Council, October 7, 2019

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

The following items were Moved on Consent:

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

This is a great program, happy to support it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following Bylaw was adopted:

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


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

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

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

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

Council – Sept 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We then had a single Opportunity to be Heard:

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

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


The following item was Moved on Consent:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We then adopted the following Bylaws</b:

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

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

And that was the work of the day

Climate Emergency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council – Sept 9, 2019

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


We opened with an Opportunity for Public Comment:

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


We had one item of Unfinished Business:

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


The following items were Moved on Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Our Bylaws adopted were as follows:

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

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

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


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

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

Council – August 26, 2019

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

The following items were Moved on Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following items were Removed form Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Finally, we adopted the following Bylaws:

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

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

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

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

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

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.