simple at the surface, but it is actually a complex issue that requires consideration.


We had a lot of Bylaws to give a lot of readings to, but only one for Adoption:

Zoning Amendment (630 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 8035, 2018
The Temporary Modular Housing Project at 630 Ewen received third reading for the necessary zoning amendment back in July of 2018, but it finally got through all of the local and provincial government hoops to be adopted now. And we moved to adopt it.

And with that, we called it an evening!

Lower Mainland LGA 2019

Last week I attended the Lower Mainland LGA’s annual conference. You paid for me to go there*, so as per my tradition, I like to report out on some of the highlights of what I saw and what I did.

The Lower Mainland Local Government Association is an organization that brings local government elected people together from across the “Lower Mainland”. Our Membership includes every Municipality and Regional District between Hope and West Vancouver, between White Rock and Pemberton. Every year we hold a two day conference over three days, and this year it was in Harrison.

The opening session included a notable speech by the Speaker of the House. Unexpectedly, this led to some media attention. In hindsight, it was bold for the Speaker to provide a speech to a room of elected officials and frame the speech around how elected officials are hated and not trusted, mostly because they are not good leaders. As a call to arms to be better leaders, or to take the role of leadership seriously (as most of the members assembled were new) it was a puzzling approach.

In this context, where your audience’s back is up, it is easy for some questionable examples and ham-fisted allegory to be received in the worst possible light. It was unfortunate, and ultimately failed to deliver the message that the speaker was hoping to deliver. The resultant media buzz was perhaps out of scale with the event, but the knives coming out so quick might have said more about why fewer people choose to put their names forward for leadership… but I digress.


Day two began with a moderated session about the Past and Future of the regional plan, or even of Regional planning. Gordon Price began with a description of the emergency that led our region to begin regional planning (the flood of 1948), and drew a parallel and contrast to our current slow-burning apocalypse, challenging us to ask whether we are planning to deal with it. “never waste a good apocalypse”. Patricia Heintzman and Patricia Ross brought perspectives from the Sea-to-Sky and the Fraser Valley – both addressing themes of responsible planning and the future of the environment and outlines some successes and challenges at the metaphorical edges of the metropolis, while Rhiannon Bennett reminded us that the growth of the region, planned or otherwise, did not occur in a vacuum, but on lands that provided prosperity to her people for several thousand years.

This was followed by a Munk-style moderated debate featuring four elected officials on the topic of Climate Action. Nadine Nakagawa and Christine Boyle debated in favour of the motion “We need a Canadian version of the Green New Deal” against Laura Dupont and… uh, me. At the end of the hour, we essentially tied (we didn’t move anyone in the crowd one way or the other) but we did manage to have a robust discussion around the strengths of different approaches to addressing climate change, and the role local governments can play.

Day two is the day we do the AGM, and Elections for the Lower Mainland LGA, followed by our Resolutions Session, where members debate various resolutions calling in senior governments to make changes in legislation or policy to make local governments work better. There were 34 resolutions, most of them approved, some with amendments, and you will have to wait until the full report comes out on line to see what went through and how.

New Westminster sent 4 resolutions forward:

Fresh Voices #LostVotes Campaign: Therefore be it resolved that UBCM request the Province of British Columbia make the necessary changes to allow Permanent Residents to vote in municipal elections in municipalities in British Columbia.

This and a similar resolution by Port Moody were supported.

#AllOnBoard Campaign: Therefore be it resolved that the #AllonBoard Campaign be endorsed and the TransLink Mayors’ Council, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction be asked to work with the provincial government and local governments to develop a plan that will provide free public transit for minors (ages 0‐18), free transit for people living below the poverty line (as identified by market basket measure, in line with the BC poverty measures), and reduced price transit based on a sliding scale for all low‐income people regardless of their demographic profile.

This and similar resolutions by Vancouver and Port Moody were supported.

Office of a Renters Advocate: Therefore be it resolved that the LMLGA and UBCM seek support of the Provincial Government to create an Office of The Renters Advocate, to monitor and analyzes renters’ services and issues in BC, and make recommendations to government and service providers to address systemic issues caused by rental shortages, renovictions, demovictions and housing affordability.

This resolution was supported by the membership.

Support of the Indigenous Court System: Therefore be it resolved that UBCM, FCM and LMLGA lobby the Canadian Federal and Provincial Governments to fund and expand the Indigenous Court System.

This resolution was also supported by the membership. So New West was 4 for 4 on the resolution front this year!


Friday began with addresses from representatives of the three Parties in the provincial legislature. Leader Andrew Wilkinson spoke for the BC Liberal Party, Deputy Leader Jonina Campbell for the BC Greens, and Selina Robinson the (apropos) Minister of Municipal Affairs for the BC NDP.

The highlights for me on Friday were the two sessions moderated by Justin McElroy of the CBC and stuff-ranking fame.  The first had Minister Robinson, Metro Vancouver Chair Sav Dhaliwal and UBCM President Arjun Singh talking about the work of local governments (remember, most of the elected folks in the room have only been in office for 6 months), and how to work together with senior governments to get things done. The second was a panel discussion on the future of regional transportation with the Chair of the TransLink Mayors Council, the Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, the MLA for the Sea-To-Sky region, and ELMTOT-friendly MLA Bowinn Ma.

Overall, the Lower Mainland LGA is an opportunity for local elected people to get together and talk about the challenges we see on our communities, and the innovative ideas we are using to overcome these challenges. I got to spend time chatting with the new Mayor of Squamish about her concise new Strategic Plan (one page, straight forward, and full of easy-to-measure goals!), to ca Councillor in Abbotsford about the challenges rolling out the Abbotsforward plan, to Vancouver Councilors about their (crazy?) new Council dynamic. I got to complain and brag about New West in equal measure. It is this networking with peers and connections we make that I value most from this meeting every year.

  • *I’m on the Executive of the Lower Mainland LGA, so part of my cost of attending was covered by the organization. Also, my attendance required me to take three unpaid days off of my regular work, so MsNWimby argues that she paid a substantial part of my costs as well…

Council – May 6 , 2019

Aside from the newsworthy event of the evening, we had a pretty light agenda for our first May meeting, which was probably good in light of the diverse and lengthy public delegations we heard.


We started by moving the following items on Consent:

New Westminster Reconciliation Consultant and Framework Development
As I alluded to last week, Council has been unanimous in support of reconciliation, and in taking a thoughtful, intentional, and respectful approach to the work. We have endorsed the Calls to Action in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and are dedicated to establishing a respectful and comprehensive dialogue with the community about New Westminster’s unique role in the colonial history of Western Canada. Before we were part of Canada, we were the capital of the colony – this is the place where the Royal Engineers, the armed force enforcing colonialization – was stationed. This is the place where Governors Douglas and Seymour presided over colonial administration, this is also a place where Qayqayt people rested on the river, and a place honoured in many stories of Sto:lo people.

This report outlines the framework to do that work that has been established after months of work by staff and consultants, rising out of several discussions with Council. It has been said, as recently as last week at Council, that Truth needs to come before Reconciliation, and the only way to arrive at that truth is through dialogue, through telling our stories, and hearing the stories of others. But this is often the hardest part. How do we create spaces where people feel free to have frank and sometimes challenging discussions? And how do we decide whose stories are vital to our local dialogue, in a place with such a protracted history, a place that in many ways wears that history on its sleeve. How do we have those discussions in a way that doesn’t cause people to close their ears? These are not easy questions, and we will not always hit the mark in answering them. But we will try, and we committed to doing it with care and intention.

Of course, for the second week in a row, we tossed this framework aside, so I really don’t know what is coming next.

Amendments to the 2019 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
We are adjusting some Council schedules to add a Public Hearing to the September 9 meeting. However, since Public Hearings are night when we don’t have Public Delegation, staff recommended moving our regular Queensborough meeting to October, because it would be weird to go to Queensborough and not do Public Delegation while we are there.

Recruitment 2019: Seniors Advisory Committee (SAC) Appointment
One of the agencies with a representative on the Seniors Advisory Committee is changing members, which apparently we need to approve. So done.

315 and 326 Mercer Street (Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node): Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8113, 2019 – For Two Readings
Two properties within the “Eastern Node” – an area in Queensborough at the east end of Ewen Avenue that bridges the gap between Single-family-house Q’Boro and Port Royal – need to be rezoned to align with the land use planned for the entire Eastern Node master plan. These lands will eventually bring some neighbourhood-serving retail and services to Port Royal. This application will have a Public Hearing on May 27. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Multi Family Rental Residential Tenure Zoning: Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8123, 2019 – Consideration of Two Readings
The City strives to be transparent and accurate in communicating how our Bylaws work, and in that interest we clarifying some of the language around how the recent change to the Rental Residential Tenure. We are not changing the zoning per se, but staff thought it best that this adjustment be through a full public process with full notice because of the sensitivity of the topic. There will be a Public Hearing on May 27, so I will hold my comments until then.


The following item was Removed from Consent for discussion:

Child Care Update: Proposed City and School District Facilities
Access to childcare has been at near-crisis levels in New West for a long time, and we are not the only City in the Lower Mainland feeling this crunch. The new provincial government has some new funding available, and there are some new School District projects coming along that make this an opportune time for the City to partner and make more spaces available. If this all comes together, we will have almost 150 new childcare spaces opened in our most underserved areas of Queensborough and Sapperton. This will provide a mix of infant, toddler, and after-school care, though council did not e that after school care is a vital need not being served right now, especially in the East End.

The money is coming from several sources: the City and the School district are applying for Childcare BC New Spaces Fund grants for a few projects, the City already received a Child Care Major Capital Funding Grant, we also have Community Amenity Funding from a developer, and will pull some money from our internal reserves. The City, School District and a developer are all contributing land and buildings to house these childcares. Council moved ot endorse this strategy.


Our regular Bylaws dance included adopting the following:

Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8105, 2019
The Bylaw that officially sets our tax rates for 2019 was adopted.

Uptown New Westminster Business Improvement Area Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8112, 2019;
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Primary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8114, 2019; and
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Secondary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8115, 2019
These Bylaws that set the rates for the BIA parcel taxes was adopted.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (218 Queens Avenue) Bylaw No. 8064, 2019
The HRA Bylaw that allows a subdivision and protection to three heritage houses in the Queens Park neighbourhood was adopted by Council.

We then had one piece of New Business:

Removal of Judge Begbie Statue
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
THAT the City of New Westminster remove the Judge Begbie statue from its position of power in front of the Provincial Court house; and
THAT the City of New Westminster engage in a conversation with the Tsilhqot’in Nation about the history and legacy of Judge Begbie and the effects his decisions had on generations of their people; and
THAT the City work with the Museum and Archives, the community, and the Tsilqot’in Nation to find an appropriate place for the statue; and
THAT the City of New Westminster engage in a process of consultation to find an appropriate place to tell the history of the Chilcotin War.

I spoke against the motion, recognizing some may perceive that as my being opposed to or obstinate towards our reconciliation process. However, I am acting only based on what wiser people have told me about having a truthful and open approach to reconciliation, and based on that, I fear this action is the kind of thing that can set us back. Nothing I heard in the delegations tonight assuaged those concerns. So I guess I need to unpack this a bit, in fear I did not express myself adequately at Council.

I have been told that Truth must come before Reconciliation. That means before we take arbitrary actions, we engage our community and those people impacted by those actions – especially the people we seek to honour with our actions – in a respectful conversation. We listen to their stories, we share our experiences, we open our ears before we lift our tools. Then we lift those tools together.

I hope, perhaps naively, that we can build a respectful space where our community can have these conversations, and come out the other end with better understanding. However, we have clearly not yet had these conversations. As a city, we have not yet begun to hear, to share, or to learn. Instead we, as a City, spent the weekend bickering on Facebook then spent two hours in Council speaking past each other – with no-one in the room speaking from the Tsilhqot’in, no one speaking from the QayQayt, from the Kwikwetlem. No-one in that meeting expressed that they were speaking from an indigenous experience.

There were many there who seemed to speak for them, but we did not want to take time to hear from them.

At the same time, we managed to close many people’s ears in our community to the discussions we are going to have to have in New Westminster – difficult discussions in light of our unique role in the colonization of British Columbia. Not just the home of Judge Begbie, but the home of Governors Douglas and Seymour, home of the Sappers, a City named by the Queen of England and head of the Anglican Church. We are surrounded by colonial baggage, and cannot dispatch it all, even to put all of it in a context that fits our modern idea of justice will be hard work. Hard work we need to do. It will be made harder if we choose to divide with our early actions, opening the opportunity for those to undermine the intent by lobbing ideas from trenches at each other. Every delegate speaking at Council tonight was respectful and considered, and I thank them for that. But how many of them listened to the people “on the other side”? Tried to put their minds to where that person was coming from? Were we really all there with open ears? Was this a dialogue?

When the John A McDonald statue was removed last year in Victoria, it was done following a year of conversation with the “City Family”, the inclusive framework used for reconciliation for their City. A year-long process of deliberation, dialogue and truth-sharing brought them to the point where they understood the meaning of the act, and were ready to share that meaning in a fulsome way with the larger community. We are not there yet. Yes, they had “backlash” when the statue was moved, but at least they could, with integrity, say “we have heard your concerns, we have considered your concerns, we take this action with due respect to your concerns, because we believe it moves the conversation forward”. Can we honestly say that?

If we are going to work with integrity and an open heart, and build the willingness to act meaningfully, I hope we can get to the place where the Begbie Statue, the John Robson plaque on City Hall, the Tin soldier, and other symbols in the City that have different impacts depending on the lens they are viewed through, can be addressed in a way that heals, not in a way that divides. We are not there yet, so I could not support this action at this time.

We have so much work to do. I ask that everyone keep an open heart and open ears.


And that was the business of the night. Happy May!