Ask Pat: Dontenwill Hall

Someone asked—

Hey Pat, I was driving down Agnes Street the other day and was checking out the progress on the restoration of the old Dontenwill Hall (336 Agnes) and remember reading in your April 3 post that you support the proposed HRA for this redevelopment, which provided some concessions to the developer as a means to ensure that survival of this ” the historically important building”. The thing that struck me as odd while I drove by was the recent installation of Vinyl windows and addition of a huge A/C unit on the front roof. Being under an HRA, shouldn’t the exterior materials used be in keeping with those available at the time of construction and should not there be reasonable attempts to place mechanical systems so that they do not affect the street appearance of the building?

This is one of those topics of which I don’t know much, so I need to do more research, and rely on the opinions and suggestions of our staff and the external experts who do know more.

The conditions of the HRA are outlined in the agreement,  which you can read as part of the agenda of the March 3o Public Hearing. The only thing in that agreement that directly references the approach to restoration is this clause:

Upon execution of this Agreement, the Owner shall promptly commence the preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration of the Heritage Building (the “Work”) in accordance with the “Dontenwill Hall – Heritage Conservation Plan” prepared by Pattison Architecture and dated August, 2014, a copy of which is attached as Appendix 2 (the “Conservation Plan”).

Which makes the appended Conservation Plan the document with the details to how the City and proponent have agreed to do the restoration. In there, it appears there were some 1990s vinyl windows that were allowed to stay as they were in good condition and structurally sound, however the agreement states that if those windows ever need replacing, they will need to be with period-appropriate wood framed units. I suspect cleaning them up and fixing up around them might make them look like new units, but I have been assured they are the existing ones.

The air handling system isn’t really covered in the HRA, as there is no reference to it in the Restoration Plan. Apparently, it came later in the planning. This is part I had to check into, and apparently there is a plan to do some screening of the units, but there is a bit of devil in details here. As the HVAC upgrades are not strictly related to the exterior renovation (which is what the HRA secures), and there are building permits and code requirements in regards to air handling that definitely did not exist in 1940, there needs to be a bit of  wiggle room in the final design if we want the building to be functional. Long and short, the HVAC unit does not violate the terms of the HRA, but the “spirit” of the HRA would support screening them to make them blend in better.

Note, the hall is still a “work in progress”, so we should wait to see how it all turns out.

Bugs in my compass

I had a slightly different commute schedule last Wednesday, in that I had a morning meeting in one of New Westminster’s western suburbs, and had one of those multi-leg trips to work. Instead of riding my bike or joining my carpool partners, I took the SkyTrain on all three legs.

My transit commuting is irregular enough that FareSavers have been the most logical and economical way to pay. Since the FareSavers have become about as rare as white rhinos, I have been buying tickets at the kiosk, pretty much because that is the pattern I have fallen into. On the first leg of my Wednesday journey, I reflexively bought a 2-zone ticket and although I noticed a few weeks ago that the new tickets are essentially disposable Compass cards, it took me one of those overstuffed train moments of self-realization to ask: why the hell haven’t I bought a Compass Card?

My thinking place
My thinking place

So on the second leg of my journey, after my meeting in that distant western suburb (I like what they’ve done with the place, not sure why anyone would want to live there), I popped for the $6 deposit and a nice float of $60. The number seemed to me prudent: large enough that it will keep me for a little while as I try out these new-fangled ideas, but not so large that I will hate the world when I inevitably lose it. Tap In at Waterfront; all good.

My first problem was at Brighouse. Like many of my cohort, I was riding with earphones, listening to a Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast, and as I left the station and performed my first Tap Out, I was uncertain if I heard a beep. Actually, I heard multiple beeps, as people were tapping in and out all around me, but did MY kiosk beep? I think so, and with people behind me rushing out of the station to the busses, I didn’t want to break momentum to make sure. Even if I did, would Tapping Out twice somehow mess the system up, and count as re-entry? When did I become so old that new technology confuses me? Was it before or after I completely lost touch with popular music? Is Beyonce still a thing?

Fortunately, I can go on-line to see the status of my Compass Card. To do this, you need to set up an account, and aside from the frustratingly archaic, patriarchal and gender-normative mandatory “Mr/Mrs/Ms” data field (really, TransLink? It’s 2015), the interface was easy enough for gramps like me to navigate. I was able to confirm that, sure enough, the Tap Out didn’t take. My card balance showed $55.80, meaning I was charged the FareSaver Rate of $4.20 for a three-zone ride, instead of the $3.15 FareSaver Rate for a 2-zone ride. To fix my Tap Out mistake, I needed to call the 1-800 phone number, which launched me on yet another metaphysical debate about whether that hassle was worth $1.05 of my time.

I go through life like this, folks. It is harrowing.

Being interested in taking the ride to see where it goes, I did nothing. After work I once again hopped on transit, this time Tapping In at Brighouse Station at 5:10pm (90% sure it beeped for me), Tapping Out at waterfront at about 5:45 (70% sure, as the exit from Canada Line at Waterfront is a serious traffic pinch point that I am still certain will be the failure of the entire FalconGate Fiasco), Tapping In again across the lobby at Waterfront (100% sure, as the FalconGate was operating), and Tapping Out again at Columbia Station at about 6:15 (lets put this one at 95%). I made it to my 6:30 meeting at City Hall just in time. Thanks TransLink!

Curious to see how all of this activity showed up on my card, I logged on (after resetting my password, because who remembers those things?) and this is what I get:


Clearly, Compass is confused, or I really need to work on my tapping skills. My 5:10 Tap In was apparently registered, as it appears to have made the system aware I didn’t tap out, but none of the subsequent taps was registered. Fred Astaire I am not. As far as tracking my movements, we have a 2 for 6 on Taps. I suppose the two Waterfront taps cancel each other out, I’m surprised it didn’t catch me leaving Columbia Station. The good news is:


The confusion of my movements has resulted in TransLink charging me for one three-zone trip, and not for the two 2-zone trips I made, so I guess I am $2.10 up on the deal.

I hasten to note this problem is very likely to go away once the FalconGates are fully operational, as it will be pretty much impossible for you to miss a tap-out. The current bugs in the system should probably be expected, and at least there is a method for you to receive a refund in the case you get overcharged.

As an interesting aside, I have two travel options on transit getting from my work to New West. I can take the Canada Line to Waterfront, then SkyTrain to New West, or I can hop on the 410 bus to 22nd Street station then one stop on SkyTrain. Both take almost exactly the same time, one hour station-to-station. I have always chosen the SkyTrain because it is more comfortable than the 410 bus and (traditionally) more reliable as it doesn’t get stuck in the east-west-connector single-occupant-vehicle Stockholm-syndrome traffic-radio-reality-program plebiscite-free fustercluck that our regional transportation system is becoming.

However, now that we are in the Compass world there is another difference:


The ride on the bus will cost me $2.10 with my loaded Compass Card, the Train ride $3.15. If I was a daily commuter, that would be a difference of more than $500 a year. This makes me wonder if people will actually engage in this type of “toll avoidance”, trading convenience and comfort for a few dollars a day.

Ask Pat: Whistle cessation?

Sleepless asks—

What is the deal with the downtown train whistle cessation program?

In early 2014, it was announced that an agreement had been reached with the railroad companies and that trains would stop whistling downtown as soon as the crossings are upgraded.

In mid-2014, councilor Puchmayr mentioned at a Downtown Residents Association meeting that the only thing holding back whistle cessation downtown was backordered equipment for the Fourth and Begbie St crossings, and that the upgrade work was expected to be completed “within a few weeks”.

A year later, in your May 25, 2015 Council Meeting report on this site, you mentioned that the target for whistle cessation downtown was now September 2015.

I just saw an update on, dated August 2015, which gives a new date of “end of 2015” for downtown whistle cessation.

So, what is the hold-up? Why is a simple crossing upgrade taking so long? Why does the target date keep getting pushed back? Is there any hope of the whistles ever stopping?

Of all those sources, I would trust the most recent one. The problems across the many crossings in the City are complex, and there are some crossings (Spruce Street and Braid, especially) where the issues may be unsolvable in the short term, but that is not true for Begbie and Fourth.

The best update I can give you is this one from the summer that you mentioned, but I am not on the Rail Committee, so there may have been developments since then.

The City really hoped to have the Begbie crossing done this fall, but there were some delays on ordering the required hardware, and now it looks more like spring. I know this isn’t what we planned, but the important pieces are in place – the Railway companies have agreed to a hardware plan that will permit cessation, the City has budgeted the money to do the work (and, in one case, Southern Rail has contributed some money to making a solution work), so it is going to happen, it is only a matter of time now.

I cannot emphasize enough how getting those first pieces in place was a significant effort by the City (again, this is one of those things I can take no credit for, as it mostly happened before I joined council), after a decade of unfortunate confrontation between the railways and a few well-meaning community groups, we now have a collaborative relationship that will see dividends as far as whistle cessation, and is already showing dividends in how emergency planning takes place on the Quayside.

So much like the 4th Street Elevator and the upgrades to council chambers, I am disappointed by the delays, but believe the work needs to be done, and am happy Council has supported and funded the projects. I apologize that we have not hit our intended timelines, and am starting to question how we, as a City, set our timelines.

Ask Pat: Carriage/Laneway homes

Bill asks—

Carriage/Laneway homes … what is the current status of talks about this topic? I am in the midst of planning a demo/rebuild of a home here in New West for ~ April 2016. I’m wondering if future planning for a Carriage home (my parents or in-laws suite, or delinquent kids in their 30s) is a good idea. Thanks!

Although it sort of depends on where your house is and the details of the site, I suspect you are not currently permitted to put a Carriage House in. However, it just so happens the City is having discussions on this very topic as part of the ongoing “Our City 2041” Official Community Plan Update consultations.

There have been a series of public and stakeholder meetings on this topic since the big day-long workshop at the Anvil Centre that was held on November 7th that was attended by more than 200 people. There is one more Open House on the tour (this coming Saturday, November 28, 9am-noon, at Connaught Heights School) where you can look over the types of new housing and infill density being considered in the City in the coming decade, and provide your feedback on what parts of the City different forms may fit better.

There will also be (I’m told) a pretty solid on-line engagement tool being rolled out in a couple of weeks, so that you can provide similar feedback from the comfort of your couch (or wherever you typically sit while engaging in public consultation).

So if you are interested in carriage homes, laneway housing, cluster homes, quadriplexes, or other types of housing we don’t currently have an abundance of in New Westminster, you might want to check out this link for your opportunities to tell the City what you want to see.

Ask Pat: Parking Meters and PayByPhone.

Edjo asks—

New Area/Block Parking Meters and PayByPhone.

Is there any plan to enable to the new area/block parking meters to be work with PayByPhone as is the case in Vancouver (for years) and the River Market parking lot?


The new meters were purchased with the capability to support this. Currently the budget for the system is being allocated towards installations and getting the meters across the City changed over to the new system. There will be a cost to implementing the pay-by-phone option, which will probably have to come through Council, so I don’t have a time frame for you, but that is definitely the plan.

Council – Nov. 16, 2015

Sorry it has taken so long to provide my summary of the Council Meeting of November 16th, but (insert random “I’ve been busy”-related excuse here). We had a fairly light agenda this week, which started with the following items being moved on consent:

City Hall Renovation
We are making some changes to the way City Hall works, and are doing long-overdue renovations of the physical building to make it work better. Staff and design consultants have been working on plans for most of a year now, and we now have an approved layout.

The renovations will also include significant age-related upgrades, including replacement of the HVAC equipment, lighting, and the fire alarm system, and all the related asbestos removal that goes with. However the part the general public will notice most is a re-design of office space to allow Development Services and Engineering to share public counter space, so those seeking permits or related info will have a one-stop shop, instead of running around the building for each different department. We are also bringing Parks, Culture and Recreation into the Hall to increase this integration of customer services.

The entire project will take a couple of years, and the required budget (about $6 Million) has already been included in the Five Year Financial Plan.

Delegation Bylaw
This Bylaw codifies some of the spending authority set out in the City’s existing Procurement Policy, and makes it law. Simply put, Council has ultimate spending authority, but the efficient operation of a $60+Million enterprise does not allow us to approve the purchase of every ream of special paper. So different staff have different authority to spend without seeking Council approval, within specific guidelines and while remaining within the Five Year Financial Plan.

Streamlining and codifying this practice will improve operational efficiency in City Hall, and is actually recommended by the Auditor General for Local Government and our own external auditor to assure it complies with best practices for local government.

Recruitment 2015: SSS Representative on the Seniors Advisory Committee
The Seniors Services Society has a representative on the City’s Seniors Advisory Committee. Former City Councillor Betty McIntosh will be replacing Helen Bodner as that representative.

Pattullo Bridge Construction Noise Exemption
Work to repair the deck on the Pattullo Bridge is ramping up, and will occur over about 6 months starting in May of 2016. To reduce delays and the impact on the all-important traffic, much of the work will occur at night and on the weekends. Although measures are being taken to reduce the noise generated at night (e.g. restricting jackhammer operation to daytime, installing noise barriers, etc.) there may be times when noise is generated at night in violation of the City’s Construction Noise Bylaw.

Council agreed to provide an exemption for this project, but will be asking TransLink to provide notice to adjacent residential areas, including contact information at TransLink if residents have concerns. This is related (kind of) to upcoming work on the SkyTrain Bridge (to be discussed below).

Sapperton Parking Study – Update and Notification of Open House
There has been an ongoing study of parking needs in Sapperton, reflecting concerns raised by residents (mostly) of the major residential streets adjacent to East Columbia in the vicinity of RCH. This study will be followed by a “Phase 2”, which will be more forward-looking into anticipated needs as the RCH expansion and development of the Economic Health Care Cluster occur over the coming decade.

There will be an Open house at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall on November 24 to get residents’ feedback on the report. I suspect the response will be interesting, as the report suggests (in summary) that there is currently no problem. Supply is adequate; there is appropriate parking available for residents, even during “peak times”. The online survey brought 600(!) respondents, which are the kind of numbers we only usually see when discussing dog parks.

It does confirm that parking demand on East Columbia is driven by visitors to RCH and by some RCH employees choosing to park in metered parking on East Columbia during their night shift as opposed to paying to use the Hospital lot. I find it interesting that residents are generally more satisfied than non-residents with the availability and cost of parking. Also, that the balance between availability, convenience, and cost is pretty much where it needs to be.

I’ll wait until after the November 24th open house to comment further.

Downtown Dog Off-Leash Strategy and Relief Stations
This looks like a good idea to me. With the existing dog park downtown a temporary structure (much of it is on land the City doesn’t own), and few obvious opportunities for larger dog parks downtown (we just don’t have that much available land), these relief stations may be a good measure to solve one (two?) of the more… uh… urgent dog needs in an efficient way.

I also like the idea of a “Bark-let” (I just invented that word!) but the details in the design and the location will matter. There is much information we need to clarify around how the hygiene works, and how we determine appropriate locations, but it is an interesting program idea, and I support its development.

Engineering User Fees and Utility Rates Bylaw Amendments for 2016
This is to formalize the new Utility rates starting next year, which we reviewed and approved in principle last meeting.

Queen’s Park Neighbourhood Heritage Study
A group of City Staff and Queens Park residents have been working on a Neighbourhood Heritage Study, developing a set of principles and strategies to preserve the heritage character of the neighbourhood. After almost a year of work, three open houses, a neighbourhood survey, and other outreach, a set of strategies have been developed and are ready for public comment.

The strategies are wide-reaching, and will impact all homeowners in Queens Park, but it is important to note these are ideas driven by the members of the community, not something the City drew up. I would encourage everyone living in Queens Park, if couldn’t get to the November 21 open house, to connect through the on-line presence of this group, and make yourself heard.

Heritage Register Update – Addition of Properties
Three Properties are being added to the City’s Heritage Registry, as they are subject to new Heritage Revitalization Agreements. Three more heritage homes [reserved for perpetuity.

We had a few special announcements, supporting BC Buy Local Week and the Arts Council of New Westminster, then covered the items removed from the consent agenda:

SkyBridge North Approach Construction Noise Exemption
Further to the lack of sleep soon to be felt by a few residents of the east end of Downtown due to Pattullo works, TransLink will be doing some strengthening and reinforcement work on the SkyBridge in the spring, which will again create a noise concern for some residents. I am hoping that TransLink can time this work to coincide with the Pattullo work, so that the length of anticipated Noise Bylaw Exemptions can be reduced.

It appears these two projects are run by completely unrelated departments at TransLink, but I am encouraging our Bylaw folks (who are issuing the exemptions on behalf of the city) can get them to coordinate – I would rather have two noisy operations on the same night than two nights of separate noisy operations.

Syrian Refugee Crisis – City Responses
Back in September, this Council asked staff and two Advisory Committees to report back to us on potential strategies for our community to help with the Syrian refugee crisis. If past patterns of settlement are maintained, we can expect over 100 refugees (of the 25,000 anticipated to be accepted by the federal government) to arrive in New Westminster in the next year or so.

This report outlines the many actions that are occurring already in the City to make our community more welcoming to new immigrants. Our Local Welcoming and Inclusive New West (WINS) working group is coordinating programs to reach out to new immigrants, and connect them with community services and social connections. The provincial Welcoming Communities Program is also active locally increasing awareness and reducing barriers to employment for new immigrants.

Aside from assisting the many service agencies (with facilities, financial support, and staff time), the City has prepared a series of communications tools to help both new immigrants connect with services they may need, and to help residents and businesses in the City identify opportunities for them to help make our community a more welcoming place.

The people coming to New Westminster from Syria have been through the worst horrors that humanity can create. They have been stripped of their homes, have lost family and friends, have been made impoverished and traumatized, not because of who they are or what they did, but simply because they were born in a place that is currently being torn apart by ideological and proxy wars. They are, unfortunately, just the latest in a long history of peoples with similar stories seeking peace and sanctuary in Canada, from the Irish to the Eastern Europeans to the Vietnamese and the Hondurans. We can’t imagine their struggles, but we can open our community and help make the next chapter in their lives happier, and (ultimately) our community stronger for having them here.

Alberta Street Diverter Review
The traffic diverters on Alberta Street have reduced the traffic on Alberta Street, but have caused increased traffic on Keary. This was not completely unexpected, but it was important to determine how much of the effect was impacting Keary vs. other adjacent streets such as Simpson (where the initial traffic count bump went away over a short time).

ACTBiPed have also talked about Keary Street as a more appropriate route up the hill of Sapperton for routing the Crosstown Greenway than the existing Sherbrook Street, mostly because the grade of Keary is more gentle, and the interaction with Richmond Street at the top and the Central Valley greenway at the bottom are both much better.

I hope these two issues can be brought together, and we can address these two issues together. Keary sees more traffic and higher speeds primarily because it is 9m wide (compared to 7.5m or so for Alberta or Simpson), with a wide boulevard, which encourages higher speeds than a tighter road with shorter sightlines. Perhaps this is a place for a two-way bike route if we reduce the parking to only one side of the street?

Canada Games Pool/Centennial Community Centre
The New Westminster Council has been spending much of the last year looking at strategic priorities, and the renewal/refurbishment/replacement of the Canada Games Pool was identified as one of those priorities.

The heart of the decision made this week is to stop fixing the old pool. This is being driven by the current condition of the pool, and the potential costs for ongoing maintenance and repair over the coming decade. Although some parts of the pool (notably the concrete tank) are in pretty good condition, there are a number of parts of the physical plant (the roof, the windows, the HVAC system, significant piping and pump infrastructure) that is at or past it’s serviceable lifespan. The current “business as usual” plan would see us investing more than $10 Million before 2019 on fixing the pool we have. At some point, this becomes good money after bad.

Council has decided that continuing to pour money into this aged asset is not in the best interest of the community, and have asked staff to accelerate their work on planning a replacement pool, in lieu of planning ongoing maintenance and upgrades in the millions of dollars.

The plan right now is to spend the next year working on design, costing, and public consultation. Hopefully by this time next year, we will have a project plan together, with some fairly robust cost estimates, and after having a comprehensive discussion with the community about what that new pool, recreation centre, and a community hub is going to look like. Work with key stakeholders has already begun, with larger public consultations starting soon.

We are also going to have a serious community conversation about cost. We have about $13 Million (effectively) in the bank for this project, but any new pool of the scale of the existing one will cost significantly more than this. Comparison with some other recently-built or planned regional facilities suggests $50 Million is the scale of cost that other Cities have spent. Of course, this number will vary greatly with the size of the facility and amenities the community wants. I suspect the community wants a $100M pool, and wants us to build it for $10M, so the conversation will be about setting priorities and being realistic about what a community of 65,000 people can afford.

It should be an exciting few years on this project, and look for the consultation components coming soon.

Vancouver Biennale Update
Like em or hate ‘em, we own them now. WOW coming to the waterfront after some significant engineering work to make the situation work.

Development Cost Charge Expenditure Bylaw No. 7797, 2015
This is a Bylaw required to permit the City to remove almost $4 million from various Development Cost Charges (DCC) reserve account and to apply them towards various designated projects.

DCCs are monies collected from developers when they are increasing density in the City that are earmarked for specific types of infrastructure expansion related to the increased populations. They sit in a reserve account until the City is ready to install the infrastructure. In one sense, these reserves are like a savings account, but in another they are not, because we cannot spend them on anything we wish, but have to use them for the infrastructure that the DCC bylaw designates as required. This financial restriction is built into the Provincial legislation that allows DCCs to be collected in the first place.

This neatly dovetailed us into the Bylaws part of the evening’s events:

Development Cost Charge Expenditure Bylaw No. 7797, 2015
As just discussed above, received three readings.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7798, 2015
As just discussed above, received three readings.

Delegation Bylaw No. 7176, 2015
As just discussed above, received three readings.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7786, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Fee Amendment Bylaw No. 7787, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Fire Protection Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 7791, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7790, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Parks, Culture and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw, No. 7792, 2015
This Bylaw was discussed last meeting, and was Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (327 Fourth Street) Bylaw No.
7712, 2015 and Heritage Designation (327 Fourth Street) Bylaw No. 7713, 2015

These bylaws were discussed way back in the June 22, 2015 meeting of council, and are finally ready for adoption. They’re now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

After a bit of an intermission to get the Public Delegations timing right, we heard from the presenters for:

Parkade Public art selection
The Public Art Advisory Committee reviewed a couple of revised proposals for the Public Art installation on the water side of the remaining half of the Parkade, to be installed after renovation work was completed.

The design chosen by the PAAC is a good one, and less abstract than an earlier piece that met with… mixed reviews… at Council a couple of months ago. There are opportunities to add colour to the mix (and that is the plan), and I am pretty happy with the way PAAC went about this selection.

Surprise bonus motion!
As we are trying to adjust the Council schedule since our decision a few months ago to do away with Committee of the Whole and to bring more discussion to the evening meetings, we have been trying to make the Public Delegation part of the meeting work better. We don’t want to hold it at the beginning, because 5:30 is a difficult time for many people with jobs and lives, however 7:30 is a little too late ,as we are often through our agenda before then. Councillor McEvoy suggested we adjust delegation time back a bit to 7:00, and Council was happy to try that. Expect this to develop as time goes on and more adjustments present themselves. We’ll get this tuned in.

As an aside, did anyone else notice that Councillor Williams and Rudy the Reindeer have never been seen in the same place at the same time? I’m not saying anything…it’s just interesting…

One Year

“Time’s fun when you’re having flies” – Kermit the Frog.

This week (yesterday!) marks a year since I was elected to City Council in New Westminster (along with that other great new Councillor in the photo above). A quarter of the term under my belt, I guess I will have to stop referring to myself as “the New Councillor”, and will have to start taking blame and credit for the way the City is running. Time to take off the training wheels.

I am still asked several questions about my new role with some regularity, so maybe to mark the year, I can answer them more completely, so as to embarrass myself with my own naivety in a few more years. (Obligatory caveat: these are my opinions, not those of other members of Council, I think we all have our own journey, our own stresses, and based on many long Monday conversations, I can assure you we all have our own opinions!)

“How are you making out?” Fine, thank you. Year one has been an incredible learning experience, at times challenging. However, I’m fortunate in that I am part of a very supportive Council team. The stress and difficulty of finding your role and your voice, or being afraid of making a mistake, has been tempered by the teamwork I have felt working with the rest of Council an the professionalism of Staff.

I have a couple of members of Council I am a little closer to and lean on a bit more than others, but all have been supportive. We each bring something different to the table, and we find ways to disagree. We even have occasional very strong disagreements. I have been on both the “winning side” and “losing side” of debates or votes that split Council, but I am proud to say that my colleagues have never let a strongly-felt and strongly-argued disagreement impact the next topic of discussion. We hear each other out, we vote, and if we disagree we move on and hope to agree on the next topic. It is the way a Council (or any board) should operate.

I have heard horror stories from other Councils in BC, where there are partisan divisions that have either made the Council completely non-functional, or have resulted in some Councillors being totally pushed aside from the discussions. I have also heard stories of non-functional Councillors who do little more than show up and keep a seat warm, or (worse) just arrive to disrupt the work of others for political reasons. I feel fortunate that we have a Council of effective and passionate leaders, even the ones I sometimes disagree with.

“Was it what you expected?” Before I ran, I worked in local government, and I was enough of a rabble-rouser in New Westminster that I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the job entailed. But sometimes the history and detail of a topic is incredibly complicated and unpacking some issues to understand enough detail to even form an opinion can be challenging. When you are running an entire City, there are an incredibly diverse set of issues, none of us can be experts on them all. Which is why I am glad that there are many staff who are leaders in their fields, and that we have such a collaborative working model with Council.

I had (and still have?) a few idealistic expectations of the job. I expected I would reply to every e-mail and answer every call right away and be super responsive… the reality is that there is just too much communication to keep track of it all if you have another job and hope to sleep. You want to do it all, you soon learn to prioritize. I was hoping to answer an ASK PAT a day, and I have a few in the queue, so please have a little patience! I’m trying!

I also expected that I would be able to deal with everyone. People who know me know I am a social guy, and can have great conversations with people with whom I disagree. Sometimes, they even change my mind, and those are my favourite conversations of all. However once you are elected, there are people who are not interested in agreeing with you, or even having a discussion. They will oppose you because you are on the “wrong team”, or just because they don’t like how you look or sound. It frustrates me not that we disagree, but that the fact-sharing conversation cannot be had.

I remember sitting in the Rivers Reach having a hopeful get-to-know-you beer with a person very critical of the current Council, and being told what I knew to be a bald-faced lie for no other reason but to stir a pot. I quickly recognized this person was not interested in getting to know me, they only wanted me (and the Council) to fail. “That’s politics” you may say, but in a small town like New West, and with this person’s potential influence, that is poison to the community. So that was an unexpected disappointment.

“You get paid for this?” Yep. Council pays about $40,000 per year. I am giving an approximate number because about 1/3 of what we get paid is a “non-taxable indemnity” under Federal tax law, so it doesn’t directly compare to how you get paid in a regular job. We get a bit of a “bonus” for the month that we are Acting Mayor, we pay CPP and EI like most people, and have options to contribute to benefits like most employees. There is an established system in the City to incrementally increase our pay on a regular basis (annually?) to keep pace with cost of living and the increases being received by other elected officials across the region.

I picked up a Pay Slip at City Hall today (period ending November 6), and it reads my year-to-date Gross Wages are $35,951.78. I know it is gauche to talk salary, but if you live in New West, you pay for it, so you have the right to know.

“How much time does it take?” All of it. It expands to fill the time available to it. I’m only being partially facetious.

Council Mondays are full days, today starting with a Task Force meeting at 9:00, sometimes workshops, Closed Council usually around noon, then Council in the afternoon and into the evening. It can be a 12+ hour day with meal breaks.

To prepare for Council, we have stacks of reports that need to be reviewed. An average week Council Package can count 600+ pages. I go through them, and take notes, which typically takes most of my Sunday (and sometimes part of Saturday). I find (from my long years spent at University) that note taking forces me to review the information at a deeper level, as condensing requires me to understand enough to write coherent sentences about it. Most of what I write in my blog Council Reports is actually the result of me doing that note-taking and information gathering prior to the meeting. Some time after a Council Meeting, I need to prepare my notes for publishing on this blog, which usually takes a few hours.

I also serve on several Committees (Youth Advisory; Transit, Bicycles and Pedestrians; Access Ability; Transportation Taskforce; Public Engagement Taskforce, and yet another Taskforce coming soon!) which each meet about once a month in the evening. Each require some preparation and note-taking of their own. I mix these evenings with other Community events, which occur pretty much every night in a super-active City such as this, and I really have to pick and choose those just by workload.

Then there are e-mails. I probably get a dozen to two dozen a day, which I basically ignore at the time of their arrival, as most arrive while I am at work or in Council (i.e “business hours”), so I have to sit down at night and go through them. Some are just for information, some need immediate reply, some need me to talk to other people in the City to determine how to respond. I really try to get back to everyone who contacts me, but am obviously challenged to keep up, and most will understand when a message scrolls off the first page, it is often a while before you get back to them.

If I am lucky or have a slow week, I have a few hours to sit and write other stuff for my blog – that typically only happens between 10pm and Midnight, which is my peak writing creativity time (and has been since my Thesis days). And somewhere in there (mostly at Beer Friday and Sunday Morning FR Fuggitivi rides) I try to have a social life.

Like I said, it expands to fill the time available.

“How do you manage it with your other job?” About as well as expected, and probably better than I hoped. I do work for a living, and my office is one with a “9 day fortnight” schedules. That means I work a 7.75 hours a day, 9 days every two weeks, which works out to about 35 hours a week. I get every second Monday off, a so-called “compressed day” (CD). This works out well with Council schedule, as I am able to shift my CD Mondays around a bit, and work with the existing long-weekend schedule (which offsets some Mondays) such that most of my Council Meeting days can fall on a CD. His year, I was required to burn a bit of my accumulated vacation days to accommodate Council Mondays when I didn’t have a CD to spare.

I am fortunate in that my employer values my service to them (I do a pretty specific job, and do it pretty well, if I say so myself), and is willing to accommodate this scheduling. They are also cognizant that my “other job” has some politics involved in it, and I take every effort to assure the two paths don’t cross. They have always been supportive of my volunteer work and my professional growth, including my work as a Board Member and President of the Environmental Managers Association of BC (an industry group for the kind of work I do), and my current position as the UBCM Representative on the Board of the Contaminated Sites Approved Professional Society. They have been super professional all along this strange journey, and I cannot say enough good things about them. So I don’t want to mess that up for them, or for myself.

Other than my co-workers continually mocking me by calling me “your worshipness” and the like, things have not really changed that much at work, I’ve always been a volunteer, this is different form of public service.

“Where do you find the time?” I usually reply to people asking this by saying: I don’t have kids, and I don’t watch TV. That is pretty much the truth of it. I have friends raising two or three kids, and cannot believe the time and effort that takes, and how every moment of their life is programmed or completely chaotic. The work load for a Councillor outside of my regular work cannot be any harder than that of my parents with two jobs and four kids. I also watch very little TV (Canucks games and the Tour de France combined probably represent 90% of my viewing time), don’t play videos games, and (unfortunately) don’t have as much time to read as I would like to these days.

I still have a social life, but do not get to do as much reading or cycling as I would like these days. But I will not let my other half throw away those back issues of the Walrus, because I have every intention of reading that great article from last year about how John Baird is the presumptive next Prime Minister… as soon as I get to it….

“What’s the best part?” This sounds cheezy, but every now and then, someone thanks me for helping them out. Often, it isn’t even in a way that I thought I was helping them out, and that is both surprising and fulfilling. I am at an event and someone says “Hey, I appreciate you providing those on-line council reports”, and it makes the effort of sitting down at 11:30 and putting in an extra half hour feel worthwhile. At an event last month, someone I respect immensely (enough that I assume they never think about me) thanked me for something I said in Council a few weeks earlier around accessibility on Transit, and I was taken aback. You are occasionally reminded that people are listening, and that decisions you make are making a difference in people’s everyday lives. And that is both scary and occasionally inspiring.

I lose sleep on Sunday Nights. I spend the day going through the package, and am filled with anxiety about the Council day to come: Do I really understand the long-term impacts here? Will I ask the right questions? Will I make a fool of myself asking that question? Am I the only one with concerns? Am I wrong in how I see this issue? Will we make the right decision? How will I convince the rest of them what is the right decision? However, more often than not, I walk home form Council on Monday night feeling good about the work we have done. That feeling – walking home after a long day of work, tired but satisfied that we have done good work – is the best part of the job.

“What’s the worst part?” When you disappoint people. There was a decision I made earlier in the year that was a difficult one. Difficult enough that I wrote a blog post about it, because I thought it was important to explain my rationale about how I arrived at my decision. This impacted someone I considered a friend in a negative way, and I even reached out after in a personal note to explain to that person why I made the decision the way I did. It was the only decision I could make in good conscience, and the only decision I could defend, and although it impacted them, doing differently would not have been doing my job – the job they voted for me to do. That friend has not spoken to me since. That sucks, and I don’t know how to fix it.

“Would you do it again?” You will have to ask me in about three years.

Council – Nov 2, 2015

The Council meeting of November 2nd had a monumental agenda – 42 items, including Open Delegations and some longer presentations. The Public Meeting alone was almost 5 hours with intermission. However, many of us started at 9:30am with Task Force meetings, Land Use and Planning Committee, and closed Council sessions. It was a long day, but we really moved some important things forward.

After some preliminary announcements and proclamations, we go into the agenda:

2015-2018 City Council Strategic Priorities,
Council has worked over the last 10 months with staff to put together a set of Strategic Priorities for this term and beyond. It is big list, and a comprehensive report, but it gives the public and staff an idea of what this council’s priorities are: housing affordability, transportation, waterfront revitalization, economic development, better governance, and asset renewal. This is a big enough topic that I should probably cover it in it’s own blog post. If you just can’t wait, read it the plan here, and do your own blog post!

Fibre Utility Branding
The City is setting up dark fibre infrastructure to provide broad-band internet services to businesses in the City faster than the major telecoms are willing to invest. Part of setting this up is creating the branding and marketing materials to convince the ISPs to provide services through the dark fibre we are installing. We need them to bring the light and pay us for the opportunity, so they can provide better service to their customers (our businesses and residents).

I’m happy, if not wowed, by the branding results, but I’m not a marketing guy. The Intelligent City Committee did a lot of work to get to it here, and these folks are immersed in the industry we are talking about. I am happy to approve their recommendation. You will be seeing this around:bridgenet

Ipsos Survey Result for the City’s 2016 Budget Survey,
The City does this survey every year as part of our budgeting and strategic planning process. It is one of many ways we measure how people feel about the City, and where we should be putting our priorities.

Right off the top, it looks good. When 98% of people asked about the quality of life in the City respond with good or very good, we can be fairly assured that people are increasingly satisfied with how the City is being run. Unlike most others on this Council, I am almost completely unable to take any credit for that, as I am still the new guy. However, it sets the bar pretty high if we want to keep that rating up in the high 90s.

It will be no surprise that transportation is topic #1 again. There is an interpretation problem in that the topic is so broad – some residents are concerned about afternoon road congestion that keeps them from getting their kids to swim practice, others more concerned about the future of the Pattullo, the impact of tolls, or lack of transit funding leading to a less reliable system Each of those problems may have different solutions. As a City, we are working hard on implementing our new Master Transportation Plan and setting priorities to address the largest concerns, and are working with our regional partners to try to get out of the current funding quagmire that is preventing some of the regional solutions from being realized.

The concerns are not a surprise to this council or to the Mayors Transportation Taskforce members, but maybe we can take these results and tweak the way we are approaching implementation in the upcoming capital budget.

The general opinion about taxes is a marked contrast from what one would perceive by following the general or social media (not to mention CKNW callers), but reflects something I noted during campaigning last year – people don’t mind paying taxes, as long as they feel they are receiving value for their dollar. Although we need to continue to be detailed about how we manage our budget, and need to strive to hold taxes as low as possible, we need to also do a better job demonstrating where taxes go, to show what you are paying for when you get that tax bill in the mail.

Overall, an interesting report, but only one part of a larger body of data we use to set priorities in the City.

Proposed Transit Service Changes,
I already wrote a blog post with my feelings about this change: mostly positive, but with a few significant caveats. We’ll see how it develops, but I am encouraged from our conversations with TransLink.


Public Seating and Games Space – Public Space Pilot Projects,
I like this idea! We have talked about seating as an important part of the transit system and about creating Parklets. These support the new urbanism concept that spaces for humans need to be “sticky” – having more people on a street is great for community, for business, for safety, and for social connectivity.

I will resist going on a rant here, fueled by my current choice of reading material:


The “quality” of an outdoor space correlates very highly with the amount of human contact you can have in a space – contact being a simple as being able to see and hear other people. It follows that a linear increase in the number of people in a space exponentially increases the opportunities for that contact, and you can double the number of people in a space by bringing in twice as many people, or by encouraging people to spend twice as much time there. As a fundamental principle, “loitering” is the best thing you can do to improve a Public Space. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can make this change happen.

Action in Support of Declaration on the Right to a Healthy Environment,
This was an initiative brought to Council this summer by the David Suzuki Foundation, working with the New Westminster Environmental Partners. The Blue Dot is intended to provide local governments a framework commitment towards better environmental sustainability, but to also push the sustainability agenda up from local governments through to Provincial and Federal governments. The sad reality is that Canada lags behind most advanced nations on providing a guarantee of clean air, water, and soil as a fundamental right, and we can do better.

As far as our local commitment, the pledge the City made is not an particularly onerous one, as many of the items are things we are already doing or working towards. This is not a list of pie-in-the-sky green ideals, but pragmatic measures towards sustainability that represent responsible governance in the 21st century.

It also points to a few things that New Westminster can do better. My off-the-top-of-my-head example is how our legacy of policies from the Pedestrian Charter to the new MTP indicate our City prioritizes pedestrians and transit in the transportation infrastructure, but we are still commonly making infrastructure decisions that do not reflect that priority. I would also suggest we need to look again at how we use the Sustainability Checklist that comes with Development proposals and start talking about what the “Sustainability Scores” we produce really mean.

My amendment to the recommendation was in the spirit of the pledge, and was rooted in my science-based philosophy that you cannot manage what you don’t measure. We can make pledges and develop policies to support them, but I think it is important that we collect the data to track how successful we are being in achieving the goals of the policy. Therefore, I asked staff to develop a list of metrics that the City can use to evaluate progress on each of the points under Part 5 of the declaration. I further wanted them to recommend to Council 5-year targets for each of the metrics, so we can measure how we are doing. Metrics will keep this Council and future councils accountable for the commitments we have made here.

Urban Academy Update
A proposed expansion project for this school on the south edge of the Queens Park neighbourhood was turned down by Council back in May. The proponents have come back with a modified plan, with a building reduced in size and massing and a reduced number of students to address some of the concerns raised in the Public Hearing in May.

The modified proposal came to the new Land Use and Planning Committee both on September 14 and on October 5th.last month, and that committee heard from both the proponent and a group of residents who opposed the modified proposal.

The process that exists under the Local Government Act provides an owner of land the right to bring a proposal to Council for a fair hearing; however Council is equally free to turn down a rezoning or development proposal if it doesn’t meet community goals. Unfortunately, the way to process operates under the LGA is centered around the Public Hearing, and Council is encouraged (some say required) by that process to enter the Public Hearing with an open mind to the evidence provided.

This results in the need for Proponents to invest a lot of time and money on a project before they are told by Council whether they can proceed. If a community group is opposed to the project, it is equally difficult on them, as they feel they are constantly being dragged back in to address the project as it moves through steps. The difficulty of this process is only exacerbated as the passion of the people and groups on both sides of the debate increases.

I cannot speak for other members of Council, but back in May I provided my reasoning coming out of the Public Hearing for why I voted differently than the rest of Council on the first proposal. At this point, Council is not being asked to approve the revised project, but whether we want staff to continue to work with the Proponent to move it through the process. Alternately, if council could give the message that the project is dead in the water, and that Council approval was ultimately unlikely.

Unfortunately, Council once again gave a somewhat on-the-fence answer that satisfies the Process set out in regulation, but will not satisfy the Proponent, or the neighbourhood group in opposition. However, I think most of the Council provided some guidance to the proponent about what they see as the challenges this project still faces.

2016 – 2020 Draft Financial Plan – Utilities,
This is yet another step in our never-ending budgeting process. As our Utilities (Electrical, Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste) are regulated differently than the rest of the City, their budgets operate in parallel to the City’s other budget components. Short version: everything is going up:

Electrical rates: up 4% then 3.5%: This both keeps us in line with the residential and business rates changed by BC Hydro to customers outside of New Westminster, and reflects the anticipated increases in the rate the City pays for the electricity we re-sell to our residents.

Water Rates: up 5.5% then 5.5%: This is a direct result of the anticipated increases in water costs from Metro Vancouver, who supplies water to the City’s system. This mostly reflects increased capital costs to maintain the system, from a new filtration plant at Seymour to new and replacement major transmission infrastructure, like water main replacements under the Fraser River.

Sewer Rates: up 7.5% then 7.5%: Similarly, sewer rates are driven by significant capital investments being made in our major water treatment plants, including a completely new Lions Gate Treatment Plant , which are in turn driven by incoming and stronger federal regulations about the quality of discharge permitted from these plants.

Solid waste: up 1% then 1%: I am glad to provide this little bit of good news, as the costs to manage your solid waste (garbage, green waste, and recycling) will be increasing at a rate of less than inflation. It is good to know our decade-long pressure to divert solid waste and create a more fair pricing system is starting to show some positive benefits.

Front Street Mews
This is an update on the design plan for the improvements to the Front Street after the Parkade Removal is completed. After extensive public and stakeholder consultation, a master design for what will be called the Front Street Mews has been scoped, and a preliminary budget prepared. There are yet some details in regards to some final finish, but we can now imagine what Front Street is going to look like next summer.

Items Removed from the Consent Agenda:

20. Information Report on Uber Ride Sharing Services
This report addressed some correspondence between the City and Burnaby around the potential for expansion of Uber to the Lower Mainland. We have not had any formal request to permit Uber in New Westminster, and although they made a few early attempts to set up on Vancouver, as of today the service does not operate in British Columbia. There are a variety of reasons for this, including our unique automobile insurance situation, and the complex jurisdictional environmental that is the car-for-hire business in BC.

I have no doubt the Taxi industry has problems, mostly a result of an onerous and bizarre regulatory environment that probably made sense as it was being assembled, but is now so ridiculously contrived that it is hard to imagine who it serves – certainly not the drivers who have a hard time making a living wage, and certainly not the customers who often find the service inconvenient or otherwise unsatisfactory.

However, we have to recognize that Uber is: a $40 billion company that owns few assets and has few employees. It relies on an underpaid workforce – most commonly well below minimum wage – who have to provide their own materials for work, with few controls over the terms of their labour. I can’t even begin to get into safety standards, insurance, taxation, and other concerns about this business model. Uber may be convenient to use in some communities where the system operates in more laisse-faire regulatory environments, but it is not a solution to the Taxi Industry problem (whatever you define that to be) and it most certainly isn’t a solution to any of our pressing urban transportation issues.

If we want to provide more flexibility in Ride Share or Car for Hire, we need to first look to the main regulator of the Taxi industry, the Provincial Government, and the Passenger Transportation Board they appoint. All local Bylaws on the Taxi industry exist in within that framework – we need guidance form senior governments and ICBC before we make any changes in how we, as a local government, may license or otherwise authorize an operation like Uber.

23. Brewery District Site – Future Rezoning Application
This is the beginning of a process to rezone the second residential tower at the Brewery District. The deal being proposed by Wesgroup is to add some density (and potentially height to the third and fourth residential towers) in exchange for 9 stories of secured market rental in the second residential building. There is quite a bit of detail to dig into here regarding the potential height vs. width of the buildings and how those would impact the visual impact of the development, but the fundamental question is whether the City wants to accept another ~120 residential units in the form of secured rental.

As there is much to discuss here, I had no problem with this idea being developed and public consultation beginning (this would need to go to Public Hearing prior to approval of the Rezoning). I also felt the need to give Wesgroup the heads-up that a lot of people, including myself, were unimpressed with the recent removal of several mature trees from the property at 201 East Columbia (a property recently purchased by Wesgroup). As a developer about to enter into public consultation with a very active and engaged neighbourhood like Sapperton, that might not have been the wisest PR move. Hopefully, they can find a way in the amenity package they offer the community for this accommodation to replace some trees or greenspace in the community to make up for this loss.trees

28. Open Data Policy/Open Data Website
I’m happy to see the City putting together an Open Data site. At a time when senior governments are becoming more secretive, local governments have the option to go the other way. There is some interesting stuff here, and this is only the beginning of the multiple types of data the City has that may be shared. I encourage you to go to this site and poke around!

Back when this Blog was all me whinging about City Council, I often found it difficult to find the information I wanted on the City website. So much of what we communicate is through Council Reports, which can be impenetrable in their length (822 pages this week!), so I hope that in a later phase of the Open Data program, we can populate a  searchable Council Report database.

However, for now this is a great move in the right direction, and I am happy to support it.

31. 228 Nelson’s Crescent (Brewery District) Master Development Permit
This is another request from Wesgroup regarding some changes at the Brewery District, but involves only a change of sequence of building construction. The original agreement would require more commercial space to be build prior to the next phase of residential growth, however the situation is now where the commercial is built to a point where developing some of the residential space sooner will actually assist the commercial areas to be more successful. Council voted to move this process forward and let Staff and the proponent develop the permit changes for us to vote on.

The following items were moved on the Consent Agenda without further discussion:

Acting Mayor Appointments for December 2015 to November 2016
We have now officially been served our notice of which months we will each be serving as Acting Mayor, doing all the work of the big Guy when he is not available during that month. I’m March and August, for what it’s worth.

2014 Local Government Election – Report on Various Election Issues
This report provided some feedback from the public and the Elections Staff on how the Municipal Election went. Although regulated by the provincial government, the local government elections are run by the local government: we hire the elections officers, set up the booths, count the ballots, etc. We were interested to hear how things went and if they could go better. The good news part is that there were no major concerns about the process, the ballot machines worked as they are meant to, delays were rare and far between. There were a few suggestions of how we can do better, and they will be reviewed going into the next election in 2018.

Recruitment 2015: Youth Advisory Committee Appointments
I am the Council Representative on this committee, which is organized by staff and essentially run by the youth who serve on the Committee. The youth chair it, they control the agenda, and they provide great feedback to Council on issues impacting their lives in the City. This recruitment fits more on the school schedule (October to May) than the other Advisory Committee schedules (February to January), so council had to approve the appointments now, not with the rest of the committees in December.

**Which reminds me, you should go to this website and see if there are any Council Advisory Committees you might be interested in, as we are recruiting until the 20th of November!**

Inter Municipal Business License
Some businesses (especially general contractors and builders) work in various municipalities, and require business licenses in various Municipalities in order to do some of the work they do. A group of cities have been working together to align their business license process so a business owner only needs a permit from one to be able to operate in all municipalities, yet the license revenues are shared between Cities. This will hopefully make it a lot easier for businesses to operate regionally, and will reduce a significant amount of overlapping bureaucracy and costs for those businesses and Cities alike.

After piloting a project with several communities to some success, the participating Cities are now working to formalize the arrangement, which requires each of us changing our internal Bylaws.

Proposed Rezoning of 430 Boyd Street, 350 and 354 Stanley Street
This is a preliminary report to start a process for development of an 80-unit townhouse development in Queensborough. The process will move forward, with a Public Hearing scheduled for November 30th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Demolition Waste and Recyclable Materials Management Bylaw 7660,
This report covers a pilot project where the City collected data on the recycling efforts of demolition projects in the City, in support of the City’s and the region’s solid waste diversion goals. The demo provided proof of concept, and staff are now ready to propose a Bylaw to codify the diversion goals and change the way demolition waste in the City is managed to promote recycling.

2014 Corporate Greenhouse Gas Report
The City is required to both set Greenhouse Gas targets and the measure our success towards meeting them. This report gives an update on how we are doing – which is pretty much good news. We targeted a 15% reduction over a decade where we have almost a 20% increase in population growth – an ambitious target for a small City.

Where progress is being made is in reduced use of natural gas (as natural gas for our buildings is responsible for almost half of all emissions). There are also significant reductions in the GHG per KWH for electricity, which is a spin-off result of BC Hydro initiatives to reduce its own GHG. The one anomaly to the trend of reduced emissions is the bump we got when the Anvil Centre opened. It is a fairly efficient building, but any new large building like that will result in higher emissions than not having a building at all, so we will need to find efficiencies elsewhere to make up for that bump. I suspect the eventual replacement/refurbishment of the Canada Games Pool will include a significant reduction in corporate GHG reductions which will by far make up for the Anvil.

Although we have made some modest changes in our Fleet (the second largest GHG source after buildings), there is much work to be done here…

Signal Pre-emption for Emergency Vehicles
As part of our ongoing efforts to support the expansion of RCH and specific issues around that project, the City is working with the BC Ambulance Service and RCH to help address the impacts of traffic congestion on ambulance response times. The City is piloting a program of signal pre-emption to allow emergency vehicles to always be meeting a green light on the way to he Hospital. We are using a proven and affordable technology for a few key intersections in the Sapperton as part of the pilot, and may be able to expand the system as need develops and funds become available.

User Fees and Rates Review Bylaw Amendments for 2016
This is the Bylaw that regulates fees for various City services, such as business licenses, hooking up to a fire hydrant, or others of the numerous services a City provides where we do “cost recovery” as opposed to paying for the service from general tax revenue. The fee increases are generally very modest, and reflect inflation.

Digging deep into the details, it is amazing what you can learn about the City. Did you know that we have a fee for a “Tea Cup Reader”? $45.78 to get a licence to read a tea cup. Amazing.

Amendment of the Parks, Culture and Recreation Fees and Charges
This is the Bylaw that regulates the Fees we charge for Parks, Culture, and Recreation programs. As we do annually, the City is reviewing these fees, and suggesting small increases in several fees to keep pace with inflation and increased costs. Most of the changes are of the order of 2-3%, though many fees are not increasing this year.

The report had some useful comparisons to fees charged in adjacent municipalities for similar programs, and New Westminster looks very affordable. When it comes to ice fees at our arenas, we are not just below average, but we the lowest in the region by far. Swim fees are typically 10% lower than any other City. Almost across the table we are the lowest or well below the average for program fees. Residents of New Westminster get good value for these fees, and credit goes to our Parks Culture and Recreation staff for keeping costs low for our residents.

Development Variance Permit Application for 109 Third Avenue
This is a request by a resident in Queens Park to have a strip of pavement on their land that covers the entire width of their laneway-accessed garage. They have a three-car garage (permitted and legal) but the Bylaw does not allow them to have a “driveway” as wide as the garage. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on November 30th in case you have any opinions on this request.

Finally, we had a raft of Bylaws to go through, so put on your seatbelts:

Inter-Municipal Business Licence Agreement Bylaws No. 7794, 2015 and 7795, 2015
This topic was discussed above, and both bylaws received two readings.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7796, 2015
This is the bylaw to support he Boyd and Stanley Street Townhouse development mentioned above, which received two readings, so it can go to Public Hearing.

Demolition Waste and Recyclable Materials Management Bylaw No.7660, 2015
This topic was discussed above, and the bylaw received three readings.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7786, 2015
Fee Amendment Bylaw No. 7787, 2015
Fire Protection Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 7791, 2015
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7790, 2015

These are the Bylaws regulating the various engineering and permit fee changes discussed above. All received three readings.

Parks, Culture and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw, No. 7792, 2015
This topic was discussed above, and the bylaw received three readings.

Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 7783, 2015 [97 Braid Street]
This was discussed at the Public Hearing on October 26, and was officially adopted this meeting. It is now the Law of the Land, adjust your behaviour accordingly

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7785, 2015 (800 Twelfth Street)
This was discussed at the Public Hearing on October 26, and was officially adopted this meeting. It is now the Law of the Land, adjust your behaviour accordingly.

Five Year Financial Plan (2015-2019) Amendment Bylaw No. 7776, 2015
This was given three readings at October 26 meeting, and was officially adopted this meeting. It is now the Law of the Land, adjust your behaviour accordingly.

Transit Service changes

In case you haven’t heard, TransLink is making some changes to bus routes in New West, and have been doing public consultation, You have until tomorrow(!) to go to this website and fill out the survey if you have any concerns or questions.

My quick notes (which I based on the info provided in our Council Report from staff on Monday):

These changes need to be approached carefully. Last time we had service “optimization” in New Westminster, an apparently reasonable re-orientation of the east-west routes across the north part of the City resulted in a serious erosion of service to one very specific demographic. The large population if seniors that live in higher-density housing near 8th Ave and McBride suddenly found themselves disconnected from the Royal City Centre at 6th and 6th, which was a major social hub for them – it was a significant disruption to a social network to a very transit-dependent community. So I tried to dig through these route changes to see if I could find similar breaks in social connections that may impact our community.

The change to the 106 is probably a good thing. It will make one of the primary connections between Downtown and Uptown New West more reliable, as Kingsway traffic will no longer delay the return route. There will still be the same connection to the Highgate/Edmonds Pool areas, but if you want to go further up Kingsway, you will need to switch buses.


Combining the C8 and a portion of the C3 route into the new “J” route will probably adress one of the biggest capacity concerns – the high number of pass-ups on the C3. This 24-passenger shuttle commonly has 40 people lining up at New West Station to board. with it’s destinations split between the new “J” route and “H” route, some of that capacity headed for Victoria Hill should be better served.

Current Route (see below for changes)
Current Route (see below for changes)

Similarly, re-routing the C4 into the “H” route should make the service more reliable, with the bonus of returning that direct connection between McBride and 8th and the 6th & 6th area that was undone in the last changes. The “H” route shuttle is fully accessible, which is really important for the population using that route.

Proposed new routes
Proposed new routes

The modified C9 route causes me a couple of concerns. The side-route on Jamieson Court that the current C9 takes will, apparently be eliminated, and this is a bad idea. There are two important destinations to seniors on Jamieson Court- the Glenbrook Amenities Centre and Royal City Manor. To make people bound for either of these go up to Richmond Street is quite a steep hoof for people with mobility issues. If they with to catch the bus northbound, the crossing of Richmond is not the safest spot in the City – with a steep, curvy hill and problematic sightlines. The Jamieson Court stop makes sense for all sorts of reasons, and should be preserved.

The other problem I have with this route is the plan to have the C9 go down Cumberland and turn left on East Columbia. This is already a tough little intersection, as it is where there is already a challenging crossing for cyclists and pedestrians for the Central Valley Greenway. the intersection is right turn only, so re-routing the bus will require some sort of activated signal to allow a left turn, which will completely change Cumberland. The only thing keeping this from already being a significant rat-running alternative-route-commuter corridor is the unlikeliness of pulling off a left turn onto East Columbia during rush hour. It is the lack of a signal, not the little “no left turn” sign, that keeps Cumberland from becoming a through-route. I cannot support any changes here that will make Cumberland a rat-running alternative-route-commuter route, as that will have effects all the way up Glenbrook to the Canada Games Pool area. This streets and neighbourhoods cannot handle that traffic increase.

That is my condensed take on the good and the bad – hopefully you can take 10 minutes to look at the routes and provide some feedback to TransLink by on-line form or mail before the end of day on November 6th.

Can ya help a City out?

People who read this blog are, I presume, more interested than most on how the City of New Westminster operates. Unless you are here to correct my grammar (note this sentence fragment), or out of some sense of obligation (Hi Mom!). Since I got elected, there isn’t even that “What crazy thing is he going to say next?!” aspect, and I hardly even swear anymore. So unless you are just stockpiling my comments to undermine my political future, I am thinking you care a little more about the City we know and love than the rest of the masses.

Since you care so much, I also presume you want to help make things better, or at least shape aspects of the City into something more to your liking. According to some guy named Ipsos, New Westminster residents are a pretty contented lot (except when stuck in traffic), but if we don’t strive for improvement, stagnation sets in, and we and up like Eddie Murphy zipping up a fat suit, wondering where the it all went wrong. So here are three things you can do in the next couple of weeks to make this City better, with increasing levels of commitment.

The Survey: The City is currently running an on-line survey around Public Engagement. We are asking people how they interact with City Hall, and how they want to. This includes the full range of “engagement”, from informing residents and businesses about what the City is doing all the way to collaborative decision making, where we assure that stakeholders in the community are truly listened to in making plans and forming policy. Hit that link above, and give 5 minutes of your time to answer some simple anonymous questions, it is the least you can do, so do it now!

The Workshop: The City’s “Our City” Official Community Plan update project is ongoing, and we are now at a point where we need to have a conversation with the community about housing types. Currently, 95% of the housing units in New Westminster are either apartments or Single Family Detached houses. We have a distinct paucity of the “in between homes” – townhouses, row homes, du-, tri- and quad-plexes, or carriage/laneway homes. The new OCP will hopefully open more opportunities for these types of housing options.

I live in a Single Family Detached in the Brow of the Hill, one of the more affordable parts of New Westminster. When we bought it something like 8 years ago, I joked “it’s a little old, in a slightly sketchy location, but we can almost afford it”. Truth be told, it has turned out to be a sold house causing us very few problems, and I absolutely love my location halfway between Uptown and Downtown, with a 5-minute walk to the SkyTrain (alas, the walk home is 10-minutes – can’t do much about the hills in this town), and have great neighbours. Recently, however, three relatively modest 1930’s vintage homes on my block, ones you would have traditionally considered “starter homes” for young families or “fixer-uppers” have sold for more than $800,000. The ongoing regional housing affordability crisis keeps creeping up into higher and higher income brackets, and New West is not immune.

One approach to help young families grow in our community is to provide a rich diversity of housing types, those “in between” types that balance affordability with a large enough living space for kids and their accoutrement, and maybe just a small patch of grass or garden, without the bells and whistles (and costs) of a single family detached.

However, the process of fitting these housing types into our exiting single family neighbourhoods is concerning to many people who already have their Single Family Detached dream. They worry about parking, about green space, about visual intrusion and proximity, and about the oft-cited but difficult to define “character” of residential neighbourhoods. This is the conversation we need to have right now.

It should be a good conversation on November 7th, whether you are a young family looking to move out of the two-bedroom apartment and into something roomier, or you are a family in a Single Family Detached wondering what carriage homes or duplexes would mean to your block, you should come out and help the City understand your needs and concerns. It is free, you will get fed, but you need to register to take part. Do it now.

The Committee. Finally, if a 5-minute survey or a 6-hour workshop (with lunch!) isn’t enough for you, the City is currently doing its annual call-out for Advisory Committee volunteers. There are no less that 22 separate Advisory Committees, Boards, or Panels where you can serve the City by showing up to anywhere from a few to a dozen meetings per year (depending on the committee, see the 2015 schedule here to get a sense of the workload). You get to give us advice on specific policy ideas or other happenings in the City, and can really influence how decisions are made, mostly by having closer contact with the people (staff and elected) who are making the decisions about how our City runs.

Go to that list above, check out the Terms of Reference for the Committees, and see what might pique your interest. You can serve on more than one, and as competition for some of the Committees is pretty fierce, you might want to apply for several.

So if you are tired of sitting on your front deck, shaking your fist at the passing clouds, and writing angry letters to the editor, start making the City yours by taking part in shaping it. You will feel much better, learn a bit more about how the City works, and maybe meet some new , interesting, like-minded people.

UPDATE: I was told that this Saturday’s Our City event is completely booked full, which fills me with joy. That so many people are willing to spend their Saturday talking “Urban Planning” and helping inform the future of the City reinforces my love for this community and its desire to engage! If you didn’t book, don’t panic, because after the Workshop, the show is going on the road. The dates are:

Nov. 10, 1:00–4:00pm            Century House

Nov. 12, 5:00–8:00pm            Sapperton Pensioners Hall

Nov. 14, 1:00–4:00pm            New Westminster Public Library

Nov. 18, 5:00–8:00pm            Unity in Action Church

Nov. 21, 9:00am–12:00pm     Sapperton Pensioners Hall

Nov. 28, 9:00am–12:00pm     Connaught Heights School