Council – June 19, 2018

Our second Council meeting last this week was held on Tuesday, with Special Public Hearings to hear from the public on two Bylaw changes related to the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area, and our ongoing efforts to improve the policy.

Zoning Amendment (Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Bylaw for Incentives to be Implemented in the Short Term) Bylaw No. 8024, 2018
The City committed, when implementing a Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) to also add some incentives to provide better positive benefits for those who investing heritage conservation. Although ideally we would have done this at the same time as introducing the HCA, the statutory limits to the Heritage Protection Period and intensive community conversation and policy work that went into getting the HCA right and rolled out on time simple left us with limited resources to do the incentives work. This work has now been done, and a first phase of incentives are ready to be implemented.

We have had quite a bit of conversation about this, and I talked about some of it in my May 14 Council Report. Through these conversations, the proposed incentives were pared down to three groups: those to be implemented immediately, those that need more policy work, which should be implemented within the next year, and those that either are longer-term or more City-wide, and will take yet more work to bring about. This Zoning Amendment is to support a couple of those “immediate” incentives, those that require an amendment to the Zoning Bylaw.

In short, we will permit a slightly larger house on protected properties than is generally permitted in single family residential zones (FSR 0.7 instead of a usual 0.5), and will allow homeowners to “shift” some of this density (if they don’t want to improve their principle residence) over to a laneway of carriage house, as long as that secondary building does not exceed 958 square feet.

There is a bit of nuance in this. First off, the maximum allowable site coverage (that is the amount of a lot covered by buildings as opposed to lawn or garden) is not going to go up, so this should not result in a big change in the amount of green space. There is also some detail in how we count attic and basement space towards FSR that may be too complex for this quick summary. This incentive structure should provide the most flexibility to homeowners to maximize their living space, and add secondary rental suites.

We had a bit of correspondence on this item, about a dozen written submissions, almost all in support, and we had about a dozen people come to speak at the public hearing, again generally in favour. Some concerns were raised in regards to loss of green space (which I think will still be protected by the limit on site coverage), and some delegates are still irritated by the concept of the HCA, but I go the sense that the public understand and appreciate the incentives offered so far.

Council gave this Zoning Bylaw Amendment third reading and adoption: it is now the law of the land.

Official Community Plan Amendment (To remove Heritage Conservation Area Related Protection from Phase 1 Special Limited Category Study Properties) Bylaw No. 8025, 2018
When the HCA was put in, all residential properties in the Queens Park were put into one of three categories: Advanced (meaning they are fully protected, due to age and inferred heritage value), Limited (meaning they are not protected against demolition, as they are not old enough to constitute heritage), and Special Limited, which was somewhere in the middle, partly because their heritage value was uncertain, and partly because the nature of the residence may have created an unreasonable burden to the homeowner if they were fully protected. At the time, it was acknowledged that further analysis of these 85 “in the middle” properties would be required before eventually re-classifying them to one or the other category.

As moving properties between categories requires an Official Community Plan Amendment, staff recognized that doing these by groups will be easier than doing each individually. They created a phased screening approach to this, and the first phase is currently complete. As a result, 35 properties were recommended to be moved from Special Limited to Limited, essentially reducing the protection on the properties.

This first screening was done by the City with the help of consultants. The screening was a desktop exercise where the age and heritage value of the property was evaluated at a very basic level, as was the potential for the homeowner to achieve their zoning entitlement while still protecting the intact residence. Of the 85 Special Limited properties, 35 were found to have a combination of low heritage value and severe infringement of zoning entitlements such that removing them from protection made sense. Each of these homeowners was contacted to let them know that staff would be recommending removing their protection. They were given an opportunity to “opt in” to Advanced protection, if they wished to avail themselves of incentives (discussed above).

This leaves 50 other properties of the original 85. Four of those properties already had higher levels of protection than the HCA (they were “Designated” already), 4 were owned by people who specifically asked to have their property put into the Advanced Protection category, and 42 others that will go through a more detailed screening process as part of a Phase 2 study. This table from the Staff report explains that all:

As a complication, one of the 35 property owners being exempted requested (too late to get into this OCP Amendment Bylaw) that their protection be increased instead of reduced, so Council tacked on a motion asking staff to fast-track their individual shift from Limited to Advanced protection, after this omnibus shift of properties to Limited. 

Again, we received about 20 pieces of correspondence on the OCP Amendment, almost all in favour. We also had about a dozen delegates, mostly in favour. Council moved to give this OCP Amendment Third Reading and Adoption.

The entire HCA process has been a challenge. The call of some level of protection for the Queens Park neighbourhood led to the previous Council appointing a community working group, who put together some recommendations for this Council. The temporary Heritage Protection Period that was necessary to prevent demolitions put a tight deadline on the development of an HCA, and a lot of policy work and consultation with the community resulted in a suite of measures that will bring reasonable protection to the heritage assets of Queens Park, but will still allow the neighbourhood to grow and evolve, so it can still be a vibrant neighbourhood with a variety of housing. There is more work to go yet, but I am happy with the approach we have taken. Many thanks need to go to the staff for putting this challenging program together, and to the community for continuing to be engaged in this program and providing valuable feedback that is making the policy stronger.

Council – June 18, 2018

This week we had two (2!) evening Council meetings. It is a little unusual, but have a lot to get done before the summer break, and some of it requires Public Hearings. As we rarely know ahead of time which Public Hearings will strike a chord in the community and result in hours of delegations, Staff have tried to pace things out to assure we don’t run into scheduling delays or situations where important issues that need a fulsome community conversation are overwhelmed by one another. So two meetings it was. I’ll write a second post about the second meeting, but first, a Monday Council Workshop on a single topic:

Cannabis Workshop: Implementation of Cannabis Legislation
This is a follow-up to a workshop Council held on January 29, and you might want to go back to this report to get caught up on where we are and where we are going here. It really explains the areas that the City needs to deal with – that is issues that are not already regulated by the Feds or the Province, and those where we are able to augment senior government rules because of our land use and business license regulatory powers.

After that January meeting, our staff did some work and some public consultation to develop a set of guidelines that they will draft into Bylaws. This workshop was meant to be a check-in with Council, and a conversation with the public, around that framework.

This is an evolving file, and Bylaws are yet to be drawn (this was even discussed before yesterday’s Royal Assent of the Federal Cannabis Act, demonstrating how quickly things are changing), and some may require Public Hearings. Therefore, I am going to speak in generalities about what the major areas of municipal legislation are, what the proposed direction from staff is, and what my initial opinions are (recognizing any and all three of these could change before the October 17th date the Federal Law is meant to be enacted).

Land Use for Cannabis Retail
As a City, we can regulate this, all the way from not allowing any retailing of cannabis in the City to having a complete free-for-all. The general direction would be to mimic how we deal with liquor retail: require a site-specific zoning. This gives Council a lot of discretion, in that the zoning would be based on a set of Guidelines, but Council could always be asked by a proponent to vary from those guidelines. At this point, staff have suggested limiting retial to commercially zoned areas (naturally), and to create limits on how close a store can be to a school or (potentially) to other areas like Parks and Daycares (100m). They also recommend having a prescribed distance between cannabis retailers (300m).

I suspect the first provision is a bit of a holdover from prohibition, both in how we apply it to liquor outlets and to cannabis: I don’t think it is based on risk mitigation or actual danger to children, but to a somewhat puritan “keep the sin away from innocent eyes” holdover from the temperance movement. I recognize that a community concern exists, however, and don’t think a 100m buffer to schools will be onerous for the businesses. I’m not sure I can say the same about Parks, because 100m from Pier Park and Sapperton Park (for example) does impact commercial areas.

I also have a concern that daycares are already scarce in our City, and are almost all in commercial areas, and as much as I don’t want their existence to unduly limit other retail business, I don’t want a new cannabis store to suddenly preclude the existence of new daycare centres if operators want to open them. I guess I don’t understand the risk we are hoping to avoid.

As for the 300m proximity buffer between retailers, I also think that may be too large. I used the example of the Starbucks on Sixth Street and Columbia: if it decided to shift to a cannabis outlet, it’s 300m buffer would encompass about 90% of the downtown commercial property. Similarly for Uptown if an outlet was built at Sixth & 6th. I suspect we are trying to avoid creating a “Cannabis district” where every second store is a cannabis outlet, just as a basic land use principle, but there needs to be a bit of work here to make sure we are not being too limiting for new businesses that want to open up.

Business License Regulations
The City can regulate things like operating hours, sign bylaws, and other details of how a retail business can operate in our community. The City is considering creating similar regulations (again) to liquor retail, but still have some work to do on signage and aesthetics. We don’t want businesses with blacked-out windows or bars in the windows, as that creates an uninviting street presence, but we want businesses to be secure. So there is some more work to do where, especially in consultation with potential operators.

Processing and Warehousing
Similar to retail, the City can regulate the type of industrial business that operates in the City. The City is proposing that cannabis processing and packaging be limited to the M1 zone, which is the heavier industrial zone. This is mostly related to the increased anticipated security these facilities will require under federal law, and that level of security not being appropriate for our M2 zones (which are commonly more light industrial-with-a-store-front). There will also be strict waste management and air quality protection measures required by senior government regulation, which makes M1 work better.

Public Consumption
This is where I suspect the most public concern with legalization of cannabis is going to appear: the simple nuisance of second-hand smoke. Public attitudes about public smoking have shifted significantly in the last decade, and the simple approach offered by the province (public use is legal wherever smoking is legal) may prove challenging. Although I suspect the actual use of cannabis will not increase significantly after October 17, the public exposure to its use (along with confirmation bias by its opponents) will lead to a lot of complaints.

The city will be updating our smoking bylaws to include vapor and cannabis smoke, and will continue to limit smoking with 7.5m of a doorway and in Parks. However, banning use in the way we do alcohol (i.e. no public spaces) is challenging, as we will not have “pubs” where people can go, and landlords and strata councils will have the legal authority to prohibit smoking in people’s homes, making it very difficult for some people to find a place to use what is a legal product. One of the delegates at our meeting pointed out the structural unfairness of limiting public consumption for those who may not be able to smoke at home.

Of all the regulations, this is the one that is going to be hardest to make people happy, because it runs up against a conflict between people’s individual rights. With the federal government specifically *not* legalizing edibles and tinctures at this time, smoking and vaping will be the primary delivery method. So we are going to have some learning to do as a society.

Personal Cultivation
The Federal regulations say you can grow a limited number of plants at home for personal use, and the province further restricts that the plants can’t be “visible” from public spaces, and that landlords and stratas are legally able to restrict growing of cannabis in multi-family units. As a City, we are not contemplating adding to these restrictions.

You have until June 24 to take part in the City’s on-line survey about these regulations if you have strong feelings. Otherwise, we will see some draft Bylaws at the end of the summer, and expect that we will be able to make them into law here in New West ahead of the October 17 federal legalization, and before the October 20, 2017 Municipal election!

More pool

Last Council meeting, we had an update report on the replacement plans for the Canada Games Pool, and a reporting out on the results of the last round of public engagement. I mentioned it briefly in my council report, but it is a big enough story that I thought I would flesh this out with a bit more detail, and share some of my thinking on this project.

Back in the spring, the City began this round of public and stakeholder consultation on the replacement of the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre. This came after two years of meeting with stakeholders, holding a pretty comprehensive public engagement process, work with program staff at the pool, architects, geotechnical engineers, and other subject matter experts. I talked about that first-phase work more in this Blog Post I wrote earlier this year, and at that time mentioned we were ready to take a draft plan out to the public based on that work.

As you may have heard, part of this engagement was a call from the Hyack Swim Club to build a more competition-oriented pool than the initial plans presented. Although the plans were developed with consultation with competitive swimming, which included a 50m pool length and a secondary pool that was amenable for warm-up and cool-down lengths, they did not feel the draft plan provided a venue that supported the level of competition their club could support.

Putting the wants of this user group aside for a moment, it is clear from the engagement that the program proposed closely matches the desires of the greater community that will ultimately pay for most of the new facility. The balance of aquatics and leisure swim space, the enhanced fitness centre, community flex space and gyms, and childcare facility are all well supported (in the end, we may need more pickleball space, but I’m not sure we will ever meet that demand!). So I am satisfied that the program we have proposed is the program we need in the community, and the public engagement results reflect that.

That does not mean this facility has everything everyone wants. Simply put, that was not possible, partly because we have a limited budget and buildable area on the site, partly because when you do comprehensive public engagement (see the 60 pages(!) of comments included in the report) you get a lot of contradictory requests. For everyone who wants, for example, a lazy river, there is someone who hates the concept. Parsing through this mixed data was a big task for staff, our consultant, and the taskforce.

I need to emphasize that the Hyack Swim Club was involved in this process from the beginning. Several meetings were held with their board and coaching staff, and their members were encouraged to take part in the public engagement process. From day 1 it was recognized that the competitive swimming community valued this asset, and as a regional community they are a vocal in discussions of any new aquatics complex in the region. There was no doubt that Hyack wanted as high-level a competitive pool as possible, up to a pool that would meet all Swim Canada requirements for the highest level of competition (something that currently doesn’t exist in BC, but is best represented by the $200 Million+ Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto), and this led to some pretty significant discussion about how far we could afford to go that way while still meeting the desires of the community for a family-friendly recreational facility, within reasonable budget expectations.

The purpose of this stage of public consultation was to hear if the draft plans that came out of the planning process hit the target the community and stakeholders were looking for. In that sense, it was anticipated that some push back from some users on the draft plans would occur. I think we got there from the community viewpoint, but the stakeholder side clearly needed more work. That is why we do this kind of consultation.

Competitive sports facilities are, by nature, regional. Sports programming rarely respects Municipal boundaries, and just as competitive curlers from across the region come to New West to curl at the Royal City Club and MsNWimby goes to Coquitlam to play in a women’s ice hockey league that suits her competitive level (wait – neither of those facilities are run by a City… never mind, let me continue my story here), we need to expect that all Cities will build facilities that will be used by people from outside that City.

I also need to clarify that the request from the Hyack Swim Club is not just “two more lanes”, and though the swim fees paid by Hyack Swim Club are definitely a significant part of our operational revenue, they will certainly not offset the increased capital cost of a larger facility. The request for two more lanes, a larger secondary pool to better accommodate warm-up and cool-down length swimming, significantly increased “wet” deck space, and some level of “dry” spectator seating represents a significant cost premium. I (speaking as one Councillor, this is, as always, not necessarily the opinion of all of Council) am not willing to compromise the community amenities that the community asked for to pay for that cost premium. Ultimately, this is a case where the public engagement is vital to decision making, and I cannot ignore the wants of the larger community when building the most expensive asset the City has ever built.

That said, if we accept that higher-level competition is a regional asset, it is reasonable to expect that the region help pay for it. All along, the City has been working towards senior government assistance to build this facility, through the promised federal Infrastructure Grants program and affiliated provincial programs to support recreation and community assets and community reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. I think we have developed a program that will very closely meet the expected criteria for federal infrastructure funds. These, matched with provincial funds, may give us the financial space to build the expanded region-serving competitive facility, while not compromising on the recreational facility the community clearly wants, and not overly burdening our (still stretched) capital budget.

So the path forward the City has chosen is to continue to work towards an expanded facility that will support higher-level competition (one the Hyack Swim Club expressed unbridled support for at their public delegation last week), and the community recreation that the public engagement outlined, and hope that senior government grants will be sufficient to make it viable. We will continue to hold the current more recreationally-focused program as a fall back in the event we are unsuccessful in receiving sufficient senior government support.

The good news is that we now have a well-supported plan to move forward, and can do some of the extra work we need to do to get this project “shovel ready” enough to get those grants. To quote someone more profound than me: Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning.

And I’ll write one more post about this pool in the next few days (yes, I’ll get to your question, Jason), but this one is long enough for now!

Council – June 11, 2018

After all of that excitement, it was back to work on Monday at New West Council. We opened the meeting with presentations of plaques for the newest Registered Heritage Buildings in the community. This was followed by a couple of presentations that were emotionally charged. It is Salmonbellies Day on June 17th, but the usual celebration was subdued in light of the recent loss of a treasured member of the SalmonBellies community. This was followed by acknowledgement of World Refugee Day on June 20th, which we marked with a harrowing presentation by a New Westminster resident who is himself a recent refugee from Syria, which put many of our issues in New Westminster into a stark perspective.

Our regular agenda began with a Report for Action:

Modular Housing Update: Further Analysis on 200 Fenton Street
This report is a summary of work done to evaluate a site on Fenton Street in Queensborough for Temporary Modular Housing (“TMH”). This is a follow up report on last meeting, as we had many delegates speaking to the 838 Ewen Avenue TMH proposal, and some suggested the Fenton Street site as a better alternative for TMH in Queensborough. We asked staff to provide more details to the evaluation that was done of Fenton, and to revisit some of the assumptions that went into it being not selected to make sure we haven’t missed something important.

The short version here is that the Fenton Street site is indeed a viable location for modular housing, but there are some significant challenges for the site that impact the timing, cost, and project risk. The site would require pre-load and other ground stabilization works, and would need significant on-site and off-site landscaping and other works. In comparison to the Ewen Avenue site, the access to services is not as good, and making the site more accessible for pedestrians will come at an extra cost. Nearby transit service is less convenient and less frequent, and shopping is twice as far away. In summary, the Fenton Street site works better for a more permanent affordable housing project so the timing and costs to make it work can be absorbed into a longer project timeframe, but it is not a viable location for the current Rapid Response TMH program being led by the Provincial Government.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

2017 Statement of Financial Information
This is our official release of financial information for the year. Most of the spreadsheet stuff shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has watched our budgeting process. This report also includes how much you paid me and my Council colleagues for our work ($45,646 for me, plus $5,539 in expenses, mostly for the conferences I attended, which is why I report out on them here), a list of all of the companies we paid more than $25,000 for goods and services, and a list of the wages paid to all of our employees who earned more than $75,000, as required by law.

No doubt, the regional media will report out on peoples wages, without much effort to putting those wages into context of what those people would be paid in the private sector for similar responsibilities and skills, instead framing those wages as opulent. Alas.

Recruitment 2018: Arts Commission Appointment
We have an empty seat on the Arts Commission, and this person is willing to fill it, and she is a consummate volunteer in the City, whom I thank for her service.

Street Naming Bylaw for Roma Avenue in Queensborough – Bylaw for Three Readings
As reported earlier, the name Roma Avenue will be sued for a new street in Queensborough. This is the official Bylaw that makes that happen. The actual installation of the road sign will come after the road is built and put into service. Hopefully it is good timing to coincide with a grape-stomp.

406 – 412 East Columbia Street (Market Rental) Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8000, 2018 for Three Readings
The project planned for an empty lot on East Columbia will include Purpose Built Rental, and in order for the City to secure that rental, we need a covenant and a Legal Agreement. This agreement needs to be supported by a Bylaw. This is that Bylaw.

Amendment to the Tenant Relocation Policy: Changes to the Residential Tenancy Act
The City has a Tenant Relocation Policy to do what we can to make sure that people are not displaced from their housing unnecessarily, and to assure that when evictions are legal and required for significant renovation of a building, the residents have as much support as possible in this impossibly tight rental market. The provincial government recently updated the Residential Tenancy Act to give renters more protection from demovictions, such that their “fair notice” minimum is now longer than the one in the City’s policy, so we are adjusting our policy to match. This is a constantly evolving file, and more work is being done by local governments and province, this is a quick shift of our local policy to keep up, but not the end of story!

Proposal for Public Realm Improvements in Brow of the Hill at Seventh Street and Fourth Avenue
This is a proposal to create a small public green space improvement in the Brow of the Hill, a neighbourhood notably lacking in public green space. Up to now, our Parklet Program has been oriented to improving the streetscape in our retail areas, where this one is adjacent to a church in a relatively high-density neighbourhood. This creates some opportunities, but also a different potential set of conflicts. Like other Parklets, this is meant to be temporary, but any opportunity we have to reduce the amount of paved space dedicated to cars and re-purpose that space into something greener that all people can use is a positive.

New Westminster Arena Operations and Ammonia Safety Update
The tragic incident at Fernie last year, where three refrigeration workers were killed by an ammonia leak at their skating rink, has cause all municipalities in BC to review their safety practices around ice plants, working with WorkSafe and the Technical Safety Board, There were some changes done at both of our arenas, mostly around how TSBC have changed the application of “risk assessment” measures. The changes come with a small operational cost increase (more frequent testing, increased staffing levels to oversee ammonia plant operations) which are consistent with changes being made at most ice arenas in the province. Short version is that were up to snuff when it comes to safe operation of our ice plants, and with emergency procedures, with a some increase in operational costs.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

620 Third Avenue (Westminster House): Temporary Use Permit for Youth Residential Recovery Program – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
This is the notice that an Opportunity to be Heard will happen on July 9 for a Temporary Use Permit for a residential recovery program directed at younger women recovering from addictions. It is best practice that I recuse myself from this discussion as the application is only a few doors down from my house.

Electric Vehicle Readiness Policy for New Residential, Commercial and Institutional Buildings
Electric vehicles are coming, and they are coming on fast. The largest disruption caused by them will be the change in how people “fuel” their vehicles. Gas stations are going to go away, and distributed charging systems will replace them. We are not, however, building that distributed charging infrastructure fast enough. This policy would help push the City that direction, requiring that new buildings with off-street parking spots are built to have the background infrastructure (conduit, wiring, and adequate electrical capacity) to support installing charging stations.

The cost of making this a requirement in new builds is relatively small, well under $1000 (compared to the $40,000+ cost per stall of providing underground parking). Other cities (Vancouver and Richmond) have already made this move, and many others across the region are about where we are in in putting their policy together.

As *most* EV charging will happen at home, if an adequate charging system exists there, there is less demand for making these stations mandatory in commercial buildings. The standard practice regionally is to require 10% of off-street commercial parking be ready for an EV charger. Staff are planning to report back to us with a fully-cooked framework for how to manage the commercial sector.

Amendments to Animal Care and Control Bylaw and Associated Schedules in the Bylaw and Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw
The City is waiving Dog Permit fees for Therapy dogs, and updating some language in the Animal Control Bylaw without any major policy changes.

Queen’s Park Arenex Replacement
The replacement of the Arenex has been a difficult process. We were initially optimistic that a replacement structure could be quickly acquired that would provide greater space, and along with the Canada Games Pool replacement project, we would finally have a home for the gymnastics and trampoline programs that didn’t quite fit in the Arenex as it was. Regrettably, best laid plans ran into some procurement issues, as the tight construction market and relatively high project risk related to the geotechnical conditions resulted in no adequate responses to the Request for Proposals. In the public procurement process local governments are required to use, that often means back to the drawing board.

With some revision of scope, and more work done on the soils conditions at the old Queens Park reservoir site (where the old tennis courts and soil storage area are), we are now in a position to re-start procurement.

Honestly, it is a bit of a disappointment that it took this long to get this far, but we have reviewed the process to date and there was every reason to suspect the first procurement should have worked. It may have been our rush to get a replacement facility done as quickly as possible that (ironically) resulted in this delay. The good side is that this failure has led to the City to re-evaluate some of our project management practices, and bring in some new resources. We have an aggressive capital program, with the Library, the Animal Care Facility, the CGP replacement, and more projects charging ahead, at the same time that some senior staff is retiring, so the learning from this will be valuable. However, in the end all we can do is apologize that this project ran into the challenges it did, and move ahead aggressively to get it done as soon as possible.

On a related topic, we had a Staff Presentation:

New Aquatics and Community Centre Feasibility Study, Public Engagement Results
Regular readers (Hi Mom!) will recall we are moving ahead with the Canada Games Pool replacement, and took a proposed “program” out for public comment back in late April. This report gave us a summary of the public engagement results. I have a lot to write about this, so will hold off for a second blog post, but the short version is that we have developed a pathway where we may be able to accommodate a higher-level competition pool while not taking away from the community focus of the new community centre.

As always, we closed the evening program processing our Bylaws:

Street Naming Bylaw No. 7984, 2018
This Bylaw that makes the name of a new street in Queensborough “Roma Avenue” was given three readings.

Housing Agreement (406 to 412 East Columbia Street) Bylaw No. 8000, 2018
This Bylaw that secures the agreement that this new development in Sapperton will be a rental building was given three readings.

Animal Care and Control Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8026, 2018;
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8027 2018; and
Municipal Ticketing Information Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8028, 2018
The amendments to these three bylaws that will allow us to not charge license fees for therapy dogs and make other small changes in our Animal control Bylaw, were given three readings.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8020, 2018
As discussed last meeting, these updates to the 5-year Financial Plan were adopted by Council. It is now the law of the land.

Automated Voting Machines Authorization Amendment Bylaw No.
7994, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that is required by Elections BC to use electronic ballot-counting devices in our civic election was adopted.

Building Amendment Bylaw (Building Permit Exemption for Hoop Greenhouses) No. 8018, 2018
Also as discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that removes the need for a building permit for some types of backyard greenhouses larger than 100 square feet was adopted. May your tomatoes enjoy a warmer fall.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (306 Gilley Street) Bylaw No. 8007,
Heritage Designation (306 Gilley Street) Bylaw No. 8008, 2018
These Bylaws that secure permanent protection of a heritage home in the Brow of the Hill were adopted by Council.

Ask Pat: Elections?

Ed Sadowski asks—

When will we know if you will be running again in the upcoming municipal elections?

Yes, I am running for Council again. Sorry for the delay responding to you, but I did have to do a bit of serious thinking and also put a few things in place so that when I announce my intention to run again, people have a way to contact me and I don’t lose that initial campaign bump on that is (apparently) important.

If you want to read about my campaign, why I am running, what I want to do next term, and why I think you should vote for me, please go over to my campaign website ( It is a little bare-bones right now, but I will be updating and improving it as the campaign goes on. One of my challenges with “launching” my re-election campaign is trying to figure out how I can keep this conversation – 8 years of blogging, hundreds of blog posts, its gotta be a million words by now – and keep it a little separate from the rhetoric necessary for campaigning. The election is in October, but I still have 4 months of work to do before then, so here is my strategy.

This website will pretty much stay the same, with blogs, updates on City stuff, random opinions on topics that interest me, and Ask Pats answered when I get a chance. My Campaign website will talk campaign, will have all of that campaign “why you should vote for me” stuff. My regular Facebook Page will be pretty much as it always was, and my Campaign Facebook Page will have campaign Facebook stuff like updates on where I am going to be, special campaign events, and probably a fair amount of campaign-related opinions. There is no way I am managing two Twitter accounts, or two Instagram accounts, so those are staying as is.

In the meantime, I’ll be out in the community as I have always been, ready to talk about the City and sharing ideas with the citizens of New West. It’s going to be a busy 4 months, but let’s take the time to talk.

Council – May 28, 2018

The Council meeting of May 28th was a long one, partly because of two lengthy public delegations, neither of which I am going to talk about at length here. This is because I already blogged at length about the first one here (and that post needs an update that will have to wait until I get back from the Maritimes), and the second because the topic will be going to a Public Hearing, so aside from mentioning it below, I am going to hold my opinions in respect for the process.

So it is perhaps ironic that we started the evening’s Agenda with three Opportunities to be Heard, for which very few came to be heard:

Five Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8020, 2018
We have already been through the big discussions of the City’s budget, but it is good idea to adjust our Financial Plan so it closely tracks where our budget is going. We are therefore making the following changes to the 5-year plan adopted in March:

• Adding $6.25 Million to our Capital budget, as the Electrical Utility is getting ready to buy a piece of land in Queensborough for a new substation. This is debt financed, as was approved in the 2016 Loan Authorization Bylaw, so it is not new unanticipated debt, but an expense already planned for;
• Taking $3 Million from reserves to pay for expanded City Hall renovation costs;
• We are accelerating some work and doing expanded design on the Canada Games Pool replacement, meaning we need to move some capital spending from 2019 to 2018;
• Changes to anticipated borrowing cost related to the above changes.

Council moved unanimously to refer this Bylaw for three readings.

Development Variance Permit DVP00646 for 323 E. Sixth Avenue
The resident wants to maintain front-access parking on this house that was recently renovated, which requires a variance. As a general rule, the City is moving away from front-entrance parking for residential lots that have an alley. This improves the streetscape of the neighbourhood, and makes the main road safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. As this lot has a back alley, this would normally apply to this significant renovation of the building, but they have asked for a variance related to the shape of the lot and slope, which makes a rear garage significantly less accessible.

Council received two letters in support of the variance, and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council moved to grant the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00644 for 330 Johnston Street
There is a rule that any City lot shouldn’t be more than 4x as long as it is wide, as a general planning principle. However there are a few blocks, especially in Queensborough, where the lots are extra long, meaning that typical lot widths violate this rule. This is one of those cases, and the proponent is asking for a variance of this requirement. There was no correspondence, and only the proponent came to speak to the application. Council moved to approve the variance.

After some award-presentation, the following items were Moved on Consent:

Investment Report to April 30, 2018
The City has $141.5 Million in the bank. This isn’t just money stuffed away, but is in Reserves, most of it earmarked for specific purposes. (I recently wrote more about how the City manages reserves here). Some are in a higher-interest bank account, but most is saved with the Municipal Finance Authority, where we get a pretty good return. The report is that we are not going to earn quite as much from our savings as we anticipated, as bond markets are softening a bit, but things are generally ticking along.

Major Purchases January 1 to April 30, 2018
Every 4 months, the city reports out on all major purchases, in an effort to provide better clarity of where your money is being spent. This also assures our procurement process is transparent to show who bids for work at the City, and who won, and how we did at setting budgets for that procurement.

Recruitment 2018: Remembrance Day Committee Appointment
The City’s Remembrance Day ceremony is organized by a volunteer committee. Here we are filing a space on that committee.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Zoning Amendment Bylaw for Incentives to be Implemented in the Short Term – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
As discussed at some length during our May 14 meeting, Staff is working with the community on a suite of incentives to support heritage conservation in Queens Park – the “carrot” to follow up on the “stick” of the Bylaw that prevents the demolition of heritage homes. A total of 16 incentives were discussed last meeting: 5 that the City is not pursuing further at this time, 4 that will be coming after a bit more policy work, 3 that are going to be implemented City-wide, and the 4 in this report which the City intends to implement as soon as possible. For two of them, that means a Zoning Bylaw Amendment, which will go to a Public Hearing. I will talk more about them then.

218 Queen’s Avenue: Temporary Use Permit – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
An owner of a large lot in Queens Park with a heritage home on the front of it would like to subdivide the lot, and receive a type of conditional pre-approval of locating appropriate heritage houses on the new lots, when houses available for relocation come on the market.

This is a bit of a strange request, and not something that works easily within our existing land use regulations, but when heritage homes come available for relocation, there is often not a lot of time to do all of the regulatory things needed to make the relocation work, so the landowner would like to prepare ahead of time.

This looks like a creative way to make the rather rigid parts of the Local Government Act, and will result in preservation of several heritage houses, while turning a really big (22,000 sq ft) lot into three more typically sized lots. There are some obvious controls that will need to be in place to avoid real or perceived stockpiling of abandoned homes, but I think we can work something out here that lets these assets be preserved and add to our community. This Temporary use permit will go to an Opportunity to be Heard.

838 Ewen Avenue (Modular Housing Project): Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw and Zoning Amendment Bylaw to Facilitate a 44 Unit Housing Development with Support Services for Women – Bylaws for First
and Second Readings

The Provincial government will build temporary modular housing to be operated by a not-for-profit in several cities around the Lower Mainland, as part of a Rapid Response to a serious homelessness crisis across the region. In this first phase, they rely on Cities to provide temporary use of city-owned spaces to site the structures. As you may have seen of Global Newz, the City has offered the site of a former gas station on Ewen Avenue adjacent to the Queensborough Community Centre.

The City bought the property back in 2016 when the remediation of the site was complete, and up to now have used it primarily for construction staging for the Ewen Street reconstruction project. It is still zoned for Commercial use, and is designated for parks/community amenity in the community plan, so we need to rezone the property if we wish to have people living on it, even on a temporary basis. Despite the many conversations at Delegation and in the media, this will require a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then to respect the process.

Council moved to give the proposal First and second reading, and set the Public Hearing for June 26th.

New West Hospice Society Update
The relatively new Hospice Society has been incredibly active since its founding less than two years ago (I am a little biased, as Ms.NWimby serves on the board). They have a good strategic plan, and will be looking for the city to support their vision (along with many others, from Fraser Health to community members). They are also working with City Staff to determine the steps and requirements for the City to be designated a “Compassionate City”. You will be hearing more about this in the year ahead.

Building Permit Exemption for Hoop Greenhouses: Building Bylaw Amendment – Bylaw for Three Readings
The current Building bylaw says any accessory building bigger than 108 Square feet needs to comply with the Building Code to assure human occupancy is safe, from surveying the foundation up. The Bylaw also calls greenhouses “accessory buildings”. Put this together, and you can’t have a greenhouse bigger than 108 square feet unless it is structurally robust to survive an earthquake, host a party, and keep you warm at night. We are relaxing a small part of that to allow hoop-style greenhouses that don’t present the risk or occupancy issues that the building code is meant to address. May your tomatoes be warmed by this.

2018 Child Care Grant Application: For Douglas College Early Childcare Centre
The City has a grant program to help child cares operating in the City. This Daycare applied on time, but we had a paperwork snafu and their application got skipped. We did not exhaust the funds this year for this grant, and the application is valid, so Council agreed to award the grant. A little late is better than never!

Interim Alternative Development Review Process: Proposed Terms of Reference
The rate of development applications are making it difficult for the City to keep up. This is not a New West specific issue, it is a common theme across the region, but one we are feeling. Our turn-around time on these types of applications is one of the better in the region (according to the Fraser Institute, so maybe take that with appropriate grains of salt), but we are always asking our staff to find better ways to provide customer service, and this report suggests an interim measure to get past a current logjam.

There is a reason applications are complicated. The City has a tonne of policy and requirements for new development, be it a laneway house in the West End or a mixed-use commercial-residential building in Sapperton. The larger projects have to be assessed against our Family Friendly housing policy, our affordable housing and secured rental policies, opportunities for Community Amenities, and fit into our overall community plans. Design elements are impacted by our Zoning Bylaws and Official Community Plan, details from the size of sewer hookups to the turning radius in parking garages have to be evaluated to assure they meet building code and other requirements. Buildings are complicated, and it is a responsibility of a City to make sure they are built in compliance with regulations and policy. They also need to be designed and presented adequately that public processes like open houses and Public Hearings are based on good data. This is the work of civic engineers and professional planning staff, and the City simply doesn’t have enough of them right now to manage the work load, leading to delays. The same forces that are leading to a logjam are making it difficult for us to hire the professional staff to help address the logjam – there aren’t that many experienced development planners available right now in the Lower Mainland labour market, and (despite what the Fraser Institute says), Cities are getting outcompeted by the private sector, especially on wages and benefits.

Staff are suggesting we allow the proponent to have their own professional staff do some of the work currently done by staff internal to the City, such as policy analysis (writing a report on what City policies the new project intersects with, and how it meets those requirements) or technical evaluation of regulatory needs (like parking counts, etc.). City staff would still review and sign off on the resultant analysis, so we would not give up oversight, but much of the busy work to get to that final oversight could fall back directly on the developer instead of being done by City staff and charged to the developer via fees.

This will be an interesting trial, and Council agreed to have staff test this out as a temporary measure to address our current backlog. I am challenged a bit by this appearing to represent “outsourcing” of jobs, and am concerned that we have strong measures in place to assure no loss of oversight. I am willing to give staff a chance to try this out, and appreciate the work they are trying to do to find a flexible way to be ore “customer oriented”, but we will need to use caution here, and look forward to the evaluation of it after this one-year trial wraps up.

1011 Ewen Avenue – Sale of Portion of Land – Queensborough Fire Hall
A developer is interested in developing a piece of vacant land at the entrance to Queensborough, but there is inadequate site access to support the best use model. The solution is to provide a second entrance off of Hampton Street, which requires them to purchase that land, half of it currently belonging to the City, the other half belonging to the Ministry of Transportation.

There are a few complications yet to work out with this development, it has only received preliminary approval from the City, and will need to go through an extensive public process. The impacts on the Firehall operations are also still being evaluated. However, a fair market price of the land has been determined, and the proposed sale is conditional on the other work being done successfully to make this new road access necessary.

647 Ewen Avenue (Slovak Hall): Heritage Revitalization Agreement to Convert Hall for Two Residential Units and Add Three Townhouse Units – Preliminary Report
This is a preliminary report on an interesting project to revitalize a perhaps underappreciated heritage asset in Queensborough. It will also bring in some gentle infill density (three townhouse units or a total of five housing units). This I preliminary report, and will go to a public open house, the RA, and all of the other committee and such reviews. As this will eventually go to Public Hearing, I’ll hold my comments until then.

The following items were Removed from Consentfor discussion:

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Special Limited Category- Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The somewhat byzantine structures of the Local Government Act when it comes to Heritage Conservation Areas mean we need to set up a blanket area of protection and secure that in our Official Community Plan, then if we have a good reason to exempt specific properties from protection, we need to amend our OCP after the fact. During the HCA set-up, we recognized there was a group of properties that don’t fit snugly within the two end-member “valuable heritage asset worthy of protection” or “no heritage value whatsoever” categories. As a stop-gap, we set up a special category for all 85 of these properties, and put them under full protection with the intent of doing more detailed analysis of the properties to determine which ones may have been inappropriately included within the protected category.

After Phase 1 of this analysis, Staff is now able to recommend 34 of these properties be removed from the “Protected” category, and have drafted a n OCP Amendment Bylaw to support this re-classification. Of the 34, one property owner declined to be removed from the protected category. This Bylaw will go to Public Hearing, so I will hold further comments until then.

Draft Environmental Strategy and Action Plan
The City has been working on an update of our Environmental Strategy for a couple of years. This is a little close to my heart, perhaps, formerly being an Environmental Coordinator for a local government, and a long-time advocate for local government environmental sustainability. I have watched how local government environmental strategies have evolved from anti-littering campaigns to energy and emissions plans to more integrated ecological network services models, including the emergence of things like tree protection strategies, re-greening of built spaces, and the Step Code.

This document outlines the proposed Environmental Strategy that staff has put together through public and stakeholder consultation. It is important to note that this strategy ties together many things already happening in the City, as our larger sustainability vision requires that the environment is considered in all City policy development. So the OCP, our Integrated Stormwater Management Plan, our Urban Forest Management Strategy, and Master Transportation Plan all inform this strategy in some way, as do various parks and community planning policies.

The plan, as it is, will be going to a Public Open House in June. I hope those interested will come out and let us know what we are doing right, and where we need to make improvements. I also hope I will have a chance to blog a little more about this topic then.

Council approved to going out for public comment, but added two aspects for discussion with the public. First, we want to know what the public thinks a local governments role should be when it comes to advocacy for environmental measures. Secondly, we want more about how we plan to measure success. The performance indicators are an important part of this, which are mentioned in the strategy, but not a lot of detail. I hope the public consultation can help inform what types of metrics we can use to assure we can measure progress.

620 Third Avenue (Westminster House): Temporary Use Permit for Youth Residential Recovery Program – Preliminary Report
This application is for a residence very close to my own, so it is best practice if I recuse myself from participating in the discussion about it because there may be perceived or real conflict of interest.

We also had three items that were Added to the Agenda late, because that was the kind of week it was:

Recruitment 2018: Restorative Justice Committee Appointment
There is a position open for a person who could bring an Indigenous perspective to the Restorative Justice committee, and a great candidate has been found! Council moved to appoint her.

Changes to the Strata Property Act: UBCM Resolution
There have been some concerns raised in the community about recent changes to the provincial Strata Act that makes it easier to sell a Strata property and dissolve it. This includes increased risk of eviction not just of renters who may rent from strata owners, but effective eviction of owners themselves, without and of the protections from unreasonable eviction that renters may have. Council moved to provide our concerns to the appropriate members of the Provincial Government, and to take a resolution to the UBCM meeting in September asking for these issues to be addressed.

New Westminster Urban Solar Garden Project Update
The first Urban Solar Garden in the Lower Mainland was proposed late last year, and quickly sold out when the City started selling shares. It looks like the cost for installation of the panels will be at the low end of our estimate, and the Queensborough Community Centre will be the host building for the first Solar Garden. Installation services can now be procured, and photons can start exciting electrons into doing our bidding!

1400 Quayside Drive (Poplar Landing / Muni Ever Park): Work Plan for Conceptual Site Design
He grass field adjacent to the Third Ave overpass at the west end of Quayside Drive is jointly owned by the City and Metro Vancouver. It has a Combined Sewer Overflow tank on it that was built about a decade ago through a combination of Federal and Provincial grants and is jointly operated by New West and Metro Vancouver. This former industrial land was remediated as part of that project, and the long-term vision was always to host the CSO Tank, have some public park space (the CSO Tank actually has public washrooms on top of it that have never been made accessible because the surrounding land has been in limbo), and to develop some combination of market and non-market/affordable housing.

After a decade of no much happening, and with the Provincial purse strings for affordable housing projects seemingly loosening, the City wants to start moving ahead with this project, and Metro Vancouver has agreed to work with the City on some conceptual planning. There is *a lot* of work to do here, and all designs are currently conceptual, but staff want to take them out to the public in an open house and give people a flavor of what may be coming, and get some feedback.

Finally, we went through our Bylaws for the week:

Official Community Plan Amendment (To remove Heritage Conservation Area Related Protection from Phase 1 Special Limited Category Study Properties) Bylaw No. 8025, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw that acts to remove some properties from the highest level of protection in the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area was given two readings. It will go to a Public Hearing on June 19. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Zoning Amendment (Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Bylaw for Incentives to be Implemented in the Short Term) Bylaw No. 8024, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw that supports a couple of the incentives being introduced to promote the protection of heritage homes in Queens Park was given two readings. It will also go to a Public Hearing on June 19. You now have incentive to show up for that meeting and tell us what you think.

Official Community Plan Amendment (838 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 8021, 2018 and
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (838 Ewen Avenue) No. 8022, 2018
As discussed above (and at length during Public Delegations, and consequently in the media, social and otherwise), these Bylaws that support the construction of a Temporary Modular Housing project at 838 Ewen Avenue in Queensborough were given two readings. This will go to a Special Public Hearing on June 26. Please show up and tell us what you think.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8020, 2018
As discussed above, and given an opportunity to be Heard at Council this evening, This Bylaw to amend our Budget was given three readings.

Building Amendment Bylaw (Building Permit Exemption for Hoop Greenhouses) No. 8018, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw to relax building code requirements for hoop-style greenhouses that exceed 108sqft was given three readings.

Housing Agreement (813 – 823 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 8001, 2018
As previously discussed, this Bylaw to formalize the housing agreement with the developer and secure below-market rentals for perpetuity in the proposed building on Carnarvon Street was adopted by Council. It is now the law of the land.

Heritage Designation Bylaw (220 Carnarvon Street) No. 7958, 2017 and Zoning Amendment Bylaw (220 Carnarvon Street) No. 7959, 2017
As previously discussed, these Bylaws to provide permanent protection to the last house on this stretch of Carnarvon Street and in exchange for a change in land use to allow commercial and a secondary suite was adopted by Council. It is now the law of the land.

Council Procedure Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7986, 2018 and Local Government Elections Procedures Bylaw No. 7985, 2018
As discussed back on February 5th, these Procedure Bylaws to adjust Council dates and language to fit the adjusted election schedule and language by the Province was adopted by Council. Vote accordingly.

At long last, we had one piece of New Business rising out of a Motion on Notice:

WHEREAS the City of New Westminster has identified and communicated
to the National Energy Board of Canada, serious concerns with the routing of the Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain Pipeline through the sensitiveBrunette River watershed;
And whereas we have also raised concerns regarding safety, security, and contingency planning in the context of emergency response;
And whereas we have identified the social and economic impacts that a catastrophic pipeline failure would have, not only on New Westminster but on the entire Fraser River watershed;
Therefore be it resolved that the City of New Westminster supports the Province of British Columbia’s position in seeking clarification from the Supreme Court of Canada on the province’s jurisdiction to protect BC’s environment, including those matters which the City have identified to the National Energy Board of Canada.

I note that Council passed this resolution unanimously, only hours before said pipeline was announced to soon be the property of the taxpayers of Canada. Life moves at you fast when you live in a petro-state.

Council – May 14, 2018.

It occurred to me that I totally failed to provide a Council Report for our special meeting on May 14th. This was a special meeting we scheduled during the day to provide more time for Council to workshop the potential Heritage Conservation Area incentives for Queens Park. We had a very long meeting on May 7, and decided than that this topic could not be given a proper vetting at 11:00 at night after a long meeting, so we deferred for a week. Then scope creep started and staff added one more item to the agenda, which we moved on Consent:

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure: Outstanding Referral for Street Closure Bylaw No. 7935, 2017
As with an earlier discussion on the May 7th meeting, this is a Street Closure Bylaw that staff has discovered was not administered properly back in 2017 when it comes to consultation with the Ministry of Transportation. So we are rolling it back to permit MoTI to do their thing, in anticipation that we can re-adopt after then give us the thumbs-up.

We then had a good discussion for the main event of the meeting:

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area Incentive Program: Proposed Implementation Framework
The Heritage Conservation Area measures in Queens Park are an ongoing initiative. Addressing the imminent threat of demolitions of important heritage assets related to land value increases, the City acted as quickly as it could within the limits of the local Government Act to bring in measures that allow us to pause those demolitions, and then spent a year determining how to make those protections more permanent.

As far as heritage preservation measures, creating legislation to curtail demolitions is definitely at the “stick” end of the public policy spectrum. From the start, the City has been committed to also introducing measures that provide the “carrots” that will incentivize better heritage protection, and have been undergoing extensive public and stakeholder consultations, along with legal and economic reviews, to see what works best to provide those incentives.

This report both provided a tonne of information on those consultations and studies, and also outlines some proposed policy and programs to provide meaningful and useful incentives. The discussion around the Council table was engaging and really productive (and I highly encourage those interested to watch the Video and see how consensus-building works when you have a collaborative team that often disagrees on points of policy, but want to achieve a common goal). Through the discussion, we reviewed a suite of 16 potential incentives, some we have asked staff to draft into a Bylaw immediately, others we have asked them to do more work to develop, a few we asked them to introduce City-wide, and some we agreed to not pursue.

As the Bylaws that support these incentive programs will be going to a Public Hearing, I don’t want to dive too deep into their relative merits or weaknesses (perhaps we can save that discussion until after the Public Hearing), but I do want to outline what were the principles I took into the discussion and tried to rely on to inform my decisions:

• These incentives are meant to make it easier and more attractive for people to invest in an preserve homes that are of high heritage value in what is a unique neighbourhood in that I has the highest concentration of pre-WW2 homes of any similarly-sized neighbourhood in BC.
• These incentives should encourage heritage conservation while also supporting other City policies, such as tree protection and providing more housing diversity.
• These incentives should not unfairly burden homeowners in other neighbourhoods by asking those residents of Queensborough or Sapperton to pay extraordinary costs to support the housing costs of Queens Park residents.

An important part of the discussion was the results of the public consultation. As there were 16 different incentive areas explored, the public opinion varied:

In the end, the incentives we move forward with will be going through an implementation period, and we will have more chance to talk about them at that time.

And that was all for our relatively short mid-day meeting, apologies for not reporting out sooner.

Counting Lanes

The Canada Games Pool replacement project is moving along. We have just completed a second round of public consultation, and one group have taken this opportunity to encourage the City to do more than the initial concept plan that resulted from the work to date. As they spent some time delegating to Council and have got quite a bit of messaging in the media (social and otherwise), I figured I would write a bit about how we got here, and my understanding of the request.

A couple of years ago, this Council made the decision to replace the Canada Games Pool (CGP) with a modern facility instead of investing tens of millions of dollars in replacing end-of-life components of the existing building and mechanicals. This has led to a lot of work on planning for a new facility, from figuring out what the “program” of the new facility needs to be, what it will cost, where it will fit on the site, and other technical and financial considerations. This has included two lengthy conversations with the public and stakeholders.

There are a few points that constrain our opportunities here. Council agreed with strong advocacy in the community that the existing pool cannot be torn down until the new one is built – we cannot afford to have a lengthy period without the swim programs and other amenities that the CGP provides. It was also determined that replacing the late-life Centennial Community Centre (CCC) at the same time would provide worthwhile synergies and assure continuity of programming. Finally, an extensive analysis of locations around the City brought the conclusion that the existing location had many advantages, and that the cost of moving the pool to a different neighbourhood just didn’t make sense, financially or for the disruption it would cause.

This is recognizing another limit on the current site, in that the front parking lot of the current pool was built on the upper reaches of the Glenbrook Ravine, which was filled in the 1960’s, burying a regionally-important sewer line under it. We cannot build above that sewer line (due to Metro Vancouver owning a right of way that excludes any construction), and moving it would cost a significant portion of what a new pool costs, so that further constrains the site. However, preliminary design and architectural work demonstrates that we can fit a decent-sized (~115,000 square foot) facility on the site immediately to the south and west of the existing pool.

Another thing Council did was tour new pool facilities across the Lower Mainland. We visited the Edmonds Community Centre, the Hillcrest Community Centre, the Poirier Complex, the West Vancouver Community Centre, and more. We also had an extensive tour of the current Canada Games Pool. On all of these visits, we are able to talk to the operators and project planners to talk about what works, and what doesn’t. Most interesting was to discuss what they would do differently if they were to start a pool replacement project from fresh. A few of us even scheduled a visit to a larger pool facility in Gatineau when in Ottawa last year, and have been tracking new pool facilities across the region to understand who is doing what.

Of course there have been a tonne of conversations here in New West with the pool user community, and people who don’t currently use the pool, but might like to except for its lack of serving their needs. There was both formal consultation and more informal meetings with stakeholder groups (such as the Hyack Swim Club). A few of us on Council also went out and did a few days of door knocking in the neighbourhoods around the pool to better understand what people think about the current pool, what they know about the replacement plans, and to hear if the budget freaks them out.

I have to say the most consistent feedback I received was that the current pool is not as inviting to families and community use as other more modern facilities. Part of this is the somewhat aged structure (described by some as dank and stuffy), but also the lack of play space and the colder water temperature (which makes it better for competitive swimming) that makes it harder for families to enjoy the space together. We also had feedback that the gym was too small and not comfortable because it shared humid and warm airspace with the pool. We also heard from a significant user group that they loved the humid, warm gym environment. A very small number of people valued the diving towers and the water slide, but most wanted more flexible spaces. The value of the pool as a community amenity and the programs run by our recreation staff were a consistent theme, but when it came to details, there was a wide diversity of opinions. I have no idea who you are reading this, but I bet at least one point I raised above is something you disagree with, as is the reality of public consultation.

The process to filter through this feedback included working with an architect experienced in building these types of facilities and measuring out what different program components would add as far as square footage and cost. The cost part, of course, includes the cost to build the facility, but also a business case based on the needs of a rapidly growing community. This means determining the capacity of pools, changerooms, gym facilities and such needed to accommodate (increasing) anticipated users. The operational costs are put into context of the potential for revenue generation and revenue growth. New Westminster is a relatively small city with challenging infrastructure needs, and it became clear that the budget was going to drive part of this conversation – we are going to build the best pool we can, but simply cannot afford to build everything that everyone wants. We knew hard decisions were going to have to be made.

Amalgamating the public feedback and other data, and coming up with a program to fit as many needs as possible, was a challenging process. The report on the first round of consultation and the reasoning that led to the proposed program, can be read here. It is this program that the City took out for a second round of consultation last month, and we have yet to receive a report back at Council about the results of the consultation; that is the next step here.

This is the background to the Hyack Swim Club’s appearance at Council to delegate on their needs and desires for the pool. I don’t want to put words in their mouth, but the message was that the proposed program is inadequate for holding the scale of meets that they think we can attract. We could still hold regional meets up to the level that the current facility can host, but we could not host national-level meets that are currently only possible at Kamloops and Victoria. In the media (social and otherwise) this has been characterized as requiring the addition of two more lanes, which sounds pretty minor, but there are hints it is more than this. So I’ll take a bit of time to put some context around that specific issue, recognizing this is at topic I am still learning about, so I stand ready to be corrected.

One big decision in any new civic pool facility is – do you build a 25m or 50m pool? The emphasis on fitness and lap swimming, including the legacy of the Hyack Club, is the reason the City suggested a 50m pool instead of a 25m pool (or even two 25m pools, which would be similar in cost to the one large pool, but provide much more user flexibility, which is the decision Richmond made with the new Minoru complex project). The demand analysis described above suggested that New West could meet anticipated swim demand by building a 25m 10-lane pool and a secondary leisure pool. It is the legacy of competitive swimming at the pool that led to the alternative 50m pool plan being considered.

The current pool is 8 lanes, and the proposed program would also be 8 lanes, with 2.4m lanes. The proposal also includes a much larger leisure pool that can accommodate some lane swimming, but also have the amenities people come to expect from a community pool serving families and other leisure users. So, contrary to some social media reports, we are not proposing a smaller pool that we currently have, but one with a functionally-similar main tank, and a significant second tank. It is my understanding (and I stand to be corrected here, as I have some reading to do!) that the Hyack Swim Club’s request is not just for two more lanes, but a deeper main tank, a much larger secondary tank with potentially less family / leisure useability, a significant increase in deck space for stands, and perhaps some other functional changes. The full proposal needs to be evaluated for fit and cost (capital and operational).

If I was to express frustration about this process, it is that the competitive swimming community always advocates for 50m pools whenever a new pool is built, but there never seems to be a pool built that satisfies their needs. Hillcrest and Grandview are just two recent examples of 50m pools that were built to accommodate a vocal competitive swimming advocacy group, but are(according to the presentations we received at Council) inadequate for competitive swimmers. The proposals for the new Harry Jerome complex in North Vancouver is going through a very similar conversation today (note – that “editorial” in the newspaper is actually a paid-for sponsored ad, which is its own weirdness), and I hear from the recreation operators that there are simply too many 50m pools being built in the region.

In summary, the conversation is ongoing here in New Westminster, and it is great that the Hyack Swim Club has been working to inform Council about their needs. I have had some correspondence from them since the Council delegations, and they have provided me some reading material to review. I hope to gain some better understanding about the details and (importantly) the business case implications involved in meeting the Hyack Swim Club’s expectations while not compromising what the rest of the community wants from a recreation facility. This conversation is not at all a setback for the project, but a perfect example of why we do public consultation. Our goal is (as it always has been) to have a project definition ready for when the Federal and Provincial government open the application window for infrastructure grants, and though there has been no confirmation of that date, we are in a good place to work out these details in time to make the window.

More to come!

Ask Pat: Arenas

Jeremy asks—

What is the current usage rates of our arenas? I see calls for a third area, but I don’t know how often our current arenas are empty, or how many groups trying to book ice time would be unable to do so.

Simple answer is I don’t know, but my reflex answer is that our arenas are well used, rarely empty, but not bursting at the seams. As usual, that answer needs to be put into context of how the City plans and builds new and replacement facilities.

A new facility, be it a swimming pool, a skating rink, or a skate board park, has a capital cost (what it costs to build the thing on the day we build it and over the long term in upkeep and maintenance), and an operating cost (what it costs every year to keep the lights on, staff to maintain the ice and run programs in the facility). Those second costs can be small, like a skate park, which costs very little to maintain once built; or very high, like the old Canada Games Pool, which is a real energy and resources hog.

Conversely, many facilities earn revenue from pool or ice rentals and program fees, but it is almost a fundamental principle of public recreation facilities that the revenue never covers the capital and operational costs. For every person who walks into the Canada Games Pool to swim, take a fitness class, or drop heavy weights on the heads of change room occupants, the City subsidizes their visit by about $2. There is no financial model where a pool with services like the Canada Games Pool even breaks even on earned revenue (otherwise private business would be competing us out of the business, no?),  and models where private companies run ice rinks rarely provide a high level of programming without significant support from clubs and local governments. Many facilities, such as the library, the skate park, or a playground, earn little or no revenue, but are nonetheless important amenities to improve the quality of life of people in a community.

I mix all of these together because building a new facility is never a stand-alone decision. It is *always* about placing things in a priority, which means both understanding the (perceived and actual) demand, and recognizing how existing and new facilities impact your capital and operating budgets.

The demand part can sometimes be recognized by the public and user groups before it comes to the attention of Council, who ultimately hold the purse strings and have to make the priority call. However, lacking a very motivated special interest group, it is much more common that staff who operate these facilities recognize capacity issues or unmet need and bring these challenges to Council through strategic and budget planning. This is the situation with library upgrades, with the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre replacements, with the expansion of the Queensborough Community Centre, and with the decisions we have made to invest in more flexible (but much more expensive) turf field replacements.

Sometimes, those priorities get shuffled by events. A neighbouring community building a new pool or an event like the Arenex collapse can shuffle the deck, causing us to move priorities in order to assure our program needs are met, and to assure we have the capital flexibility to deal with unexpected needs when they occur. The Arenex is an example of something that we now have to add to our capital budget, and to our planning. The capital cost of its replacement is covered for the most part by insurance, but it still needs to be included in a budget, and we still need to take staff off of existing projects to go through the replacement planning, project management, procurement and design work to make sure we replace it with the right thing. Again, staff time is one more thing that has to sit in a priority list – what work do we delay to rush the replacement of the Arenex?

So back to answering your question. We have not heard from staff that there is a huge unmet demand for ice in the community or the region, at least not in comparison to other unmet needs that have been placed higher in the capital planning priority list. And they would know better than I would, as they are the ones managing the day-to-day resource needs of the community.

That said, with recent requests from some members of the public, Council has asked staff to do a bit of work and better define for us where a third sheet of ice (or other ice allocation improvements) fits on the capital plan priority list, and whether there is a compelling demand case for moving it up. This has to also include some analysis of where ice demand is regionally so we can better understand how the two new ice sheets on our border in Burnaby and two more sheets in Port Coquitlam will impact regional needs. So staff are going to add this work to their work plans, and prioritize it alongside ongoing work to support the Arenex programs and plan the replacement, getting the Canada Games Pool project ready for senior government grants, and all of the other capital works already in our plans. This is a responsible way to approach new capital funding requests, whether they come to us from staff’s understanding of need, or from a data-gathering petition at the beginning of an election campaign.

Council – May 7, 2018

Our Council meeting on May 7 was long and a little chaotic. It included several announcements and proclamations, and large numbers of people coming to Public Delegations. Because we were aware some people were delegating on agenda items, the schedule was mixed up a bit so Council could hear from them before we made any decisions (I will blog about these delegations in a future blog; they are topics we will be talking about more in the upcoming weeks and months). This means the order of things that happened over the 5+ hours is not really reflected in the agenda you might read online, and I honestly don’t want to sit through a 5-hour video recording to make sure my blog is in order of occurrence, especially as I am editing this up almost a week after the event because I was helping run a conference in Whistler all week… all this to say the following may not be in the order of occurrence, but I think it covers all of the decisions we made.

This Council Meeting included an Opportunity to be Heard:

Amendment to Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 (Amendment Bylaw 8013, 2018)
We talked about this a bit during First and second reading at the last meeting, but the City is updating its construction noise Bylaw to reduce some allowable weekend work hours and bring our construction schedule more in line with what other Cities do. It is a crazy construction time right now, with the regional economy booming and many housing projects of every shape coming on line. Residents are definitely feeling (hearing) this, and hopefully this will provide a little relief. That said, the change is modest, and it is really hard for us to create too many limits of construction noise within business hours.

We had one letter from a concerned developer, but no-one came to delegate during the Opportunity to be Heard, and the Bylaw Amendment was given third reading by Council.

Fire Escape Stairs at 642 Columbia Street Public Art Integration
A few months ago, we tasked our staff and the Public Art Advisory Committee with exploring ideas to make the fire escape on the Front Street a more appealing part of the Front Street Mews, and approved some budget from our Public Art Reserve Fund to pay for it.

There where 42 (!) proposals received from the Public Art community across Canada and the world. A panel made up of arts professionals and the local community shortlisted this to 4, who provided more detailed proposals, from which the PAAC recommended a piece from a team in Victoria called “Floralume”.

The goal here is to take something that was necessary as part of the Parkade removal and re-imagining of Front Street into a public space, and turn it into a place-making opportunity. I think this interactive multimedia sculpture has the potential to do this – and actually become a regional showpiece that will draw more people to Front Street. It also came in a little under budget, which is a bonus.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Uptown New Westminster BIA Renewal Bylaw No. 8019, 2018
This is an update on the Bylaw that empowers the Uptown BIA to operate. This also updates the tax rates and overall plan to better support the BIA’s new Strategic Plan. The Uptown BIA does a lot of great stuff, from supporting the Winter Farmers Market to installing branded bikes racks to the Uptown Live music festival. It is great to have such a positive partner in the business community in the City.

Recruitment 2018: Amateur Sports Grant Program Appointment
Recruitment 2018: Parks & Recreation Committee Appointment and
Recruitment 2018: Restorative Justice Committee Appointment
We needed to replace a few members of these volunteer community committees, and did so!

813 – 823 Carnarvon Street: Housing Agreement Bylaw for three readings
This is the housing agreement that will secure 66 below-market rental units in the smaller of the two towers at the PALS development on Carnarvon. There are a couple of levels of non-market housing that will be operated in this building to support seniors with limited incomes (with an emphasis on those from the performing arts community). 39% of the units will be “housing income limit” where rent is based on the occupant’s income so not to exceed what is considered affordable, and the other 61% of the units will be below market, but based on markets cost, at what is called “CMHC Level 1 Affordability”. Council moved to approve the Housing Agreement.

514 Carnarvon Street (Holy Trinity): Official Community Plan Amendment Section 475 and 476 – Consultation Report
This is a report on the ongoing consultation with the community on this unusual development project, which would see a largish but narrow tower built adjacent to the Anglican Cathedral on Carnarvon. This project has seen quite a bit of adjustment and re-imagining as it has gone along. The proponent (the Anglican congregation) wants to see some combination of market, secured rental and non-market (affordable) rental, but mostly want to rasie some money for the restoration of their historic cathedral.

The consultation is ongoing here, and this report is more of an update than anything else.

New Westminster Transit Priorities
As a regional centre in the center of the region, New Westminster has a role to play in regional governance, and making the use of transit as reliable, accessible, comfortable and convenient as possible in our city is fundamental to the success of our Master Transportation Plan, our Official Community Plan, and regional plans for growth and transportation sustainability.

New Westminster is already a region-leader in transit use: our residents use transit more than any other community excepting maybe the City of Vancouver itself. But we can do more, and this document outlines what the City recognizes as priorities to make transit work better for more people in New Westminster. The idea here is to provide clear policy guidance when we are working with our transit partners (TransLink, the Ministry of Transportation, and our neighbouring communities). We have identified areas where we need improvement – such as the overall dismal service to rapidly-growing family-friendly neighbourhoods in Queensborough, and bus speed and reliability issues that impact our most important routes.

This is a planning document, but also an advocacy document, and part of the great foundational work being done by our Transportation department that may not be flashy or avail us of a ribbon cutting, but will provide tangible benefits to the community in the long run.

2018 Q to Q Pilot Ferry Service
The big news of the meeting is confirmation that the Q to Q ferry is back in 2018, with an improved service based on feedback from last year. The pilot service being offered this summer will have longer hours and be more accessible, and will have the same fare structure, but more option for how to pay (including a monthly pass). I will write more about this in a future blog, but I am really proud of the hard work our staff put into this, and am excited about the service. I expect May 19th will be crazy!

Recruitment 2018: Electric Utility Commissioner Reappointment
The City’s Electrical Utility is not actually run by City Council, but by a Utility Commission. We have a representative on that Commission, we set their budget, we approve their Strategic Plan, and we appoint Commissioners, but the day-to-day running of the utility is up to this commission. We just re-appointed one of the excellent Commissioners.

323 E. Sixth Avenue: Development Variance Permit to Vary the Off-Street Parking Requirement – Consideration of Opportunity to be Heard
This residential property in Upper Sapperton is located on a steep slope on a cul-de-sac wants to vary zoning by continuing to have front access to parking after renovation. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on this on May 28th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

330 Johnston Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary the Minimum Frontage – Consideration of Opportunity to be Heard
This is one of those long properties in Queensborough where subdividing to a typical width for the neighbourhood means it will be more than 4x as long as it is wide, which requires a variance. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on this on May 28th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

New Westminster Public Art Plan
The PAAC and staff have been working on a Public Art Plan to provide clearer policy guidance when considering and approving new Public Art. I raised a few inconsistencies in the plan as presented, and hoped that more clarity could be provided within the Themes presented. After a bit of discussion, Council agreed to send the plan back to the PAAC and staff for a little more work prior to approval. More to come here.

Naming of a New Street in Queensborough
This report proposes that we name a new road in Queensborough “Roma” (-Street or -Road) in honour of the important role the Roma Hall played in the history of the Q’Boro community.

I have recently had occasion to learn more about the history of the Roma Hall, thanks to Emma Canil, as she spoke about the important role it played in her extended family’s immigrant experience in New Westminster. This is a landmark built by a community who came to Canada from across the sea to escape economic depression and geopolitical strife, in order to support their community and honour their heritage while contributing to Canada’s mosaic. So I approve of the name, in honour of the organization and community it represents.

This, however, raised a question for me that I asked staff to follow up on. I am not sure where we are in the progress towards updating our street naming policy. That we have not adopted a policy that puts our history of colonization in context or addresses the underrepresentation of women in place names in our City. I think the process that got us towards this name included many proposed names which would not represent that spirit. I hope we can move forward on those fronts before too many more of these applications come to us.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Special Limited Category Study Progress Update
There are 80 properties in the Queens Park HRA that have “Special Limited” protection, somewhere between fully protected and not protected at all. The plan has always been to eventually migrate all of these properties to either protected or not based on assessment of the heritage merit and zoning entitlements. Of those, we are providing an opportunity for some of them to do a bulk sign-up for extra protection so they can avail themselves of the incentive programs being introduced by the City to encourage heritage restoration and protection. This report gives an update on that evaluation process and efforts by staff to reach out to homeowners to let them know this is happening.

Interim Fees and Securities Provisions for Small Market Strata renovations
One of the principles of how Cities collect revenue is that “fees” are not “taxes”. The latter we can use for any purpose, the former are meant to only exist as a cost-recovery for services the city offers. In that sense, building inspection fees should be on a cost-recovery basis, not subsidized by taxes or other revenues. This proposal balances the desire to maintain that standard, but find a way to reduce the cost for renovations of small market strata renovations, and many of these smaller multi-unit buildings are seeing increased need for extensive envelope or structural repairs, but are challenged by the cost of these repairs as there are fewer homeowners to share the load.

Again, I love that our staff are identifying initiatives to support more affordable housing all across the spectrum, this (relatively affordable market strata in older buildings) is just one piece of the puzzle, but an important piece, as they all are.

I have an ongoing issue with how we manage security deposits for these small-unit buildings and homeowners. Often these works require the City collect security to assure legally required works are done, and those security requirements can sum up to tens of thousands of dollars that the City holds, and returns at the end of the project after final inspection. I think that having to provide tens of thousands of dollars of security to the City – essentially tying up a bunch of money at a time when a homeowner is feeling significantly stressed about costs – seems a real deterrent to people doing renovations and building improvements, and I’ll include the deposits in the Tree Bylaw with this.

I have asked Staff to review if there is a better way to provide security to the City. Perhaps (and I am spit-balling here ,as there are probably regulatory issues I am not aware of) through a legal agreement where the owner is required to pay the City if the security conditions are not met, and if they, after the fact refuse to pay, we can collect through our taxation process? Council approved the motion here ,ans asked for Staff to report back on security options.

We also addressed some specific correspondence:

District of Houston letter dated March 29, 2018 regarding a Human Trafficking Task Force and
Cathy Peters email to District of Houston dated February 26, 2018 regarding Child sex trafficking in BC Municipalities and how to stop it:
We moved to receive this correspondence, but I asked that we no move to take the recommended actions in the correspondence, that is to make specific policy requests to senior governments.

Cathy Peters is a strong and vocal advocate for the protection of children, and I support the protection of youth from exploitation and some measures Mrs. Peters is suggesting to better protect youth in our community, but do not agree that all the measures she is calling for will achieve these goals.

The “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act” is one of those Harper-era Orwelian-named pieces of legislation that instead of acting to protect people who may be exploited, further stigmatizes and criminalizes them, and does little to increase the protection of vulnerable people in our community. Organizations such as the Pivot Legal Society have argued this legislation is unconstitutional. So I cannot agree to us advocating for its implementation.

We then, late at night, got into a slightly modified Bylaws shuffle:

REGARDING Zoning Amendment Bylaw (1050 Boyd Street and 1005 Ewen Avenue) No. 7700, 2014;
REGARDING Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7917, 2017;
REGARDING Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7920, 2017; and
REGARDING Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7944, 2017
Our staff were doing some diligence as part of the updates of our zoning bylaws, and discovered a discrepancy in how we consulted with MOTI (which we are required to do when a rezoning happens within some prescribed distance with a freeway entrance). So we are rescinding these adoptions, and will re-adopt once MOTI checks the box they need to check. There is no shift in land use happening here, but this type of detail may matter to someone at some point down the road, so we are stepping back to make sure we do it right.

Housing Agreement (813 – 823 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 8001, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw that secures housing in a proposed development on Carnarvon Street as below-market rental was given three readings by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (318 Fifth Street) Bylaw No. 7977, 2018 and
Heritage Designation (318 Fifth Street) Bylaw No. 7978, 2018
As discussed at the Public Hearing on April 30, these Bylaws that permit a laneway house in Queens Park in exchange for restoration and protection of a heritage house was adopted by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (312 Fifth Street) Bylaw No. 7979, 2018 and
Heritage Designation (312 Fifth Street) Bylaw No. 7980, 2018
As discussed at the Public Hearing on April 30, these Bylaws that permit another laneway house in Queens Park in exchange for restoration and protection of a heritage house was adopted by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (224 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7989, 2018 and
Heritage Designation (224 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7990, 2018
As discussed at the Public Hearing on April 30, these Bylaws that permit the subdivision of a lot in Queens Park and the building of a second house in exchange for restoration and protection of a heritage house was adopted by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (520 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 8004, 2018 and
Heritage Designation (520 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 8005, 2018
As discussed at the Public Hearing on April 30, these Bylaws that permit an extensive renovation and land use changes for the permanent protection of a heritage house in the Downtown was adopted by Council.

2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8014, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that sets our property tax rates for 2018 was adopted by Council.

Downtown BIA (Primary Area) 2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8015, 2018;
Downtown BIA (Secondary Area) 2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8016, 2018; and
Uptown BIA 2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8017, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that sets the rates of the parcel taxes we collect on behalf of our three BIAs was adopted by Council.

And that, at something like 11:30 at night on a day where I was at City hall at 9:00am for a Task Force meeting, was tiredly that.