…on the Stairway

“A Stairway to Nowhere”. Literally the second paragraph of the story undermines the headline, but Global never lets a good lede go to waste, reality be damned.

The alleged “Stairway to Nowhere” is a fire exit, required by the building code because the ~100-year-old heritage buildings adjacent do not have internal staircases to facilitate fire egress in the event a fire or other emergency blocks the front entrance. The connections between the staircase and the building have not been completed yet, because the ~100-year-old heritage electrical connections to the ~100-year-old heritage buildings are going to be moved to make the Front Street Mews look and work better, and life will be better for everyone if the lines are moved before the fire escape connections are made.

The fire escape needed to be built because the Parkade was removed. The ~100-year-old heritage building used to have gangways that connected to the Parkade to facilitate fire egress. Those were part of the “railings, lights, stairs, wheelguards, and other ‘jewellery’ [that were] past their service life and [fell] far short of modern safety codes” that I talk about in that blog post from 2015. Until the new connections are made, there is a lighter-duty and even more temporary fire escape on Columbia Street which is (arguably) as intrusive as this one. The owner of the ~100-year-old heritage building, naturally, has some say in how these connections are made, and is apparently quite satisfied with the stairway on Front Street.


The cost of installing this stairway or otherwise providing alternate egress for the ~100-year-old heritage building is not an unexpected expense, but part of the (budgeted) $11 Million cost of the Parkade half-repair, Parkade half-removal, Front Street re-engineering and general gussying-up project that was approved by Council a couple of years ago. At last report, this project is still on budget, although its finish was delayed for a bunch of reasons that were reasonably unanticipated. There were some changes to the design over the couple of years since first proposed, not the least being that all of the electrical services were undergrounded, which is a significant improvement to the aesthetic of the Mews, and will make the pedestrian realm more friendly.

All of this doesn’t mean I am happy with the staircase (**insert part where I say this is my opinion, not official position of the City, Council, or anyone else**). I was actually pretty (excuse me, Mom) pissed off when I first looked at this temporary solution for the fire escape and it was explained to me that “temporary” meant “for the foreseeable future”. Looking back at the many renderings for the Front Street Mews used for public consultation over the years, the stairs were never depicted, and to me the structure is oversized, obtrusive, and at odds with what vision we are trying to create on the Mews. With our Open Space planning staff doing so much good work to make Front Street a comfortable, human-scaled, and functional space, this looks like something designed by (I’m sorry) an engineer.

vision-2My first reaction was to think that a fire escape, by its very nature, would be used by a half-dozen people only once, if at all. This structure looks like it was engineered to facilitate the boarding of troops onto naval vessels. However, I am told that modern fire access standards for commercial buildings expect that well-equipped firefighters will use the stairs, and carry large things up and down them with some significant urgency. The stairs are also expected to remain standing after a seismic event that no ~100-year-old heritage building was built to sustain. So it is bigger, stronger, and with a much more substantial foundation than the stairs going (for example) up to the back deck in my house. It is also a modular design that can be picked up and moved, as it was recognized at the time as a “temporary” structure, which can be utilized elsewhere if ever major renovations to the ~100-year-old heritage building make the stairway’s presence on Front Street no longer necessary. Put these factors together, and the design, fabrication and installation costs are more than my aforementioned deck stairs.

Other options were explored by staff and the owner of the building. Maintaining access above Columbia Street was suboptimal, building an access on the McKenzie Street side simply didn’t work with the internal layout of the ~100-year-old heritage building. No-one was excited about the potential engineering challenges of hanging something that met modern standards off the side of a ~100-year-old heritage building. So in the end, they are ugly and look overbuilt, but represent the best of several bad options given the circumstances. I don’t like the way the stairway looks, but have no viable alternatives to offer.

Nor, I note, do the armchair engineers or outrage-mongers at Global.

The Grand Prix

The New West Grand Prix happened last week. Our City joined Vancouver, White Rock, Delta, Port Coquitlam, and Burnaby in hosting a BC Superweek professional bike race. And what a show it was. You can read the good news stories here, here, and (especially) here. But this is my Blog, so I’m going to take my time to (space?) to thank the many people who need to be thanked for making this project work. At least, I will try to thank as many of them as I can think of. An event like this is a partnership between many groups, and I’m going to risk missing a few important people here…


First and foremost, we had an army of volunteers making this happen, some who gave a few hours on the day, some who spent month ahead of time putting vital pieces in place. Community member Ron Cann provided great leadership and savvy guidance as the Chair of our organizing committee, Diane Perry organized the kids’ races and events, Bill DeGroot shook the bushes of the community for volunteers, and he and Jennifer Wolowic made sure the volunteer efforts were as organized as could be. Jennifer was also a star on Race Day, bringing her knowledge of high-level cycle racing to do any of a thousand small tasks that needed to be done. Mario Bartel helped put the Grand Prix on the social- and traditional-media map, and did what he does best by capturing stories through his camera lens. Ross “Mr. Jen” Arbo helped find a bunch of places for visiting racers to billet here in New West. This was the command structure of a volunteer army.

Add to this core group more than 100 volunteers who did everything from set up and tear down fences to standing at crosswalks for hours keeping people safe and many other tasks you didn’t even see being done. Here is where the greater New West community stepped up. We had teams from the local HUB Cycling chapter, The Queens Park Running Club, and from the Fraser River Fuggitivi road riding group. We had corporate teams, Youth Ambassadors, and a team from Last Door who were particularly adept at large-fence-panel moving, and scores f individuals who just wanted to help out. I don’t know where Bill found all of these people, but the first time I felt confident about this event working was the day of the Volunteer Dinner, a week before the event, when more than 100 people showed up eager to help make race day work. Thank you to everyone!

I want to thank some City staff who really stood up, but I don’t want to name them (I am, in some weird sense, their employer, and privacy rights and all…) I think they know who they are, and I’ve tried to thank them personally. An event like this pushes them past what is normally “just their job” and takes a passion and effort that is out of scale with their everyday, and so much of this work occurs of the side of the desk along with their everyday busy schedules. Council put a little extra stress on our staff because we (frankly) started a little late on this project. This meant we had to rush some parts of the program, it also meant we weren’t able to do a few of the things that would have made the program bigger or more exciting (many learnings in the can for next year!). However, staff coordinated with the volunteers and those running the bigger BC Superweek program and answered a thousand phone calls and e-mails about every aspect of the event, then showed up on event day to do a thousand tasks, big and small. Kudos all around.

This event relies on sponsors to pay a huge portion of the bills. Again, we were a little late to get started in 2017, but it is incredible how many sponsors stepped up to contribute. Bosa Developments, Domus Homes, I4 Property Group, and Skyllen Pacific were all major partners with the City on this community-building adventure. Strongside Conditioning and Billard Architecture were two local businesses that had their front door access impacted by the event, but turned that into a reason to get involved as major sponsors.

Of course Gordon from Cap’s Original Bike Shop got involved, providing prizes for the kids race, a great draw prize for the volunteers, and the professional “pit services” for the race. Boston Pizza made sure VIPs and volunteers got fed, S&O partnered to keep folks otherwise refreshed, and the Record and Global BC helped get the word out. Champion Systems, Gateway Casinos and Alpine Credits also pitched in, and Old Crow Coffee hosted our volunteer corral. Next time you visit one of these sponsors, thank them for taking part and helping to bring this event to New West. We really couldn’t do it without them, and they are making your City more fun to live in.

Similarly, we got a lot of support from downtown New Westminster. Both the Downtown BIA and Tourism New West came on board with support, but the merchants and residents of downtown also made adjustments to their day to allow us to have one of the large road closures in recent New West history. Can’t have a road bike race without a road.

Finally*, the fans and racers. The show was great, a kicking of butt by the Woman’s winner, and a late break almost caught by the sprint in the Men’s race… there were no spills but many thrills, and a marriage proposal to cap it off. The crowd was above expectations for our first year, and seemed really enthused by the event. It was a good evening. So whether you volunteered, sponsored, raced, spectated, were inconvenienced by the traffic, or just wandered by and asked “What tha heck?”, then decided to watch for a bit – thanks! I love when this town shows up!

*postscript: Thanks to Councillor Trentadue for invoking Rule #5 at the best possible time. You were right.

Council – July 10, 2017

The final Council meeting before the summer break occurred on July 10. We don’t meet again until the end of August, which is a bit of a relief as there is so much going on in New West this summer, it will be nice to be able to enjoy my annual summer stay-cation. But first, the work. Our Agenda started with a presentation on progress on a big development project:

Sapperton Green (97 Braid Street): Master Plan Update
Sapperton Green is a big project. A 38-acre site sitting right on a Skytrain Station adjacent to Highway 1. The Official Community Plan for the property includes 3,700 homes for something like 7,500 residents, 150,000sq.ft. of retail commercial space, and up to 1,500,000sq.ft. of office commercial space. There will be a mix of building types, including about a dozen towers up to 35 stories.

A project this size (the first of this scale since Victoria Hill) takes a lot of planning and development work. The Official Community Plan Amendment, adopted in 2015, was the first high-level step, where the numbers above around square feet and land use types were determined. The next step is to perform a Master Planning process, which is where the project is now. This is the step where big decisions are made about the layout of the site, where buildings will be and where greenspace will be, what type of community amenity will be provided, and where those amenities will be located. This is also the stage where high-level details about how the ground level of the development will work, with transportation connections and parks.

There is a lot of work to do yet before we start seeing shovels in the ground here ,and there will be more public consultation, however today’s report was mostly for staff to get endorsement from Council on some of the “big principles” defining the shape and form of the development (listed in part 6 of the report).

This project differs from Victoria Hill in two ways: it is a mixed use community instead of a predominantly residential neighbourhood, and it needs to be a permeable site for pedestrians especially, because it will be located between Sapperton and a SkyTrain station, and will become a commercial centre and will have amenities servicing Sapperton as much as its own residents. In that sense, we need to think of how its connections integrate with the surrounding community in a different way than Victoria Hill.

There are some concerns about what this project means to the district’s school capital development plans, especially at the Elementary and Middle School stages, but there is some time for the School District and the Province to manage those long-term plans. The population growth anticipated here is completely consistent with the Official Community Plans back to the late 1990s, and with the Regional Growth Strategy, so it should be no surprise to anyone involved in long-term regional planning. The population is coming, what we need to provide now is some more certainty about timing and distribution of new residential development.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Proposed Derwent Way Soil Transfer Facility
This project on Port Metro Vancouver land in Queensborough is going through a similar type of Port-driven environmental review as the Fraser Surrey Docks coal terminal project. As such, the City being asked to opine on the project as it will have impacts on City roads, drainage, and land use.

The basics of the project is that a company wants to use a piece of Port land adjacent to the Derwent bridge to transfer soils from trucks to barges so it can be shipped upriver to a storage/processing facility. These soils will include contaminated soils from development, but not soils deemed as “hazardous waste”. This is a bit technical (and within my area of professional practice) so maybe I will explore it a bit more in a future blog post.

The neighbourhood is going to have a reaction to contaminated soils being stored next door, but our staff have appropriately identified impacts we should be concerned about – how the increase in trucks impacts neighbourhood livability, how dust and vapours will be managed on site, and how site drainage will be managed. If you are a concerned citizen with opinions, you can take part in the review by following this link.

914 Thirteenth Street: Heritage Alteration Permit No. 106 for Work on Designated Heritage Property – Request for Issuance
This heritage house in the West End is Designated, meaning it is a protected heritage asset. The owners wish to make some changes to the house to improve livability, and because it is Designated, require a Heritage Alteration Permit to assure the heritage values of the house are protected. Council moved to approve this permit.

Walk New West Initiative – Update
This was an information report, following up on this spring’s walking advocacy initiative. It was a good program, and relied heavily on the support of a burgeoning Pedestrian Advocacy group that had formed in the City (The Walkers Caucus). The “challenge” part of the program was perhaps a little long and a little complicated, but most participants enjoyed it, and for a first year, it was a great launch. I look forward to 2018, and to more activity by the Walkers Caucus speaking up for the needs of pedestrians in our City and the region.

Latecomer Agreement for Extended Servicing Costs Related to the Subdivision of 1004 Salter Street
This may be a little too “inside baseball” for some, but let me try to summarize, because understanding this is a pathway to understanding how growing cities get developers to pay for utilities.

When a developer wants to build a neighbourhood that significantly increases density, it means the City’s utilities need to increase capacity by building new or larger water and sewer lines. The City gets the Developer (and, ultimately, the purchaser and user of the utilities) to pay for these, either by the developer building them, or by collecting Development Cost Charges which hare set aside by the City and are specifically and legally earmarked to pay for the cost of those capital works.

However, sometimes these density increases occur adjacent to other areas where future growth is planned, and the City wants the utilities to be upsized now not just for the current development, but for future development. Why build twice when you can build once? One way to make this happen is to get the developer to build bigger than they currently need, and then recover those extra costs from the next developer who comes along to develop that next adjacent property. To do this, the City sets up a “latecomer” agreement, allowing the City to collect money form that latter developer (when it happens) and give it to the current developer who is paying for the increased utility works installed now.

This report outlines the principles of a proposed Latecomer agreement for a development in Queensborough.

Street Closure Bylaw No. 7935, 2017 – Wood/Boyne Street Animal Services Facility
The City is building a new Animal Services Facility in Queensborough on land we already own, however part of that land is currently designated as a road (although it is forested, and the road doesn’t connect to anything). So by law, we need to officially close the road so it can be repurposed.

Temporary Relocation of Queen’s Park Arenex Gymnastics and Trampoline Programs Update
Our Parks and Recreation staff have been working hard to manage the various aspects of the post-Arenex-collapse plan. We are finalizing work on a short-term replacement structure and integration of some programming with the proposed Canada Games Pool replacement, but there has also been a lot of work finding solutions to the programs that have been displaced by the Arenex collapse so they can maintain continuity. This information report provides a bit of detail about the hardest-to-house programs, as the trampoline programs especially require pretty specific spaces. This is an ongoing work in progress, and will be until the temporary replacement is brought on line. Hopefully, there will be more news on that shortly.

800 Columbia Street (CPR Station Site): Rezoning to Allow Liquor Primary Licensed Premise – Preliminary Report
The cat is out of the bag about the restaurant operators who plan to open up this Fall in the old CP Station / Keg Building at the foot of Eighth Street. This rezoning application will allow the proponents to operate both a “food primary” restaurant and a “liquor Primary” pub in the same building. As this is a rezoning, it will go to public consultation, including a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold off my comments until then.

The following items were Removed form Consent for discussion:

232 Lawrence Street (Child Care Facility): Official Community Plan Amendment Section 475 and 476 – Consultation Report
232 Lawrence Street (Child Care Facility): Grant Funding Update
There are two things going on here, both related to the re-purposing a piece of City land in Queensborough to host a critically needed child care facility in that community. The first is a report on consultation for the required OCP amendment and zoning changes (local government sausage-making), and the second is about the City’s budget for this project.

There was quite a bit of discussion about the second point. The City is planning to tap into some Provincial Grants available to fund the capital investment required to build the space, and will use a not-for-profit to operate the facility. However, we need ot dedicate some capital budget to make both of these things happen. The extra money the City is putting up comes from the General Amenity Reserve – money collected from developers to increase density in order to provide exactly these kinds of amenities, and I am satisfied that this is an appropriate use of those finds, especially in light of the opportunity to leverage 4x the amount we invest from senior governments, and that child care is the #1 amenity priority for the Queensborough neighbourhood.

701 Sixth Street (Glenbrooke Daycare Society): Request for Financial Assistance
This is the other side of the coin. There are several child care facilities in the City struggling to pay the bills and keep services affordable, and capital costs for expansion are a challenge for them all. The City has a reserve fund for childcare, and a staff committee who determines the best use of these funds. It hurts to not be able to say Yes to every request, but I respect staff’s recommendation about how to best use limited funds to have the bidggest impact, and this application doesn’t seem to meet that test.

Construction Noise Bylaw: Proposed Changes to Permitted Hours and Pile Driving Technologies – For Consideration
This update to our construction Noise Bylaw will reducing pile driving hours on Saturdays, and look towards methods to encourage quieter and less disruptive pile technology. The first is something some other Lower Mainland communities do, and this brings us more in line with regional standards. The second is something other Cities don’t currently do, so New West is once again launching off into uncharted territory in the livability front.

The pile technology used for River Sky downtown was pretty traditional: diesel impact. It is also the noisiest. Essentially using an un-muffled diesel explosion to drive the hammer. Other technologies have strengths and weaknesses: vibratory hammers are much quieter, but may not be appropriate near heritage structures because there is some potential the vibrations can weaken older adjacent foundations. Drilled piles and rotary techniques are also quieter, but are more expensive, and may not work reliably depending on the type of geology you are drilling into.

The request to staff here was to bring back a more detailed report on strengths and weaknesses of the technologies, and to give us some guidance on what our abilities are as a local government to either demand a certain technology use (or, more likely, a desired outcome as far as noise and intrusion), or to incentivize less impactful techonology. Are we limited by building codes or higher government standards? What is our negotiating ability here with larger developments? Or do we need to rely on the neighbourliness of Developers (like the approach Bosa Developments have taken for the new development on the waterfront). More to come…

Passive Design Exclusions for Low-Rise Residential Zones
We want to encourage people to build more efficient homes, or upgrade the efficiency of their existing homes, but however unintentionally some zoning rules act against this. More efficient homes to the PassivHaus level often have much thicker walls, floors and ceilings. If we count square footage by the outside walls, then wall thickness comes at expense of floor space. Similarly when we limit the peak height of houses. Staff has some creative suggestions to fix this mixed message. Council agreed. Staff will work on the Bylaw amendments.

Public Water Station Installations
Public fountains are coming back into vogue as we build a more walkable city with more active public spaces. Can public bathrooms be far behind?

Centennial Lodge Renovations
Some suggested changes to the Centennial Lodge are being put on the back burner due to some shift in the operations on site resulting in less use conflict. Good news is we save a bit of money from our Capital budget. By the way, the Art Gallery at Centennial has a refreshed look – new floors and paint, and it looks nice. You should drop by an see what they have going on.

New Westminster Urban Solar Garden Pilot Project Update
This is a pretty cool program that New Westminster is uniquely able to operate, partly because we own our own electrical utility. Following the lead of equally-advantaged Nelson, BC, we are launching a Solar Garden program where you can purchase a share in a solar panel array, then receive the benefit of the electricity it produces.

A challenge to installing your own photovoltaics at home is beyond the cost of the panels, but the cost of installation engineering, electrical converters, meters, wiring, and maintenance of the above. If a bunch of panels are installed together, those costs are shared and the entire operation is more efficient. Through a Solar Garden, you can buy a panel at our Public Works Yard, and our electrical utility operates it. You pay a buy-in cost, then the power your panel produces is subtracted from your monthly electricity bill.

There will be a public Open House to outline the idea next week. Show up and see if a Solar Array is right for you!

Advisory Committee for Transit, Bicycles and Pedestrians (ACTBiPed): Implications of New Westminster Hosting a Walk21 Conference
I was unfortunately unable to attend the ACTBIPed meeting from which this arose, but am intrigued about the Walk21 Conference. It was held in Vancouver a few years ago and member of this Council and some other sustainable transportation advocates in the community attended and found it an inspiring and education experience.

I support this motion from ACTBiPed that we should explore hosting the conference in future year, but added to it that we ask staff to also consider partnering with an adjacent community in hosting. This may be an opportunity for New West and Burnaby or Surrey to work together on some of our common sustainable transportation goals.

These items were Late Additions, to the Agenda:

Arenex Facility Investigation Report
This report by independent structural engineers reviewed the likely causes of the Arenex roof collapse. It is an interesting read, but the short version is that there is no single cause that could be identified. The roof snow load was not as big as in some previous years, and there were no signs ahead of time of structural problems. Potentially, repeated stress cycles over 80 years exacerbated an undetected flaw in the ceiling beam that failed, and the final snow load was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ultimately, it was unanticipated, and most likely impossible to predict until the night it started to creak and the building was evacuated.

Status of tree Bylaw Amendments
The Tree Bylaw introduced back in 2016 is not without its teething problems. In the year after adoption, there were 295 applications processed under the Bylaw, 466 trees authorized for removal and 653 replacement trees planted. 47 hazardous trees were removed by permit and more than 300 trees that may have been lost were retained (including 46 “specimen trees”). So as far as protection and increasing the number of trees in the City, the Bylaw is working. As far as smooth and timely execution of the permitting process, we still have a bit to go. At this point, there is a real process backlog which means we are not hitting reasonable standards for customer service.

That said, we did make a commitment to review the Bylaw within the first two years to look at improvements or necessary changes. Staff are working on bringing a full report to Council, and I hope we will see something in the Fall. In the meantime, we are working on staff resourcing to fix the backlog problem.

We then wrapped out meeting, as per usual, by rolling through our Bylaws:

Wood-Boyne Street Road Closure Bylaw No. 7935, 2017
As described above, this Bylaw that results in the official closure of a portion of Wood street in Queensborough so the Animal Shelter can be built upon was given three readings.

Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 7931, 2017
As discussed at the May 15 Meeting, this Bylaw that adjusts the rates for studio space at the Anvil Centre was adopted. It’s the law of the land, adjust your dance card appropriately.

Sign Bylaw No. 7867, 2017
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 7921, 2017
As also discussed at the May 15 Meeting, this update to our Sign Bylaw was adopted by Council. Long-haired Freaky People need not apply.

Zoning Amendment (602 Ewen Avenue) No. 7840, 2016
This Bylaw amendment supporting the 16-unit townhouse development in Queensborough was Adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (430 Duncan Street) No. 7796, 2015
The Bylaw that came to Public Hearing back in November of 2015 is finally ready to be adopted by Council, which we did.

And except for a few announcements, that was the end of the TV run for New Westminster Council. Have a good summer.

Friday on Front

Yikes. That was a crowd.

I had a slight sense that our little Grand Opening on the Front Street Mews was going to have a big turnout. It had all the elements – a new public space, nice weather, music, and a Beer Truck. Still, I think the turnout was about 5x planning estimates. Which is a good problem to have, I guess, although I was among those who spent a lot of time in the beer line up…

Fortunately, most people were happy to see the crowd and the space, the open liquor licence model didn’t seem to cause any problems, and the spill-over meant it was hard to find an empty restaurant or pub seat in Downtown. Which I guess is the ultimate goal.

Again, there are many people to thank for making this event happen – Kendra and her Downtown BIA team, City staff who helped organize, the Arts Council and NW Farmers Market for the boothy goodness, and all the Happy New Westies who showed, once again, that we can have fun outside, show up in numbers, and not create problems.

I cannot believe this used to be three levels of parking.
I cannot believe this used to be three levels of parking.

Music by the River

The City tried a bit of an experiment on Thursday Night. We permitted the Arts Council to offer a few hours of free music at the Pier Park, set up a few artisan booths, and (gasp) offer beer and wine for sale in an open-licence model that allows families to sit together and responsibly enjoy a drink without the hassles or unnecessary barriers of the traditional “Beer Garden” area.

Hanging out with three happy EDs who do so much to make New West the place to be!
Hanging out with three happy EDs who do so much to make New West the place to be!

And whattya know? Hundreds of people showed up. Several of them politely stood in lines a little longer than expected to buy a glass of beer or wine and waited longer than expected for a hotdog or burger while most just enjoyed the sunny weather, the cool vibe, and their community. The music was electronic and new pop, but the crowd was a remarkably diverse mix of young and old. Many thanks to Stephen and his Arts Council crew for putting this on, to Alex at Superb Real Estate Group for pitching in some sponsorship, and to New West for once again showing up to prove we are ready to enjoy our public space.

Music by the River will happen every Thursday in July.

53 Stories.

What is arguably the highest-profile development proposal in my time on Council was given a development variance by Council last week. Bosa Development (not to be confused with Bosa Properties who are building the nearby River Sky. These are two separate companies) plans to fill the parking lot between the Fraser River Discovery Centre and Westminster Pier Park with two residential towers and a 3-story commercial building, while dedicating a bunch of the space to expansion of public park space on the waterfront. The big news seems to be the 53-story height of the tallest building, but there is (as always) much more to the story. As there is a bit of uninformed chatter in the community about this development, it is worth me going through my impressions about this variance, and how I made my decision on which way to vote.

The background for this development pre-dates my time on Council. Back in the early 2000s , this site was zoned for 5 towers and 1,000 residential units to be built upon a multi-story parking pedestal. As the Downtown Community Plan changed and North Fraser Perimeter Road was shelved, this model of an elevated parking pedestal no longer met the vision of the City to connect the waterfront to Downtown and keep it public space. The previous Council worked with the owner of the time (Larco Properties) to re-imagine the space so that parking could be placed below grade, the number of towers could be reduced to three, and the number of residential units reduced to 820. After a Public Hearing on September 29, 2014, that rezoning was adopted by the City in November, 2014, just before the last Municipal elections.

The process that occurred over the last year was not a rezoning. The owner of the land has the right under existing zoning to build that 3-tower 820-unit development. However, for reasons that no doubt result from serious number-crunching at Bosa, they requested to change this project footprint from three towers to two, and to reduce the number of residential units to 665. They still committed to giving the City about two acres of public park and to build the full allotment of parking (mostly under grade except for 20 surface spots). They are now committed to meet and exceed the City’s Family Friendly Housing Policy by building mostly 2- and 3-bedroom units. To do this, they want to make the two towers larger than those proposed in 2014, and they re-designed the landscaping to move the towers out of direct line of existing towers on Columbia Street, and to better accommodate rail setbacks and traffic flow through the site, and to build a 9m-wide boardwalk across the riverfront. These changes did not require rezoning (the FSR has not increased, and the number of units has gone down), but variances of the development permits.


It is important to emphasize that: the decision Council had before it was to grant the variances or not, we were not deciding whether buildings could be built on the site or not. The developer had their zoning in hand, and could have proceeded with the 2014 plan; Council had to decide if the 2017 plan was a better one for the City.

The public consultation and delegations to Council brought forward a few concerns, which create a good framework to answer that question:

Too much density: This general concern was that this project brought too many people or too much traffic to downtown. As previously described, the variance actually reduces the number of units in the development by 20%. If density is your concern, the variances are your friend. Building density within a 5-miunte walk of two SkyTrain stations is completely consistent with our City’s pending OCP, with the Regional Growth Strategy, and with our larger regional desire to manage automobile traffic by providing people better access to alternatives – the opportunity to live, work, play and learn within a short walk of major transit infrastructure.

What about our views?: Every building in downtown blocks someone else’s view of the river, and this is simply the easternmost development of a line of buildings stretching along the Quayside. However, this variance shifts from 3 towers 34m apart to two towers 50m apart, which opens up more view corridors and reduces the blockage of river views from existing buildings.

53 Stories is just too big: Indeed, this will be the tallest building in New Westminster (although similar-sized buildings are currently being planned or built in Burnaby, Vancouver, Coquitlam – essentially anywhere SkyTrain exists), however the variance only increases the height of the tallest building by 6 stories, from 47 to 53 stories. I have consistently said that the real impact of new buildings in the City is felt in the bottom three stories – how the building footprint improves the streetscape – and not at the elevation of the penthouse. One need look no further than Plaza 88 to see that the streetscape impacts are much more important than the ultimate height


The FSR of this development is not increasing, and the buildings have relatively small footprints. By shifting the locations of these buildings on the lot (as done on the variance), there is better flow-through of the site and the vehicle access to the buildings is separated from the boardwalk. In my opinion, we get a better layout of the site for the public, in exchange for a relatively modest increase in height.


What can the city get out of this?: We get two residential buildings bringing residents, customers for the local businesses, and a financially viable development on a piece of land that has sat empty for more than 20 years. The City will get 2 acres of public park space, a re-aligned Begbie Street intersection built to maintain whistle cessation, a second access to Pier Park spanning the rail tracks at the foot of 6th street, a 40-child day care space in the third commercial building, 80 public parking spaces underground, new restaurant spaces, and a re-aligned 9m-wide boardwalk along the waterfront. This will be a phenomenal addition to our Riverfront once it is built.

However, there is something else that came out of the public consultations around this variance that speaks positively towards the development. The construction was originally envisioned to start this fall and result in a closure of the Begbie St rail crossing for up to 18 months. This shocked and concerned local businesses, especially at the River Market, as they are already feeling the pressure of the River Sky construction. After meeting with River Market owners and the Downtown BIA, Bosa agreed to delay the start of construction until after the RiverSky development makes its public parking available to guests of the River Market and adjacent businesses. They also adjusted the construction plan so that the (absolutely necessary) closure of Begbie would only be for a few weeks. The willingness of the developer to delay and adjust their construction schedule like this cannot be emphasized enough – these are real costs the developer is bearing for the benefit of the businesses and citizens of downtown New West.

The use of secant piles instead of steel pile walls and a commitment to using vibratory hammer driving of building piles will reduce construction noise and vibration by about 50% compared to RiverSky. This is also an increased cost the developer is bearing to the benefit of the community.

In summary? Yes, 53 stories is tall, but the density is within the existing plan, and the ground level amenities (and demonstrated will of the developer to be a good neighbour to existing residents and businesses) made this variance easy for me to approve. In my opinion, the changes that made the variances necessary make this a better development overall.

Council – June 26, 2017

The long days of summer mean long council meetings. On June 26, we had a lengthy open workshop during the day on Water Conservation measures, which I will blog about at some other time (add it to the now quite lengthy queue), and the evening meeting began with a presentation of our Annual Report, where you can see what the City has been up to, financial statements and all.

There were several issues in our regular end-of-month Public Hearing:

Sign Bylaw No. 7867, 2017
Staff have been working on an updated Sign Bylaw for some time, and it has finally gone through stakeholder consultations with everyone from the ACTBiPed (to discuss how signs impact the pedestrian realm) to the various BIAs and Chamber (because we are talking about business regulations here). We received no written submissions on the Sign Bylaw and no-one came to speak on the matter. In the Council meeting following, Council moved to give the Bylaw Third Reading.

Official Community Plan Amendment (630 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 7919, 2017 and
Zoning Amendment (630 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 7920, 2017
This OCP amendment and zoning bylaw will allow the development of a small (5-unit) affordable housing project to be developed on City lands in Queensborough. We received no written submissions on this item, but had two people speak on the issue – a representative from the not-for-profit that will operate the facility and a person with a pretty negative impression of Queensborough.

This project is a small but important step forward for the City. The City is donating land to encourage the development of supportive housing for people at the sharp end of our regional affordable housing crisis. In this case, WINGS will provide family-friendly housing to women with children who have barriers to market housing. The location is on the newly-designed and pedestrian friendly Ewen Avenue, 200m from a park, 400m from schools and the Queensborough Community Centre, in a family friendly neighbourhood.

Council moved to give the OCP amendment and rezoning Third Reading.

The meeting them moved into several Opportunities to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit 00615 for 600 – 720 Quayside Drive
This DVP would permit some changes to the existing zoning approval for the empty parking lot between the Fraser River Discovery Centre and Pier Park, and facilitate the building of two large towers on the waterfront. We received 14 pieces of correspondence on this project (both for and against), and 6 people came to speak to the project, a couple expressing concerns, a couple in favour.

This is a big project, the biggest development project I have had to opine on during my time on Council, and there has already been much social media buzz about it, including some pretty significant factual errors being perpetuated by persons who should know better, so I’m not going to comment on this here, but will write a follow up-up blog post about it.

Council moved to approve the DVP.

Development Variance Permit 00629 for 736 Sixth Avenue (7-Eleven)
The Esso station in Uptown is changing the branding of its convenience store, and although the new 7-11 sign is smaller than the existing signage, the change does not fit the language of our Sign Bylaw, so a variance is required. No-one came to speak on this variance, and Council moved to approve.

Development Variance Permit 00612 for 300 Salter Street (Port Royal)
This variance makes some changes to a development in Port Royal to make some top floor suites larger, and allow for rooftop mezzanines. The variance is to allow the building to be higher than zoned to facilitate those mezzanenes. The variance does not increase density or FSR, but does significantly improve the livability of the suites to be built – family friendly three-bedroom suites, with minimal impact on surrounding properties, and is supported by the Design Panel.

No-one came to speak to the variance, and it was approved by Council.

Development Variance Permit 00627 for 628 Eighteenth Street
This variance is to allow a homeowner in the West End to exceed their allowable “ground cover” by 4% to permit a pool in their backyard. Apparently pools are considered “accessory buildings” in the bylaw. Who knew?

We received a couple of pieces of correspondence form neighbours who were in support of the variance, and the proponent came to speak on it. The variance is minor for the purpose of limiting ground cover, and there is little to no impact on adjacent properties. Council moved to approve the variance.

Temporary Use Permit 00014 for 718 Twelfth Street
The City limits the use of commercial space for religious assembly, for several good urban planning reasons. However, there is a small group on 12th Street who are building their congregation while provide community connection for a growing immigrant population. They do not have a place for prayer, and wish to use their community space for this on a temporary basis (maximum three years) until they can find a properly zoned assembly space.

Aside from one offensive, ignorant, racist and grammatically-challenged (why do those things always go together?) piece of correspondence, we received no public comment on this. Council moved to permit the Temporary Use.

Council had a single Report for Action:

OUR CITY 2041: Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 7925, 2017 – Bylaw for First and Second Readings

The OCP document is completed. Along with a new Land Use Map, the OCP includes 182 proposed actions to be taken by the City over 61 Policy areas towards 12 goals. There is a lot in here, and it is worth reading. This is culmination of three years of work by staff and the most extensive public engagement exercise ever undertaken by the City.

As this OCP will be going to Public Hearing on September 18th, I will hold any more comments until then. Please enjoy your summer reading assignment, and I will see you in September!

The following item was Moved on Consent.

Request for Local Area Service to Underground Existing Overhead Utilities on the East Side of 200 Block of Howes Street
A Local Area Service is usually when a group in the community come forward to ask for special works to be done to improve their neighbourhood that is not in the City’s Capital Plan. Depending on the works and by City policy, the City will either share the cost of the works with the proponents, or will bill the proponents for all of the cost. To activate a Local Service Area, the impacted property owners have to vote to approve the special assessment to cover their part of the costs.

This neighbourhood in Queensborough is asking to have their electrical service put underground, which also requires the other users of the poles (Shaw and Telus) to re-locate their service. This is the start of the process to determine if the residents are in favour of the costs.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Proposed Truth and Reconciliation Actions Work Plan Strategy
Back in April, this Council agreed to make a “concrete and actionable commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action”, and staff has responded swiftly with a framework of how the City can respond to the 19 Calls to Action that fall completely or partially within Local Government jurisdiction. This is a significant step, and as a City, New Westminster is entering into new areas here, and are (frankly) lacking in full understanding of what the long-term implications may be. I agree with a somewhat cautious approach because I am concerned we will do more damage than good if we barge ahead without having a well-informed conversation about what we are doing. Staff is putting together a working group of management to go through the recommendations, and determine what the best path forward is from an operational perspective.

Council moved to endorse the strategy, with the addition that the working group engage, as a consultant, someone with experience in reconciliation from the indigenous viewpoint to sit in on these meetings so they are there to provide context where they feel it may be needed.

Access to City Grants for Miscellaneous Residents’ Association Expenses
I am a believer that RAs serve an important role in our community, both in facilitating conversation between residents and City Hall, and in bringing neighbourhoods together. Some do have a difficult time finding space to meet (a problem that will be exacerbated by the Library upgrades that will close the meeting spaces there for several months) and volunteers are sometimes expected to cover the modest costs of making RAs operate.

I am not opposed to providing modest funding to RAs to allow them to run a web page, print posters to promote their events, etc. however, I am concerned that not all RAs have the proper procedures in place to manage public money, and though the amounts are small, there is a diligence requirement for the City when handling public funds.
Council did not approve special granting for RAs, but expressed general support for the idea. Instead, we asked that the RA Committee work with staff on some criteria and guidelines for the finding and bring a better developed plan together for how these funds would be allocated and used.

Renovictions Update: Union of BC Municipalities Resolution Related to Proposed Amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act
A renoviction storm is brewing in New Westminster. For people in a couple of older (and more affordable) rental buildings, the summer will be spent trying to find new places to live in an increasingly tight rental market (vacancy is well below 1% in NewWest), and will likely find the cost of any new place they find is much higher than they are paying now. This situation is made much more difficult for people living in poverty (moving costs a lot of money!), people with families (family-friendly apartments are hard to find), those with pets, or those with disabilities (vacancy for accessible suites is almost nil).

The laws of the land limit what Cities can do to prevent renoviction. Demovictions are somewhat easier to manage as the City has zoning power to delay or prevent approvals for replacement buildings that are larger than current ones, and can therefore leverage this to get a tenant relocation plan from a developer. Unfortunately, we don’t have that power when zoning is not invoked (like extensive renovations), and cannot unfairly withhold building permits for renovation of buildings.

The City has three-prong attack on this issue right now. We are empowering our staff to take careful review of the building permit applications they receive to determine if eviction is required (or if this is just a cosmetic upgrade designed to drive up rent more than the Residential Tenancy Act allows). We can use our staff resources to reach out to buildings where evictions will be occurring to make sure tenants are aware of their rights, their access to the Residential Tenancy Board to adjudicate their concerns, and supportive services in the community they may need to re-locate (such as the newly-established Rent Bank). We can also lobby the Provincial government to change the residential tenancy act to provide more protection for renters facing renoviction, and to provide compensation to renters to help offset the costs and inconvenience of eviction.
The City is doing all three.

Ultimately, the solution will be found in building more rental stock to improve availability and (hopefully) put some downward pressure on rent costs, in providing greater housing diversity, and in working with the province to build supportive and non-market housing alternatives for those simply priced out of our stupid housing market. The City is also doing these.

Finally, we arrived at our Bylaws section of the evening.

Official Community Plan Bylaw No. 7925, 2017
As discussed above, the City’s OCP Bylaw was given two readings. A Public Hearing on the OCP will be held on September 18, 2017. Enjoy your summer reading assignment!

Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 7931, 2017
As discussed at the May 15th meeting , this Bylaw that adjusts the fee for using the City’s dance spaces was given three readings.

Advisory Planning Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7934, 2017
As discussed at the June 12th meeting, this change to the meeting procedures for the APC was adopted. Please adjust your behavior accordingly.

Civic Facilities, Road Maintenance and Park Development Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 7932, 2017
As discussed at the June 12th meeting, this Bylaw that extends some borrowing terms in the existing Borrowing Bylaw adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land.

Next meeting in on July 10th. Enjoy the sunny weather and Canada Day, everyone.

…on the HCA

The City held a Public Hearing on the introduction of a Heritage Conservation Area for Queens Park last Tuesday. To no surprise, the Public Hearing was long, as both advocates for and opponents of the HCA had turned up in force at previous Council Meetings to delegate on the topic, and feeling in the community were strong on this issue.

I have spent much of the last couple of months talking to people about this issue, and acting like the Devil’s Advocate on both sides, challenging the assumptions of both supporters and opponents. I have done this not to be a jerk, but because I needed to find a way to understand the arguments and concerns of each side. I have received more than 200 e-mails (and have tried to respond to them all – still working on that!) and more written correspondence, and have answered the occasional irate phone call. I have had conversations with people in the community who have not initially expressed an opinion one way or the other. Councillor Trentadue and I spent some time doorknocking in Queens Park to get a feel for what people (especially those without lawn signs) know, what people’s concerns are, and where the support and opposition lie. I have met for coffee with strong supporters and vocal opponents of the policy. As such, not much that I heard at the Public Hearing was a surprise to me.

The purpose of a Public Hearing is for me to listen, not for me to challenge or debate the delegates. I heard a few things I strongly disagreed with, and I heard a bit of bad information, but mostly I heard people concerned about the future of their neighbourhood and about the future of their homes. To my mind, the challenge the City had was to develop a policy that did its best to address those concerns. The HCA policy that was approved by Council is not perfect, but I believe we found a moderate approach that balanced individual and community desires.

The HCA was not something I thought I would be supporting when I ran for Council. This was something that the community brought to Council, and right from the start more than four years ago (when the Queen’s Park Neighbourhood Heritage Study Working Group was put together), bringing in measures to protect heritage homes in Queens Park has been an initiative driven by the neighbourhood, supported by staff, and endorsed along the way by Council. The inference by a few that this was a top-down Council-driven initiative is untruthful. When the Working Group brought recommendations to Council a little more than a year ago, it was the first time I was faced with the idea that we may institute an HCA, and I have had a lot to learn in the year since.

Ultimately, the two questions I need to address when supporting a measure like this are “Is there a policy goal here worth achieving?” and “Is this approach a good way to achieve that goal?”

The first question may seem like the easy one, but it isn’t. Supporters of the policy provided many reasons to support the protection of heritage homes, and even most opponents acknowledged that “they love heritage”. However, few made the argument (which I think is a valid one) that Queens Park style heritage homes are perhaps a luxury that the lower mainland can no longer afford, given the ongoing and worsening housing crisis. During the process, a few of us on council have made clear that the HCA policy cannot stop all development, infill density, or other ways of increasing housing choice in the Queens Park neighbourhood. We need to accelerate our work towards increasing laneway and carriage house infill, stratification of large houses if they wish to re-configure into multi-family buildings, and protecting the multi-family housing stock that already exists in Queens Park. The HCA as adopted will not prevent that progress, and I look forward to our work on the OCP and new Zoning Bylaws to address these issues.

However, at the risk of feeding the “elitist” narrative, Queens Park is unique in New Westminster, and in the Lower Mainland. A neighbourhood of 700 homes where 500 of them are pre-WW2 represents a significant heritage asset in a province that only has 160-odd years of Colonial history. The heritage value of the neighbourhood has been acknowledged for almost 20 years, with progressive increases in heritage protection, an active heritage conservation community, and voluntary design guidelines since 1999. There are heritage homes in every neighbourhood of New West, but not at this concentration across a neighbourhood, and there has never been any concerted effort from those neighbourhoods to formalize heritage protection like there has been in Queens Park for more than 20 years.

The second question is where most of the conversation has occurred for the last year, and this is where the vocal opposition to an HCA has helped the City develop a better, more flexible, and more sustainable policy. One commenter noted that Council voted unanimously for this proposal, demonstrating “group think”, but one can only surmise that if they have not been paying attention for the last year. Since the recommendation from the working group was adopted, there have been a dozen Council meetings and workshops where various aspects of this policy were discussed and debated. There were motions moved, ideas tossed around and sent back to staff for more work, there were split votes and motions defeated, and at one meeting, something akin to an argument of fundamental principles of the policy. If we got to consensus at the end of this process, it is a credit to the hard work of staff and the community members on the working group to forge a policy that all could live with. That more than 2/3 of the correspondence and presentations to Public Hearing also spoke in favour of the policy further reflects the great work staff and the community did to develop a strong policy package.

The policy is not perfect, and we have some work to do over the next year on incentives. The research I have done suggests to me that the HCA will not put long-term downward pressure on housing prices in Queens Park in this overheated housing market (although I guarantee some homeowners will be going to the Assessment appeals board to argue for a drop to save a bit on their taxes), but that it will more likely smooth out the spikes in a volatile market. However, the City committed to addressing impacts through creative incentive programs. I hope those incentives can also help bring more housing choice to Queens Park so it continues to be a neighbourhood where young families can afford to live (although I think we are past the point where it could be “affordable” in any meaningful way without some serious region-wide market corrections)

The policy will also not mean the end of demolitions and new construction in Queens Park. Houses younger than 1940 have no increased protection, and there are many pre-1940 houses that will be shown to not have sufficient heritage character or structural integrity to protect. The new design guidelines are “performance based”, meaning they don’t prescribe any specific architectural style. This means architects will still be able to develop creative designs that complement the neighbourhood. There will still be debate in the neighbourhood about aesthetics, and things will continue to evolve, but the process at City Hall will be transparent and defensible. In that sense, I think we have achieved a good balance.

Finally, I do want to acknowledge that this process brought out many people’s passions, yet the discussion was incredibly respectful and civilized. New Westminster lived up to its reputation as an engaged community that cares about issues and shows up to voice opinions, but we are a community first. Change (I recognize that preserving heritage is a somewhat ironic form of “change”) is hard. We often see the worst case as the likely case, and that is scary. However, if you want to go to 180:30 at the Public Hearing video, you will hear an elegant presentation by Jeffery Dresselhuis that left me wondering if he was “for” or “against” the HCA, until I realized his presentation was about the importance of community, consultation, and consensus in public policy. It is worth listening to, and something I will be thinking about for some time.

Council – June 12, 2017

The June 12th meeting seems so long ago, because the Public Hearing the following day seems to dominate the Council Agenda this week. However, we had a large Agenda, so I’ll get this report out first, and write more on the HCA later.

We started the meeting with an Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit 00626 for 412 Third Street
This design for a single family home in Queens Park requires a Development Variance Permit because it is too far forward on the lot (by 7 feet) and too tall to fit in the current zoning (by 2 feet). These variances, however, are a result of the homeowner and staff working together to assure the City meets the Queens Park design guidelines and the construction of the house can accommodate the protection of mature pine trees on the property.

The current house was damaged by fire and provided a demolition permit during the Heritage Conservation Period, but their progress in building a replacement has run in parallel with the Heritage Control Period, which has no doubt been challenging for the homeowner and staff.

I am not concerned about the height variance, as it is minor, will fit in the context of the area, and provides a more livable secondary suite. The front yard projection is a bigger concern. It is, however, close to the front yard projection of the (restored heritage) house to the north. The house to the south was built quite a bit further back on their lot than the other adjacent houses, and the resident did show u to express concerns about this variance and the impact on their home.

We received some correspondence on this Opportunity to be heard, mostly in favour (including from the QPRA), and one opposed from the neighbour to the south. In the end, I was convinced the compromise made by staff and the homeowner balanced the various needs for the site, and Council voted in favour of granting the variance.

We had a single Report for Action:

Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG) Vancouver project proposal ,
A contemporary artist has an interesting proposal to activate the historic Simon Fraser bust on the boardwalk, at least to activate it on the geologic timescale sense. She intends to remove a 5-inch slice of the plinth, relocate that piece to the headwaters of the Fraser River, allowing nature to slowly, but inevitably, return the plinth to the lower Fraser River through erosion.

The Statue has an interesting history, and this may be an interesting way for the City to call attention to the statue, and re-enlighten a conversation about Simon Fraser, the colonial history of the Fraser River, and what the story of Simon Fraser has to say about New Westminster as a community, and as part of a Gateway.

Council voted to support the concept, noting that we need to put this proposal through a bit of a review with impacted First Nations in light of our recent commitment to the principles of reconciliation, but I think just opening this discussion will be a useful step in the right direction.

The following items were Moved on Consent without discussion:

508 Agnes Street (The Masonic Hall): Heritage Alteration Permit Application No. 100 to Allow a Reduction in Required Parking Spaces and a Revision of Exterior Design
The historic Masonic Hall building is being redeveloped, with a preservation of the historic façade (much like the Trapp building) under a Heritage Agreement from 2014. Unfortunately, some geotechnical issues were discovered during excavation and foundation work that will require an engineering response to preserve the structural integrity of the façade wall. The required reinforcement will take away 3 parking spaces. The owners are further requesting a change in balcony design to create a better profile and building envelope.

I’m not concerned about either change. The balconies are a design choice that is not fundamental to the HAP and the loss of three parking spaces in a dedicated rental building within a 200m of a SkyTrain Station in our compact downtown should not be a deal-breaker.

43 Hastings Street (Affordable Housing): Principles for Housing Agreement
This is the formal agreement between the City (as landowner) and the operator of a small Affordable Housing project in the east end of Downtown.

232 Lawrence Street: Official Community Plan Amendment and Rezoning Application for Child Care Facility
The City is working on a plan to use an empty City lot in Queensborough for a medium-sized childcare facility, recognizing the critical need for childcare in that neighbourhood. The plan has many details, including the requirement for an OCP amendment to allow this institutional use on a residential-zoned lot. Public consultation is beginning on this project, and it will go to Public Hearing in the Fall.

Financing Growth: Density Bonus Rates Update
Density Bonuses are cash payments made to the City by developers to allow increased density with new developments. These are regulated by the Local Government Act, and are generally earmarked to provide amenities wanted by the City. In New West, we divide up that cash this way: 30% towards affordable housing (like the Hastings Street project above), 10% towards child care (like the Queensborough project above), 10% towards public art and 50% towards general amenities like parks, civic facilities, and public realm improvements.

The City has not adjusted its Density Bonus rates since 2014, and the value of newly built density has increased 30% – 60% in that time (depending on the building type and location). This increase, and comparison to adjacent markets like Burnaby and Coquitlam suggests our density bonuses should go up between 50% and 140% in this accelerating market. This will require a zoning amendment Bylaw, which will see some stakeholder consultation.

900 Carnarvon Street (Tower 4): Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 – Request for Exemption
The tower being constructed at Plaza 88 will include a structural apron to stop things being dropped on the tracks and direct noise from the Skytrain away from residential areas. This work can only be done when the train is not running, which means at night, which requires a variance from our noise bylaw.

Advisory Planning Commission: Terms of Reference – Proposed Bylaw Amendment for Three Readings
About as small an administrative change as one can make to a Committee Procedure Bylaw, but a change it is recommended we make to clarify voting procedures for the APC.

Revised Union of BC Municipalities Resolution Related to Addressing Homelessness
This follows up on the report we received on May 15th regarding the 2017 Homelessness Count. After a few years where it looked like the region was beginning to reduce the rate of homelessness, there was a sharp spike in numbers this year. There are many factors here generally grouped under the “housing affordability crisis”, but we are also seeing reduced senior government support for people at risk of becoming homeless.

Despite the work we are doing in New West (arguably more than any other City in the region on a per-capita basis), we will not be successful without a regional response and senior government funding. Through the adoption of this resolution, the annual UBCM meeting in September gives us an opportunity to lobby the Provincial government to provide these supports.

2016 Statement of Financial Information
Here is the last piece of official financial reporting for the 2016 fiscal year. It includes a list of how much I got paid (and my expenses). My expenses are mostly for my participation in UBCM in 2016 (which I reported on here, here, and here) and for my participation in community events as per Council expense policy.

Civic Facilities, Road Maintenance and Park Development Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 7932, 2017
Moving from Fiscal 2016 to Fiscal 2017, the City has some ongoing projects in the Five Year Financial Plan that still require debt financing as laid out in the borrowing Bylaw of 2012, which expires in August. This Bylaw does not add to the amount of money borrowed, nor can we spend borrowed money on anything other than what was laid out in the original Bylaw, but only extends the time limit for the borrowing.

Overview of the Proposed 2018 Budget Process
Moving from Fiscal 2017 to Fiscal 2018, we will soon start on our next budget cycle. This report lays out the budget process and opportunities for public input to the Budget process. There is timeline from now to our May 15, 2018 budget filing date, so you can adjust your council delegation calendar to suit.

A good way to start is to look at the part of the report entitled “Budget Principles”. It gives a good idea of the order of priority the City gives to budget decisions, starting with departments benchmarking their level of service and being charged with finding internal efficiencies. Arguably, the “public participation” part of the budgeting process should come earlier and higher on priorities, and I would love to hear examples of the best way to make that input meaningful.

Dublin Street Boulevard Tree (1400 Block)
A resident came to complain to council last month about a rather un-neighbourly tree on public land adjacent to his garden. Our staff went to look at it, and decided it was indeed worthy of being replaced with something more friendly.

I suggest maple. Everyone loves maple.

Queen’s Park Washroom and Concession Building
The concession stand and washrooms at Queens Park are aged, barely functional, and due for replacement as per the Queens Park Master Plan. These are really heavily used facilities, and the concession actually turns a small profit. The designed replacement will improve the building, make the washrooms more comfortable and accessible, and will support the adventure playground, petting zoo, and other Queens Park amenities.

Restorative Justice Committee Recommendation to forward a resolution to the UBCM and the FCM that Criminal Education Faculties Incorporate Restorative Justice into Police Training
Another resolution for the City to take the UBCM, this one to ask for support in training Police to include principles of Restorative Justice.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Green Building Policy Options for Civic Facilities
As I reported earlier, I attended a session at FCM that discussed the different certification standards that are currently being used across Canada for different types of civic facilities. Previously, Council asked Staff to report on updating our Green Building Policy to determine if our current practice of requiring LEED Gold is still appropriate. I am more convinced than ever that we took a leadership position at the time, but times have changed, and it is time to take a broader review of the numerous standards to determine which works best for each specific project.

Part of this report was to approve a high-energy-efficiency approach to the Animal Care facility, and I think that is an appropriate path (and I really don’t want to delay that project). Council moved to support this approach.

However, when it comes to a set policy for future buildings in the City, Council moved to hold off on adopting a standard practice until we can have a bit of a more fulsome discussion of how to go about selecting standards. Look for a future Council workshop.

2017 Spring Freshet and Snowpack Level
The river is rising. Snowmelt was late this year, and much of the snowpack in the Fraser catchment is now higher than average. Again, we do not expect a flood this year, but the forecasters are warning that the river could rise quickly, and will stay higher than normal later into June.

Car Trip Reduction Program Guiding Principles and Employee Transit Subsidy
New West is beginning to show regional leadership in our MTP in how we address regional congestion issues, and how we are working collaboratively with our neighbouring communities and TransLink to reduce the reliance of Single Occupancy Vehicles. I think that there is a time for a City to show operational leadership in this area. When we set goals for our community, to reduce Greenhouse gasses, to reduce waste, or on any issue, we should expect the City to act like a responsible corporate citizen, and do its part to help the community reach its goals.

How we perform our daily commute is a choice that has one of the biggest impacts on our environment, and on the sustainability of our community, and employers have a responsibility to provide access to a variety of commuting options. Free parking is a huge benefit to employees that many employers do not offer, and comes at a significant cost. However, people who choose more sustainable options receive no benefit from their employer. I think that encouraging transit use by our staff is a step in the right direction, and fully support this program as a first step in corporate Transportation Demand Management.

Assessment of Water Conservation Measures and Residential Metering
I would like to have a more comprehensive discussion of this report, as there is a lot here, so I might leave it for a longer stand-alone blog post.

Short version, we have asked staff to outline an enhanced enforcement plan for future water restriction seasons, especially one that ramps up as restriction stages increase. We have also asked staff to go the next step towards piloting residential water metering for single family homes, starting with voluntary users, but not to adopt a larger metering program until at least after Metro Vancouver completes their regional metering study. Finally, a wide suite of water conservation measures were presented in the report from the consultant, and we will hopefully Workshop these measures to go through some more detailed cost-benefit analysis.

So we are *starting* to ramp up our conservation measures, perhaps not as fast as some would like, but our pace is being moderated by the economics of the situation.

Municipal Finance Authority of BC (MFA) – Survey on Socially Responsible Investing
New Westminster was one of several local governments and MFA customers who asked them to consider providing fossil-fuel divested (FFD) investment options. The MFA basically said no, but provided this survey to determine interest in Socially Responsible Investing (SRI).

I think we should consider any SRI offered to us, as New Westminster in many other ways invests in social responsibility form our progressive approach to homelessness and our adoption of programs like the Age Friendly City Policy.

That said, I am not satisfied with the response on FFD. Their reasoning against providing this option to their members skated around the issues at hand, and could be summed up by saying “providing financial backing to the destruction of the biosphere is the only financially responsible way to act”. I cannot accept that.

This is about the future of our communities, and the planet we are leaving the next generation. We, at the local government level, are already at the front line in addressing the cost of climate change, and here we are saying that we cannot afford to invest in a way that takes the financial incentive away from the companies that profit from climate change the most. Again, I cannot accept that the local governments in BC, who are leading the world in climate change mitigation are being asked to find our own destruction. That is a pretty strong damnation of the economic system we are under. The MFA belongs to us, they need to do better.

Mercer Stadium Skatepark Relocation – Project Update
The City is working on planning a new Skatepark to replace the one at Mercer Field that will be removed as the new NWSS is built. The City’s ongoing consultation with skaters, punks, and other stakeholders has turned up some interesting responses:

“Access to Transit is 100% the most important consideration on the location” – rarely do we get as clear direction as that from a stakeholder group.

There is lots of good info being collected, including some terminology my lame 47-year-old vocabulary misses, but I am enthused that staff are taking such a proactive approach to building what the user group wants.

Proposed Public Realm Improvements to the Telus Plaza located at 611 Sixth Street
The City is partnering with Telus to improve the small public park area adjacent to the Legion in Uptown. I share Councillor Trentadue’s concerns about how smoking will be managed at this space. Generally, we don’t allow smoking in public parks, but this space is where the customers of the Legion go to have a cigarette, and if there is one exception to a rule, I have to give that exception to our Veterans at the Legion.

Queen’s Park Interim Gymnastic and Multi Sport Facility 
We are working on the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre replacement project, and will be reporting out on progress soon, but in the meantime, we may find several synergies in a “temporary” building option to replace some of the Arenex programs (most notably, gymnastics, which need a large space). 24,000 square feet is more than twice the size of the Arenex, and gives us a lot of programing flexibility. We put out a press release about this proposal, read it here.

1111 Sixth Avenue (West End Methodist Church): Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Development Permit
This is just a preliminary report on a proposal to build a larger childcare facility as part of a Heritage Revitalization Project at the Methodist church in Moody Park. Lots of detail to come here, and there will be a Public Hearing, so I’ll save my comments until then.

Finally, we wrapped with a series of Bylaw approvals.

Advisory Planning Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7934, 2017
As discussed above, this Bylaw that changes the terms of Reference for the APC was given three readings.

Civic Facilities, Road Maintenance and Park Development Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 7932, 2017
As discussed above, this Bylaw that extends the date of the temporary borrowing Bylaw was given three readings.

Zoning Amendment (Accessory Caretaker Unit) Bylaw No. 7778, 2015
This Bylaw was given three reading back in 2015, and allows the integration of a Caretaker Suite into a planned industrial building in the West End. Council adopted the Bylaw, the Caretaker can sleep easily knowing she is in full compliance with the law.

And, really, that’s all any of us want, isn’t it?

Ask Pat: 22nd St.

W asked—

What are the exact details and status for the increased density rezoning plans around the 22nd St. Skytrain Station?

Funny you should ask that, we just had a Council Workshop where we discussed the Land Use Map around 22nd Street and Connaught Heights. You can read the Report at this link, and follow the conversation at Council on video here.

First off, I need to correct the premise of your question a bit. What the City is doing now is an Official Community Plan update. The OCP is the overarching planning document for the City, which guides how the City develops over the long-term. It will inform how future rezonings are managed, but it is not the same thing as rezoning.  There are a few steps between then and now, which I will outline a bit further down.

The Council discussion was wide-ranging, although there was a pretty strong consensus on the major components of the Land Use Map, and Council unanimously approved the adoption of “Option 1” for the final Land Use Plan map:


This option would see up to 6 residential towers build on both sides of 7th Ave between 20th and 22nd, with a commercial node built into the pedestals, and the development of 7th Ave into a true commercial street. There would also be multi-unit residential buildings on two adjacent blocks (think 4-6 story wood frame buildings with underground garages) and a general shift to small townhouse developments south of Edinburgh Street. The townhouses are envisioned to be “infill” type, meaning smaller 6-8 unit townhouse (strata) or rowhome (fee simple) developments that will be designed to blend in with adjacent retained single family homes. This is very different than the neighbourhood-wide large townhouse development style we have seen at Port Royal and around Royal Oak Station.

Included in the Council Report were summaries of the various stages of public consultation, including the most recent discussions with the Connaught Heights neighbourhood about the proposed density increases. There was a wide range of opinions presented, and some significant concerns raised, but none of them specifically surprising. Traffic, green space, community amenities – these are all things that need to be accounted for when we start to contemplate increased density at the west end of the City.

There is also some recognition that previous efforts to bring more density to the area have not been successful. Some of that area has been designated for multi-family since the last OCP was adopted almost two decades ago, and no-one has come in to build that density. This, along with a general lack of housing variety in the Connaught Heights neighbourhood, have resulted in it being the only neighbourhood of New Westminster that had no population growth over the last two censuses. As part of the regional vision of building density around SkyTrain stations and major transportation hubs, this is a place New Westminster is falling short.

The proposal by staff to address the issues raised is to start a Master Planning process for the neighbourhood. This is a high-level but relatively intensive planning process where distribution of housing, transportation, commercial spaces, and amenities are designed based on a set of development principles developed by the community. It is not dissimilar from the process that larger development projects like Victoria Hill and Sapperton Green are designed through collaboration between City Staff and a developer. The only difference in this case is that there is no developer involved yet, so the City and the neighbourhood can work fairly freely to create a set of expectations for future developers to meet.

So “rezoning” and density increases at 22nd Street Station are still a bit of a way off, and there will be some significant neighbourhood consultation before any shovels hit the dirt (starting with a Public Hearing in early Fall to facilitate final approval of the OCP). However, the City will, in passing the OCP and launching this Master Planning process, send a pretty strong message that this density is on its way.