Ask Pat: Noise

relic57 asks—

Living on the corner of 6th and Victoria, I am one of hundreds of people adversely affected by the relentless construction noise by not one, but two towers underway at the same time. Just as the first one is winding down, the next has started. This is now three straight years of daily noise, often six days a week. The latest, the so-called ‘Beverly’ on the site of the demolished Masonic Hall, is in its excavation phase. It’s bad enough to have to endure the mind-splitting pneumatic drilling through the workweek, but the contractors (nameless for now) have no compunction whatever starting up at 7:00 a.m. Saturdays as well. This is six days a week where the noise can be so intense I am driven from my apartment.

This is not fair to me or the many others living nearby. These developments are not altruistically based, but purely profit driven. If I were to engage in some activity that disrupts a business, I could be liable. But developers can do anything they want, anytime they want, and they can buy their way into disrupting the little guaranteed quiet time people now have with special permits.

I have commented on this on Twitter (and engaged you a couple of times on other matters) and once received a reply from Mayor Cote informing me that the construction noise bylaws were going to be revised this spring. It is now spring. Nothing has apparently changed.

I have lived in New West for four years. The first year was great, the most quiet area I ever lived in. Then the ‘Novare’ started up across the street. Now the demolition of the hall, and work on the ‘Beverly’, literally next door. By the time that is finished, the Bosa twin tower monstrosity on the waterfront will be underway (we can all look forward to the pile-driving echoing up the hill for months or years, can’t we?), and maybe, just for fun, city hall will finally approve the over-height 618 Carnarvon proposal as well, only a block away from me. All together, seven or eight straight years of noise in total, capped by the probable demoviction from my own cheap walk-up once the area is gentrified enough.

So, what’s up with the noise? These bylaws were written when they built one little tower a year around here, if that–not ten. People don’t all go to work elsewhere anymore–they work at home, or they work shifts, or they’re retired. Why put us through this? These towers won’t even ease the accommodation crisis. They’re all aimed at high or relatively high earners–even the rentals.

There is a lot to unpack here, which is part of the reason it has taken me so long to address this Ask Pat that arrived this summer. I will try to concentrate on the sentences ending in question marks, in order:

“we can all look forward to the pile-driving echoing up the hill for months or years, can’t we?”
The Bosa Project on the waterfront will indeed require the driving of piles. However, this issue was discussed with the developer as part of their rezoning process. They have committed to using secant piles instead of sheet piles where possible along the periphery of the excavation. This more expensive technology was used recently for the Metro Vancouver pump station project in Sapperton (the big hole in the ground to the east you can see from the SkyTrain), creating much less disruption to the neighbourhood. They are also going to use vibratory driving of structural piles where viable. This technology is quieter, but does have other concerns around low-frequency vibration and potential impact on adjacent properties, so a Geotechnical Engineer will have to choose when this approach is, or is not, appropriate. Long story short – pile driving will be getting quieter, but won’t be going away.

So, what’s up with the noise?
Construction is noisy. Pile driving is disruptive, but so is pretty much every other aspect of building a modern building – hammering, drilling, pumping concrete and running of heavy equipment. The City has a Construction Noise Bylaw that exists separately from our regular Noise Bylaw, because of the special needs of construction sites, and the (relatively) short-term nature of any single construction site.

A proposal to update in the Construction Noise Bylaw came to Council in July, after Council asked Staff to address public concerns coming from the driving of piles for the two properties on either end of the McInnes Overpass. The update proposal included reducing construction hours on Saturday (you can go here to read the Minutes of the meeting where this was discussed), and discussed the changes in pile driving technology I already mentioned. The final draft of the Bylaw has not yet come to Council. The report indicated that our mid-week construction noise allowance was similar to other cities, but most cities allowed later starts and earlier ends of the Saturday construction schedule. We don’t allow construction on Sundays (except in your own home). So if the Bylaw is updated, I would expect it will bring us more in line with our neighbouring communities.

Why put us through this?
There is a lot of construction going on in the City, which should be no surprise to anyone. The region is growing, and the Downtown Community Plan includes a lot of new suites in order to allow people to live near our highest-service transit hubs. Both the tower recently completed next to you and the Masonic Lodge project went through extensive community review, including Public Hearings three or four years ago. In the intervening years, the regional housing crisis has further eroded the available housing, especially rental housing. Both projects are dedicated rental buildings, bringing (respectively) 282 and 151 rental suites on-line in a market where vacancy is currently 0.3%. It is hard to argue these types of developments are not an urgent need in our community.

Again, I recognize my answer is not going to satisfy you. Aside from stopping or construction of new homes (worsening our regional housing crisis) or regulating construction hours such that their construction is further delayed (potentially extending the number of months that disruptive noise is created while delaying bringing buildings on-line), I’m not sure what solution I can offer. I am open to suggestions.

Council – Nov 6, 2017

Our first November meeting included an afternoon Workshop where we dug into our utility funds, as part of our annual budget deliberations. Utility rates are going up, folks. As we try to buffer the impacts of higher costs from the suppliers of our water and electricity, and those that receive and manage our waste stream, we run the risk of eroding our reserve funds. There is a lot to balance here, but sustainability is our primary concern.

Once we got to our regular evening meeting, and its pretty lengthy Agenda, the following items were Moved on Consent:

43 Hastings Street: Housing Agreement (43 Hastings Street) Bylaw No. 7941, 2017 to Secure Six Affordable Housing Units – Bylaw for Three Readings
This is the housing agreement that will protect the affordability and rental nature of this affordable housing project in perpetuity. This project is a partnership between the City, Catalyst, and Community Living, and will provide affordable housing to families in need, and adults living with disabilities. It is a small project, and not the whole answer to housing affordability in our community, but it is an example of what the City can do with our limited land and budget when we partner with social service agencies already operating in our community.

Council moved to approve the Bylaw for three readings.

Sign Bylaw Amendment: Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw (Sign Bylaw) 7961, 2017 – Bylaw for Three Readings
These are three minor amendments to our relatively young Sign Bylaw, addressing when a new business can install a sign, a bit of a language clarification on insurance requirements, and a clarification of the definition of “temporary” sign. Nothing here strikes me as earth-shattering.

Council moved to approve the Bylaw for three readings.

232 Lawrence Street: Official Community Plan Amendment and Rezoning Application from Queensborough Neighbourhood Residential Dwelling Districts (RQ-1) to Comprehensive Development Districts (CD –74) – Bylaws for Consideration of First and Second Readings
This Bylaw amends the Official Community Plan and Rezones a piece of City-owned land in Queensborough to permit the building of a daycare facility. Council moved to give the Bylaw two readings, meaning it will go to Public Hearing in November, so I will hold my comments until then.

Users Fees and Rates Review Bylaws for 2018, Bylaws for Three Readings
We received reports on these fee increases last week. This is the rate changes returned on Bylaw format, which Council approved going forward for three readings.

The rate for a business license for a Tea Cup Reader has not been increased. Still a bargain at $46.93 a year.

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 7962, 2017 for 3 readings
The City maintains a $3Million line of credit to prevent us running into a cash shortage as we process various payments. The law says we can’t borrow without Bylaw approval by Council, so we do this annually to keep everything on the up-and-up. Council approved this for three readings.

Mercer Stadium Skatepark Relocation- Preferred Location
The Skate park next to Mercer Stadium has to go, because the new High School is going to be built on top of it. Fortunately, it is pretty much at the end of its useful life, so the timing for building a new skate park is good, and we have reserves in the budget for this work. We just need to find a spot for the new Skate Park.

The City spent a year doing public consultation and options analysis (who can forget the City hiring a guy named Hippie Mike?) and now have a well-developed options strategy. If all goes as planned, we will replace the old skate park with a larger family-friendly facility at Queens Park, near the former Arenex site, and a smaller more “Urban” skate spot downtown under the Parkade.

We are now going to enter into a participatory design process. Frankly, none of Council knows much about skate park design, so we need the skating public to tell us what works. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

220 Carnarvon Street (Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church): Heritage Designation and Zoning Amendment Bylaws – Bylaws for Consideration of First and Second Readings
This little church downtown wants to expand a bit on its footprint to allow for a residential unit and a new Community Room. This requires a zoning amendment, which will come with Heritage Designation for the building. This project will go to Publci Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.

602 and 620 Ewen Avenue and 257 Boyne Street: Development Permit Application to Allow a 16 Unit Townhouse Development – Issuance of Development Permit
This is one of the later steps on a very long approval process for this relatively small townhouse project in Queensborough. Council voted to approve the issuance of the Development Permit after some revisions after design panel, approval by the Q’Boro RA, and a public hearing for the zoning amendment back in May of 2016.

1102, 1110, 1116 and 1122 Salter Street: Development Permit Application to Allow a 78 Unit Residential Development – Issuance of Development Permit
This Development Permit issuance for this large townhouse project in Queensborough comes after the Public Hearing in May 2017, when Council approved the zoning.

Recommendations from the International Relations Task Force
The City is working on a reconciliation process, and these are some steps that are occurring at the same time. I’m a little concerned, based on the previous conversation the City, that the topic of the Begbie statue is going to dominate what needs to be a much larger conversation regarding the past, present, and future or our City. However, it appears to me that everyone involved is entering these discussions with open ears, and a genuine desire to seek consensus and understanding. I am looking forward to the conversation.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Proposed Potash Export Facility at Fraser Surrey Docks
A mining company is applying to the Port for permits to build a facility at Fraser Surrey Docks to move potash through their facility (I blogged some early comments about this already). To reiterate, this is early in the review process. At this stage, our best approach is to clearly define to the Port what concerns we may anticipate having, so that they can assure those impacts are addressed in the review process.

Potash is a pretty innocuous substance compared to almost any other bulk commodity – its not acutely toxic, carcinogenic, or flammable. As far as a nuisance, it doesn’t smell bad and in the forms used for shipping it is hard to generate a meaningful amount of dust. I think noise, light pollution, and dust are the impacts likely to concern our residents here, and we need to let the Port know we will be reviewing and commenting upon their studies in these areas.

Status of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project
In contrast to Potash, diluted bitumen is demonstrably nasty stuff for human health and the environment. Kinder Morgan has provided some revised route maps that put a significant portion of the pipeline immediately adjacent to the Brunette River on the New West – Burnaby – Coquitlam border.

In my opinion, building this pipeline along the Brunette River, through areas that were improved as compensatory habitat for other industrial construction, is an assault on our community, and an insult to the work of people like Elmer Rudolph from the Sapperton Fish and Game Club who spent decades returning the Brunette River to ecological health. This is one of the most valuable, and most threatened, ecological zones in the City, and we need to be vocal about our opposition to its being threatened like this.

Additionally, from a regional planning perspective, the triangle between Braid Station, the Brunette Overpass, and the Bailey Bridge is already highly constrained by rail infrastructure, riparian areas needing protection, and historic use. New West, Coquitlam, and MoT are challenged in finding a viable option to improve the transportation options though this area, and this pipeline routing will further constrain that already problematic situation. The NEB-regulated buffer areas around a high pressure pipeline moving half a million barrels of toxic and explosive hydrocarbons per day are, understandably, very constraining on other land use.

For these reason, we have to reiterate the proposed routing is simply not acceptable to New Westminster. I further requested that we cc our Member of Parliament about our concerns, as this pipeline is being built under Federal authority, and we need to let the alleged environmentalist running the country know about this crime.

Royal City Curling Club Funding Request
The RCCC applied for some financial assistance to help with some building capital improvements. I recused myself from this conversation. I don’t strictly have a conflict, I have no fiduciary interest and have not served on the board of the RCCC for 4 years, however I am a member of the club, and there is at least a perception of conflict if I advocate around the Council table for this project.

Proposed 2018 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
Plan your social calendar accordingly.

Social Development Partnership Opportunities: New Provincial Government – Revised Attachment
There are many ways our local government can partner with senior government agencies to assure social development of the community is supported. We already have robust programs for homelessness, daycare, and social inclusion, and have worked hard to forge partnerships with senior government and not-for-profit agencies, but we simply don’t have the resources to act alone in making our community sustainable in the social pillar. Understanding where the new provincial government programs are heading, and identifying opportunities for us to make new partnerships is part of our larger strategy.

Density Bonus Program: Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Density Bonus) No. 7947, 2017 to Update Density Bonus Rates – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
We discussed this at greater length back in June 12, 2017. This is the program where we the development community may receive location-appropriate density rights above that envisioned in the OCP or Zoning Bylaw, in exchange for amenity money the City can use to build density-supporting infrastructure and community amenities, from daycare to public art. This program has been in place for 7 years, and this Bylaw adjusts the rates to better match the trends in regional development.

Council moved to give this Bylaw two readings, and send it to Public Hearing in November.

1084 and 1130 Tanaka Court and a Portion of the Tanaka Court Road Right of Way: Rezoning from M-2 to CD Zone
This is a vacant lot in the commercial area near Lowes, where rezoning is required to allow a three-story commercial building. This project will go to Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.

118 Royal Avenue: Rezoning and Development Permit Application – Preliminary Report
This project is in the early stages, but will result in a mutli-family townhouse or rowhouse project adjacent to the playing field beside QayQayt school (St. Mary’s Park) where there is currently a single family home. The report outlines some concerns I had about the orientation of the development relative to the playing field, and the established desire to create a greenway connection aside this site, but it is again early in the process and there will be committee and public review of these plans before we make any big decisions.

We then went through a remarkably lengthy Bylaws shuffle:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7947, 2017 to Update Density Bonus Rates
As discussed above, this Bylaw to codify new Density Bonus rates was given two readings and will go to Public Hearing on November 27. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Heritage Designation Bylaw (220 Carnarvon Street (Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church)) No. 7958, 2017
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (220 Carnarvon Street (Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church)) No. 7959, 2017
As discussed above, these Bylaws to permit the expansion and historic protection of the small church in Downtown was given two readings and will go to Public Hearing on November 27. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

232 Lawrence Street: Official Community Plan Amendment;
232 Lawrence Street: Rezoning Application from Queensborough Neighbourhood Residential Dwelling Districts (RQ-1) to Comprehensive Development Districts (CD –74)
As discussed above, these Bylaws to permit the development of a daycare facility on City lands in Queensborough was given two readings and will go to Public Hearing on November 27. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Housing Agreement (43 Hastings Street) Bylaw No. 7941, 2017
As discussed above, this Bylaw to support an affordable housing development on City lands was given three readings.

Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw (Sign Bylaw) 7961, 2017
As discussed above, this Bylaw to make minor changes to our Sign Bylaw was given three readings.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7964, 2017;
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7967, 2017;
Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 7965, 2017;
Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 7963, 2017
These Bylaws to codify the proposed rate changes discussed ove the last couple of meetings were given three readings.

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 7962, 2017
This Bylaw that permits our finance department to secure a line of credit to protect our cash position was given three readings.

Zoning Amendment (420 Boyne Street Animal Shelter) Bylaw No. 7944, 2017
This Bylaw to permit the development of a new Animal Care facility on City land in Queensborough, which was given a Public Hearing on October 30, was adopted by Council. It is now the Law of the Land.

Street & Traffic Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7957, 2017
This Bylaw to make housekeeping and language changes the Bylaw that makes our streets and parking lots work was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land, please adjust your behavior appropriately.


Notice of Motion: Diversity Mandate for City Committees
I’m pretty excited to see Councillor Trentadue bring forward a Notice of Motion regarding diversity on our Council Advisory Committees. We will discuss next week!

Council – Oct 30, 2017

Our Council Monday was a long one that ended fairly early, with Task Force meetings in the morning and a mid-day workshop that included some pretty comprehensive debates for people alleged to be accused of group think (alas).

Our evening Agenda started with a Public Hearing:

Zoning Amendment (420 Boyne Street Animal Shelter) Bylaw No.7944, 2017
The proposed replacement Animal Shelter requires that the lands upon it is proposed be rezoned to allow that use. This requires a Public Hearing. We received no correspondence on this, and no-one showed up to speak to the matter. Council moved to refer this to the regular council meeting immediately to follow. At the beginning of that meeting, Council moved to give the bylaw Third Reading.

Our regular meeting then offered an Opportunity to be Heard:

Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw (Increase Taxi Permits) No. 7943, 2017
Once again, one of the taxi companies in New Westminster recognized their felt was inadequate to meet the needs and expectations of their customers, and applied to the Passenger Transportation Board for the right to add move vehicles to their fleet.

And once again, the PTB permitted them a number of licenses inadequate to meet customer demand. What is even more disturbing to me is that Royal City Taxi were refused the number of Wheelchair Accessible Taxis they applied for. I cannot dream of a rational reason why the province would deny a taxi company the ability to provide more accessible service. It is irrational and offensive. The system is broken.

Here we are again. With one hand the Province is suggesting misnomered “ride sharing” services should be brought in to provide customer service while their own archaic regulations and bureaucracy prevent the established companies from providing the service the community demands. It is enraging.

Anyway, one step in the process is that council needs to approve the allotted increases through a Bylaw. One person came to speak during this Opportunity (neither for nor against, but asking a question), and council moved to approve the application through adoption of the Bylaw.

The following items on the Agenda were Moved on Consent:

Recruitment 2018: YAC Appointments
Absolutely the most fun and most inspiring Council Advisory Committee, the youth of this City have great ideas and have no problem speaking up for what they believe in. This is the second tranche of appointees for 2017-2018.

City Sponsorship for Miscellaneous Residents’ Association Expenses
The 10 Residents’ Associations and one Community Board in town play a really important role in the City – we specifically ask them to provide a forum for discussion of development projects, and as a conduit for communications between City /hall and neighbourhoods: not the only conduit, but an important one in that they are self-organizing and arms-length.

As such, it is important that they are seen as impartial and accountable to their community, but they can also be more effective if given a bit of help for minor expenses like photocopying and room rental. This is not a lot of money, and we need to find a balance between not wasting time and money on a bureaucratic process, and still providing accountability for public money.

I think this request is modest ($200 per organization per year maximum), and a good investment in community involvement.

User Fees and Rates Review
Every year, staff review users fees for the various services that the City does on a cost-recovery basis or as partial cost recovery, like permit approvals for new developments. There generally increase on rate with the consumer Price index (“inflation”, which is about 1.5% this year), though some increase more to reflect either new costs or industry trends when the City is competing with the public sector (like electrical hook-ups).

Council moved to approve these rate changes in principle, and staff will now go and draft the appropriate bylaw changes.

306 Gilley Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Preliminary Report for Information
This is a preliminary report for an infill density project in the Brow of the hill Neighbourhood that includes permanent protection of a heritage house. This will go through several layers of review, including a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Recommended Riverfront Connection Concept and Next Steps
This is another important link in the Riverfront vision, separate from, but connected to the Q2Q connection (see below). Creating a low-level connection between Sapperton Downtown has long be thought to be impossible, mostly because the railways will not allow any public use within a buffer zone of their rail lines, and in places the rail line is right on the shore. Staff identified an option that was used in Portland along the Willamette River where similar freeway development created a barrier to sustainable transportation connections, and a floating walkway has provided a stable connection for more than decade.

This could become an iconic project not just for the City, but for the region’s relationship with the Fraser River. We are moving to Partner with TransLink to do some more detailed engineering and design work. Early days yet, as this connection will not be done for at least 5 years with the current Pattullo project timeline, but a promising idea.

Q to Q Demonstration Ferry Service Outcomes and Next Steps
This is staff reporting out on the Q2Q Q to Q Ferry demonstration project that occurred over the summer. By pretty much any measure, the demonstration showed there is a desire to have a connection here among a large number of residents and business owners, and they paying a little for it didn’t seem to hurt that desire. There is a lot of data in the report, our task now is to figure what this means moving forward.

To my (not unbiased) thinking, we have demonstrated that there is a need for a pedestrian link between the Quay and Queensborough, and I am still of the opinion that a bridge is better link than a ferry. That said, I am not ready to promise things without a plan to pay for them, and the bridge is proving to be more expensive than our community can pay for with other capital expenditures more pending. Again, the fixed link idea needs to continue to be developed, but a ferry is likely much more feasible in the shorter term.

So we are looking at another phase of ferry trials to figure out how to solve a few of the problems highlighted by the demonstration project. We don’t own adequate docking infrastructure at either end, we need to secure some water rights and agreement with the Port, and we learned the challenges involved in making a ferry accessible with 10 foot tide ranges. I’m not convinced we will ever be able to provide “100% full accessibility” in a service like this – every barrier we remove for one user group creates another barrier for others – but we can make it more accessible, akin to the work being done in False Creek to make their smaller ferries accessible.

More to come here, but I expect we will have another trial service next spring.

Street and Traffic Bylaw 7664, 2015 – Housekeeping Amendments
Council moved to support these three “housekeeping” changes to our Bylaw in order to better support car sharing services in the City, in order to codify our parking fee exemption for those with Veterans plates, and to provide stronger enforcement of sidewalk clearing in the event of snow. Unfortunately, this will not be in place in time for tomorrow’s snow!

We then moved on to Bylaws:

Street & Traffic Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7957, 2017
As discussed above, housekeeping changes to our Street & Traffic Bylaw were given three readings.

Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 7955, 2017
As discussed at our October 16 meeting, this Bylaw to support changes in the City’s Parks and Recreation fees was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land.

We then followed up our usually-meeting-ending Bylaws summary with the Issuance of a Development Permit:

Issuance of Development Permit DPQ00179 for 630 Ewen Avenue
This is the final development permitting step for the Affordable Housing project on City lands that had a Public Hearing back in June. On to building permits!

Finally, as a late piece of New Business, we received a report on our activities at the 2017 UBCM. I have already reported out on this here, here, here and here. It was a good event, and I hold lots of hope for us working collaboratively with the provincial government!

Ask Pat: Arenex Replacement

TM asked—

I understand that an interim structure is going to be built in Queens park as a temporary replacement for the Arenex. Is there any idea how much this new structure will cost and how much money will remain for a future building? As well, will the cost of demolition and 24/7 security monitoring of the old site be deducted from the money received from insurance?

I’m going to be a bit less definitive than usual in answering your questions, because City hasn’t made all of the decisions on this yet.

This would also be a good time to explain to folks that some discussions that take place between the City and suppliers (like insurance companies, building contractors, etc.) may be protected by Section 90 of the Community Charter. Under Provincial Law, there are some types of negotiations that happen between the City and private businesses that are necessarily kept secret so as to not put the City in a poor negotiating situation, expose the City to liability, or undermine the confidence of potential suppliers. The results of these “in-camera” discussions are always made public if and when a decision is made (we cannot spend any money without including it in our publicly-released financial documents, and our procurement processes are always released), but during the negotiations, it is commonly required to keep things under wraps. By Section 90, talking about “in-camera” discussions, even providing some details about what topics were discussed “in-camera“, is illegal until those discussions are raised out of “camera”

With that caveat in mind (whats with all the Latin today?) we did make an announcement back in June (which is around the time you sent in this Ask Pat – yes, I am sorry for not getting to it until now!) that we would fast-track the building of a “temporary” structure to replace the bulk of the Arenex functions, and that building should be operational in the summer of 2018. It will be about twice the size of the Arenex, which should make it a more usable space for some of the gymnastics programs, with some leftover space that may have flexible uses. This building should cost less than the insured replacement value of the Arenex, but at this point, I can’t really provide you exact numbers around this, because I haven’t seen those numbers.

An interesting point coming out of the work staff have been doing is that these “temporary” suspended steel structures have a design life of better than 20 years. They can last significantly longer with maintenance investments. The bigger advantage to us is that the site prep work is simpler than building a new “permanent” structure, and what you may lose in flexibility during the design and procurement stage, you get in efficiency of getting a building on-line. So it is possible that this “temporary” structure will provide gym spaces and other space for decades to come.

The City also went through a bit of a consultation process with stakeholders and an on-line survey back in May to guide us towards permanent solutions. The main questions were around how the Arenex loss should inform our plans for a Canada Games Pool replacement. I think CGP planning after the extensive consultation completed last year is coming along well (I am on the Mayor’s CGP Task Force), and I suspect we will be in a position to make some public announcements about that program before the end of the year. By then, we will have a better understanding about what programming will go where during the CGP/Centennial Community Centre replacement works, and where things will be when the work is completed. A “temporary” Arenex replacement opens up several options to maintain program continuity during the construction phase.

On our last question, I can only speak in generalities, but I have learned quite a bit since this event occurred about how the City insures its major assets. Insured building replacement value (which may or not be the true cost-of-replacement of the structure) is generally separate from other line items related to loss or damage to a building like business interruption,  demolition, contents, engineering reviews, liability, etc. Hence, coverage for security or demolition costs would not be deducted from the replacement cost of the building, just as ICBC would not typically deduct the cost of providing a rental car from your car’s replacement value if your car was stolen.

Green City?

Long-time readers (Hi Mom!) will remember that I got involved in this entire blog thing through an environmental lens. When I moved my constant beaking off onto the internet back in 2010, I had been involved with groups in New West and regionally who were trying to promote sustainability and environmental protection, in my profession, in the community, and in politics.

At the time, New West Council was making significant shifts towards better environmental policy. A few of the newer members of Council, led by some young whippersnapper named Cote, were putting environmental issues on the agenda. The City was adopting environmental policies, hired an Environmental Coordinator, and was moving into developing a sustainability framework that would become Envision2032.

The City of New West considers itself a leader in environmental initiatives, however I have yet to see a local government that doesn’t consider itself a leader on this front. That may sound critical, but it is really more a reflection of the sometimes poorly-defined and always evolving concept of environmental sustainability. Local governments (like most organizations, and most people for that matter) emphasize the good things they are doing and progress they are making, but are commonly blind to the things they are not doing. When it comes to something like environmental sustainability, consistent re-evaluation of goals and metrics is the only way to avoid comfortable smugness.

Recognizing this, the City is inviting you to help us move forward on environmental policy. Council has asked staff to review what we are doing, and what we can do better – both a gap analysis and reality check. And we are asking you to help.

This week (October 25th!) there will be a Public Event called Royal City / Green City, where we are going to get people into a room to talk about where our environmental policies are, and where they need to be. We are bringing together some subject matter experts to provide inspiration, and perhaps to push us in uncomfortable directions. We will also be asking all attendees to react to what they hear, and push the City. It is completely free and open to everyone, whether you work, live, study or play in New West. We do ask that you register ahead of time so we can properly plan for the numbers who will arrive, because this will be an interactive event. You can register here:

Maybe to get the creative juices flowing, I want to challenge the three- (or increasingly four-) pillar idea model of sustainability. This has become the standard model of suggesting sustainability is a balance between three competing forces – protection of the environment, growth of the economy, and maintenance of societal standards. Diagrammatically, it usually looks like this (copied from Envision2032):

This has always caused me to itch, because I have never felt it accurately reflects the interdependence between the three pillars. Without a sustained environment, we cannot have an economy or a society. Take that one pillar away, the other two disappear. Similarly, our economy exists within, and is defined by, the structures of our society. It cannot exist without a societal structure, which is, in turn, defined by the environment in which we live. In my mind (and I’m not the only person to suggest this) the three pillars should be drawn like this:Actions, technologies, and organizations impact our economy, which in turn shape our society, which in turn impact the greater natural environment. When we shape policies, when we evaluate the worth of technology or price individual actions, we are using economic tools to adjust the shape of our society. If that re-shaping supports the protection of the natural environment in a way that doesn’t constrain future societies from access to natural resources, then we can call those actions “sustainable”.

Clearly, I’m not a philosopher, so come out on October 25th and tell me how I am wrong!

Council – Oct 16, 2017

Aside from the actual human drama, we had some work to do at Council on Monday, and a pretty detailed Agenda.

We started with a single Report for Action:

618 Carnarvon Street: First and Second Readings of Zoning Amendment Bylaw and Three Readings of Road Closure Bylaw for Portion of Clarkson Street
This is a high-rise mixed-use development project in the part of Downtown designated as the Tower Precinct. The building would be 33 stories high with 253 units, including a mix of Townhouse and two- and three-bedroom units that exceed the City’s Family Friendly housing policy. Part of it would be built over the SkyTrain line where it emerges from under Sixth Street, and ground-based retail on the Sixth Street side would include a public “parklet” area. A thin strip of the Clarkson Street road allowance would have to be transferred in order to build the encapsulation of the tracks.

This project has been in the works for some, and has been through neighbourhood open houses, Design Panel, Residents Association and APC review. The required Zoning Amendment will require a Public Hearing, the date of which will be set once design approval from TransLink for the SkyTrain encapsulation is received. I’ll reserve my comments until after the Public Hearing.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Designations to the Acting Chief Financial Officer
There are some staffing changes coming in our Finance Department, and the role of “Chief Financial Officer” has some regulatory duties, meaning they can do certain things like sign regulatory documents for the City. We need to make sure this authority is well defined and an actual person who works for the City has this authority during the anticipated transitions. Hence, this temporary designation.

Acting Mayor Schedule 2017-2018
When the Mayor is out of town or otherwise occupied, someone has to be able to sign documents, declare emergency, or operate the weather machine on behalf of His Worship. The rest of council shares this responsibility evenly, taking two months each every year. Once again, I’m in for March and August. Get your weather requests in early.

Recruitment 2018: YAC Appointments
People applied for the Youth Advisory Committee, and we let them in! First meeting is next week! As Council Representative to the YAC, I look forward to another year of feeling old and uncool, but being inspired by the youth that get involved in this City.

Recruitment 2017: SAC and NTAC Appointments
These are two Council Advisory Committee positions that are filled by other organizations, as they send member to represent their organization at the committee. Council still needs to approve them, though, so we did.

Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw Amendments
Every year we adjust Parks and Recreation fees to keep up with inflation, changes in program costs, or to keep in line with what other cities are doing. Most of these changes are small, except the fees for groups using natural turf fields. We have not been charging while the surrounding cities have, meaning most users are now groups from other cities avoiding local fees. This fee increase better reflects the cost of maintaining grass fields, and should result in more equitable use of City resources. Council moved ot give the new Fee Schedule Bylaw three readings.

640 and 616 Sixth Street: Rezoning and Development Permit Application for Mixed use Development – Preliminary Report
Unless I miss my guess, this is the high-rise building application for Uptown since the Viceroy was approved back in 2011. Early days yet for this application (this is only a preliminary report), and much Public Consultation to come as it works its way towards a potential Public Hearing. So I’ll save my comments until it moves through the process.

312 Fifth Street: Proposed Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Preliminary Report
318 Fifth Street: Proposed Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Preliminary Report

These are two side-by-side (but unrelated) projects on the edge of Queens Park. Both houses are protected under the Heritage Conservation Area, but the owners are suggesting adding higher protection (through Heritage Restoration Plans and Designation) in exchange for some variances to allow laneway homes. Again, preliminary reports, Public Hearings to come, so I’ll hold my comments until the public has a chance to chew on the projects a bit.

The following items were Removed from Consent for Discussion:

800 Columbia Street: Report for Consideration of First and Second Reading of Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7946, 2017 to allow a liquor Primary Licensed Premises
The business planning to re-activate the old CPR station at the foot of Eighth Street wishes to run a food primary (restaurant) on the main floor, with a smaller liquor primary (pub/lounge) on the top floor. This will require a Zoning Amendment. That requires a Public Hearing which will happen on November 27th.

630 Ewen Avenue: Development Permit – Consideration of Issuance
Council moved to approve the DP for this small affordable housing project in Queesnborough. It will be a five unit townhouse development on land owned by the City, but leased to a not-for-profit operator called Women in Need Gaining Strength (WINGS). This project will provide independent family housing that will be affordable and designed for single mothers and their children, in support of WINGS’ mandate. I’m happy the City can help make this project a reality and do a little part to fill a huge need in our region.

231 Twelfth Street (Gas Works Building): Removal from the Heritage Registry
The semi-demolished Gas Works building needs to be removed from the City’s Heritage Registry, so it can be demolished the rest of the way and the province can get on with cleaning up the site. It was one of the oldest industrial buildings in BC, but the combination of decades of neglect and extensive heavy metal contamination make restoration and preservation prohibitive. We may have had a chance to save the Gas Works, but it probably had to happen more than 20 years ago.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Work Plan
After the Heritage Conservation Area was adopted by Council, there are a bunch of tasks we left on staff’s table, this report provides a timeline and strategy to get those tasks done. This includes amending the maintenance standards bylaw (to prevent demolition-by-neglect), development of incentive packages to both boost conservation and to allow infill density where appropriate, and evaluating specific approaches for “Special Limited” houses – smaller houses on smaller lots where the standards suite of incentives may not be applicable. Council approved a 2-year multi-phase work plan, and reiterated our commitment to a formal public Policy Review two years after implementation.

Assessment of Water Conservation Measures and Residential Metering
This is a hangover from the protracted drought we had two summers ago, and a public delegation we had asking the City to do more on the water conservation front. Although we had a pretty low-stress summer season this year, never moving past Stage 1 water restrictions, the City is moving forward on a few fronts. There will be more enforcement of lawn watering restrictions, there will be some new incentives for those installing water-conservation measures in their home, and the City will be ramping up audits of water efficiency in our own buildings.

The business case for universal metering is not well supported (most of our water is already metered, and the cost of implementing for the other 30% is challenging – potentially raising rates for everyone), however, Staff is going to do some more work on this, including doing some data collection on meter-ready houses that are currently charged flat rates, so we can better understand a rate structure we would need to implement if we go that way.

That said, Metro Vancouver’s water utility is doing a study right now, and will be providing a report in the spring of 2018 on universal metering – although it is not certain yet if they will mandate it, or how they envision it working. The work being done by staff right now will hopefully dovetail well into that study. As much as we can, we are getting ready for what we don’t know is coming!

2016 Corporate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Update
The City set the goal in 2008 to reduce out GHG emissions to 15% below 2007 levels by 2017. Until this year, it looked like we were on track. Now, it looks like we are going to miss the target. Our buildings, lighting, and utility GHG emissions are all on or ahead target, but out vehicle fleet has suddenly fallen behind.

The short-term spike we see in fleet emissions that is so challenging our target can be blamed on changes to our solid waste fleet and the extraordinary efforts put in for snow management and removal due to last year’s horrible winter. However, that is more the obvious symptom that the root cause – we are simply not shifting our fleet over to lower-carbon or zero-carbon vehicles fast enough. The technology is shifting fast, from biodiesel to electric vehicles, even for heavier vehicles, but the capital required for us to catch up and replace our fleet is obviously a challenge.

As we are approaching the end of our 10-year GHG plan, it is time for us to start planning for decade ahead. Our goals should be based on doing our part towards the nation’s Paris Agreement commitments, although as a built-out compact urban community, a City like New Westminster arguably has to do more than the “average” for local governments. We are going to start by reviewing our Fleet policy, as the 2011 one is clearly missing the mark.

228 and 232 Sixth Street (La Rustica): Revised Submission – Preliminary Report
The old La Rustica restaurant has been boarded up for a couple of years, but it is a challenging site to develop, with some proximity issues on the lot and grade concerns. A new design team is now taking another shot at the design. Again, this project will be going through consultations and a Public Hearing before any final approvals are given, so I’ll save my comments until then.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw: Accommodation for Youth in Foster Care and Youth Aging out of Foster Care – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
Aging out of care is one the leading causes of homelessness in British Columbia. Few of us can understand the pressures of transitioning to adulthood at the same time that your family and community supports are cut off. It is a trap that is hard to escape, except for the hard work of a few support agencies that do their best to provide housing and guidance at that critical time.

Turns out or zoning makes it difficult for agencies like this operate in our community. Staff have identified this barrier and provided us a pathway to amend our zoning to allow them there organizations to work legally in our City. Council moved to give this amendment first and second reading, and a Public Hearing will happen on November 27.

We also read through the following Bylaws,:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (618 Carnarvon Street) No. 7949, 2017
This Bylaw to support the development of a mixed-use highrise in Downtown, as described above, was given two readings. The date of the Public Hearing has not yet been set, as the proponent needs to work with TransLink over the SkyTrain track enclosure.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (800 Columbia Street Liquor Primary Licensed Premises) No. 7946, 2017
This Bylaw to support the operation of a restaurant and pub in the old CPR Station, as described above, was given two readings. The Public Hearing will be on November 27th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Road Closure and Dedication Removal (Clarkson Street) Bylaw No. 7950, 2017
This Bylaw permits the closure and sale of a narrow piece of Clarkson Street adjacent to the SkyTrain line to allow an encapsulation of the tracks. It was given Three Readings.

Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7955, 2017
The Bylaw supporting the annual rate adjustment for Parks and Recreation facilities and programs (as described above) was given three readings.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Youth in Foster Care) No. 7937, 2017
This Bylaw to amend our zoning Bylaw and facilitate aging-out-of-care supports in our community (as described above) was given two readings. The Public Hearing will be on November 27th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Zoning Amendment (43 Hastings Street Affordable Housing Project) Bylaw No. 7923, 2017
This Bylaw to support the development of an Affordable Housing project at the east end of Downtown was Adopted. I’m really glad to see this moving forward with support of the community.

Taxation Exemption and Exempt Properties Bylaw No. 7945, 2017
This Bylaw formalizing our list of property tax exempted properties was adopted.

Finally, reflecting the joy and sadness of the day, we had an emotional rollercoaster of an Open Delegation session. Some inspirational ideas, some challenging questions, and some pretty inappropriate comments by people who probably don’t know better. Altogether, it was an emotional night for many of us, and I can’t say I went home in a good mood. Lots of work to do.

UBCM 2017 – Day 3+1/2

This is part 4 on my reporting out on what I did at the 2017 UBCM conference. Part 3 is here

On the Thursday of UBCM 2017, I again caught the early train downtown for a morning clinic, this one on Socially Responsible Investing. The CAO of the Municipal Finance Authority and a gentleman from an Investment Management company came to speak to a pretty small audience about repeated calls from several local governments (including New West) towards divestment from fossil fuel industries.

Long story slightly shortened: most local governments in BC place most of their reserves in pooled funds held by the Municipal Finance Authority. Through pooling our savings, we can get pretty good returns, the investments are quite secure, and we can re-invest back into our communities – it’s a pretty good model. However, about 8% of these funds are invested in fossil fuel extraction companies, and another 4% or so in fossil fuel transmission companies – like the same Kinder Morgan that communities across BC are trying to prevent from fouling our landscape. We are paying to prevent Kinder Morgan from threatening the lower Brunette River, and at the same time, financing their fight against us. Many of our communities would like a better option – a fund where we can invest that doesn’t include that 12% of carbon-intensive industries.

The presentations were (alas) essentially a long justification for why this is not possible. Every tired argument against divestment was brought out, but the most bothersome was the industry-sustaining argument that the “fiduciary responsibility” of the fund manager will not allow them to make ethical decisions – they are required by law to return the maximum investment possible, and it isn’t up to them to make ethical judgement around climate change. This argument follows that it is up to legislators and regulators to remove impacts of unethical industrial activity, not the investor (which is strange, as *we are the regulators*, so our own investment is being used to battle our own efforts to regulate the industry). They also argue that it is difficult because we would need to divest from every industry that may produce greenhouse gasses like plastics companies and convenience store companies that share land with gas pumps… a familiar and bullshitty slippery slope argument. These arguments were, understandably) met with some pretty strong opposition from some members of the audience, but the circular reasoning used to prop up the oil industry is well lubed.

The MFA is attempting to put together a “Socially Responsible Investing” option for local governments, but are (perhaps not surprisingly) getting a lukewarm response, partly because the poorly defined and wishy-washy way the idea was presented to local governments. Altogether, a frustrating morning session.

A much more positive experience was attending an afternoon workshop on Transgender Inclusion: Preparing for the New Reality. This was an interactive workshop about evaluating whether our local governments are integrating inclusion to our operations and our infrastructure. The “new reality” part is not that transgendered people are living in our communities (they have for as long as communities have existed), but that both the BC Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act have been updated (in 2016 and 2017, respectfully) to include the protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. So what used to be the right thing to do is now the law.

The session included a lot of training for those less familiar with the modern reality of cultural inclusion, as simple as defining the difference between birth-assigned sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexuality. There were also representatives from Vancouver and Vernon, two BC cities leading the way in inclusivity. But mostly, the session left us with a bunch of questions to ask ourselves when we get back to our communities – how are we designing our spaces to be inclusive? Do our photos and written materials demonstrate an inclusive city? How are we addressing single-gender sport and arts programs? Do our Housing Agreements protect access for transgendered peoples? What are the feedback mechanisms we have put in place to make changes where needed?

We were also pointed to resources to guide our Local Governments (staff and elected types) to do more, and to do better. This was easily the best session I attended at UBCM this year.

Aside from these sessions, forums and workshops, the UBCM conference includes an Annual General Meeting, with things like Bylaws and Financial Reports and election of new Officers. These events occur throughout the week. There is also a Resolutions session which occurs on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning.

This year there were something north of 150 Resolutions on the Agenda for 2017. These resolutions are put forward by member communities, and are voted upon by the membership in an open meeting, some on a consent process, some debated on the floor. You can read all of the resolutions for 2017 here, although note not all were passed by the Membership. You can search the database of previous resolutions here.

This year there was a rigorous debates on topics as wide-reaching as the fate of the Martin Mars water bombers to repealing Daylight Savings Time. The only resolution New Westminster put forward this year came to the floor for debate on Friday morning. It was a call for action to prevent a renoviction crisis in our City. The text was:

Whereas the practice of renovictions, by which some landlords evict their tenants under the guise of performing major renovations and then significantly increase the rent of those units, is on the rise in our province; And whereas this practice is very disruptive to those impacted, including the elderly, low-income families, and new immigrants, and contributes to housing unaffordability and homelessness; And whereas municipalities are limited in their ability to address this issue and many tenants are unaware of their rights or are reluctant to exercise them: Therefore be it resolved that UBCM urge the provincial government to undertake a broad review of the Residential Tenancy Act including, but not limited to, amending the Residential Tenancy Act to:
• allow renters the right of first refusal to return to their units at a rent that is no more than what the landlord could lawfully have charged, including allowable annual increases, if there had been no interruption in the tenancy;
• eliminate or amend fixed-term tenancy agreements to prevent significant rent increases upon renewal; and
• permit one tenant or applicant to represent and take collective action on behalf of all tenants in a building.

…and I am happy to announce it was passed by the Membership, after being well motivated by Councillor McEvoy.

There is one final aspect of the UBCM that isn’t really on the schedule, but is really valuable. It is an annual chance to network with local government types from across the province. I had great informal chats over coffee and/or beers with councillors from several other cities; told them my stories and they told me theirs, from dealing with internet trolls to frustrations of slow policy development to excitedly explaining how our City attacked a problem their City is having right now. Being a City Councillor is like any other job in that your cohort are often your best mentors and the best source of inspiration. They share your view and can see your challenges better than most. I always find inspiring people doing great work, and am re-charged by our conversations.

Our City

The new Official Community Plan for New Westminster was formally adopted on Monday. The longest and most open public consultation process in the history of the City culminated in a comprehensive re-write of the OCP, last done almost 20 years ago.

I’m really proud of the process this community went through and the work staff did to make it work. The end result is a huge step forward for the City. Although I get a sense we didn’t reach far enough in some areas, I am happy with the end result, as it was clearly driven by the community.

When this process started back in early 2014, I was not on Council. I spent a lot of time that summer knocking on doors, and heard a variety of ideas about where residents wanted the City to go. Some clearly wanted no change at all, others saw the need for a different approach to housing. These differences were not neighbourhood by neighbourhood, but were all over the map. It was clear that the new OCP would be a huge Public Consultation undertaking.

The City put together an advisory committee of a couple dozen residents from all neighbourhoods and walks of life. We brought in Residents’ Association representatives, business people, community leaders and everyday citizens to not just consult, but to help lead the intensive sessions that got the conversations going asking the first question of any OCP: “what do you want the City to be?”

This launched us into two more years of talking about how to get there. We had more open houses that I can count, some very open chats about general OCP concepts, some more directed to specific topics like the series of community discussions on housing. Staff created interesting on-line tools to help people engage, visited every Residents’ Association at least once, and went out to everything from seniors homes to daycare centres to survey for ideas and opinions. The “Our City” Pop-up-Planning booth was omnipresent at City events for two years, asking questions that changed as the process wore on. Staff consulted with 11 Council Advisory Committees, ran “travelling workshops” to community centres across the City, and reached out to agencies that serve those members of our community that are usually marginalized from political and planning conversations, such as Spirit of the Children Society and Immigrant Services Society. Feedback was received from the development community, Metro Vancouver, Provincial Ministries from Transportation to Health to Environment, the School Board, the Port, TransLink, and Qayqayt First Nation. Council received a lot of correspondence.

The result was literally thousands of interactions with members of our community, and I am thankful, once again, that New Westminster showed up and told us their opinions. We have 7,000 pages of documents backing up this consultation. That is an amazing amount of paperwork to distill down to a working 200-page document.

A successful consultation does not mean everyone gets what they want, that is impossible with so many contrasting opinions in the City. However, it does allow us to gauge the mood of the City and frame the bigger goals of the community, and in turn frame the strategies and tasks that will move us towards those goals in the decade ahead.

An important point missed by many is that an OCP is much more than a Land Use Plan. It is about the 12 Major goals that define what our City will be in the decade ahead, those goals supported by 61 well-defined Policy Areas and 182 concrete actions the City can (and will) take to achieve the goals. If the OCP works the way it is intended, these goals will drive future Council policy, the work of staff, and will even help define how the Land Use Plan develops over time. Indeed, of all the OCP products, it is the Land Use Plan that is most easily and commonly edited as the community evolves.

Still, the Land Use Plan map gets the most attention. I suspect because it more tangible than policy statements. I don’t think the friction sometimes generated between community-wide goals and parochial or political concerns is ever as hot as when talking about changes in land use – which is ultimately a local government’s primary responsibility and jurisdiction. So I guess I’ll follow the lead and talk more here about the Land Use Plan than the 12 Goals, though you will see them scattered about  about this post as constant reminders of where we are meant to be headed, like this one right here:

The first big point to make about the Land Use Plan is that it supports growth anticipated in the Regional Growth Strategy developed the best part of a decade ago. This plan does not open the floodgates to population growth – that growth is happening regardless of what we do here – but it does give us a more sustainable plan to make that growth fit within the community we want to be, in 10 years, in 20 years, and beyond. Most importantly, the OCP allows us to plan for building the roads, parks, sewers, schools and other infrastructure we need to support the residents of the future.

When the OCP process started 3 years ago, the idea of increasing our housing variety and finding opportunities for density increases in our residential neighbourhoods had to be framed in the context of bringing more amenities to neighbourhoods – making our retail areas more vibrant, supporting more frequent transit service. In 2014 when we started, the regional housing crisis was still on a low boil, at least in New West. The “Million Dollar Line” of average house values was still far off to the west, and New West was still (almost) an affordable option for young families – if we could build them the type of housing they wanted and needed.

I don’t have to tell anyone here that we are in a different place now. The housing crisis is boiling over, and though we have strategies in the City that are effectively creating a new stock of rental units and assuring family-friendly units get built, we are simply not keeping up with the region-wide demand. In hindsight, this should have been obvious, and maybe staff was ahead of both the public and Council on this front. I’d like to think this is why we had significant push-back on creating more opportunities for flexible housing choice, and why Council decided that this push-back was reasonable.

In the end, any single map or plan that comes out of such a wide consultation includes compromises. I don’t think this Land Use Plan is perfect, but I think it is a significant step in the right direction, and I was happy to support it. All such maps are living documents, subject to lot-by-lot revision and adjustment as the plan unfolds. It will be up to staff and Council to track how this Land Use Plan leads us to the larger strategic goals we outlined in the OCP, and not be afraid to make those adjustments when the case can be made for them.

From the start of the consultations, the theme of housing choice and housing affordability clearly led the discussions. Call it gentle infill, call it family housing, call it missing middle, it is clear that housing choice was a wide concern in the City, both in how to make it happen and in how to make if fit in our existing neighbourhoods. In this rests my biggest concern with the OCP. I am not convinced we got the formula right for incentivizing the growth of the missing middle housing form, townhouses and rowhomes.

In my mind, the best option at this point is to challenge staff and Council (not just this Council, but the one elected in 2018) to closely monitor the situation as the community reacts to the new land use designations. Did we get the incentives, rules and guidelines right, and create a healthy market for missing middle housing forms? Or did we fall behind the real economics of housing over the period it took for us to complete this plan?

That was my thinking in moving some direction to staff as part of adopting the OCP. The text of my motion was “THAT Council direct staff to explore additional locations that could be designated Residential – Infill Townhouse as part of a two year Townhouse and Rowhouse Monitoring Program, and include the outcome in a proposed Land Use Designation Map update at the conclusion of the Program”. The completion of an OCP isn’t the end of the planning process, it is the beginning of a new planning process. I wanted to put some expectations and timelines on the next steps in that process.

Council just attended the UBCM conference (blogs to come!), where housing was one of the most pressing topics – everything from homelessness, demo- and reno-victions, housing affordability, and an increasingly challenging market for people at every single level of the economic spectrum. The crisis is regional, and it is mutli-faceted, not doubt made worse by a decade of general indifference at the provincial level. As there is not a single problem, there is not a single solution. This OCP will not solve the problem, but it does give us a view of where some solutions will be found. And it will obviously need to be adapted as new solutions are found through collaboration of all three levels of government.

I feel positive about the future for New Westminster outlined in this OCP, and am encouraged that we got literally thousands of New West citizens involved in such a complex public consultation. There were almost as many disagreements within Council as there were in the bigger community about major aspects of the plan, but we worked together to find the compromises needed to achieve the common goals. Now we need to get to work putting it in practice.

Council – Oct. 2, 2017

Our first October Council meeting was a little disjointed and diverse, as there were a variety of topics on the Agenda, and presentations and delegations were all over the place. I don’t usually report here on delegations and announcements that happen, but stick to the decisions made by Council, but you can always get the full deal by watching on the intertubes!

The meeting started with us moving the following items on Consent:

Capture Photography Festival 2018
Our participation in this project brought two great Public Art installations to the City, and our Public Art Advisory Committee is recommending we take part again in 2018 and fund that from the Public Art Reserve Fund. Council agreed.

Intelligent City Digital Inclusion and Marketing and Advocacy subcommittee update
Our “Intelligent City” initiative is meant to be more than just dark fibre in the ground and using smarter systems in the City, it includes many different programs to connect the entire population of New West to the advantages of Innovation and digital connectivity. We had a hugely successful Innovation Week last spring, and are gearing up for another in 2018. We also are developing various initiatives to assure connectivity is inclusive, which means we are finding ways to include people who may have barriers (education, economic, equipment, etc.) to connecting to the digital world have opportunities for access, for education, and for support. This report gives us an update of where those programs are.

Memorandum: Metro Vancouver Regional District acceptance of the City of New Westminster Regional Context Statement
This is a step in the Official Community Plan process, where the regional government essentially signs off that the OCP, after receiving Third Reading, complies with the Regional Growth Strategy. This is the last step to Adoption of the new OCP.

Recruitment 2017: ICAC Appointment
There is a shift of representation on the Intelligent City Advisory Committee, due to people changing job roles in one of our partnership organizations. Moved!

41 and 175 Duncan Street: Official Community Plan Amendment Consideration of Public Consultation
This project to develop a medium-sized townhouse development in Queensborough will be going into consultation, including a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until them.

900 Carnarvon Street (Tower 4): Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 – Request for Exemption
The construction of noise barriers over SkyTrain rails is challenging. It needs to happen when the train isn’t running (at night), and is pretty specialized work. Degelder have been trying to get the work done for the 4th Tower at Plaza 88 for a couple of months, and it is yet to start. We are approving a long construction noise variance, though the actual work will only take about 7 days within that longer window. The workers will need to provide 72 hours’ notice to nearby residents before evenings when works will actually occur.

Information Update re Recommendation from Ecole Glenbrook Middle School Student Presentation
Students from Glenbrook gave a memorable presentation to Council in May about how to make their community more fun and friendly. This report is a follow-up from staff. Short version: some improvements have been made as part of capital maintenance programs, there has been great feedback sought and integrated into a couple of bigger projects (Canada Games Pool and the Skate Park replacement) Spring, and we are going to continue to engage these students in future consultations.

Report on Major Purchasing Transactions for the Period May 1st to August 31st, 2017
Ternary report on what we have bought.

Downtown New Westminster BIA Extension
The two Downtown BIAs have been doing some really great work. It has been great to watch them become a more professional organization over the last decade with some really stellar staff. They have been proactive in developing a new Strategic Plan, and have been great partners to the City in our Economic Development initiatives. However, the Bylaw that enables them to be funded by a Parcel Tax on downtown businesses is expiring, and they have asked us for a renewal/update. I am happy to support this.

1319 Third Avenue (Steel and Oak Brewery): Proposed Increase in Seating Capacity
S&O wishes to increase their seating capacity, but have bumped up against the Zoning Bylaw maximums for their current zoning. This report will launch the Public Process to enable that, and I’ll hold off my comments until that happens.

Access Ability Advisory Committee: Consideration of the Effect of Demovictions and Renovictions on Low-Income and Disabled Residents
There was much talk at last week’s UBCM meeting (yes, I will blog about it soon!) about renovictions and the impact on homelessness, and it resulted in some promising action. This topic also came up at the last AAAC Meeting, and that committee wanted to assure Council considered the impacts of the housing and rental crises are harder on people with barriers – the lack of housing adapted to the needs of the disabled is even more dire than “regular” housing.

Access Ability Advisory Committee: Massey Theatre Universal Accessibility Design Review
Again, the AAAC heard about barriers in the existing Massey Theatre, and formally asked Council to invest in making the facility fully accessible when the High School project is completed and the Theatre property is transferred to the City.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Recruitment 2017: CHC Appointment
Unfortunately, a member of Community Heritage Commission passed away and we have to do the dry process or naming a replacement. However, Council did not want this to pass without the Council representative on the Committee noting that Laura Moodie was a long-serving volunteer in our community with a passion for the arts, heritage, and travel. She served on several City committees including as chair of the Public Art Advisory Committee. Her passing was sudden and untimely. All of Council wants to acknowledge Mrs. Moodie’s service to the community, and pass on condolences to her family.

Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw (Increase in Taxi Licenses) No. 7943, 2017 – Bylaw for Three Readings
I think I ranted about this once before. Many of the issues with the current regulation around Taxi services is the many hoops they need to go through to get new licenses, even when it is clear that current service is inadequate. Royal City Taxi is applying to the province for more licenses to improve service, let’s see where this goes!

Review of City Snow and Ice Response: 2016-2017
We discussed at ACTBIPed, and I forwarded correspondence to Council from a well-known West End pedestrian advocate that came out of that meeting. 2016-17 was exceptional year, the worst and most persistent snow event since at least 2008. And although it was at times challenging, I think the City did an exceptional job keeping priority driving routes open and safe, especially compared to some adjacent communities. However, the pedestrian realm was a disaster.

I don’t use that term lightly, because I know it was a challenging situation and I do not want to come across as critical of staff for the hard work and extra hours they all put in, but we had people with mobility challenges, and a fair number of elderly people, who were trapped in their homes for weeks because they could not walk as far as the nearest pharmacy. Even in an extraordinary situation like last winter, this is not acceptable, and we need to make change. We need to assure that the pedestrian realm and transit access is prioritized alongside arterial and connector roads.

We have a Pedestrian Charter in New Westminster – one that puts pedestrian needs at high priority. We have a Master Transportation Plan that puts pedestrians at the top of our hierarchy for investment. Yet when we prioritize the clearing of snow from streets not used by transit above the clearing of sidewalks and the important pedestrian connections that make our pedestrian realm accessible, we fail to meet our own priorities. In the event of icy conditions, we don’t need people prioritizing driving as a way to get around – that simply doesn’t improve anyone’s safety if the only way to get to the grocery store is to drive because the sidewalks between home and grocery store are impassable two weeks after a storm.

I don’t have the answers, but we need to establish guidelines on what constitutes an acceptable response to sidewalk clearing, much like we have for roads, and a plan to meet those guidelines. In this case, I would even be happy to see cycling routes bumped down the priority list to make resources available. We need a map of priority walking routes and bus stops, as these may be different than the existing priority streets. The consultant report provided some recommendations towards this, but it would be good to know if additional resources or equipment are needed to address this. Clearly enforcement and proactive action need to be prioritized – there is work to do here.

That said, this is a good report as far as it goes, and I don’t want to slow the implementation of this response plan because it only gets us half way there – half way is better than going back to the start. However, I amended the recommendation to further ask that that staff continues to work on developing a snow response plan that prioritizes pedestrian safety, and address the concerns of the ACTBiPed. More to come here.

Exempt Properties – Review of Questionnaire Results
Remember when the BC Liberals extended the property tax exemption given to private schools, essentially asking homeowners to pay more for private schools in their neighbourhoods, at the same time they were fighting in court to keep from adequately funding public schools? Good times.

Anyway, this report is our annual update and Bylaw refresh to support mandated and permissive tax exemptions. The first are required by Provincial Law, the second are the $300,000 a year in Permissive Tax Exemptions for organizations doing good work in the City, be they social service (e.g. Honour House), Sports (e.g. Lawn Bowling Club), or education (e.g. FRDC).

Licensed Event Recommendations for Westminster Pier Park
I am happy to continue with the model demonstrated at Music on the River this summer. These type of low-key events should really not be exception in a modern City, but part of the regular fabric. Loosening of our provincial liquor laws make that possible. The most, perhaps, surprising part was the wide demographic range of people hanging out in the park during the event – it wasn’t just crazy Yoots with their skateboards and bling-bloop electronic “music”, it was it was young families, seniors, and those of us in the fuzzy and increasingly grey area in between. A strange mix to see at a public event where beer is served in North America, but just another day in most European Cities.

We also read the following Bylaws:

Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw (Increase in Taxi Licenses) No. 7943, 2017
As discussed above, this Bylaw that supports the application to the provincial Government for more Taxi Licenses in New Westminster received three readings.

Taxation Exemption and Exempt Properties Bylaw No. 7945, 2017
As discussed above, this Bylaw that supports permissive tax exemptions for worthy organizations in New Westminster received three readings.

Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Primary Area) Bylaw No. 7951, 2017
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Secondary Area) Bylaw No. 7952, 2017

As discussed above, these Bylaws that support the special taxation for our two Downtown Business Improvement Areas received three readings.

Official Community Plan Adoption Bylaw No. 7925, 2017
This is actually a big deal. Our new Official Community Plan, which was given Third Reading back on September 18th was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land. I will have to write another blog post about this, because this is both a great big step… and perhaps not a big enough step.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Infill Housing) No. 7936, 2017
Development Approval Procedures Amendment Bylaw No. 7939, 2017
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7940, 2017
This are the supporting Big Deals, as they support the new directions outlined in the OCP regarding Heritage, Laneway Housing, and Infill density. All three were adopted ,and are not Law of the Land. Adjust your behavior accordingly.

And other than a bunch of interesting presentations and delegations (seriously, go on-line and check them out!), that was a night of Council. I have a bunch of blog posts to follow on here, OCP and UBCM most prominently, so stay tuned!

Council – September 18, 2017

The September 18 meeting of Council was an all-caps-worthy BIG ONE, and I pretty much am going to not talk about the BIG topic, which was the Public Hearing, for reasons below. But before that started, we went through a few Agenda items.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Recruitment 2017 Committee Appointments
We have had a couple of changes in representatives to City Committees, both in the persons representing another group on the City Committee. This happens once in a while, but Council officially has to approve, which we did.

Investment Report to August 31, 2017
The City has about $160 Million in the bank, mostly with the Municipal Finance Authority. Note, most of this is restricted money (that is, we have already committed it to a specific purpose, such as future sewer upgrades or road projects). This is our regular reporting on how the investments are doing, which I would characterize as “pretty good”.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Fire Escape Stairs at 642 Columbia Street – Review of Alternative Options and Appearance Mitigation Approaches
I’ve already opined about this fire escape. I recognize the need for it to exist, and can see the engineering rationale for it, but am frustrated about how some siloed thinking in City Hall resulted in a design that was incongruous with the great planning and design work being done on the Front Street Mews. I feel a solution that fit the bigger vision could have been found through a more collaborative design approach.

This report outlines a better approach moving forward, and we can hopefully use this experience to enhance how we develop our public spaces.

Sale of Tanaka Court Properties
There is a piece of surplus City land in Queensborough with an adjacent unopened road portion that only makes sense to develop in concert with the commercial properties. The Community Plan designates this property for commercial use, which is not something the City is likely to do. This report outlines the negotiations that have taken place to sell the lands so that they can be developed and start contributing to the community through retail opportunities, jobs and taxes.

BCIT Smart Microgrid Applied Research Project for Street Level Electric Vehicle Charging in New Westminster
This is a pretty exciting pilot project the City is proposing to undertake in collaboration with BCIT and their Smart Grid Microgrid Applied Research Team. They are researching the implementation of curbside charging electric vehicles, and want to testbed some technologies that would connect EV chargers to existing City electrical infrastructure like streetlights, in order to develop reliable engineering specifications and systems for wider adoption of the idea.

This could, in the short term, result in up to a dozen more Level 2 public charging station in the City, and contribute engineering designs and data to the seemingly inevitable transition towards a fully electrical transportation system towards the middle of the Century.

The following item was a late addition to the Agenda:

647 Ewen Avenue: Temporary Protection Order
The oldest extant building in Queensborough is privately owned, and threatened with demolition as the landowner wishes to redevelop the property. The City is limited in what we can do to prevent this, but we can develop incentives to make it easier for the developer to maintain the building or portions of it through a Heritage Restoration Agreement. This temporary order protects the building from destruction while staff work with the proponent to find if these opportunities exist.

This work out of the way, we started our Public Hearing, which had three items, eliciting (in order), one, fourteen, and one delegations. All three items were referred to the resumed Council Meeting following the Public Hearing, and all three were given Third Reading. They were not, however, Adopted, because there needs to be some procedural work done by staff between Third Reading and Adoption. Because of the quasi-judicial nature of the Public Hearing process, I don’t want to get into a discussion about the items between now and formal Adoption. For that reason, I am only describing the items at a high level here and will reserve longer discussion of them until after (and if) they are Adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment (43 Hastings Street Affordable Housing Project) Bylaw No. 7923, 2017
This Bylaw changes the zoning for a piece of land at the east end of Downtown New West to allow its use for a housing project that will combine housing adapted for people with disabilities with family-friendly townhouses, all operated by a not-for-profit to keep them affordable (through a separate housing agreement with the City).

Official Community Plan Adoption Bylaw No. 7925, 2017
This Bylaw would make Our City 2041 the Official Community Plan for the City, after more than three years of public consultation, Council wrangling, and staff work. Council moved to give the Bylaw Third Reading.

I added an amendment to the referral, which is not a change to the OCP in any way, but provides some direction to staff about measuring the success of one of the most significant aspects of the plan: the rapid introduction of Missing Middle housing forms. The motion read as:

THAT Council direct staff to explore additional locations that could be designated Residential – Infill Townhouse as part of a two year Townhouse and Rowhouse Monitoring Program, and include the outcome in a proposed Land Use Designation Map update at the conclusion of the Program, should the OCP be adopted.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Infill Housing) No. 7936, 2017
This Bylaw would make changes to our Zoning Bylaw to facilitate many of the changes discussed in the Official Community Plan, including setting parameters around which laneway and carriage houses will be introduced ot our existing Single Family Neighbourhoods. Council moved to give the Bylaw Third Reading.

We followed the Public Hearing with an Opportunity to be Heard on a Sign Bylaw Variance:

Development Variance Permit No. DVP00634 to vary Sign Bylaw requirements at 610 Sixth Street (Royal City Centre)
This Sign Bylaw Variance would allow a new anchor tenant at the Royal City Centre to affix signage to the outside of the building that is congruent with the exiting signage. Even with our new and refreshed sign bylaw, there are exceptions, including one of only two indoor malls in New Westminster, and a variance is best way to manage this type of application. There was no correspondence and no-one came to speak on this item, and Council approved the variance.

Finally, we had a single Bylaw adoption:

Local Area Service Bylaw No. 7942, 2017
This Bylaw formalizes a cost sharing agreement between a group of property owners in Queensborough and the City for some streetscape improvements on their block. It was adopted by Council, making it the Law of the Land.