Council – May 27, 2019

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

The Public Hearing had three items:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following items were Removed From Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

And with that, we called it an evening!

ASK PAT: Anvil theme!

The Anvil Centre edition! I have three questions on two topics:

Dale asks —

I was heartened to see that the recent budget includes a line item related to signage for the Anvil Centre. The building has been up for 3+ years and has thousands of people traveling by it on foot, bicycle and vehicle with no indication at all as to what the heck is going on inside. The budget item sets aside $100,000 “to work with a sign expert to determine more effective signage outside the Anvil Centre”. Please tell me that the $100k will include more than the expert consultation. Also, why not have a competition for the signage which would probably give a better outcome and will also provide publicity for the Anvil Centre?

I had two very similar questions arrive on this, and the short answer is yes, the $100K is the entire budget for the signage project, and will include more than just the planning and design. Hopefully this will result in signage and wayfinding to draw more people into the Anvil when things are happening inside.

There is a point to be made here about how we set out budget for projects like this. Municipal finance is sometimes a terrifying thing, because it involves various layers of policy, regulation and reporting, and it all must be kept transparent for obvious reasons. The diversity of things we spend money on, the need to not demonstrate favoritism or bias when purchasing, our requirement to enter contracts in service delivery, and the relative reluctance to face risk in spending run up against the fact that every check and balance takes time and staff resources that make everything less efficient. It is more complicated than that last sentence, and these complications – all designed to make government more accountable to the people they work for – are a big reason why people who say “a City should run like a business” are only indicating that they have no idea how government works.

If I ran an underwear store in Downtown New West, and I wanted to change my signage, I would call a few places to see who could provide such a service. I might get some quotes, and choose the lowest bidder, or I might call my uncle Ernie who has a sign company and give him a discount on boxer briefs if he could bang a few signs out for me at cost. I may even decide to go to the artisanal organic sign company up the block because the owner is a neighbor, gives generously of her time and energy to community-building, I like keeping my money local, and I don’t mind paying a little more for a quality product when I know the person who I am buying from. I may buy one less sign, or a slightly smaller one, because that is all I have in my budget right now, or I may go for a bulk discount and go a little over my budget to get a lot more. The purchase process is dynamic, I can act fast in response to the market, and my personal preferences. And no-one needs to know how much I spend on signs, except maybe Revenue Canada when I report the signs as a business expense at the end of the year.

Local Governments can’t do this. Our ability to “sole source”, or buy from a preferred person, is generally limited to smaller-cost items purchased irregularly. To buy anything substantial or enter into a longer-term supplier agreement, there needs to be a budget line. Depending on the cost, it may need to go all the way up to Council to approve the purchase as part of the annual Financial Plan or a Financial Plan update, as was the case for the Anvil signage program. It is outside of regular operating costs, and big enough that staff need to come to Council to ask for budget room to do the work. Problematically, they likely cannot do much more than some preliminary cost estimates before that ask (i.e. they cannot enter a contract, even a “Contract A”, without budget authority), but spending less than the budget will be easy while spending more than the budget difficult.

Once budget is approved, staff is then required to go to the market and ask for bids. Depending on the type of project and the estimated budget, that may mean going out to get three quotes, or it may mean a much more formal open procurement process like you see listed here in BC Bid. This process is regulated by our internal policies in order to prevent favoritism, to make us complaint with proper public process, contract law, and trade agreements like the Agreement on Internal Trade and the Northwest Partnership Trade Agreement. So, yes, there is a competition for the work required by practice and law.

Strangely, there is no actual statutory obligation for local governments to procure goods and services through this competitive process, and the trade agreements above are not legally binding on Local Governments, yet we are creatures of the Province, and are expected to follow these guidelines, or be subject to legal challenges or expensive arbitration by bidders who feel they were aggrieved by us not following due process. There is also a bunch of contract law around this the exists in parallel to legislation, but I am getting way deeper into the law than I am qualified to opine upon. Short version is: we have policies and practice in place to assure that public funds are spent transparently without undue bias ,and suppliers have a fair chance to compete for projects.

This, of course, often puts us at a significant competitive disadvantage when purchasing compared to underwear store guy above. If the market knows you need to buy something and exactly what you are willing to spend, you are entering into a negotiation with one hand tied behind your back – especially when it comes to purchasing a specific property or very specialized services with limited suppliers. This is why the City is able, under Sections 90 .1 (e) and (k) of the Community Charter, to discuss things like business negotiations in a closed meeting, although the eventual expenditure must be approved in an open meeting.

There is another strange part of municipal finance that is partially a result of this cumbersome process – every year we underspend our capital budget. For some reason the Koch Brothers anti-tax brigade never talk about this when complaining about our budgets, but that heads us down another long hallway…


Deanna asks—

One of those little things, three years ago there was a number of red seats and tables in front of the Anvil Centre, then they disappeared over Winter and never returned. I really liked those seats and often sat there enjoying a coffee I purchased up the street. I do often wish they were back, the benches further up are too close to the street/traffic for me. Any chance we can get the red tables and chairs back? 

The red chairs that were in front of the Anvil were part of a larger City pilot a couple of years ago to try to set up a few cheap/quick seating areas around the city. The same chairs popped up in other places, including the Uptown Parklet, in front of the Queensborough Community Centre, and out back of City Hall. They have also been moved around a bit to different places, to see what sticks as far as making some of our public spaces ”stickier”. Unfortunately, the front on the Anvil was one of those spaces where the chairs didn’t really work out. A few people liked them (obviously including you!), but many found the spot too hot in the summer and not well connected to anything else, while there were some trash issues that required some management. So when the Downtown BIA wanted some help with seating for Fridays on Front, those tables and chairs were lent to them, and you will see them being used in the Front Street Parklet area.

As always, this leads to another conversation related to Dale’s question above: the public activation of the ground space around Anvil Centre. Bringing this new cultural centre into operation has been a slow and iterative process. There are many parts of it that are running exceptionally well (YEA New Media Gallery!), some that have really ramped up in a good way in the last little while (YEA Theatre programming!), but there is also some more work to do, and I think making the ground floor (inside and out) a welcoming community space that contributes to a lively downtown street scene continues to be a challenge. Council is aware of this, as is the staff at Anvil. The opening of Piva’s patio is a great addition, but that fact that they are across the street from a vacant lot is still a problem, as is the design of 8th Street that does little to draw people out of Plaza 88 onto the street, but I’ve been banging that drum for (Oh. My. God. Was this 8 years ago!?) a long time.

We have work to do there, but after all this time, I wonder if we can get it done.

Intersections

I’m disappointed we didn’t get some of these stepped-up intersection speed cameras in New West. Speed cameras in intersections that can automatically ticket speeders are a good idea, one that can only be opposed by those who like to speed through intersections at illegal speeds, selfishly endangering everyone around them.

Why not New Wet? Apparently the intersections where these cameras were activated were those ranked highest in accident history and  speed issues. Perhaps the silver lining here is that this suggests our intersections are relatively safe by those measures compared to other areas in the Lower Mainland. Though I recognize just by saying that I am going to see comments on social media with people listing their least-favourite intersection. Mine is shown in the picture above.

But hopefully this is the just the first phase of the program, and we may see more cameras in the future. I would also hope that the next phases look not only at raw speed or 85th percentile or accident history, but we may expand the warrant analysis to emphasize intersections where vulnerable road users are more common. Yes, Accidents between speeding cars can be expensive, and often leads to injury or death. but a speeding car hitting a pedestrian is almost always fatal. While injuries and deaths of people inside cars is going down, injuries and deaths of pedestrians is going up. Technology like this can correct that trend.

On the good news side, New West has begun to make changes that were suggested by the Walkers Caucus last year, and are implementing a program of standardizing (and lengthening) the timing of pedestrian crossing light signals. Starting with the pedestrian-activated signals such as the one on Sixth Ave at 14th Street, which have already been adjusted to allow sufficient time for more people to cross safely. The ACTBiPed is also spending some time this year looking at the use of “Beg Buttons” in the City. Despite some lengthy critiques of these in Urbanist circles, there are places where pedestrian-controlled signals serve to make the pedestrian experience safer and more convenient, and there are places where they definitely prioritize car movement over pedestrian movement, in direct contrast to the priorities set out in our Master Transportation Plan. Teasing out these differences, and howto fix it, is an interesting topic, and one we hope to review and create some policy recommendations to Council.

But as you can see above, making our intersections safer and more comfortable for pedestrians is going to take more than signal timing and activation timing. This is why I support intersection camera, and further suggest we need to step up enforcement in the good old fashioned cop-with-a-ticketbook format if we are going to change drivers behaviour.

Council – May 6 , 2019

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


We started by moving the following items on Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following item was Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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


Our regular Bylaws dance included adopting the following:

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

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

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

We then had one piece of New Business:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Council – April 29, 2019

It was a big agenda on April 29th, and I’m crazy busy, so I’m going to try (and I’m going to fail) to keep this short. I’ll skip over the daytime workshop stuff, which I can hopefully cover later and get right to the evening agenda.

We started with a Public Hearing:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (218 Queens Avenue) Bylaw No. 8064, 2019
The property owner of a fairly large property in Queens Park wants to enter into a complicated Heritage Conservation Area agreement where two heritage homes are move to the back of his property and the main heritage home on the site is preserved for perpetuity. The only real variance from the existing zoning bylaw is that the resultant two “back” lots will be 5651 Square feet, which is 6% smaller than the zoning allows.

The Community Heritage Commission support it, the APC support it, no-one sent any correspondence or came to speak to the application. Council approved giving the Bylaw third reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (1005 Ewen Avenue) No. 8103, 2019
There is an empty lot at one of the entry points of Queensborough – between Howes Street and the firehall, that has been vacant for a very long time. It was hard to develop because of some site constraints, especially related to access to the site and the proximity to the firehall.

It has taken some time to find the right fit for this site. This proposal would permit the construction of 23 townhouses and a commercial building. It would also improve the streetscape for pedestrians along Howes street and fill an notable gap in the community entrance. APC support it, Design Panel support it, QRA had no opposition, no-one sent us correspondence or come to the Public Hearing to speak to the application. Council moved to give the application third reading.

Zoning Amendment (886 Boyd Street) Bylaw No. 8100, 2019
The City’s electrical utility needs to build a new substation in Queensborough. We have the land, we have the financing, but now we need to amend the language of the zoning Bylaw to allow an electrical substation in the M-1(light industrial) zone. No-one wrote or showed up to voice opposition, so the city moved to give the amendment third reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (M5 Zone Text Amendment) No. 8101, 2019
Metro Vancouver’s water utility needs to build a tunnel portal at the foot of Quebec street. They have the land, they have the financing, but now they need us to amend the language of the zoning Bylaw to allow a public utility infrastructure installation in M-5 (light industrial) zoning. Again, no-one came to speak to the matter or sent us correspondence on it, and Council moved to approve the amendment.


We then had an Opportunity to be Heard:

Temporary Use Permit No. 00019 for 488 Furness Street
The townhouse development in Queensborough want to operate a sales centre out of their first buildings, which does not comply with the residential zoning, requiring a Temporary Use Permit to allow it to happen. This is not an unusual ask, but several members of the neighbouring community asked that Council review the parking requirements.

Honestly, I find the “we need our garages to store our stuff, so the City needs to provide street parking” argument not compelling, but there is a point in that a commercial enterprise operating, even temporarily, in a residential neighbourhood, should be responsible in how their parking needs impact their residential neighbours. Council moved to approve the TUP on the condition that parking that would berequired as per the zoning is accommodated onsite.


I then had a couple of resolutions to go to UBCM, which I think I will hold off to talk about later, because this is already going to be too long. But the short versions are here, and they were both approved by Council:

Motion: Declaration of Employee Compensation as Part of Annual SOFI Reporting 

Therefore be it resolved that the Financial Information Act be amended to permit local governments to report salaries and expenses in their annual SOFI report by job title as opposed to employee name.

Motion: School Bus Safety

Therefore be it resolved that UBCM call upon the BC Ministry of Education and the BC Ministry of Public Safety to mandate that all buses transporting students in British Columbia be equipped with three-point seatbelts, and institute programs to assure those belts are used; and
Be it further resolved that UBCM call upon Transport Canada to require all road vehicles designed for the purpose of transporting students within Canada be equipped with three-point seatbelts.


The following items were moved on Consent:

Uptown New Westminster BIA Parcel Tax Bylaw and
Downtown BIA Parcel Tax Bylaws
The City as two (well, two and a half) Business Improvement Areas. These are commercial areas that agree to have a self-imposed tax to fund their own business development programs. The City facilitates this by collecting the tax and turning it over to the BIAs, but the money is 100% from the BIA members and 100% returned to the BIAs. Every year we have to pass a Bylaw to set the agree-upon rates.

As an aside, this is another one of those weird areas that make it hard to compare the finances of different cities. The $400,000 we collect from the BIAs and turn right back over to the BIA is counted as tax revenue and spending in the City’s financial statements, though this really isn’t city money. Comparing between cities, no-one ever asks if those cities have many or few BIAs.

Municipal Security Issuing Resolution #7842
The City got authorization through Bylaw in 2016 to borrow up to $28 Million for various infrastructure improvements, including the Library and City Hall improvements. To the end of 2019, we anticipate spending $22Million of this as these projects move forward. We want to move this into long-term debt with the Municipal Finance Authority which requires a Resolution.

Community Centre Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8073, 2019
Building the replacement of the CGP is going to require us to take on more long-term debt. We don’t yet know what the contribution will be from Federal Infrastructure Grants, but (in the strange world of intergovernmental grant finance) we have to demonstrate our ability to do the work without a grant if we wish to receive a grant. So we need to authorize borrowing at a level that assumes we will receive no grant assistance at all.

This will be another Alternate Approval Process thing that I hate, but is the only path given us under the Local Government Act aside from running an expensive and divisive referendum. If enough people report opposition to this borrowing, we will have a referendum. If you don’t think we should borrow to replace the CGP, then between May 2nd and June 10th, you should come to City hall and issue your opposition formally. Notices will be going out through the regular venues.

2019 Tax Rates Bylaw for rescindment and re-reading
The numbers we had in our Property Tax rates bylaw were incorrect due to an administrative SNAFU. The Metro Vancouver mill rates were incorrectly transposed. So we need to rescind the reading and do it again with the right number so Metro can get paid.

Approval of the Scope of Work for a Committee Review
The City has over 30 Advisory Committees, Commissions, and Task Forces. Though an important public engagement tool, they eat up a lot of time and resources, both for City staff and for the volunteers from across the community who take time out of their lives to contribute to community building this way. We owe it to them and to the community to periodically review how these resources are being used and to explore opportunities to make them work better.

The academic lead from SFU who helped us put together our large Public Engagement strategy (and who therefore has intimate knowledge about how it is structured) is being brought in to oversee the review. It will include reviewing successes and stresses in other communities, discussion with committee members, and general public engagement. We can hopefully put some solid policy together to evaluate the effectiveness of our committees. I expect there will be some uncomfortable discussion (“Hey, *my* committees are the most functional ones!”) but it is important that we remain honest and accountable in how we work, and I look forward to this.

Recruitment 2019: Committee Appointments (EAC, NTAC)
On an almost related topic, we are appointing a couple of new members to committees.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Special Limited Category Study – Phase Two Update
During the Queens Park heritage conservation area work over the last couple of years, we identified 84 properties (out of the ~700 in the conservation area) which were put under temporary protection until we could determine better where they fit in the heritage spectrum between the highest and the lowest heritage value. Some eventually had their protection reduced, as they were found to have limited value, and 48 were found to have higher value and were moved on to further study. This is an update report on that process, and next steps.

1209 – 1217 Eighth Avenue: Rezoning and Development Permit for Infill Townhouses – Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8099, 2019 for Two Readings
This is recommendation from our LUPC that we give first and second reading to a townhouse development in the Moody Park / West End neighbourhood. This would convert 5 lots that currently have 5 houses into 22 family-friendly ground-based townhouse units.

It would go to a Public Hearing on May 27, so I will hold my opinions until then.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Pattullo Bridge Seismic Upgrading: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Translink wants to install some equipment on the existing Pattullo bridge, and need an exemption to our Construction Noise Bylaw to do it. Councillor Das raised some good points about the efforts for public consultation, as the permit length is quite long, and we may ask TransLink to do a little more directed outreach to let residents know which actual days they will be working.

Soil Deposit and Removal Regulation Bylaw No. 8106, 2019
What is more exciting than an update to the City’s Soil Deposit and Removal Bylaw!? This will hopefully help the City reduce the mis-location of contaminated soils and reduce the spread of invasive and noxious weeds. Maybe that’s not exciting for you, but this is what I do for a living!

The only point I had for staff was that we might want to expand our definition of invasive species beyond the provincial Noxious Weeds list –neither Himalayan Blackberry or Scotch Broom are listed as noxious in the province, nor is English ivy. If you go to any invasive species pull in the region, these are the species we see the most of. I also had a few concerns about the Ministry’s current Soil Relocation Policy Paper, as I don’t want to move a Bylaw that doesn’t jive with the most recent Ministry regulatory framework. These are details that can be worked out before final adoption, so council moved to approve first reading.


We did the regular Bylaws dance, which included adopting the following:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2019 – 2023) Bylaw No. 8104, 2019
One of the final steps in our annual budgeting process is the adoption of the financial plan. Now adopted. It’s the law of the Land. Again, more blog posts to come out about this again, as a Mayoral candidate is back on social media saying “New West has the highest taxes in the region”, and that is patently and demonstrably false, but Zombie ideas never really die.

Street Naming Bylaw No. 8045, 2019
Two new streets in Queesnborough now have names.


Finally, we had a big piece of New business

Motion: Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation
Councillor Nakagawa brought forward a motion that provides some direction on our reconciliation process that in summary says:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
THAT Mayor and Council be provided with training to understand the legacy of residential schools and colonialism; and
THAT all City staff attend mandatory training on the history and legacy of residential schools; and
THAT the City undertakes research to better understand the historical actions of the City as they relate to First Nations; and
THAT the City undertakes research to understand which Nations have a relationship to this land; and
THAT the research respects and incorporates the experiences and stories of the First Nations that claim the territory upon which New Westminster is built to ensure that the history is not told from a colonial perspective; and
THAT the final report be shared with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; and
THAT the City provides opportunities for the community to learn the history and legacy of colonialism in New Westminster; and
THAT the City establish a formal territorial acknowledgement built from the information learned from First Nations during the research process; and
THAT the territorial acknowledgement be approved by First Nations that claim the territory prior to its formal adoption by the City.
THAT City staff report back to Council with an implementation plan for above listed actions.

I am not opposed to any of the actions listed here, but did oppose the motion because I felt it was a little out of step with the ongoing work we have already started in regards to reconciliation. This Council has committed to taking an informed and respectful approach to reconciliation. We have endorsed the Calls to Action, and have tasked staff with creating an outline towards completing that goal. We have agreed to, and have put resources towards, the development of a communication and relationship-building process, such that all parties are welcomed to share their experience and their vision for Reconciliation. We have hired a consultant to guide us through this difficult process, recognizing that we have little experience in-house at this, and we want to do it right.

In my opinion (and this was not supported by a majority of council) the motion was in parts redundant to work the City is already doing, and in parts overly prescriptive towards operational details while staff and our consultants are establishing best practices to achieve the goals this city has put out. Respectfully, the Councillor and I disagree on process, not on goals. Council moved to endorse this motion.

And that was the evening! See you all next week!

Jane’s Walk 2019

I’m leading a Jane’s Walk on Friday afternoon.

Apologies it needs to be on a Friday evening and not in the weekend true, but I have to be out of town Saturday/Sunday, and promised a certain Mary I would put a walk on, so here we go.

For those not in the know, Jane’s Walks are a series of walks held on the first weekend in May in places around the world in celebration of Jane Jacobs’ contributions to making Cities more livable. There are probably a dozen walks in New West this weekend, and I highly recommend you pick a few and meet some neighbours.

My walk is going to start at 5:30pm on Friday at Moody Park pool, and we will wander east along the path through Moody Park and then 7th Ave towards Glenbrook Middle School. I’m not sure how far we will get, but depending on the conversation, we will walk for 60 or 90 minutes before our perambulations lead some of us, inevitably, to a pub.

The topic of the conversation I want to have with whoever shows up will be framed by the contentious (?) temporary bike lane installations on 7th Ave between Moody Park and 6th Street. There is a lot to say about that particular stretch (I’ve said some of it here and here), but the bigger question is – What does a true AAA (“All Ages and Abilities”) bike route look like in New West? What compromises are we willing to make in regards to loss of green space, loss of traffic space, loss of parking, to see a AAA route built? Can a AAA bike route ever be one where bikes share space with cars, or is total separation needed? How do those needs shift between – a trail through a park, a route along a busy street, and a quiet residential street?

I need to emphasize, I don’t have a lot of answers here, other than what is informed by my “gut feeling” (which is no better than anyone else’s) about what is safe for cyclists. I would love if people discuss and think about these questions along the way, and try to discover for themselves what the friction points are that prevent rapid shift towards a full integrated and safe bike network. If you read my blog regularly (Hi Mom!), you may be interested in coming along. After all, what better way to spend a sunny evening walking through your neighbourhood, meeting some neighbours, and talking about ways to make your community safer and more livable?

C’mon out, bend a Councillor’s ear. Meet a neighbour. Take a walk. Love your City.

Council – April 8, 2019

We started our regular meeting on April 8th with our annual review of the Parcel Tax Roll. There are a number of properties in the City that voluntarily pay and extra parcel tax to cover all or part of the cost of some special service the property owner enjoys. This may be taking part in a BIA, or special road or drainage improvements related to a neighbourhood improvement project. This requires a procedure every year where the roll is “reviewed” and signed off by Council, after giving people a chance to challenge their place on the roll.

The regular agenda was a long one, and started with an Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit DVP00653 for 310 Salter Street
One of the final pieces of Port Royal is an 87-unit mid-rise residential development comprising three buildings around a central courtyard, consistent in scale and character with the multi-family buildings on both sides of the site. There is a combination of apartments and stacked townhouses. Variances are required to permit the height (to bring the tallest building into the same heigh range as adjacent buildings) and setbacks (to provide better street interface along the waterfront trail). The Residents Association provided a letter of support, and the Design Panel approved of the design, and the public consultation feedback was generally positive. We received no correspondence, and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council voted to approve the variance and grant the development permit.


We then had a Presentation from Staff:

65 East Sixth Avenue (New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre): Project Update and Design Review Preliminary Report
This is the next stage in design for the facility formerly known and the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre replacement. It has been a bit of a task managing the many, many site constraints, not the least being the desire to keep the existing CGP and CCC operating during construction and replacement. And just like everyone else, we need to go through a design review in light of our existing zoning laws. As we are about half way through the design process, it is a good time to do a check-in with Council and the Public.

There will be two public open houses on April 21 and 27, and an on-line survey, so you can give the City some feedback on the design as it sits.


The following items were Moved on Consent

Financial Plan 2019 – 2023
When all is said and done, we need to approve a financial plan for the next year (well, for the next 5 years, but we change it every year). I have already written about this, and enjoyed extended Facebook comment threads on the topic. This needs to be formalized as a Bylaw, which Council voted to give three readings.

2019 Tax Rates Bylaw
The second half of that financial plan bylaw is passing a tax rate bylaw to support the revenue to make it happen. Of course, I will write another blog post about our tax rate increase and where it puts us in comparison with other munis in the Lower Mainland when I get a chance. Not enough hours on my current clock.

This is a good time to remind residential taxpayers to apply for their homeowner Grant ($570 – $845 in free money!) or defer taxes if that option is available to you (the interest rate on deferment is competitive with investment returns you can make on that money – you can literally make money deferring taxes).

The Queensborough Electric Utility Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8041, 2018 – Results from the Alternative Approval Process
We received 31 responses from people in New Westminster who don’t want us to borrow money to build a new substation in Queensborough. That is not enough to force the Bylaw to a referendum, and the electrical Utility will move ahead with the loan and procurement of the substation.

Recruitment 2019: Library Board Appointment
We had a vacancy on the Library Board. It is now full. By the way, did you notice the library is open again?

Naming of Two Streets in Queensborough: Street Naming Bylaw No. 8045, 2019 for Three Readings
Back on March 11, we talked about names for two new streets being built in Queensborough. Those names (Kamachi Street and Ota Avenue) need to be formally approved through a Bylaw. Council voted to give that Bylaw three readings.

488 Furness Street: Temporary Use Permit for Sales Centre – Issuance of Notice
A new townhouse development being built in Queensborough would like to use a couple of the early townhouses as sales centres for the rest of the development. Of course, they are zones for residential use, not commercial, so we need to give them a Temporary Use Permit to allow this use. Well, we don’t need to, so we will have an opportunity to be heard on April 29 to hear if the neighbourhood has a significant concern about this.

2019 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
Snow Pack across the province is at or slightly below average, meaning freshet flood risk is low this year. Of course, this may change if we have a real pineapple express that drops a bunch of warm rain on the melting snowpack and accelerates the melting, but barring unusual weather systems, we likely will not need to activate a flood response plan this year.

Proposed Sanitary Forcemain Crossing Agreement on Boyne Street with Southern Rail Link – Animal Services Facility
The animal shelter being built in Queensborough needs a water line and sewer and such, which requires an agreement with the railway to cross their right of way because railways are special in Canada and we are beholden to them in ways completely irrational for multi-national corporations operating in our country. Or not.

2018 Filming Activity Update
There was a bunch of filming in New West over the last year, which resulted in more than $800,000 in revenues for the City, slightly less than the last two years, but more than twice what we were pulling in only 5 years ago. Of course, this is not all “profit” for the City, as it includes the cost of providing permitting, police and engineering support and such. However as much of this filming happens on City lands, we *do* charge for its use, and made more than $500K in net revenue on that.

218 Queen’s Avenue: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Bylaw for Two Readings
This project to protect two heritage homes moved on to a large lot that already has a heritage home on it will go to Public Hearing on April 29th. I’ll hold my comments until then.

1005 Ewen Avenue: Rezoning and Development Permit – Bylaw for Two Readings
This project to put townhouses and a commercial building on that empty lot at the gateway to Queensborough will also be going to Public Hearing on April 29th. I’ll hold my comments until then.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Intelligent New West Operations Plan 2019
The Intelligent New West file is moving along with three main emphases: supporting a local high-tech business environment, using innovation to improve internal processes in the city to improve service, and adopting more intelligent technology in our infrastructure plans.

There is a part in here that I don’t think was emphasized enough in the report around digital inclusion – how are we assuring that access to the “digital revolution” or “the internet of things” or whatever cliché you want use, is available to all of our residents. There is some more coming on this in the next few months, and it is pretty cool.

Formation of New Residents Association
The residents of Victoria Hill and the adjacent multi-family residences on Ginger Drive have banded together to form their own Residents’ Association. Previously part of the much larger and diverse McBride-Sapperton RA, they felt they had a large enough population and a unique enough set of concerns and circumstances that they decided to strike out on their own. The MSRA supported this move.

This was really an information report, as the City has no policy about how it will acknowledge new RAs starting in the City. However, there are costs and considerations to RAs, in that we provide staff support, provide them seats on several City Committees, and provide them special rights in our development review process, like an expectation that they be proactively engaged by the development community. For these reasons, I am a little concerned about our lack of policy here, and asked staff to come back to council with some policy direction.

Cannabis Retail Sales Locations: Consideration of First and Second Readings for Five Cannabis Retail Locations
The five locations that made it through the first round of application screening for new cannabis retail locations still require rezoning. We will have Public Hearings as soon as April 29 to review these rezonings. C’mon out and tell us what you think. *note the process to get these applications through the provincial hurdles looks to be delaying our Public Hearing timing*

A few asides: we probably should have seen the conflict between private and public stores, and not tried to put them through the same application process. This kind of blind spot is to be expected as we go through an unprecedented regulatory shift. We will be reviewing that issue and coming back with some changes. I expect this will happen before we have the next round of applications that we initially scheduled for 6 months from now.

The provincial requirement that these businesses have opaque windows is, frankly, ridiculous. The idea that “youth are protected” from being aware of a product because of opaque windows is insulting to the intelligence of those youth, and for a bunch of safety and urban planning reasons, opaque windows are not preferred in our commercial areas. We will continue to ask the province to change this rule.

Safety and Regulation of Clothing and Donation Bins
There was a concern raised a couple of months ago around the safety of clothing donation bins, and we asked staff to look at what other communities are doing and whether we should address them as a public safety measure. Short version is we can remove them from City property, but our zoning bylaw does not currently ban the on private property.

We are going to ask that all 8 operators of clothing bins and ask them to assure they are made safe, but this is not far enough for me. I want the power to *require* that they be made safe or removed, and Council will be following up on this.

Victoria Hill Parking Study
There is not enough street parking in Victoria Hill for the residents there. There are at least 50 residences in Victoria Hill who own more personal vehicles than they own a parking spot for. Of course, limited free street parking is the preferred response to this situation for some, but there is limited space in Victoria Hill to make this happen. Others realize that adding street parking will not improve the situation unless we actually price or otherwise limit that street parking.

A 2011 study found that even at peak times there are about 500 empty off-street parking spaces in Victoria Hill. In a less comprehensive 2018 study, there are still more than 300 empty underground parking spots at peak times. There is definitely a parking allocation problem, but the idea of cutting down 35 trees and spending a couple of hundred thousand dollars to put in 60 new street parking spots when there is a residential oversupply is contrary to the community plan, to our Master Transportation Plan, and will ultimately not solve the problem.

Here is more work to do here, and fortunately we have a new RA to engage with!

2019 Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Program
I’m becoming one of those Councillors who rants about his area of specific interest during council meetings. I recognize this and am seeking therapy. Anyway, there are going to be some fixes to pedestrian crossings in the City, and actions to try to make the hill on Richmond street safer for pedestrians. You can watch my rant on video, or maybe I’ll write a follow-up blog post, but there is little need for me to re-hash it here.

631 and 632 Second Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreements for Compact Lot Subdivision
This is a preliminary application review for a couple of infill density projects on the same corner in Glenbrook North. There is quite a bit to unpack here, and both of these projects, if they proceed, will go to a Public Hearing, so I don’t want to dig too deep into them now, but Council moved to let both of them proceed through the process and get there.


We then had two late additions to the Agenda:

Participation in a Regional Recycling Facility
Metro Vancouver is building a new waste transfer centre and recycling depot just across the border in to Coquitlam at United Boulevard. The City of New Westminster has an option to join the Tri-Cities in co-operation with the running of the facility, which will provide better recycling services than our existing yard, but at a much lower cost. This is an information report, as there are some details to be worked out yet.

Multicultural Festival Extra Funding Request
The Multicultural Festival at Pier Park has run for a few years on Canada Day, but were not happy with the grant they received through the Festival grant process. Council moved (in a split vote, I was among the opposed) to provide them another $5,000 to help with their 2019 festival.


And, finally, we went through our Bylaws, including the following Bylaw Adoptions:

Electric Utility Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8041, 2018
Electric Utility Infrastructure Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 8051, 2018

These Bylaws that authorize the borrowing of up to $30 Million for the construction of a new substation in Queensborough was adopted by council.

ASK PAT: Staff and audits

Bruce asks—

Hi Patrick. Do you have a comparison of staffing levels by municipality as a percent of population / households / tax base in the lower mainland. If so, where does NW fare?

Has consideration ever been given to staff reductions?

Are you in favor of auditor general audits of all municipalities and efficiency comparisons?

This is an interesting collection of questions, and they seem to be leading somewhere, but I’ll take them all at face value and answer best I can.

Short answer to your first question is no. I have tried a few times to do a comparison across Lower Mainland communities on staffing levels, but the data is hard to come by, and it is especially hard to compare apples to apples on the topic of municipal staffing. Even if we put aside confounding factors (the type of police service a City runs, different services provided like New Westminster’s electrical utility or White Rock having their own water supply, and situations like the North Vancouver’s sharing of a Recreation Commission), there is no definitive source of data to determine what any City’s “FTE” (“full time equivalent”) staff counts is, other than our own. This is just not one of those things publicly accounted for in any standardized way. Even CivicInfo, your usual one-stop shop for municipal stats, had poor response rates last time they tried to survey local governments on their staffing levels. (note –New Westminster is one of the few Lower Mainland communities that responded):

I may ask what you would expect staffing numbers to tell you that isn’t already accounted for in budgetary comparisons between Cities? New Westminster spends less per capita on municipal operations than the average across the region, and our wages are (slightly) below average compared to our cohort communities, so it would be hard to imagine that we have comparatively higher staffing levels. The bulk of our operational costs are staff wages and benefits, because the bulk of our operations are customer service. Police, fire, recreation, parks maintenance, planning, etc., these things are all functions provided by people. If we allege (as some do) than a City with lower staff levels is more “efficient” or more prudent with taxpayer’s dollars, then we have to account for the work being done my contractors working for the City. As a general rule, smaller municipalities have to rely on more contractors than larger cities, and may or may not pay more for the services those contractors provide than they would if that work could be brought “in house”.

Should you hire a new Engineer at $90,000 per year, or contract that work out at $120 /hour? Back-of-the-envelope would suggest you do the latter if you have less than ~1,000 hours of work for that engineer in any given year, but the back of the envelope is always devoid of confounding factors. Obviously, larger municipalities have a bit of an advantage here, because more specialized work can be brought in house easier as there is higher demand for it. There also some significant political considerations around contracting out work, that will lead us down another path that ends with me ranting about neo-liberalism, and no-one wants to read that.

To answer your second question, there has never in my time been a concerted effort to cut staff. Part of that is related to the fact we are a growing City facing increased service needs, but part of it is because the question belies the way decision making in a municipal government works. Every year we go through a budgeting processes that that is centered on service delivery. We make decisions around what services we want to provide, where we can provide service more efficiently, and where we are falling short of community expectations. We are almost always under tremendous pressure from the community to increase delivery of programs, and we have to rationalize that within the budget available to us – and our willingness to increase taxes.

Of course we hear from people telling us tax increases are burdensome, but those people rarely tell us what services to cut. If they do offer suggestions, they usually are minor in comparison to the City’s budget, and others almost immediately come to defend that program. A recent Facebook example:

Finally, I am generally in favour of the process that the Auditor General for Local Government goes through, which I think puts me at odds with the majority of local government elected officials. But I’ll throw some significant qualifiers in there, because that is always what the AGLG does ;-).

One problem I have is how the audits are treated in the media and public. The City of New Westminster was selected for an audit a few years ago to review the management of our police budget and the relationship between Council and the Police Board. The result of the Audit was very positive, with a few minor improvements suggested, but overall a high level of confidence expressed about how New West does this work. Of course, it was good news, so there was virtually no media about it – no “news” to be found in a government doing a good job. Compare this to the shit-storm that a small municipality like Sechelt faces when an audit discovers some problems in how they do procurement. The negative audit is newsworthy, the positive audit is not, which results in an overall erosion in trust of local government, instead of building trust in the oversight of Local Government, which to be should be the goal of the AGLG.

Also, the AGLG audit process is (IMHO) stacked against smaller governments. At the first level, it expects small cities with small staff to have resources and business acumen that is often not available to them. The audit process itself is time and resource consuming, and the AGLG does not provide financial support to local governments for the staff time and resources – again much more unfairly burdening smaller governments than larger ones who are more likely to be able to absorb these costs.

So I general approve of the idea, but would like to see some shifts in how the process is put into practice.

ASK PAT: Parking Bylaws

Susan asks—

According to New West’s by-law for the parking of vehicles 4.9.1 – any New West resident can park their vehicle(s) on any residential street (except areas requiring permits, or metered parking) for as long as they wish as long as their vehicle has valid insurance.
In Burnaby & Vancouver, the by-law is more specific and requires that any vehicle cannot park for more than 3 hours in front of a residence unless the residence is the actual property of the parker.
If another New West resident decides to leave their vehicle parked in front of another residence and does not move it for week/months, there is nothing Parking Enforcement can do.
What is the process in requesting a change to this bylaw?

You basically have it right. Our Street and Traffic Bylaw makes it illegal to park a car for more than 72 hours where there are no other parking restrictions, unless you are a resident of the City. As long as your vehicle is not derelict, is insured, and is not a commercial vehicle heavier than 5,500kg, the road is yours to store your vehicle for free as long as you can find a spot.

I have vague memories of the last time we upgraded the Streets and Traffic Bylaw, and at the time staff recommended that the 72-hour restriction be applied to everyone. Checking my notes, it was in the March 23, 2015 Committee of the Whole meeting where some members of Council argued that this was unfair, and that residents should be able to park for free for as long as they want. I disagreed at the time, and continue to disagree.

That said, I doubly disagree with the Burnaby approach, where the public land in front of your house somehow belongs to the resident of the house that happens to be in front of it. That land does not belong to you, it belongs to the public. Putting up barriers, cones, milk crates, or buckets to protect it as a personal parking space like this is similarly against the law.

Here is an unpopular opinion: there is no shortage of parking in New Westminster. There are local shortages of the free or very low-cost public parking that people prefer, but every house in New Westminster has a garage or parking pad (regardless of whether they are actually used for car storage) and every new multi-family building is built with more parking than the residents use. And outside of a few special events and around churches on Sunday Morning, there is generally no lack of street parking. When it comes to resident parking and nw buildings, we are simply building too much.

There was even a recent Metro Vancouver study on parking availability whose highlight point was that across the region “Apartment parking supply remains excessive relative to observed utilization”. Here are the first two key findings:

As mentioned in an opinion in The Record a few weeks ago, there is a real cost to this. Underground parking is expensive to build ($50,000+ per spot) and an alleged lack of parking is a common reason residents oppose new housing in their neighbourhoods, making housing more expensive for all. But I now I realize I’m drifting pretty far from the nature of your question…

The process to change the Bylaw would be to ask Council to do it. Ask Pats, as fun as they are, do not represent official correspondence with Mayor and Council, so you could write a letter to Council (here are the links about how you do that). Try to keep it relatively short and respectful, and explain the rationale for why you think the Bylaw should change. Any member of Council could take the concern to Council and ask staff to follow up, though there is no guarantee. Alternately, you can come to Council yourself and make your case as a Public Delegation at most Council Meetings, and again, Council may or may not act, but it can’t hurt to ask.

Council – March 11, 2019

Our Council meeting on March 11 had its share of pageantry and drama, and much of it was after the annual May Queen draw. Alas, I don’t have time to blog at length about what got me hot under the collar during the Opportunity for Public Comment, as meta as it may have been, and you will have to watch the video to get the full experience. Still we had a packed agenda that started with an Opportunity for Public Comment:

Draft 2019 – 2023 Financial Plan
As discussed in workshop and blogged about at length, we have a proposed 2019 budget and 5-year financial plan. As always, between the public workshop where we discussed at length and made decisions about the discretionary parts of the financial plan, we accept correspondence and have a public opportunity to comment. The e-mail correspondence we received on the Financial plan was about 38 pages (almost all of it comprising questions from a single person that staff patiently responded to as best they could). We also had about a half dozen members of the public come to speak, assuring that the voice of the middle aged white man was well represented. I agree strongly with some of the input we received – two delegates mentioned that cities and (in turn) property tax payers are being unfairly burdened for the cost of local infrastructure when there are more progressive taxation types such as income tax available to senior governments, though little of that trickles back to local governments. I also strongly disagree with a person who receives 30-plus pages of responses from staff then is given a public forum to ask questions of Council complaining that this is a secretive and closed process.

Anyway, the Financial Plan will need to come to us in the form of the Bylaw, which will occur in April. I will blog more about the final financial plan at that time.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Urban Indigenous Engagement around the development of the New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre
This is a short report on the efforts staff are taking to engage the local indigenous population in planning for the new Aquatic and Community Centre (the project name of the replacement for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre). It will be interesting to work through this framework and find what works and what doesn’t as we are going into a broader-reaching Truth and Reconciliation process in the City.

Recruitment 2019: Committee Appointments (SAC, NTAC, RJC, and ACTBiPed)
These are regular adjustments to various council advisory committees. People move, people (alas) pass away, and people shift their volunteer priorities, but advisory committees go on. We have named new representatives to these committees.

310 Salter Street (Port Royal Phase 6B): Development Permit and Development Variance Permit for Mid Rise Multi Unit Residential Development – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
One of the final pieces of the Port Royal development is an 87 unit 4- to 6-story residential complex on Salter Street. The proposed complex of three buildings meets the FSR and is smaller than the allowable maximum lot coverage, but requires variances for height and setbacks. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on this on April 8th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Connaught Heights Park Playground Redevelopment – Preferred Option
The playground adjacent to Connaught Heights School needs to be refurbished. There was a pretty extensive child-centred community consultation, and a final plan is now proposed, for a mixed use playground to appeal to all ages nestled within the existing mature trees on site. The construction will take place while school is out for the summer, to reduce the impact on the students.

Vimy Heritage Oak Trees Proposal
There is an organization that preserves and propagates oak trees grown from acorns collected from Vimy Ridge shortly after the WW1 battle for the ridge ended. Working with the New West Heritage Preservation Society, there are two saplings to be planted on the front lawn of City hall to frame the Cenotaph and formal commemoration space.

2019 Environmental Grant Recipient – Project Scope Change
The plan to put together a documentary film on the history of the preservation of the Brunette River have been shelved for some creative and logistical reason. The City provided a bit of grant money for that project, but the organizers would now like to use those funds to create more educational multi-media materials on the same theme. I support this, as it is a story that needs to be told, and I think the mixed media proposal will reach a broader audience than the film.


We then had a couple of pieces of New Business:

Queen’s Park Sportsplex – Conceptual Design
After much too long of a wait, we have moved the Arenex replacement to final design. This has been a challenging project for several reasons, including details about insurance. The building that will start construction this spring in Queens Park will not have the old-timey charm of the Arenex, but will be a much more functional building for the primary user groups. The majority of the cost (about 80%) of the replacement will be covered by the insurance claim for the Arenex, though we will need to top it up a bit, mostly from a grant fund we have been holding in reserve for sports facilities in the City.

Climate Action in the City of New Westminster
This was a motion on notice form Councillors Nakagawa and McEvoy, which was well supported by a large delegation of community leaders from the Force of Nature Alliance. It is worth reading in its entirety:

WHEREAS The earth is currently on track to warm by more than 3 degrees Celsius; and

WHEREAS An October 8, 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that it is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than 2 degrees as previously understood, and that doing so “would require rapid, far- reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of
society,” and that we have until 2030 to undertake these changes; and

WHEREAS The IPCC report puts the benchmark for greenhouse gas reduction targets for corporate and community-wide emissions at 45% by 2030, 65% by 2040, and 100% by 2050;

WHEREAS The British Columbia government declared a provincial state of emergency in 2018 over record-setting wildfires; and

WHEREAS The Legislature of British Columbia and the House of Commons of Canada have acknowledged the growing crisis of climate breakdown by holding emergency debates following the release of the IPCC report; and

WHEREAS Local governments worldwide are taking action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and calling on senior levels of government for an urgent, emergency response; and

WHEREAS The costs to New Westminster for dealing with the impacts of climate change – including sea level rise – are significant; and

WHEREAS The most vulnerable members of our community are the most impacted by the effects of climate change; and

WHEREAS The City of New Westminster has been taking action on sustainability through the Environmental Strategy and Action Plan, Community Energy and Emissions Plan, and Envision 2032;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED

THAT Council recognize that climate change constitutes an emergency for the City of New Westminster; and

THAT Council direct staff to report back on how the following action items can be implemented:

1. Update existing City plans with new targets as per the IPCC report;
2. Increase ambition and/or accelerate timelines for existing actions under the Environmental Strategy and Action Plan and the Community Energy and Emissions Plan;
3. Consider new actions to help the City achieve its targets;
4. Consider new actions that would help reduce GHG emissions beyond the scope of the City’s current climate targets;
5. Track and report on community emissions;
6. Engage the community in discussion on how to drastically reduce GHG emissions with particular focus on those most vulnerable to climate impacts and most in need of support in transitioning to renewable energy;
7. More broadly communicate with the community about City emissions and targets;
8. Implement a carbon budget; and

THAT Council direct staff to include climate action for consideration within the City’s strategic plan that is currently being developed.

I don’t have much to add to that, except that I struggled with considering if we should do this before or after we had completed our Council Strategic Planning work to set out goals for the term. It was Councillor Nakagawa who convinced me that the Climate emergency needs to frame our Council goals, because vice-versa is how we have always operated as a City, as a province, and as a country, tacking on climate as just one more thing we need to deal with. This is the existential struggle of our age, perhaps the first truly global existential struggle. We need to act, and act with purpose.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Cannabis: New Retail Store Application Evaluation
As we discussed at some length last summer, the City has put together some guidance and community standards for cannabis retail operations that wish to open in #NewWest. After receiving 22 completed applications for these businesses, staff used a ranking system to prioritize 5 applications to be reviewed together as an initial tranche, one in each of Downtown, Uptown, Sapperton, 12th Street and Queensborough. These 5 will still need to go through a Zoning Amendment Bylaw, which should happen in April (no, not on the 20th), and if everything goes well with the City, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, and the applicants, we should have our first stores opened by the summer.

There were many delegates who came to speak to this process, all of them representing businesses that did not make the scoring cut, or were ranked lower than their competitors. However, I hold the opinion that the process was clear and fairly adjudicated. This was not going to be an easy process, and the gold rush mentality about this new industry makes these conversations difficult. Although I think the process was more fair and accountable than the alternate “lottery” process for choosing first wave applicants, it was inevitable that some would not be chosen – even really good applicants. Everyone, successful and otherwise, put serious money and time into the application process, and as with cutting-edge entrepreneurs, really put their heart in it as well. The quality of the applications showed this.

The 5 applicants who got through this first screening will still need to go through Zoning and business license approvals, so there is some work to do yet, and there will be a Public Hearing, so I am going to hold my comments about individual applicants until then.

Interesting to note that there are still some issues to work out with the Province on regulation of these businesses. The LCRB wants these stores to have opaque windows, but for both community design and safety reasons, opaque windows are no longer favoured in retail zones. This is something we need to work out with the LCRB.

Naming of Two New Streets in Queensborough
We have two new streets being created in Q’Boro, so they need names. The Community Heritage Commission and Queensborough Residents Association were consulted, and the names Kamachi and Ota rose to the top of the selections, honouring the memory of two prominent families in the earlier history of the ‘Boro.

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbia Hospital Project): Update on Rezoning to Allow for the Renovation, Redevelopment and Modernization of Hospital Facilities
RCH needs to do a rezoning for the next phases of development on the site, which will require some staff and committee review of things like setbacks, height, density and massing, transportation requirements, and design elements. It will go through some committee review and public consultation in April. Phase 2 of the RCH Project is the big one –with a new Acute Acre tower that will be the largest building on site. Folks in Sapperton especially should spend a bit of time getting to know this project and its potential impact on their neighbourhood.

The movement of Ambulance access to the Sherbrook Street side of the building is sure to be something Lower Sapperton residents are going to have opinions on, but the maintenance of a pedestrian and cycling connection through the campus from the Sapperton SkyTrain Station to lower Sapperton is a positive idea.

I also took a moment to reiterate that East Columbia cannot be the primary road access for staff and visitors of this major acute care hospital. The community’s dreams of East Columbia as a great street supporting a vibrant commercial district mean we need to reduce this traffic load on that road, not increase it. The only alternative is for the regional traffic accessing the hospital (and adjacent commercial development at the Brewery district) to have direct access from Brunette Avenue, which would require a light-controlled intersection at Kearey, Allen, or Sherbrook. This will be a tough sell to regional traffic mongers like the Trucking Association and the Gateway Council, but regional traffic on regional roads is the primary plan for not just New Westminster and Sapperton, but for the entire Greater Vancouver region. This is a fight worth having, and we need to get Fraser Health on side with it.

Proposal for Public Realm Improvements in Brow of the Hill at 1010 Fifth Avenue
Another small parklet in the Brow of the Hill Neighbourhood, where the City has some of the greatest density and least access to public green space. Little hubs like this can really make an apartment-centric neighbourhood a home. I’m happy to support them, and happy that Councillor Nakagawa (a champion for the Brow before it was cool!) called for a more “green” design.

Quayside Tugger Pilot House: Removal and Replacement Project
With mixed feelings, I am sorry to report Tugger has to go. She served us well for 30+ years, but rusting structural elements are taking their toll. The underlying decking needs significant structural intervention, and that simply cannot happen without deconstruction and removal of the ol’ tetanus tug.

The good news is that a new play structure is planned and will be installed in his spring, thanks to support from the local Rotary Club in memory of long-time member Dr. Irwin Stewart (who provided $50,000 for the project), and Bosa (who are doing the deck repairs).

The design is a bit controversial, just as most every other playspace is when seen as a rendering and as a replacement for what we are used to. But I like the nod to the old tug, and the creative use of the main evidence that the Fraser is still a working river – a heaping barge – as the foundation for an all-ages tumble space.

Downtown Dog Off-Leash Area – Partial Relocation
The downtown off-leash area has been in place since 2009, but the land it is on does not belong to the City, and with a new building on part of the lot and a new memorial park planned for the site, we need to move the urban dog park.

We went through some public consultation, and dog parks are always exciting and challenging public consultations for a variety of reasons. However, the best current option is to put a dog run at Simcoe Park.

I am challenged by the idea that we won’t have a dog park below Royal Avenue. I am asking staff to continue to look for opportunities downtown, recognizing we don’t have much City-owned land in the downtown, but a lot of people in apartments have dogs, and need this service. I have a few ideas that I hope staff will explore, but I’m not going to share them now because I honestly don’t know the practicality of feasibility of either site, and I don’t an to set expectations. There is work to do here…


Finally, we adopted the following Bylaws

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw 8097, 2019
Cemetery Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8102, 2019
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw 8098, 2019
These Bylaws that represent our annual adjustment of various fees and charges in the City – almost every bit of revenue that we collect that isn’t taxation, were adopted by Council. Be sure to put “2019” on your cheques.

Controlled Substance Property Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8081, 2019
Noise Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8082, 2019
Construction Noise Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8083, 2019
These Bylaw amendments are housekeeping measures to update the language of older Bylaws to match new bylaws and senior government legislation. It was adopted by Council, so check your language.

Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 8096, 2019
This Bylaw updates our electrical utility rates for 2019, and it was Adopted by Council on a split vote (Councillor Johnstone opposed).