Council – October 26, 2015

The longest road show in the history of City Councils continued October 26th at the Anvil Centre, and as it was the last meeting of the month, it was our customary Public Hearing night, where the public can give us their opinions on specific bylaws, as is their right under the Local Government Act.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7778, 2015
This proposal to add a Caretaker Suite to a planned industrial building below Stewardson Way adjacent to the Queensborough Bridge seemed like a completely reasonable request. It facilitated an increase in useable employment space in the City, while providing a level of security to a relatively isolated location.

There was no written correspondence on this project, and the only opposition came from Southern Railway, as they wanted to be on the record opposing any development in places that might cause their operations to disturb people, what with the noise and all. I had to bite my tongue a bit here, as Southern are great corporate partners in the City, and have worked very diligently with the City to address whistle cessation needs and enhancing safety at their crossings in the Quayside and Queensborough. However freezing from redevelopment all land that might be within some ill-defined disturbance zone of the train operations, when train whistles can clearly be heard across the City, is not a reasonable request.

Council moved to recommend this project move on for Third Reading, but are holding Adoption until the Proponent and the City can work out language around a covenant placed on the title of the property indicating that the owner (and future owners) acknowledges the presence of an active rail line adjacent to the property.

OCP Amendment Bylaw No. 7783, 2015 [97 Braid Street]
Sapperton Green is a large, long-term vision for the area around Braid station. I really expected some people from the Sapperton community to come out and speak on this plan, but this did not happen. This is still (even after 4 years of work) an early stage in the development of Sapperton Green, as this OCP amendment will lead to a Master Plan process (with public open houses and stakeholder engagement), multiple rezoning (each with a Public Hearing) and Development Permit applications, which all have to get past Council. This will not be your last chance to speak to Council and the Proponents about Sapperton Green over the couple of decades it will take to develop this site.

To me, the larger transportation problem here has not been fully addressed, though I do not expect it to be addressed at this stage (given the decades-long build-out process). The Burnette Overpass, the Braid-Brunette intersection, and Braid Street through to East Columbia are not functioning as we would like right now, and we have existing plans to work with Coquitlam, TransLink and the Provincial Ministry of Transportation to find solutions. The approval of an OCP to start the design process for Sapperton Green does not change the current situation, but it does set the context within which the longer-term solutions have to be measured.

I am very optimistic that we can work with Coquitlam and achieve our common goals around the Burnette overpass and bringing traffic relief to both historic Sapperton and Maillardville neighbourhoods, and we shouldn’t be constraining our options. In their comments, Coquitlam suggested that access to the Crane Site is something that they are concerned about long-term; perhaps that’s a place where we can work with them. I think those conversations will be positive for both cities.

I note also that Metro Vancouver and TransLink are supportive of the OCP Amendments in general terms, as they see this development as meeting the spirit and goals of the regional growth strategy, of the regional Transport 2040 plan. Both of these speak of concentrating working and living space at transit hubs, of which braid Station is definitely one. It is by developing the compact transit-oriented communities that we reduce the traffic load and growth pressures on other areas where existing neighbourhoods are most at risk.

This form of development, like Coquitlam’s great new developments adjacent to the new Burquitlam Station and Richmond and Vancouver’s projects around the Canada Line are part of the regional plan, and are part of the regional solution to making transportation more efficient in the region. Far from being part of the problem, they are fundamental to us finding regional transportation solutions.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7785, 2015
This amendment adds boarding of a small number of cats to the language of the Zoning Bylaw to permit this activity to facilitate the moving of a business to 12th Street. We had two written submissions on this project, one in support, and one opposed, but with no reason stated for the opposition. Council moved to recommend this change in wording.


Immediately after the Public Hearing, our Regular Meeting began with Council moving the recommendations from the Public Hearing that just ended:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7778, 2015
Received Third Reading.

OCP Amendment Bylaw No. 7783, 2015 [97 Braid Street]
Received Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7785, 2015 (800 Twelfth Street)
Received Third Reading.

We then provided an official Opportunity to be Heard on two Development Permits. This provides neighbours, or anyone else with interest in these projects, a chance to provide feedback to Council before we issue the permits.

Development Variance Permit No. 00599 for 520 Twenty First Street
This is the DVP to support the development of the Industrial site with a caretaker suite, the rezoning of which we just gave Third Reading to. The DVP takes care of some of the minor variances for the building that do not strictly fit the zoning or other regulations for the site, such as a modification of the driveway width. Hearing no opposition, and acting on the recommendation of our planning staff, Council moved to issue the Permit.

Development Permit for 26 East Royal Avenue – (Parcel E, Victoria Hill)
This Development Permit sets the rules under which the new Mixed Commercial-residential low-rise development at “Parcel E” in Victoria Hill will be built. This will be a 4-story building, which will finally bring a bit of local retail to the Victoria Hill neighbourhood. Again, hearing no opposition, and acting on the recommendation of our planning staff, Council moved to issue the Permit.

We then dealt with a few Bylaws:

Five Year Financial Plan (2015-2019) Amendment
Every time our budget estimates change, for the positive or the negative, we need to pass a Bylaw that effectively edits our Five Year Financial Plan, as the Community Charter requires us to keep that plan as updated and transparent as possible. This change makes some amendments:

• There were two changes made related to the Anvil Centre Office Tower sale. There has been some back-and-forth between the purchaser and the City over what the level of fit-out of the Tower belongs to each party. Completing this work has delayed the occupancy date (resulting in a reduction in taxes paid to the City) and some costs for the extra fit-out items the City agreed was its responsibility;

• There is a major new expense for the Electrical Utility when BC Hydro decided it was no longer going to perform maintenance on our Royal 2 substation;

• We have set a bit more money aside for anticipated land transactions;

• GVRD water main work on Ewen Ave is going to cost us $2.7M, and GVRD are going to pay us $2.7M for it, meaning New West taxpayers are not affected at all, but these two line items need to be added to the plan; and

• Changes are being made to how we pay for a portion of the renovations at City Hall, taking the money from reserves instead of accruing more debt.

Council gave this bylaws three readings.

Temporary Borrowing Bylaws No. 7788, 2015
I mentioned this Bylaw in my October 5 Meeting Report. With Council moving Adoption of this Bylaw, it is now the Law of the Land. Adjust your behaviour accordingly.

Tax Exemption and Exempt Properties Bylaw No. 7784, 2015
I also mentioned this Bylaw in my October 5 Meeting Report, and it has since been confirmed to me that I am not in conflict here, so I didn’t leave the table when Council moved Adoption, and it is now the Law of the Land. Adjust your behaviour accordingly.

Development Cost Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 7770, 2015
I mentioned this Bylaw in my September 14th Meeting Report, when we gave it three readings and sent it to the Province for approval. Clearly, it met approval, as we are now moving Adoption. It is now the Law of the Land. Adjust your behaviour accordingly.

Then we had four items that were discussed at greater length during a Council Workshop earlier in the day (which you can watch here): and we were prepared to take action upon:

City grants allocation for 2016
We have, as a Council, made a few decisions in the last year that impact how grant funding is allocated. Staff has asked Council to clarify what the Grant budget will be for next year, in light of these changes. Council agreed to increase the Grant budget consummate with these decisions, of which there were two types.

In some instances, we have taken items that were normally covered by other parts of the City’s budget, and moved them into the “grants” category. For example, there are expenses related to the transportation of the City’s parade float that have always come out of the transportation/fleet budget, and we decided this year that this should instead be included with Partnership Grants, because it represents an in-kind contribution to a partnership organization. This simply creates more transparency about how that money is spent, instead of having it buried somewhere ins a department budget.

The second instance is where council, outside of the regular granting process, has approved money for an organization. This year, that means the extra money Council approved for the Fraser River Discovery centre to support their Working River Project. The main question was whether we take that from other grants, or expand the funding envelope. Council chose the latter.

Uptown Live
Council moved to approve a grant to the Uptown BIA for the Uptown Live event next summer. This issue received a little press, and resulted in some good discussion at Council. I will write another blog post this week to discuss my position on this at more length.

Proposed 2016 Schedule of Regular Meetings
This is the formal acceptance of a schedule for Council Meetings for 2016. Adjust your social lives accordingly!

Capital Budget Amendment
As was mentioned in an earlier post, the Police station change room and washroom facilities need to be upgraded. These changes are overdue, and the plan reflects the actual gender mix of the staff (both civilian and the ones with the badges). The budget to make the changes looks reasonable, considering the age of the building and the scale of the re-construction that needs to take place (including major plumbing and HVAC changes). Council approved the budget to make the renovation happen.

And that, except for the huge media scrum (pictured above), was all for one night!

Community – Oct. 25 2015

Aside from all the excitement around elections – all candidate events, get out the vote effort, and even scrutineering at the polls (hey, if you like democracy, you should take part in it) – there were other events happening in the City over the last couple of weeks, so here is my what-I’ve-been-up-to report.

The annual New Westminster Homelessness Coalition fundraiser was on October 15th at the Columbia Theatre. I sat with other politicians, activists, advocates, outreach workers, staff members of service agencies, volunteers, and concerned citizens. We were there to raise money to help those who seek to house people in New Westminster, but we were also there to talk about past successes and failures, and about the challenges ahead.

We were given an inspirational (and at times heartbreaking) speech by Judy Graves who made a career of her calling – direct outreach to Vancouver homeless to find out what they need to get into a shelter, or just to get through the day. We also heard time and time again that New Westminster is doing great things to help homelessness, punching above our weight when senior governments are dropping the ball.

The election is over, so it is a good time to remember that Canada is the only G7 country without a national housing program. We used to have one, several actually: one to help people buy houses, another to help builders increase the stock, more to help people form a Co-op and manage their own affordable housing alternatives. But the Liberals withdrew funding from new social housing in 1993, and in 1996 they announced they were getting out of the business of subsidies to existing social housing. Some provinces (notably BC in the late 90s and Quebec) stepped up to fill the gap, most did not. Where Canada built 20,000 units of social housing annually in the 1980s, that number dropped to about 1,000 annually in the late 1990s. When the Conservatives took over, they did nothing to change this file. I am optimistic that this trend will change with the new government.

On October 17th, I did a repeat of the walking tour I led earlier in the year as part of Jane’s Walk, talking about the geology of the building stones of New Westminster. This is a slightly different look at the History of New Westminster – a 250-Million-year history of the rocks that make up some of our notable buildings, from Nanaimo Group sandstone at the Fisheries Building and CPR Station to the andesite of the Federal Building and the Jura limestone of the Anvil centre. No real point to this talk, but a fun mix if Geology 101 and local history.

The tower at Holy Trinity Cathedral, built of Cretaceous sandstone from the Gulf Islands, recycled from the previous Church lost in the 1898 fire. there are fossils in that rock as well.

Also on October 17th was the annual Tailgate Auction fundraiser for the Hyacks Football Program. This is a fun night of music and entertainment, with the centerpiece being an arm-wrestling challenge between several of the burlier looking Hyack Players. It is a great fun, and a good way to support a program that has done a lot to build confidence in a generation of players and pride in our school and City.

On October 21st I attended a wake for an old friend – the Newsleader Newspaper. As sad as it was to watch the Leader close and some real talent end up out of work, Wednesday’s get-together was generally a positive event, people looking back at the good work they did. I also got to meet some reporters whose work I have followed for years, but have never met, like Jeff Nagel, who is easily the best Civic Affairs reporter in the Lower Mainland.


On October 22nd, The Arts Council of New Westminster held a public engagement session to get feedback on their Strategic Plan for the year(s) ahead. If you are interested in the Arts in New West and how they are developed, you can take their survey here to help them reach you better!

October 23rd there was a Craft Beer Event at the RiverMarket, put on by our local craft beer mecca Barley’s Home Brewing. This was a well-attended event, where some regional craft beers were tasted, and an expert panel answered questions from the technical to the arcane about home brewing, the local industry, and the state of beer in a rapidly evolving market. Amongst the panelists was New Westminster’s own Jorden Foss of Steel & Oak, who coincidentally won an award for Best Lager at the BC Craft Beer Awards this last weekend. After having many conversations and a few beers, and hearing how the local industry is working together to build a local industry of fresh beer, I only reinforced my conclusion that beer people are good people.


October 24th, the Council of the Councils was held in Surrey at their new City Hall. This is a semi-annual meeting of Mayors and Councillors from around greater Vancouver, where the operational Boards and Committees of Metro Vancouver report out on happenings in the your water supply, sewer and liquid waste treatment systems, solid waste management, and parks and regional planning. It also provides us an opportunity to ask questions and fill in the details of how the regional government is going. Short version: water conservation worked this summer, we are going to be spending a lot of money updating the Lions Gate and Iona Water Sewage Treatment Plants, and we are doing well towards our solid waste reduction goals.


I also had a chance to tour Surrey’s new City Hall. It is rather amazing what $100Million will get you. Yowza.


Finally, this last Saturday night was the ninth (9th!) PechaKucha New Westminster event, at the Anvil Centre. I don’t know how Neal and Melinda Michael manage to always cob together 10 compelling and talented people to present at these events, but this event (coordinated with the Momentum Youth Festival) showed that after 3 years, they can still pull it off. It was a wonderful collection of talks, starting with funny, moving through challenging and heart-wrenching, and ending with hilarious. There was a juxtaposition of talks in the first half that had the entire crowd buzzing at the intermission, and the final punchline was a professional designer agreeing that the aesthetics of Kingsway match perfectly the transportation and urban planning aspects of the street: ugly. Much laughter ensued.

Ask Pat: Grey Water

Lindsay asks—

Hi Pat,

Do the New Westminster city bylaws allow me to install a grey water system in my bathroom where I can redirect, filter and retain shower water? I live on a steep hill (like many other residents!) and I would like, with the aid of gravity and waste water, to grow my garden responsibly. Currently, we are using buckets. A filtration system would allow us to store the water when we produce more than we need, and a three way valve from the washroom would maximize our efficiency.

Thank you!

Some people probably read the above and cannot imagine why someone would want to keep the water coming out of their shower drain. However, re-use of “grey water” (waste water that has not come in contact with sewage) is pretty common around the world outside of North America.

I have a family member that lives on a Gulf Island where groundwater resources are scarce, and she lived for years off of rainwater collected from her roof. It doesn’t rain much on the Gulf Islands, so she relied on a large storage tank, and careful conservation of water. She also had a spectacular vegetable garden, maintained almost completely from grey water that she recycled the old-fashioned way: collecting it in buckets instead of letting it run down the drain.

This simple method relies on a few things: using the water pretty much when you produce it so no storage is necessary (giving no time for water to fester and pathogens to grow) and careful selection of soaps and detergents to assure you aren’t spreading too much sodium, sulphates, boron, or other things bad for soil structure onto your garden. As kitchen water is sometimes used, there is an extremely small but non-zero risk of food borne illness transmitting to your root vegetables, but good kitchen hygiene can make this risk vanishingly small.

The storage thing is probably your biggest issue. Just filtering the hair, lint, and other cooties out of the water will not stop collected greywater from getting septic very fast. Once you have warmed it, volatilized the chlorine out of it, and added a little organic matter, that water is going to get gross. If you wish to store it, you will need to filter then treat the water, with something like UV or ozone or you will quickly have a smelly putrid mess.

But your question was whether our Bylaws allow it, and I would say it depends on the Bylaw you read. The Plumbing Bylaw says:

No person shall cause, suffer or permit the disposal of sewage, human excrement, or liquid wastes, in any place or manner except through and by means of an approved plumbing system, conforming to the British  Columbia Plumbing Code and this bylaw…

Grey water would follow under the category of Liquid Waste, so if the BC Building Code allows your pipe system, the City would. There have been some recent changes to the BC Building Code that do allow for two-pipe systems and some recycling of non-potable water, but you are going to need to get a Building Code expert to answer any questions around that.

However, the City also has a Sewerage and Drainage Bylaw that says, amongst other things:

13. Every owner shall ensure that:
(a) all Sewerage originating from any building located on such property owner’s  property is connected to and discharged into the Municipal Sewerage System, when such a system is available to the property;

“Sewerage” is defined in the same Bylaw to include:

waterborne Waste from the preparation and consumption of food and drink, dishwashing, bathing, showering, and general household cleaning and laundry;

which leads me to conclude that the way you are currently collecting buckets of grey water and dumping them on your garden is illegal.

Worse, the same Bylaw also states:

14. Holding tanks are not allowed on any property within the area of the City that has been designated as the Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy – Urban Containment Area, and the City will not permit a Service Connection to a property that contains a holding tank and owners must remove all such holding tanks.

This would probably be a more useful restriction if the bylaw defined “Holding Tank”, which it doesn’t, but I would assume that a tank to hold grey water or liquid waste would qualify (and I am suddenly concerned about the rain water collection tanks I purchased from the City).

This brings me to my easiest conclusion. I would suggest if you were getting into a storage-of-water-program for your garden to reduce water wastage, build a larger-capacity rainwater collection system instead, avoid all the trouble with putrefaction of organics in the grey water, and let your grey water go efficiently to the treatment plant.

Ask Pat: 404 Ash St.

noni asks—

hi Patrick, how many stories will 404 ash st have? projected completion date?

That’s an easy one! Four and I don’t know.

The Development Permit came to Council on August 31, 2015, and the details of the building are available starting on page 94 (!) of this 457 page (!) document, although there were slight modifications after to the landscaping because some Councillor whinged about the loss of trees. The building will have 4 stories above ground with a single level of underground parking.

I don’t know how long it will take to build the building, as there are many factors that control that, almost all out of the control of the City. There is heavy equipment on the site right now demolishing the old parking structure (and removing the trees I whinged about), so I suspect that are going to start building soon, but would assume it takes a year or so to build and fit out a building this size?

This does give me an opportunity to point out one of the reasons I wanted to do this Blog, and am so interested in the work we are doing to improve public engagement in the City. So much of how we traditionally share information about important decisions like this is by the way I just pointed out: Council reports buried in weekly .pdf packages counting in the hundreds of pages. Who wants to dig through those to answer a simple question?

In reality, we do many different types of engagement, from kinda-weekly Shaw TV and online-streamed Council meetings (and you all watch those, right? Hi Mom!) to the weekly City Page in the newspaper, and a slightly-dated but still functional website. The City’s “Projects on the Go” page is a little buried, but a great source of info about high-profile projects. We also engage in all kinds of interesting and meaningful consultation (the current OCP update process being a great example of this). But we still have a situation where people can’t easily put their eyes on detailed info they might want.

I don’t propose this Blog will fix that, and I frankly don’t know how to fix it, but the Mayor’s Public Engagement Taskforce is working through various ideas in this direction, and the City is exploring a new Open Data model to make things easier for you to access. So good news ahead, unless no news is good news to you.

That damn elevator

To answer 50% of the questions I have received for the last month: No. The elevator to Pier Park is not open, and I do not have an ETA for its opening.

I once responded on this topic to an Ask Pat, all those months ago, and looking back at that response with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder where that bright-eyed optimist Councillor went with his rosy predictions. I wish I knew now what I knew then.

The elevator is now almost a year overdue from what the plan was when the contract for construction was awarded. I can’t provide many details, but suffice to say the “relatively minor” third delay I mentioned in that earlier post has turned out to be not so easily fixed, and any potential fix needs to meet the extremely strict (and ostensibly arbitrary to us lay folks) requirements of the Safety Authority. There was just enough innovative design in the structure that the design of a fix has proved… problematic.

I know I’m being a little vague about the details of the issue, but it has nothing to do with covering my own ass or that of Council. This project is not being built by the City, but by private contractors who were paid to design and build a project. I am not a structural engineer, so my knowledge of the details is necessarily limited. As parts of the delay may result in a discussions between contractors and the Safety Authority, which may involve evaluating contract language between parties that are not the City, no-one would be served by my semi-informed finger pointing or laying of blame. My job is to keep asking our staff for progress updates, make sure they are pushing the contractors to get the job done ASAP, and to take the political flak for them all when we don’t meet public expectations.

What I can tell you: we will get an elevator working; the delays are not the result of City staff failing to administer the contract effectively; the elevator seems to work fine; a design work-around required to meet a single Safety Authority requirement is proving difficult to engineer to the satisfaction of the City and the contract; these delays are NOT costing the City money (but I can presume at this point that not getting paid is starting to hurt the contractor); and every single person on Council is just as frustrated as you are that we continue to miss hoped-for opening dates.

As an aside, after the last time I went on social media talking about the elevator a friend of mine who has built a number of buildings in New Westminster and neighbouring cities (but was not in any way involved in this overpass project), warned me about making the bold prediction that the problems would be solved soon. He said (and I paraphrase), elevators are to construction what children and animals are to acting – never work with them if you can avoid it. The rules and standards are often arcane (for example, the elevator requires a smoke detector outside the door to prevent it opening in a smoke-filled room. This is an outdoor elevator surrounded by glass, yet the requirement for a smoke detector – which I remind you will be outside – still exists) and there are simply not enough trained elevator technicians in greater Vancouver by a long shot. If you are young, have some mechanical aptitude, and want a sure career path, contact your local elevator contractor and get them to apprentice you. You will always have work. Just try to not spend you entire career on this one project…

A Liberal Majority

The sky was brighter yesterday morning, the coffee richer, the Tom Waits I listened to on the way in to work a little coarser. In other words, everything was just a little bit better. With hope and optimism, I am going to spend the honeymoon period of a post-Harper Canada anticipating that Prime Minister Trudeau will live up to the promises he made, and Canada will once again dream of the possibilities instead of fearing the uncertainties.

Regular readers (Hi Mom!) might have noticed I did not like Stephen Harper. Not a deranged hate (as some may allege), but a serious and considered dislike of his policies, approach, and moral philosophy. However, I was also not excited about the idea of a Trudeau government, as I fear that the Liberal tradition of campaigning left then governing right will arise again. I think Mulcair was honest when talking about issues, and though we will all look back at faults or failings of his messaging, I respect him for boldly standing up for a fundamental rights issue or admitting that an entire new social systems like universal affordable day care or universal single-payer Pharmacare would take time and cooperation from the Provinces to implement (instead of just saying “we’ll do it!” and blithely ignoring the details).

Campaigns are interesting things, and the NDP will, to quote Peter Julian quoting Tommy Douglas quoting Andrew Barton, have to “lay down and bleed a while, then rise to fight again.” There will be assessment and reckoning, but suffice to say the tide turned in mid-September, and we may never really know how much of that shift was due to the actions of each of the three leaders. Many Political Scientists will write Ph.Ds on the topic, and most will contradict the others. I have my own opinions about the NDP campaign (using “Stop Harper” as backdrop wallpaper in the last week is a failure of campaign 101, and the silly “we only need 35 seats, Liberals need 100” message meant something when the writ dropped with the NDP leading the polls, but in October it sounded out of touch and somehow disrespectful), as I’m sure you do, but the NDP, Conservatives, and Greens have 4 years to decide what to do better next time; the Liberals can use the same time to show us they deserve the mandate we gave them.

The Liberal sweep really landed in Greater Vancouver. Except for the devoted Mark Warawa, the deserted Dianne Watts, and the detestable Alice Wong, every seat in Greater Vancouver is federally NDP or Liberal. That leaves 5 NDP and 14 Liberals to work together on the two most pressing needs for this region: affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. Fortunately, both parties included these high in their  campaign promises, and local governments across this region have been clamouring for this help for years now. The Provincial government has shown some interest in helping with the former and complete disdain for the latter, but the ability to secure funding from Ottawa for projects that will feature ribbon-cutting moments over the next two years may even thaw Christy’s carbonite heart and get our region moving again.

Aside from actually holding a press conference yesterday (with reporters and questions and everything!), the first true signal Prime Minister Trudeau will be sending us in regards to his campaign promises will be COP21, which starts in only 40 days. How he approaches this conference, and concomitantly how he manages the relationship with Rachel Notley through the build-up to a new new global greenhouse gas framework, should tell us much about whether we have really received the change for which we voted.


Locally, I am very happy that my previous MP, Fin Donnelly, and my new MP, Peter Julian were both re-elected (I live in the portion of New West that shifted with the new districts this election). They have both been excellent representatives of our community in Ottawa, work their asses off, and are truly decent human beings who understand their role as elected officials. We would be hard-pressed to do better. With his experience and passionate defense of science during the systematic erosion of it under the previous government, I am glad the Kennedy Stewart also got re-elected in neighbouring Burnaby South, even if it was a nail-biter.

With strife almost certain in the Conservative Party as the remaining PCs and majority Harperites battle for the vision of the “Right”, I am glad we will have local talent at the level of Peter, Fin, and Kennedy to hold the Liberals to their promises.


New Westminster did the election proud. We had excellent candidates who handled themselves respectfully and professionally. I had the opportunity to meet Sasha Ramnarine a few times, and always found him earnest, serious, and passionate about the Liberal cause, even if he isn’t really as tall as that selfie makes him out to be. Kyle Routledge really stood out to me, as he spoke to my environmental scientist heart. He made a true effort to reach out into my community and talk about his ideas, without ever coming across as preachy or a know-it-all (a specific risk for Greens and scientists in general). I think Kyle has real leadership skills that the environmental advocacy community in New West could lean on – if he decides to take up the charge.


Although purveyors of the #NewWest hashtag (me included) were hard on Chloe Ellis for running a campaign of mostly absence, she took that ribbing with grace and humour in the one occasion where I was able to meet her, so if she contacts me, I’m good for that beer I owe her. I would love to hear her debrief of the campaign experience once everything cools down.


Finally, the result was not exactly what I wanted, but I am content in the knowledge that we will not have an election at any level for more than a year, so everyone can stop beating each other up and start governing for a change. Beleaguered campaign staff and volunteers (like me!) can take a deep breath and enjoy the US electoral histrionics with our feet up, our smugness hats, and a cold beer… after planning the Canucks’ parade route, of course. Bring on 2016.

And Mr. Trudeau, please don’t let us down.

Council report – Oct 5, 2015

The City Council Road Trip continued, as we set up Council in the Auditorium at the Library in Uptown. With the Mayor out of town, Acting Mayor for October, Councillor Trentadue, did a bang-up job keeping us on Agenda and the meeting running smooth.

The meeting started with a staff update on the Official Community Plan process “Our City 2014”. The report we were provided concentrated on how infill density and “middle housing” could be made more available in the City, and these ideas will be bounced around on November 7th at a public workshop at the Anvil Centre.

The report (part of the agenda I linked to above) is worth reading, as it provides a great review of the different types of housing we could accommodate in the future – between the Single Family Detached home (which is becoming less and less affordable for young families) and the high-rise apartment (which often is not accommodating to the needs of a young family). The report also shows some of the challenges of making these types of housing choices available: how do we protect greenspace and trees? Are these types of developments affordable with today’s land prices? Where does Freehold vs. Strata work?

I found it interesting that so many examples, from rowhomes to clusterhouses are already built and occupied in Queensborough, and if you wonder how these types of developments work, it might be worth your time to take a walk around the Port Royal neighbourhood (it really is beautiful) and see how these different forms actually look on the ground.

I also find it perplexing how much time we spend talking about cars – more than we actually spend talking about people and homes. That is something we need to fix.

I look forward to seeing what happens on November 7th with the workshop. This is an interesting discussion, and the information in this report will help guide a better discussion about what our vision is for the City for the next 30 years. If you care enough about the City to read this blog, you should probably show up and get your two cents in.

After a few proclamations, we moved on to the Consent Agenda, the following of which were moved on consent (so we moved them without discussion):

City Grant Information Session and Festival Planning Workshop
The City held a first-ever workshop for organizations applying for Festival grants. We have a variety of organizations that apply to put on events, which sometimes means they ask for a grant, and almost always means they need to ask to occupy a street or park and deal with everything from liquor licenses to portable bathrooms to emergency plans. Dealing with all of the things the City requires can be daunting for a new organizer, and even some of the more experienced organizations may benefit from understand how to better interact with various City departments to make things run more smoothly. Staff put on an evening workshop that was well attended and generally well received. So we will make it an annual event.

Council Meetings in November
To little surprise, City Hall renovations are running behind schedule. The good news is that they are on budget, but we won’t have access to the Chamber for the best part of November. So the tour continues.

The meetings in November will be held at the Anvil Centre. Adjust your schedules appropriately.

Major Purchasing Transactions (January 1 to April 30, 2015)
Three times a year, the Finance department reports its major purchases to Council. This is partly to inform us, but also to assure that there is a public disclosure of how we spend our money.

This is another on the long list of ways Government is different that Business, and why we cannot run a City “more like a business”. Having worked in small business for much of my life, I recognize no business would disclose to all of their suppliers and competitors what they budgeted to pay for a project, and what they paid to a supplier’s competitors. That would be protected info to provide a competitive advantage in negotiations. However a City has a regulatory responsibility for public disclosure, even if that costs us money in the long run.

Anyway, look the table over, see where you think we paid too much, and be sure to watch BC Bid and underbid these guys next time so the City can save you money.

Temporary Borrowing Bylaws No. 7788, 2015
Now this is a bit more business-like. The Front Street Remediation / Demolition project included $3.3Million in debt financing, and we need to pass a Bylaw to authorize that borrowing. This does not mean it is $3.3Million over budget, this was always the plan for how to pay for a portion of the work that could not be paid out of money in the bank.

We did this type of borrowing for the Pier Park and NW Substation upgrades. However, we still have almost $9,000,000 in unissued debt authorization on those projects (Money we received authorization to borrow, but never had to borrow to make the projects work), so this resolution also rescinds the authorization to borrow that $9 Million.

Hope that makes sense.

We then moved on to discussing the Items removed from Consent:

OCP Amendment for 97 Braid Street (Sapperton

This is ready for official public hearing, after 5 years of work, 4 open houses, the striking and meeting of a stakeholder group from the neighbourhood. The first Council Resolution on this was March 14, 2011. Two councils ago. This is not a rushed process.

There will soon be a Public Hearing on this step of the process which is an OCP update. This will be a Master Planned Community, which means after the initial “aspirational” vision of the neighbourhood is passed, a Master Planning Process with flesh out the details around building distribution, size, transportation corridors, etc. Most regional stakeholders have supported the OCP change, with a few notable exceptions that the media took note of.

I am still concerned about transportation around this project, and how we are going to deal with the Braid – Brunette intersection, and with the Brunette overpass of Highway 1. As I wrote earlier, I hope we can have a meaningful and non-confrontational dialogue with Coquitlam council, because I think we both have the same interest here – in making that overpass a functional gateway to our respective Cities.

The comments from the Trucking Association concerned me in a way that the comments from Coquitlam did not. The language in their comments made it clear that they saw the streets of our City only as “goods movement corridors”. I see them more as transportation corridors serving local residents, the residents and businesses of our adjacent communities, and the entire region, be they driving cars, riding busses, cycling, walking or hoverboarding (this is, I note, a plan looking forward 20+ years).

Worse, the letter from the trucking association first notes that the expansion of Highway 1, the Port Mann Bridge, and the SFPR (all of which they supported),
have completely failed to reduce the trucking load on our surface streets because their members are not using these expensive maga-projects that we all paid more than $5 Billion (and counting) to build, but are instead diverting to local roads through our residential and commercial neighbourhoods. They then somehow use this to argue that they “suffer” congestion in our neighbourhoods. Its almost like they cant hear themselves.

This is why we need to work with Coquitlam, because Maillardville needs relief just as Sapperton does, and if we forget that Brunette Highway connects these communities and the people in them, we may lose the livability of both to the insatiable hunger of “goods movement”.

800 Twelfth Street –Amendment to Zoning Bylaw
A business is interested in moving to New Westminster from nearby Burnaby, and needed to adjust the Zoning Bylaw to accommodate one use of the land that is not currently covered in the Zoning (boarding cats). Council referred this for First and Second Reading.

Exempt Properties
I excluded myself from this discussion because I am an active member and former Director of the Royal City Curling Club which receives this benefit, and @MsNWimby is a current director of the Arts Council of New West, which also receives a benefit.

After all of that excitement, we moved on to Bylaws:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7785, 2015 (800 Twelfth Street)
This is the Cat Hotel mentioned above. Council moved two readings, with a Public Hearing Scheduled for November 30, 2015. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

OCP Amendment Bylaw No. 7783, 2015 (97 Braid Street)
This is the OCP Amendment for Sapperton green mentioned above. It received two readings, and a Public Hearing is scheduled for October 26, 2015. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Taxation Exemption and Exempt Properties Bylaw No. 7784, 2015
This is the Bylaw to support the tax exemption, the earlier discussion of which I removed myself from. This is what you get when you lose attention for just a moment at Council, as I probably should have removed myself from this vote to remove the perception of conflict. I did not move or second the Bylaw, there was no subsequent discussion, and my non-opposition vote was counted as part of the consensus. Add this to the point that the conflict is one of perception (I don’t actually receive any fiduciary or other benefits from either of these organizations), and it is pretty easy to argue nothing untoward happened here. Rookie mistake.

Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 7788, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed above, and was given three readings.

Electric Utility Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 7782, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed and given three readings at the September 28 meeting, and was adopted today. It’s now the Law of the Land – adjust your behavior appropriately.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7779, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed and given third readings at the September 28 meeting, and was adopted today. It’s now the Law of the Land – adjust your behavior appropriately

Borrowing Bylaw No. 7780, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed and given third readings at the September 28 meeting, and was adopted today. It’s now the Law of the Land – adjust your behavior appropriately

Finally, we (for a change of pace) had a bit of New Business added to the Agenda.

Quayside Community Emergency Drill
There was an emergency preparedness, communications and evacuation drill down on the Quayside last weekend. The neighbourhood down there has for several years asked about

While the exercise went well from a functional standpoint and the response agencies were able to test systems, there was problem in the organization of the exercise in that the community simply didn’t turn up. Apparently there was a gap in communications between the City and the residents of the buildings. There will be a debrief at the next Emergency Advisory Committee, and the Mayor’s Public Engagement Taskforce will add this to their agenda.

And after that, it was all over but for the Delegations.

Community, Oct 5, 2015

Last week I spent a lot of time doing terribly partisan volunteer political work for the upcoming election, which cut a bit into my out-in-the-community time. But I still got a few things in, including a relatively non-partisan All Candidate’s Meeting.

They must have been nervous at the start, because it was a lot more fun a meeting than it looks here.

The Queens Park Residents Association always runs a great all-candidates event, and this year was no exception, The crowd is respectful, the questions thoughtful, and the setting delightful. You can follow the mood of the room (surprisingly lovey) from this storified collection curated by Julie MacLellan at the Record, including a lot of my (trying not to be totally partisan) tweets.

Other events last week were refreshingly less political.

Saturday morning, The City and the Alzheimer Society of BC held a community conversation entitled: “Dementia-Friendly New West”. There were presentations and opportunities for community feedback on various aspects of making a City more livable for people with dementia and those who support them. I learned a lot about the different types of dementia, and how it impacts the daily lives of people, be they the diagnosed person, a family member, or another caregiver. The City’s Social Planner provided results of a survey recently performed to determine the needs and challenges of people impacted by dementia. It was a great event, and an opportunity for me to learn a little more about city-building that they don’t teach you in City Council candidate school.


Saturday was also the 75th Anniversary of the Wait for me Daddy photograph, which made it a great time to unveil the Official Dedication Plaque installed at Hyack Square to recognize the people who put the Statue program together.

There were also special performances at the Anvil Centre. The University of Calgary Wind Ensemble performed an original piece by New Westminster native Brian Garbet which was inspired by the Wait for Me Daddy photograph. There was a performance by the Lord Tweedsmuir Theatre Troop inspired by the meanings of “Freedom” and “Discipline”, and performance pieces by three small troupes of multi-disciplinary artists that all combined music, dance, spoken word, video and performance to animate the personal stories of three New Westminster residents who have in some way been impacted by war and separation. It was an inspiring and sometimes chilling show.


Finally, New Westminster Fire Rescue had their annual Open House on Saturday at the Glenbrook Fire Hall. This is a great chance for families to learn about emergency preparedness and what our Fire, Rescue, and Ambulance teams do for a living, all in the guise of getting neighbourhood kids closer to firetruck. Hundreds of people showed up this year (it was a beautiful day!) and got to learn about fire extinguishers, the Jaws of Life, and did I mention firetrucks?

What ever you do, don’t park in front of a fire Hydrant in New West.

Council report – Sept 28, 2015

Council on Tour (which is looking like it is going to last longer than the Who’s retirement tours) continued with us meeting in Sapperton for the first time, at the Sapperton Pensioner’s Hall.

There was an extended Public Hearing on the 4th tower at Plaza 88. Short version is that Council supported the revised plan with some conditions on managing how the building integrates with the rest of Plaza 88. I think this will deserve its own blog post, so I will not expand on the comments I made at the meeting Council (see the video here) in this post, but will hold off so I can flesh it out a little better.

At the regular meeting, we started with passing the two recommendations that came from the Public Hearing, then had Opportunity to be Heard on two variance requests:

302 5th Street
This request to build a garage taller than permitted in the zoning made sense to me. They have a unique house (Dutch Colonial style), and to make the garage fit with the roofline of the house and make sense architecturally, it need to be taller than specifically permitted. The neighbours are not opposed, and the upper space will be designed to not be living space, but with a truss system that will prevent it from being converted to an illegal living space. I had no reason to oppose this reasonable request.

1258 Ewen Ave
This relatively minor variance (10 inches), would allow the building to match the scale and mass of the building right next door. The Residents’ Association reviewed and approved the request, and with no-one speaking against it, I have no reason to oppose this request.

Following that business, we moved on to the Consent Agenda, where the following was passed without comment:

Amendment to the 2015 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
Yes, Council on the Road continues. It appears that City Hall Renovations are (surprise!) delayed a bit, and the October 5th meeting will be at the Library. We have also cancelled the meeting on Election Day, so you should be out voting, or helping people vote, instead of sitting around watching Council.

SOP for October 10, 2015: Cyclo Cross in Queens Park!
This was a motion to approve a beer garden license for Queens Park for a bike race. You may not think beer and bike races are a logical connection, but then you don’t know about the sport of Cyclocross. This decidedly Belgian style of cycling involved riding bicycles designed for riding on the road in places where there are not roads. In Belgium, it is usually winter farmer’s fields, in North America it tends to be grassy fields and other such “off road” places. Here is a good intro to what ‘Cross is:

I’m really excited that Caps the Original is bringing a ‘Cross Race to New West. It is as much fun to watch as it is to race, with even the most serious competitors happy to engage in beer (or increasingly bacon) hand-ups, costumes, and general comradery. You should go on October 10 and watch. Rain or shine, but it will be more fun in the rain!

Investment Report
The City has $132 Million in the bank. This is a combination of money we have set aside for special projects (like the eventual Canada Games Pool replacement), money we have collected through DCCs or utility capital funds that are specifically earmarked for capital projects, and strategic reserves there to assure long-term solvency. We earned about $1.8Million in interest on these funds, which is (not surprisingly considering the global trend right now) less than predicted.

Most of our money is saved with the Municipal Finance Authority, which gives us good rates and excellent security, and assures that our money is invested in building communities in British Columbia. Earlier this year, Council recommended asking the MFA to divest from fossil fuels, and we have since been joined by Victoria and other municipalities in this direction. This is an ongoing conversation that will be taken to the MFA general meeting in the spring.

Temporary Borrowing for 2016
The City needs to borrow money sometimes for operations in the short term, and much like a business or household, we run a line of credit to allow that flexibility. We don’t often use it very much, but it is there in the event we need it. The Community Charter says we need to have a bylaw to authorize short-term borrowing, so annually Council has to approve a bylaw like this.

520 Twenty-First Street, Rezoning Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This is a vacant piece of property recently liquidated by the Provincial government next to the Queensborough Bridge. A company wants to build an industrial building on the site to employ people, and because of the type of business they want to run and the somewhat remote location, they want a caretaker suite in the building. We need to change the zoning to allow this. There will be a Public Hearing on October 26, 2015. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

335 Buchanan Avenue – Preliminary Report, Heritage Revitalization Agreement
This is a somewhat unique Heritage Revitalization Agreement project, as the house is not the typical Victorian/Edwardian/Craftsman type most people would think of when they imagine a heritage home. This is a 1937 modern-style home. There will be a Public Hearing about the project, assuming it gets through the few steps before, so I’ll hold my comments until after that.

205 Clinton Place – Preliminary Report, Heritage Revitalization Agreement
A more typical HRA process, in that it is a more typical 1912 house. Again, this will go to Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.

602 Ewen Avenue – Preliminary Report, Rezoning Application
This plan for a townhouse development in Queensborough is at the initial stages. Council approved it moving forward to the next stages.

These things all passed, we then addressed Items Removed from Consent:

Fraser River Discovery Centre
The Fraser River Discovery Centre is, in my mind, a really positive development on the City’s waterfront. As we look at the longer-term goals of the City to develop a waterfront that connects people to the water, it has a role to improve knowledge and appreciation about how that silty band of water defines our City and our province, and helped build our nation.

However, the Centre has had some ongoing sustainability issues, as they have grown and developed over the years. It should be no surprise to any educational not-for-profit that you need to build it for them to come, but the revenue to build it will not arrive until they arrive. The scale and quality of the displays has been steadily improving, and the visits have therefore been increasing. I hope that trend can continue, and the funding model becomes sustainable so the FRDC can stand on its own.

The request was for an increase in the grants the City provides FRDC over the next three years (from $30,800 this year to $60,000 for each of the next three next years). Because of some funding windows with other sponsors that the Centre had to get by, we needed to address this issue outside of the regular grant process. This will include the money they currently receive from various other community grants (Festival, Community, Heritage, and Environment), and comes with the commitment to still make all of the contributions that those grants supported.

I was supportive of this increased support, but from a process standpoint, I don’t like doing a three-year approval outside of the regular granting process. I respect the time-sensitive nature of this year’s request, but the following two years can be addressed this fall with the rest of the grant reviews.

Sapperton Park Refurbishment Public Consultation Overview
I wondered about the timing here. We need to put any changes to Sapperton Park into context of changes at Royal Columbian Hospital and the Economic Health Care Cluster. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Sapperton Park could be re-aligned to better address what will be a very different East Columbia Street – this could include removing the fence, re-orienting the playing fields, etc. I don’t want to do work on the back half of the park without doing a master plan for the entire park.

After the short conversation, I’m satisfied with moving ahead with the consultation, and that Parks has the entire park and potential changes at the Columbia Street end in mind.

Funny. I had no idea this was going on when I answered this Ask Pat, so it probably gives you an idea of how useful that red button up to the right is. It is possible I have no idea whatsoever.

User Fees and Rates Review
These various fees in the City are reviewed on a regular basis, mostly to keep up with inflation. The general practice/policy is that these fees should be adjusted to reflect the true cost of providing the service. As a policy, that makes sense to me.

I think residents in every City feel theirs is the most expensive, and New West is no exception. So I want to know where our fees are relative to other Cities when they are adjusted. If our fees are much higher or lower than other Cities, I want to know if it is because of the efficiency of our processes, or if there are other factors.

We then moved onto Bylaws for Reading and Adoption:

Bylaw No. 7782, 2015
This Bylaw to adjust the Electrical Utility as discussed September 14 was given Three Readings.

Bylaw No. 7780, 2015
This is the temporary borrowing Bylaw discussed above, which received three readings.

Bylaw No. 7778, 2015
This is the Zoning Bylaw for the caretaker unit discussed above, which received two readings.

Bylaw No. 7760, 2015
This was the zoning amendment for 328 Holmes, discussed June 22, and now Adopted by Council. It’s the Law of the Land, folks, adjust your behaviour appropriately.

And that was a Meeting! Sorry it took me a week to provide this report.