Ask Pat: Derelict CPR station building?

Someone asked—

Thanks for answering my question about the Brewery District so quickly, by the way. So, here’s one more: What’s with the derelict CPR station building that used to be the Keg on Columbia Street? I know there are serious structural issues with the building, but it seems crazy that such a beautiful building in such a prominent location amongst so much heritage revitalization remains seemingly untouched for years now…

And by the way, it REALLY should become a nice pub.

Sorry to make you wait this time… life is busy! The CPR Station building doesn’t belong to the City, so I don’t know much more than you. My understanding (from news stories when the Keg left) was that there were some problems with the building. However, since then I have noticed a new roof, and a bunch of pointing and re-grouting of the brickwork and masonry, so I don’t know if the term “derelict” really fits, but I hate to see it sit unused, as that is often the short route to dereliction.

The Keg (or the owner?) went to a bit of trouble to scrape every vestige of their name off of the building, so we have to presume they are not coming back. Yes, it would make a pretty epic tap-house, and it would also be great to have a large open terraces seating area out front that wasn’t fenced off from the public. Let’s hope the owners find a great lessee soon.

I’m also pretty interested in the rock used for stone quoining and window surrounds – upper Cretaceous Nanaimo Group sandstones, likely from Gabriola or Saturna Island. But I’m a bit of a nerd that way.

Saving the Parkade?

There has been quite the recent resurgence in interest in the Front Street Parkade, led by a three-man crusade to derail the City’s new waterfront vision. I applaud their passion and the work they have done to create a media buzz around a topic that had been settled in most people’s minds years ago, but I am unconvinced by their arguments, and don’t think the City is going to change direction on this project.

Before I am accused of being dismissive of a grassroots campaign being led by three very enthusiastic citizens, I want to suggest the opposite is true. I have heard two sets of delegations in Council, had several conversations at a community OCP Open House, and have taken a 2+ hour walk-around of the Parkade guided by the gentlemen leading the charge. I also attended the Rally on the Parkade last weekend, have been involved in lengthy Facebook conversations in regards to the proposals, attended RA meetings where the proponents have spoken a length about their plans, have received (and responded to) dozens of e-mails on the topic, and have been interviewed by radio, tv and print media answering the same questions in as many ways as I could. I dug back into the City records from before my time in Council so I can better understand the convoluted path to where we are now. I have done everything I can to inform myself about this issue and see the vision these gentlemen are offering. I have asked and answered many questions. After more than a month of discussions, I remain unconvinced by their arguments, not dismissive of them. And I am afraid this is going to turn into an extended rant, so pour yourself another coffee before you proceed…


The idea of partial (or at that time, complete) removal of the Parkade came about years ago, when earlier models for the New Westminster Waterfront that included upward towards nine towers on a large pedestal began to be questioned. With the results of the road diet on Columbia Street, the resurgence of the River Market and desire for better connectivity to the waterfront, the development of the Westminster Pier Park and cancelling of the North Fraser Perimeter Road waterfront-freeway concept, the City began to redraw the waterfront, turning a 1970’s freeway-and-closed-community model into a modern open-space-mixed-use one. This coincided with the years-long development of the regional growth strategy (finally adopted in 2011) and its companion Regional Transportation Plan, which changed how the entire region looked at transit-oriented city centres, mixed-use development and the introduction of freeway growth to our region.

As part of re-examining the waterfront, the City of New Westminster looked at the largest structure in the waterfront and tried to determine what to do with it – the fate of the Parkade was going to decide on the fate of the waterfront over the next 20 or 30 years, merely by its existence – so the first step was to put a business plan to its continued existence or removal. This involved two things: an engineering assessment of the life-cycle cost and revenue opportunities of the Parkade given various repair/removal scenarios; and a Downtown Parking Study that informed a long-term parking strategy (adopted by Council in 2013) to assure that parking needs in the downtown could be met to the satisfaction of Downtown businesses and other stakeholders even during the current growth cycle. This is a rational, good-governance approach to long-term planning, one I cannot take any credit for as I was not on Council at the time.

From an engineering and costing perspective (including revenue opportunity and eventual deconstruction costs – so a true “life cycle cost analysis”), the best solution was to repair half of the Parkade so it could provide revenue over the long term, but to deconstruct the other half to reduce the cost of maintenance and upgrades. It makes sense: fix the part that makes you money, get rid of the part that doesn’t. Now that is only the dollars-and-cents side of the argument, and if we were a business called Waterfront Parkade Inc., we might have ended it there and gone ahead with the demolition the business case suggested 5 years ago.

However, we are a City, so we need to think bigger. We need to engage stakeholders, talk to the people who use the Parkade, those who would benefit or be inconvenienced by its removal and those whose tax dollars we would be investing (or not) in the long-term viability of the Parkade. Fortunately, the Downtown Parking Study also supported the removal of half of the Parkade, given a number of conditions, which were rolled into the strategy. There was also much discussion about what the removal of half of the Parkade would mean to the waterfront, to Front Street, and the future developments in the area. The consultations and opportunities for public and stakeholder engagement were plenty- I remember attending many of them. There have been numerous open houses, stakeholder meetings, and Council Reports since the serious discussion around Parkade removal started around 2011. I have been blogging on this topic since (checks his archives) December 2011 on this very topic, including attending an earlier “Save the Parkade” movement that seemed to have lost steam as many of the valid issues they raised were addressed through the consultations. A quick perusal of the Googleable record of this project shows the City has engaged, adjusted plans, worked with the BIA, adapted and developed a comprehensive vision over several years.

Almost a year ago, RFPs were prepared and a consultant was hired to develop a process to get the works done. As there are three separate but integrated projects going on at the same time, it was important that they be coordinated to assure that parking is always available and the interruptions to adjacent businesses are mitigated. That work is on-going, and tenders are out for the first part of the larger project.

I should also note that I am not unbiased here – I have been on record going back to at least 2011 that I agree with the City’s ongoing waterfront vision as it has developed, and think the Parkade is something that is hindering the development of our downtown and waterfront, not helping it.

For the record, the current plan (yes, it is subject to change, as engineering and construction plans usually are) is to first do most of the necessary repairs to the east half of the Parkade. During that the east side will be mostly closed to traffic, but the west side will be able to accommodate the current parking needs. Following the repairs, the demolition of the west half will proceed. This will take up to 12 weeks, and traffic closures on Front Street are expected during that time (a traffic management plan is being developed as we speak). Once the demolition is completed, work on the Front Street Mews, from utility relocations to sidewalk, planter and pavement repairs will be completed. Hopefully, everything will be completed by spring 2016, with the exception of the application of a sealant to the surfaces of the east Parkade, which will occur in a sunny week over the summer (requiring likely closure of portions of the Parkade at a time)


That is the plan. Council has approved the plan, and sent the job out to tender. Tenders closed this week, and we anticipate moving forward with that plan. You may say “plans can change”, and I agree – Council should be amenable to changes in tack if a good case is made for doing so. However, as compelling and passionate as the current campaign messaging is, I do not hear a case compelling enough to turn over 5 years of planning and consultation.

As such, I would like to go through the relevant points of the “Rescue our Parkade” campaign and address their specific concerns.

“The City should not waste $11 Million on a demolition project”.
I have tried many times to correct this fact, yet like a zombie it keeps on coming back. The demolition of the Parkade will not cost $11 Million. That is the estimated (and I emphasize “estimated”, as contracts have not yet been awarded for the work) cost of the entire waterfront project. The demolition of the west half of the Parkade will cost approximately $3.85 Million. The repairs and refurbishment of the east half of the Parkade, to get another 20 or 30 years out of it, will cost about $5.2 Million. Restoration of the streets, building of sidewalks and utility works related to the Front Street Mews will cost about $2 Million, and the installation of an art project to soften the outside of the remaining Parkade will cost about $200,000. The cost of upgrading and repairing the west half would be much higher than the demolition costs, so at that basic level, demolition saves us money when factoring in true life-cycle costs.

“There is no rush to do this”
As I hoped to outline above, this is anything but a rushed process. This is the end of a 5-year vision development: through three City Councils and two Mayors, through studies and consultations and capital budget preparation and planning. In February, this council unanimously endorsed the plan and approved the moving ahead. This project is not rushed, it is overdue.

“There is no need to repair the Parkade”
The City has had several professional evaluations of the condition of the Parkade over the years, and the consensus is that extensive maintenance work is required very soon if we are to keep it for the longer term (more than 10 years). Concrete is currently spalling and creating a hazard to vehicles below, there is evidence of water intrusion through the concrete and rusting of the steel reinforcement. There is evidence that enough chloride has leached into the concrete to the depth of the steel that the corrosion-inhibiting properties of the concrete are inhibited. The railings, lights, stairs, wheelguards, and other “jewellery” are past their service life and fall far short of modern safety codes. If we don’t do these things now, we will need to do them soon, and there is no reason to believe things will get less expensive as we wait. “Just doing nothing” right now is not an option I would support at Council.

“Things on Front Street will not improve”
As was noted during a delegation to Council – there is a reason they held the rally on top of the Parkade and not under it. The same reason CBC would not interview me under it, but beside it. The same reason the underside of the Parkade has represented various dystopian or post-apocalyptic futurescapes in films. It is dark and unpleasant under that thing, and light and fresh air can help.

But this is not just about Front Street, it is about the entire waterfront. The views of the water from all of the intersections on Columbia will be better, there will be a safer level crossing at 6th, the enhanced level crossing at Begbie, and all the pick-a-views in between. Not to mention the view back from the waterfront – the new parks existing and planned – will look back at a row of heritage buildings, now with enough retail appeal and viability that their windows can be unboarded and their facades improved.


“Why tear it down when it earns revenue?”
The Parkade indeed earns revenue for the City, something like $400K per year, and will continue to do so once the work is completed. The number of parking spaces being preserved (450 or so) far exceeds the number normally occupied, and even exceeds the number occupied during the busiest events downtown.

“Save it for the benefit of the Trapp+Holbrook folks or the Larco folks”
The developers of the Trapp+Holbrook building are not only in favour of this decision, they advertise it on their website to make sure that people thinking of buying at their building know what is going on, and make the eventual removal and re-imagining of the Front Street Mews part of their marketing. To quote their marketing materials; “There is no doubt that the reconstruction of Front Street is a step in the right direction for downtown New Westminster.” Similarly, the developers of Larco went through a recent Rezoning of their property fully acknowledging the waterfront vision endorsed by the City. Indications are that they see the enhanced Front Street Mews as an asset for their development.

“An elevated park would be an asset”
Yes! I can see that vision. An elevated park could very well be a welcome asset on New Westminster’s waterfront. The idea of a High Line-type elevated park above the Pier Park is intriguing. However, very little of the “Rescue our Parkade” vision depends upon preserving the west half of the Parkade; the remaining east half might actually be a better location for this type of use. Of course, we don’t have any money to do that right now, and if people ask me if an elevated park adjacent to Pier Park is a higher priority than connecting the Pier Park upriver to Sapperton Landing, building a Q2Q crossing, or even planned improvements to the Canada Games Pool or the Gas Works Site… then I will say no.


When I raise the issue of the cost of building a facility like the High Line, the proponents reply “We are not asking the city to create a park, just to save the parkade”, which might have been the moment when I decided this lengthy rant was necessary. Because a High Line-style park is exactly what they are selling. They show photos of it on their website and in their presentations, they emphasise the park in their presentations, they invite landscape architects from UBC to opine on the possibilities. They may not be asking for a park, but that is definitely what they are selling to the people they are engaging with, and (by language or inference) they are suggesting that we can have that for less than the price of the demolition of the west half of the Parkade, which is patently false.

“Why is council not listening?”
We are listening, and we are hearing. After several years of discussing the Parkade, we have heard many different opinions on it. I have been spending the last two weeks asking people I run into all around town what they think of “Saving the Parkade”. A few people have come to Council, and they have been given a forum to express their views. We have received correspondence from people who support their ideas, and we have received correspondence from people who cannot believe we are having this discussion now. I can quote a few of the letters I have received:

“[demolition] cannot happen fast enough”… “I think it is clear how much Front Street will be improved once the western half of the Parkade is gone”… “I am so thankful you are tearing down the Parkade”… “please stick to the plan of tearing it down”… “I took part in the 2012 and 2013 open houses, I then and now support the decision”… “stick with your guns and let’s get on with the business of connecting Downtown with the Waterfront”… “I urge you to follow through so we can be rid of this 1960’s era relic”…

But ultimately, my job is not to tally up the yeas and nays on a spreadsheet – plebiscites are a terrible way to conduct leadership. My job is to make better decisions for the people who elected me, based on a serious analysis of the data available, and to set priorities with the money that citizens and businesses entrust in the Council. This decision was based on a long-term vision, developed through extensive public and stakeholder consultation, that was found to meet a number of long term goals for the community, and made the most economic sense. That is what we, as a Council, were elected to do for the community. During the election I talked to thousands of people, and exactly one person asked me to keep the Parkade if elected – and he was running for council against me at the time!


Would an elevated park be better than a parking lot? Perhaps. Is this something the City could explore for the east half of the Parkade after it is repaired? Sure. I have been to the High Line, and loved it, but it is a unique experience in a unique part of Manhattan. For New Westminster, we would need to look at the viability, figure the costs, and have a discussion with the community about whether that is a priority right now, and what other projects we might drop to make it a priority. I am not afraid to have that discussion, and I hope these three gentlemen will bring their obvious passion and energy to that discussion if the community really wants to consider this for the remaining east half of the Parkade.

But none of these ideas are currently costed, none of them have been evaluated by an engineer who will put her stamp beside her assessment, none of them have seen regulatory review, none of them have been through any form of public consultation, and none of them are currently in the capital budget for the next 5 years. We can make these things happen (pending technical and engineering concerns, of course), if people want them to. I just hope that if we spend a few years developing a vision like this, find the budget money, and do several years of public consultation and revision based on public input, a grassroots group doesn’t crop up at the end of it all to oppose it by saying “Where the hell did this idea come from? What’s the rush? White Elephant!”

But it probably will.

Ask Pat: Rejection!

Mona Boucher asks—

Hi Pat. Another development question for you, this one with regards to The Urban Academy expansion proposal. What if the proposal is rejected and UA decided to sells the 2 properties they own? What is that site currently zoned for and is the heritage mansion currently protected? I fear that the mansion could be legally razed and the entire site replaced with a 20 plus storey condo building. Just want to know what could happen without a rezoning or heritage revitalization agreement. Thanks.

You know, Mona, I think I am going to avoid answering this one for now. Those might be good questions to ask planning staff or even the proponents if you are interested in the Urban Academy project, but I want to avoid speculation on outcomes on that project. This project will be going before a public hearing, I don’t yet have access to the Staff Reports that will inform that public hearing, and I don’t want to prejudice that process at all.

Council Meeting – March 23, 2015

I was Acting Mayor last week for a few days, as Mayor Cote took a short vacation. As such, I got to enjoy media attention around the “Rescue Our Parkade” issue. This Meeting of Council included several delegations around that issue, so I guess I will need to write another blog post about that. The main decisions around the Parkade were already made months ago, so I will save this blog post for writing about the issues on our agenda.

We had a few announcements (interesting procedural note than one cannot both provide a Presentation and Chair the meeting, so The Mayor relinquished the Chair role to me as Acting Mayor, which caused general hilarity all around). After announcements and delegations, we started the meeting with an Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit – 111 Wood Street
There were no delegations and no correspondence received on this Permit application, which was to develop a set of Townhouses in the southern part of Queensborough. This construction aligns with the adjacent developments, fills a bit of a gap on the South Dyke and obviously raised no hackles in the neighbourhood. We moved to issue the Development Variance Permit and the Development Permit.

We then moved on to Recommendations from the Committee of the Whole meeting of March 9, 2015:

YVR Request
Representatives of Vancouver International Airport sent us a letter requesting an opportunity to meet council and discuss their plans and visions for their operation and impacts on the Region. Council moved to formally invite them to our May 11th Council Meeting.

ICBC Representative to ACTBiPed
We formally approved the naming of the representative from ICBC to the Advisory committee for Transit Bicycles and Pedestrians. Welcome to the team (officially) Karon!

We then moved on to Recommendations from the Committee of the Whole meeting of March 23, 2015:

 KUDOZ – A City of Learning
We had a great presentation during the Committee of the Whole meeting from an organization that is working to get people who have employment or other social barriers into learning experiences throughout the City. We were happy as a council to endorse the project. If you want to make a meaningful change in someone’s life but just sharing an hour of your everyday work or volunteer life, you should definitely check out Kudoz at this link!

Amendment of Council Schedule
Legislative Services wants to adjust our schedule to accommodate a few larger projects that are coming to Public Hearing. Although Public Hearings typically happen at the last meeting of the month, the April Hearing looked to have a couple of high-profile projects, and staff are concerned that people’s ability to be heard will be limited by the schedule. They first suggested holding a second Public hearing on April 20, but the project proponent did not like the shortening of their schedule while they are still doing public outreach, and trying to address some concerns. Therefore, we have added a May 4 Public Hearing date. Mark your calendars!

Nomination to the FCM
Councillor Williams was unanimously nominated by Council to represent Mayor and Council at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for 2015.

318 and 328 Agnes Street
There is a proposal to put two new dedicated rental housing buildings on the old school property and empty lot 314 Agnes Street (kitty-corner from Qayqayt School). We moved agreement with the principles of the Housing Agreement, then the required Zoning Amendment passed first and second reading, and I will hold off on offering comment as this will go to Public Hearing on April 27, 2015. Come on out and tell us what you think.

26 East Royal Ave (Victoria Hill Parcel E)
This is one of the final pieces in the Victoria Hill neighbourhood development. This building will bring a bit of ground-based retail to provide some basic services to the Victoria Hill neighbourhood for the first time. This site has seen significant review since 2012, and the current design (two 4-story buildings with a walkway between them, mostly 2- and 3-bedroom units and 113 parking spots for 64 units) definitely reflects earlier concerns expressed about the earlier plans. This is a preliminary report, as the development will be going out to community consultation, design panel, etc.

Sewerage and Drainage Regulation Bylaw
Staff is also updating the Bylaw that regulates the City’s sewer systems. I deal with these types of bylaws in my regular working life, so I went through this with more interest than is strictly healthy. The good news is that I do support it.

An interesting note related to this bylaw and the provisions for source separation. The City of New Westminster is encumbered by a very old sewer system, a legacy of our being a 150 year old City, and a lack of infrastructure investments in the second half of the 20th Century – we have a lot of catching up to do. We have 70 km of storm drainage lines (21km in closed storm sewers, 49km in open watercourses – or “ditches” as they like to call them in Queensborough). We also have 33 km of sanitary sewers, all relatively new. The problem is the 150km of “combined flow” sewers. These are sewers that collect sanitary waste from houses and businesses, but also collect storm water from roof leaders and roadways.

The problem with “combined flow” sewers is that they have to be treated at the end of the pipe like sewage (because of all the nasty stuff we flush). When it rains, there is a huge volume of water that enters the system and is mixed with that sewage, causing us to have to treat it all. The sewer treatment plants in Metro Vancouver don’t like this – it costs them a lot of money to treat all of that volume (and they pass that cost on to us). Environment Canada doesn’t like it either, because occasional very large rains can overwhelm the system and allow some untreated sewage to enter the River.

The City has a decades-long plan to separate the City’s remaining combined-flow sewers, and we are putting some of your annual sewer bill away in a reserve fund to use for this work when it makes sense to dig up a road. However, separation also had to happen at the source. Many residences (like mine) have a single “out” pipe that directs relatively clean roof leader and perimeter drainage water to the same place as that decidedly unclean sanitary outflow goes. If the City wants to separate the systems, then homeowners are going to need to separate their systems as well. Doing the necessary in-ground work to install two pipes and an inspection chamber on residential properties is costly 9up to $10,000, which can be a surprise to homeowners who just want to repair their perimeter drains. The City takes a long view on this, and is not forcing people to do this work until they are performing major renovations, building new structures, or actually repairing the outflow pipes on their property.

Yeah, I probably care too much about sewers.

Statutory Right of Way for FortisBC
Fortis want so provide utility service to supply utility service to a development in Victoria Hill. Not much to discuss here.

Energy Save New West
New Westminster has an energy save program that is pretty cutting-edge. The report received shows they are meeting and exceeding their targets. You should go to their fancy new web site and see how they can help you save money on energy use for your home or business in New Westminster, and help you get rebates for the cost of those energy saving renovations. It’s good stuff.

Do I show my age by even using the phrase “fancy new web site”?

2014 Election – Disqualification of Candidates
A couple of candidates in the recent Municipal election failed to file financial disclosure statements. That’s against the law. There are penalties under the Act, including big fines, but that is the province’s problem. The part the City is responsible for enforcing is a one-election ban from running for local office again. Remember, these candidates are not in trouble for filing false or incomplete declarations, but for not putting anything at all in. They could have downloaded the form, left it blank and signed it, and they could have avoided this (at least until the review of the declarations is completed by ElectionsBC). The issue that one of these two candidates clearly shared advertising with a couple of people who were successfully elected, and those people did not disclose any such shared expenses, is also something I suspect ElectionsBC will deal with when they start reviewing the declarations.

This is separate from the concerns raised by Council around some of the concerns about polling stations last election. It seemed there were one or two polling booths that were not well organized and had long line-ups, some machines that did not work, and a few procedural and/or logistical problems around people needing assistance at the polling station, such as language interpreters. We have asked that there be a report brought to council to review what went right or wrong during the election, so we can do a better job in 4 years.

410 Columbia Street Upgrades
The building on the south side of Columbia at 4th is an eyesore. The owner is going to renovate and reduce the soreness. This is a good thing. I kind of hope it waits until after May 2, as there are some ugly, but interesting, rocks attached to the old façade.

Family Friendly Housing Policy
The City has been working on a policy to assure a supply of family-friendly housing. I wrote a bit about this previously, as we did some work-shopping on the topic. Council decided to endorse the recommendations in the staff report and take the Bylaw to Public Hearing on May 25, 2015. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

We received some correspondence.
The one from the Ministry of Transportation rather irritated a few members of Council. At some point, people are going to start to think that the Minister wants the Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite to fail. I’m not saying that, because that would suggest he wasn’t being honest when he repeatedly said that he supports the YES side. But I cannot square that with the idea that the week we receive our ballots to decide if we will ask the Province to please allow us to invest $750 Million a year of combined Local, Provincial and Federal money to keep our struggling transportation system operating the right time for the Minister to announce he will be spending $2.5 Billion over three years to build bridges and pave highways and buy busses for everywhere in the Province except the Lower Mainland. You are paying for all of that $2.5 Billion, you are not allowed to vote on it, nor will you be allowed to vote on a similar amount spent on a Massey Tunnel replacement, just as you didn’t vote on a Port Mann bridge that is now $3.6 Billion in debt. Yeah, this is a rant, but as local leaders are busting their asses trying to get the word out that we need a little transportation funding here, he is taking a “hands off” approach while handing money over to Kamloops and Kelowna and Chilliwack. So yeah, that letter arrived at a sensitive time.

And that’s all I have to say about that, except maybe Vote Yes: at least that way some of your taxes will go to building something near where you travel every day.

The Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw which saw three readings on March 2, 2015 was adopted – it is now the Law of the Land.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw 7740 (318 and 328 Agnes Street) as discussed above, had two readings, and will go to Public Hearing on April 27, 2015.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw 7741 (Family Friendly Housing) received two readings, and will go to Public Hearing on May 25, 2015.

Sewerage and Drainage Regulation Bylaw No. 7746, as discussed above, received three readings.

And after a few Notices of Motion which will be discussed later, we were done for the evening.

Big important notice: The March 30th Meeting of Council will include a Public Hearing at 6:00pm. At 7:00pm, we will have an opportunity for Public Comment on the Draft 2015-2019 Financial Plan for the City. That’s usually a good one. Background info here.

Ask Pat: Middle school playground.

Someone asked—

We just moved in to the neighbourhood last summer at Queens and 9th across from the new middle school. We have a baby at the daycare. Are there any plans to replace the playground that was at the elementary school or do any upgrades to the park? I know the playground was enjoyed by many in our neighbourhood.

That site is partially School Board land and partially City Land. Much of the park is City-owned, and there is an agreement between the School Board and the City to share the play/ park/ sports field space. The City actually stepped up and contributed a bit of money for programming of that space, and the School Board has reciprocated by providing maintenance. I have only seen preliminary plans for the eventual park space, and during the construction phase that is solidly in the School Board’s control (for very good reasons). As I understand it, the play areas will be improved on the school grounds, though I suspect the nature of any play structures on School lands will change in that we now have a Middle School instead of an Elementary School.

As for the City part of the land, Parks staff tell me they are working on a strategic plan process for Simcoe Park (as it is called) after the school work is complete and there is a better understanding of how the new space and configuration will be used. There has also been some discussion in the pedestrian and access community about assuring the low-grade diagonal walkway connecting 8th and Royal to 9th and Queens be preserved, so there are many pressures with making the new school fit that site. However, top priority right now is working with the School Board to get that school up and running so that their long-term Capital Plan (read: New High School!) can be realized.

Ask Pat: Brewery at the Brewery District?

Someone asked—

Is there still talk of a brewery opening up at the Brewery District, or is just a name now in reference to the old Labatt Brewery that was once there? It seems like a microbrewery would be perfect compliment for the development, but it seems that only residential and office blocks remain.

I think the commercial space component of the development is done – what you see is what you are going to get.

Yes, the name is about the history of the site – but I agree it was an ideal spot for a new microbrewery or brewpub. I can’t claim to know a lot about the industry (although I have spent a lot of time at Steel & Oak), but I understand that it is hard to fit a brewery into a mixed-use development like that because a lot of what a brewery does (using lots of water, storing raw materials, creating brewy smells, operating through the night, etc.) more suits light industrial settings. I also hasten to mention that a brewery takes up a lot of space, and new breweries are generally challenged in cash flow in the start-up stage because of all the equiupment they have to buy and install long before they can sell their first pint. The lease rates per square foot at a new development like the Brewery District might pose a bit of a challenge for anyone without deep pockets and a tried-and-true business plan. Hence Brown’s Social House .

However, the OCP is looking at ways to leverage the potential growth of RCH into a revived retail strip on both sides of Columbia from the Brewery District to Braid, and If I had the knowledge, money, or time to open a “Craft”-style Tap House within walking distance of the Sapperton Station, I think the neighbourhood is due…


Absolutely, positively, my favourite regular community event in New Westminster is the Royal City Farmers Market. I admire the work that community builders like Andrew Murray, Jen Arbo, and (seen here next to a posing politician) Melissa Maltais have put into giving the Community this place to meet, mingle, shop, and share every couple of weeks. One more month of “Winter Markets” to come, then a (6th? 7th?) summer in Tipperary Park.

If you like the Market, there is a great chance next weekend to go to a fun event and support both the Market and the new “Seniors to the Market Shuttle Program”, where the RCFM is working with Seniors Services to break down barriers to access to farm-fresh food.  Go! Have Fun! Do good!


Ask Pat: Development permit process.

Alice Cavanagh asks—

Hi Pat!

Can you explain the development permit process a bit. This is mostly in reference to the RiverSky development that is already selling units even though the land they own isn’t zoned for residential. It’s zoned for commercial. If developers are given a green light for a project before the land is even zoned correctly it seems a bit backward. If the process is approve the development and then ask for resident feedback on zoning perhaps this should be looked at.


Rezoning to change the allowed use of a property in the City requires an amendment of the Zoning Bylaw. The Local Government Act outlines the City’s powers to zone starting around Section 903. It also outlines the steps a City must go through to amend that Bylaw. For example, Section 890 requires a Public Hearing be held between 1st and 3rd reading of the Bylaw Amendment. There must also be at least one day between the 3rd reading and Adoption, according to Section 135 of the Community Charter (which sets out a Local Government’s procedures in regards to Bylaw adoption).

In practice, when a Public Hearing is required, 1st and 2nd readings are done at one meeting, and an Opportunity to the Heard is immediately scheduled for the next Public Hearing (usually, the last scheduled Council Meeting of the Month). Once the Public Hearing is completed, 3rd reading is usually passed or rejected immediately. If rejected, the process ends there; If passed, Adoption takes place at a subsequent meeting.

The Zoning for the River Sky site is currently Comprehensive Development Zoning (CD_60). This is a special type of zoning that allows a mix of commercial and residential use, in this case 10,000 square feet of commercial and 519 Residential units in two towers.

The Zoning Amendment Bylaw that made that so (#7722, 2014) first came to Council on September 8, 2014 (after being initially reviewed in the months previous, and going through public open houses, presentations to the local Residents Association Community Board, etc.). The Committee of the Whole agreed unanimously to consider the Amendment for 1st and 2nd reading with no discussion. At the evening meeting there were three hours of delegations on the Whitecaps-in-Queens-Park proposal, so little surprise 1st and 2nd reading went by without a lot of discussion. A Public Hearing on the project was called for September 29, 2014.

On September 29, 2014, the Public Hearing was initiated. After it was noted that 12 pieces of correspondence were received on the project (5 in support, 6 opposed, and 1 neutral), it was determined that adequate notice had not been given to the neighbourhood about the Opportunity to be Heard, so Council recessed the meeting. The Public Hearing was rescheduled for October 27, 2014, by which time the correspondence had swelled to 17 pieces (7 in favour, 7 opposed, and 3 neutral/comments), and several residents and businesses spoke in favour or in opposition to the project as part of their Opportunity to be Heard. On that evening, Council read the Bylaw for the 3rd time.

The Bylaw was finally adopted on February 23, 2015. It became the law of the land at that time. The on-line zoning map does not appear to have been updated since 2013, but you can get an idea of how land was zoned in 2013 by looking at that. I’m not sure when the City’s GIS is updated, but my quick check shows the zoning for 1000 Quayside Drive has not been updated yet.

As for when the Developer can advertise properties for sale, I guess they need to risk-manage that. If there is some benefit for them advertizing early to gauge interest or help them develop a vision that is saleable, then risk disappointing customers when their plans aren’t approved as they hoped, I guess they could run that risk. I suspect they could even collect “speculative deposits” on a future development, but I doubt any mortgage company or bank would lend you money to buy an apartment that hasn’t been approved to be built yet. River Sky opened their display centre on February 14 (the day of the City’s OCP “Love Our City” event), but they did not start actual sales until after final adoption.