Council – April 25, 2016

As is standard for our last meeting of the month, we started our April 25 meeting with a Public Hearing.

This was to discuss amending the zoning language for 805 Boyd Street (the Westminster Landing retail area) and granting a Development Permit to allow the construction of one of those drive-through oil change places. This would be located on a relatively unused part of the parking area, adjacent to the Nando’s.

We had one person speak in opposition to this Zoning Amendment. They were a nearby property owner who leased to businesses of a similar type. He raised concerns about the timing and level of notice given to the surrounding areas. Staff confirmed that a complete mailout had been done to businesses and property owners, and that the signage and notice had met all of the requirements of the Bylaw and were appropriate for the development.

Council moved to receive the comments and referred the subject of the Public Hearing to Council.

That launched our Regular Meeting:

Zoning Amendment (805 Boyd Street) Bylaw No. 7827, 2016
Development Permit DPQ00096 for 805 Boyd Street
Council moved the Zoning Amendment and Development Permit. The change will allow “small box” automotive repair in Westminster Landing, and will allow the construction of the drive-through oil stop place. I was not given any compelling reason to vote against this proposal, and will continue to support my local independent mechanic (200,000+km on my 1996 Civic, still runs like a top!).

We then had a formal Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit 00605 for 322 Sixth Avenue
After the required notification had been completed, the City received no correspondence on this project, and no-one came to speak in opposition to it. This is a slightly unusual corner lot in Queens Park, the heritage home is set a long way back from the street on two sides, and the owner wishes to build a relatively modest garage on the laneway. There simply isn’t enough room to build a garage with the required 5’ setback, so the owner asked for a variance to move the garage closer to the lane. This would align this new garage with the legally non-conforming garage right next door.

I have no reason to oppose this variance, and Council voted to approve it.

Queen’s Park Neighbourhood Heritage Conservation:
This might be the big story of the night. Following a couple of high-profile demolitions of heritage homes in Queens Park a couple of years ago, a large group of community members got organized and asked for the City to help them develop strategies to prevent the loss of more heritage homes in Queens Park.

This resident-driven process has been very proactive, and has developed a list of recommendations for the City, including developing a Heritage Conservation Area. There are many details to work out, but the short version would be the designation of all residential areas of Queens Park (essentially the residential areas between 6th and 1st streets and 6th and Royal Aves) as an area-wide heritage protected area. Within this are, homeowners would need to apply for special permission to do any demolition or significant alteration of their houses. Presumably, a heritage Conservation Commission would provide advice to Council on how to protect the heritage values of the property through the process, which may simply be impossible if someone wants to knock down a 100-year-old house. This would effectively permit Council to refuse to issue a demolition permit if it threatened the heritage value of the neighborhood.
There are other recommendations put forward to help preserve heritage homes, including incentives to make renovation and conservation easier, and the launch of a major effort to identify, characterize, and catalogue the heritage assets of the neighborhood. However, it is the proposal to designate the area and put processes in place to legally prevent demolition that will, no doubt, generate the most conversation.

Council moved to receive the report, and Staff will be working to evaluate the recommendations: some, such as “California Mills Act” type property tax changes may not be legal under the Community Charter, and others will need to find a funding source. In the meantime, the conversation in the neighbourhood, and indeed across the City, about how private property rights bump up against heritage conservation is sure to be an exciting one.

Bus Passes Reinstatement
The provincial government recently stripped funding from a special transit pass program for disabled seniors and people on disability assistance. I often get outraged about decisions made by senior governments, but I don’t usually bring that rage to the Council table. When Councillor McEvoy raised this issue, and suggested Council raise its voice, I heartily agreed, because it impacts our community so acutely.

New Westminster is a transit-oriented city, and we are doing so much work to make the transit in our City more accessible. This isn’t just something we are talking about, we are investing money in this – We are on track to have 100% accessibility for our bus stops ahead of any City in the region, we are accelerating our curb-cut program and working to improve accessibility for those with dementia, with vision impairments, and with mobility barriers. We aren’t doing this to fluff our own feathers, we are doing it because an accessible transit system is fundamental to the livability or our City, and the right thing to do

So I find it unacceptable that this government has decided without consultation to take that accessibility away from the most vulnerable members of our community, those who need it the most. It is mean, it is punitive, capricious, and wrong.

228 Nelson’s Crescent (Second Residential Tower, Brewery District):
Master Development Permit Amendment and Consideration of Development Permit Issuance
The deal that was originally signed with WesGroup set several conditions on the approval of the residential building, to assure the development met the City’s goal of “mixed use” and brought amenities to the community prior to an influx of new residents. WesGroup build and leased out most of the required office space and the major shopping amenities of the Brewery District prior to starting the first residential tower, but now want to proceed with further residential development prior to completing the entirety of their office space commitments. Their argument is that the office demand simply isn’t there right now, but will be once the RCH development is further along, but the demand for residential space is feeling no relaxation. The City will not let WesGroup off of the commitments they have made, but are at this time OK with making some changes in the timing, recognizing that WesGroup has already made good on the majority of the work.

There are still a few concerns long-term with the Brewery District development, mostly around traffic management. I have emphasized many times that the entire development cannot rely on East Columbia Street for all ingress and egress for cars, and that work needs to be done between the City, RCH and WesGroup to re-imagine how the foot of Keary (below East Columbia) is going to operate if WesGroup and RCH both have underground garage entrances there. I would be happy to see those garages not connect at all to East Columbia, but to have Keary dead-end mid-block between East Columbia and Brunette, with a signal-controlled intersection at Brunette and Keary. There are also concerns regarding how Nelson’s Crescent and Nelson;s cOurt interact with East Columbia, which will likely need ot wait until the Sapperton Traffic study is completed.

Qayqayt Elementary School – Transportation Update
There are ongoing concerns in the community about safe routes to Qayqayt School. This is something that has been going on since the school opened. I have toured the site several times, it has been discussed at NTAC and ACTBiPed meetings, and as part of the Master Transportation Plan implementation work. Compared to where we were two years ago, a lot of progress has been made. Notably, there have been many improvements on Agnes and with vital downtown intersections along 4th Street. The “slipway” off of Royal onto Merryvale has been re-designed, with some pavement, signage, and geometry changes.

However, proximity to Royal Ave still causes concern. The homes north of Royal adjacent to Qayqayt are actually in the Herbert Spencer catchmnent, but some students do still make this crossing. There was an incident a couple of weeks ago where the crossing was green, a crossing guard was present, but won child advanced ahead of the guard. Unfortunately, at the same time, a car failed to stop behind the white line, and rolled a few feet into the crossing, striking the child, who was knocked off of his/her bike. Fortunately, the child was not seriously injured, but this incident raised awareness of the potential for danger at that intersection.

Our engineering group is working with the School District and PAC to evaluate ways the intersection can be improved to emphasize pedestrian safety. The initial assessment indicated there were no engineering failures – the intersection is designed with adequate sight lines, controls, and geometry that it is ostensibly as safe as the design code requires. However, nothing in the code prevents us from exceeding those safety requirements, and in light of the type of traffic we get on Royal, and the vulnerability of the pedestrians using the crossing, our engineers will be looking at creative methods to increase the safety.

The following Item was removed from the Consent Agenda:

Westminster Pier Park 2015 Food Services Overview
We were provided a report on the food service operation at Pier Park. It has been a bit of a struggle to get an operation up and running, but now that we have better access to the Park via 4th Street and some potential for increased programming in the Park, the trend is going the right direction.

Councillor Trentadue raised an interesting question about whether it is possible to license this operation so people could get a beer or a glass of wine while enjoying the Park. I agree this is an area for further exploration, as is opening up the Park to Food Trucks and other temporary vendors. The model we have now is very similar to the Treats concession stand in Queens Park, which has been run on what is essentially a cost-recovery basis for years. It is possible we can get to that place with the Pier Park concession as the Park gets more established. It is also possible that we can look at alternative delivery models for the site… more to come!

The following items were moved on Consent:

2016 Downtown BIA Parcel Tax Bylaw
2016 Uptown New Westminster BIA Parcel Tax Bylaw
These are our annual bylaw updates to support the Parcel Tax that funds the Downtown Business Improvement Areas. This Bylaw formalizes the agreed-upon tax rate: the amount of levy charged per linear foot of business frontage, which is ~$20 in the primary part of Downtown, ~$15 in the secondary part of Downtown, and ~$20 in Uptown. This money is collected by the City, but it returned back to the BIA organization for them to use in promoting and developing their commercial neighbourhoods.

2016 Tax Rates Bylaw
This Bylaw formally adopts the Property Tax increase required to support he now-adopted 2016-2020 5-Year Financial Plan. That increase is 2.73%. I’ve got one good blog post left in me about this increase, answering the common question: Why is it always more than inflation? Coming soon!

We then moved on to our ever-popular Bylaws:

Downtown New Westminster BIA (Primary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 7828, 2016
Downtown New Westminster BIA (Secondary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 7829, 2016
Uptown New Westminster Business Improvement Area Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 7830, 2016
As mentioned above these Bylaws were each given three readings.

Tax Rates Bylaw No. 7831, 2016
As mentioned above this Bylaw was also given three readings.

…on the bike race

I didn’t want to write this blog post, for a few reasons.

First of all, I hoped that we would be building excitement right now for a bike race in Uptown a month from today, but that is not going to happen. Secondly, I had hoped that the process through which we got here was respectful and transparent enough that I would not have to engage in after-the-fact record straightening, because my doing so will be perceived by some in the community as my being unnecessarily confrontational, accusatory, or “political”. I hope I can demonstrate that is not my intention, as apportioning blame is not my interest, improving the process is.

My disappointment that the race is not going forward in 2016 has been shadowed by my disappointment that withdrawal of support for the road closure is being characterized as an arbitrary and capricious decision by City Hall. The quote

…the City of New Westminster, for unspecified reasons, has unilaterally cancelled the Hyack Grand Prix…”

does not fairly reflect my experience, and I have to address it.

For context, I was pretty excited about this race, and even attended a couple of organizational meetings to see if there were any potential hiccups I could help smooth out at City Hall, and so I could be more in the know in case Council had any questions or concerns. I didn’t have time to join the organizing committee, but hoped there was a way I could (with my limited free time) help out. I was actually looking forward to spending May 28th volunteering at a corner with my FR Fuggitivi friends and enjoying the race.

I should avoid speaking for the City, staff, the rest of Council or the Festivals Committee (I don’t serve on that Committee), but every impression I got from Council and Staff is that they were enthusiastic about this event, that there was good potential ROI for the City, and that there was no reason it should not happen. I never heard anyone at 511 Royal Ave speak against the idea.

It did become clear in early March, however, that some of the groundwork had not been laid to get the race going. Nothing was critical yet, but there were a collection of small issues that were not being addressed in a timely manner, giving staff reasons to be concerned about the organizing committee’s capacity to get them done in time. Most of them looked like details that were a little behind but were not yet on the “critical path”.

There were some negotiations on the course layout and safety issues, where I (frankly) was on the side of the organizers in negotiating with the City, but that was a discussion I felt was going to work out fine when CyclingBC folks were able to provide their professional guidance. There were issues around asphalt that were worked out, etc.

However, the sticking point became the road closures and impacts on the local neighbourhood. Closing several blocks of roads in the middle of the City on a Saturday has the potential to impact residents and businesses in unanticipated ways. Between the parade and the bike race, these closures were stretching to 8+ hours. If you ran a service business that had limited access to its front door on your busiest day of the week, you might be concerned (alternately, if you ran a pub or restaurant with a thousand people outside of your door all day, you might be exited!). If you had no access to the driveway of your house for 8 hours on a Saturday, you may equally be concerned. God forbid if you had a concrete pour on your construction site or a backyard wedding planned that day.

No problem, the City does this type of thing all the time. We have street festivals, we have parades, we do utility work. There are protocols for communicating with residents and businesses, assuring organizers have approval from them (or not) and that those approvals are crystal clear about what the type and duration of the disruption will be. It is clear with the organizations running these events that this is their responsibility, and although the City will provide guidance, the leg-work to get this work done to the satisfaction of the City is up to the organizer. It is simply a resource issue for a small municipality.

There will (almost) always be a small number of people who oppose the closure for whatever reason, valid or not. As the event is something the City and Council supports, staff are ready to deal with that small number. If there are a small number of residents or businesses that oppose it, we will talk to them, try to figure out how to accommodate their needs, make adjustments, or even (at times) tell them to get over it, because this is coming, and your neighbours all want it, so heads-up!

In early March, it was becoming clear that this consultation with the neighbourhood was going slowly, partly because of resource limitations of the organizer, partly because of some communication problems between the organizer and the City, and partly because of some disagreements/negotiations around expectations. This aspect of the organization was becoming the critical path, because if public notice was not completed to a level that made the City comfortable, then the City was not going to dump a bunch of resources into the following steps, knowing that the event may not go on. Again, limited resources require careful governance of those resources. Timing of this consent is also critical because the City needed time to manage those few residents or businesses that may not agree, to be fair to those people.

Through March and into early April, there was a significant back and forth between staff and the organizers, it was clear that the organizers felt they were doing an adequate job in this outreach, and staff were not as confident. Deadlines, first soft then firm, were set and passed. When the Festivals Committee reviewed the level of preparedness for the event, this critical gap was identified, and the Committee recommended to Council that we consider cancelling the event. Staff felt that this work had dragged on too long, and there was limited time to complete a long list of critical next steps.

The week after that recommendation was challenging for me, for staff, and for the organizers. I personally contacted the organizers in order to better understand the situation form their point of view. I had other concerns about the event (management of timing, parking arrangements for racers, a few course layout concerns, etc.) but I honestly thought they were going to get over this gap with liberal application of shoe leather, elbow grease, and salesmanship. I had enough experience with smaller bike races in my earlier days that I know how things can come together at crunch time.

I met with staff and looked at the public outreach data they were using to make their assessment, and I agreed with them. I was sent data from the organizers, and was challenged to rectify the two datasets and change my opinion about staff’s assessment. I arranged for a meeting with the organizers and representatives of the Festivals Committee to sit down and discuss how the data the organizers provided did not fulfill staff’s expectations about public contacts. following this, there was yet another meeting the between staff and the organizers to further compare notes. I cannot emphasize enough that all of this took place in an effort to make the event happen. We burned a lot of staff time (and overtime), at a level we would not have done for a commercial enterprise, film company, or most other volunteer events. City staff bent over backwards trying to see the situation through the organizers’ lens, and I feel they tried earnestly to get to a place where they could responsibly recommend further support.

Councillor Harper (representing the Festivals Committee) and I took the extra time to set up and attend these meetings, to dig into the data, and to consider the options. In the end, we had to agree with staff that moving ahead in 2016 was not the responsible thing to do. It didn’t serve the City, the organizers, or CyclingBC.

At every step of the way here, we were in communication with the organizers, and the City repeatedly made clear what its expectations were. There was nothing capricious in the decision, nor should it have been surprising to the organizers. I think staff made the right call in a difficult situation, and I support them, even if it means we cannot have an event in 2016 that I was very much looking forward to.

I hope that we can try again in 2017, and through this experience we can tighten up the way we set and address the City’s expectations. It appears we need to start consultations earlier and perhaps the City needs to set firmer deadlines instead of only giving guidance. Lessons were learned through this.

I think the relationship between the City and the organizers, clearly fractious in the past, was in this case business-like and respectful up until the end, and I hope this disappointment does not erode the progress made. That is part of the reason I was reluctant to write this blog post, as I don’t want fuel thrown on a spark. However I equally cannot stand silent while the motives and professionalism of the City’s staff, Committee, and Council are questioned in the social media. I think there are things the City could have done differently, but there are definitely things that the organizers could have done better, and should have done better. I own a bit of this, as I was probably not as proactive as a self-assigned liaison as I could have been, especially earlier in the process. However, both Hyack and the City were pushing the envelope a bit, getting into organizing an event they had little experience with, and I think it was valuable learning experience. I hope it pays off with a great event in 2017.

That will require a continued business-like relationship and respectful communications on both sides.

Council Report – April 18, 2016

Sometimes you know ahead of time you are in for a long night at Council. Other times they just kind of sneak up on you and keep you up until midnight. If I had any idea April 18th was going to be the latter, I might have had a little more dinner.

I am not going to comment on the Public Delegations here, because I want to keep these Council Reports limited to the business we did on the day, and they are already too long for a reasonable person to read. Some of the issues that came up at Delegation later came up in regular business, so I will talk about them there, others I will probably find another occasion to cover in this blog. I can summarize the delegation period as mostly about frustration, though with moments of true inspiration. So about par for the course.

Our April 18 meeting started with the Parcel Tax Role. These are various special initiatives for which the City collects taxes from a specific set of property owners for dedicated purposes. The people paying these taxes voted at some point in the past to have this special assessment in order to receive the benefit the assessment pays for. The BIAs use the City to collect their operational costs in the Uptown and Downtown, and others pay to have special paving projects, sewer/drainage projects that may not have otherwise been completed. Once a year, we need to complete a report and provide public notice to all being charged so they can appeal if the tax doesn’t apply to them due to clerical error or some other special condition.

On to the Regular Meeting, which started after our Poet Laureate celebrated World Poetry Day as part of the Mayor’s Annual Poetry City Challenge, and three other Proclamations.

618 Carnarvon Street – Rezoning from C-4 to CD to allow a Mixed Use
Commercial Multi Unit Residential Development

Council moved to approve the further development of this project, through Public Consultation and Committee review. This is a pretty significant project in the Downtown which will fill several lots just down the hill below the Point, where Bricks & Mortar Living and several other small businesses are currently operating.

The conversation was interesting, and there is a lot of detail to cover here, but this process is very early in the process, so I don’t want to put to much of my judgement into it prior to the consultation and Public Hearing. I’m sure it is going to be an interesting discussion in the community for the next few weeks.

After a half dozen 5-minute Public Delegations that somehow took us three hours, we moved onto:

PIKNIC ELECTRONIK Concert series Proposal
Since the Pier Park was opened, there have been several ideas to “activate” the space beyond just the passive uses that are already embraced by the community. The International Festival on Canada Day and the outdoor PechaKuchaNW event were both smaller-scale free events that showed the space off, and several proposals have been discussed to bring ticketed music events in the summer.

PIKNIC ELECTRONIK is a well-known festival held all summer in Montreal, expanding to Melbourne, Dubai and Barcelona. Electronic music is usually (to lame old people like me) associated with clubs and raves, but this is a daytime outdoor family friendly event which should be fun for all (especially that all-important “significantly cooler than me” demographic).

This year, we are being asked to waive the rental fee for the Park, and expect that the event will cost the city about $3,000 in extra staff time for maintenance, etc. This is the first year, and an unproven venue for this type of event. This looks like a good way for the City (for a low cost) to let a group with lots of experience in this type of event work the bugs out, with potential for more events of a similar nature next year.

Council likes the idea, and supported it, with some direction to Staff to evaluate and address the potential for conflict with other events happening that weekend – the StrEAT Food Truck Festival will directly overlap with this event (both occur in the afternoon and evening) and the Downtown BIA is supportive of another event next door, recognizing potential synergies and benefits. The Quayside Boardwalk Sale is also on the same day, although it occurs earlier in the day, and the QCB has indicated they are NOT in support of having this event on the same day as theirs, although the conflict seems much less pronounced. Regardless, it sounds like the organizers are happy to accommodate other groups, and I am confident a solution will be found.

No word yet on whether noted local punk polymath HARGOW will be playing.

After taking yet another break, we had three accelerated presentations from staff on progress of three of our Strategic Initiatives, which I will condense here:

OCP update is moving on, another workshop with Council next week, and landuse plans are going to be getting sketched up soon, with OCP framework will be going to Public Consultation hopefully before Summer!

Mayor’s Transportation Taskforce is rolling out the priority capital program, emphasizing getting our sidewalks, transit stops and cycling facilities improved, and working on Safe Routes to School Programs. We are also working with our regional partners on Truck Route strategies and the Fraser Trade area study.

Mayor’s Public Engagement Taskforce has been working on a report the outlines the many ways we can communicate better with the public, and make it easier for people to interact with City Hall. Believe it or not, we are taking the Public Engagement plans out to the public for engagement. The most meta event ever held by the City will happen on May 7 – its free but you should click this link and register to make sure you get a seat.

We then moved the following items on Consent.

Community Banners Program
You know those banners that hang off of light poles, but you might not know that they are designed through two local programs. One program gives themes to local artists, and a competition is held to come up with designs that fit that theme. The second program matches local artists with artistic youth in the community through the Anvil Centre community arts programs, and they work collaboratively to develop banner designs. The banner program costs about $10,000 and comes out of the community Public Art Reserve Fund.

700 Royal Avenue (Douglas College): Exemption to Construction Noise Bylaw
Douglas College is doing some work during the very short inter-semester period, and needs to exceed the usual hours, requesting a noise Bylaw exemption to allow that. It is a short period of time, and most of the work is indoors, so if you live right next door, apologies in advance, but you might hear some noise a few nights this summer.

New Westminster SkyTrain Station: Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Move similarly, some of the works around the renewal of the New Westminster SkyTrain Station will require night work when the trains are not operating. This has been going on intermittently for several months, and the City has received only one complaint. Hopefully, it will be over soon and we can have our SkyTrain station back.

350 Gifford Street (Starlight Casino): Application for New Liquor Primary License
The Casino wants to shuffle their pub/restaurant layout, and this requires a new Liquor Primary License. This is a pretty typical application process, with no concerns raised. The part of it I found interesting is that ample nearby parking is a consideration in a Liquor primary establishment. Let that sink in for a minute.

Affordable Housing Small Sites: Recommend Proponents
The City is working on a few partnerships to developing a couple of small affordable housing projects, using money from our Affordable Housing Reserve Fund. Two sites have been identified (one Downtown and one in Queensborough) and two partners identified through a competitive procurement process (Catalyst/Community Living Society and Women in Need Gaining Strength). There is a bunch of work to do yet, from setting up agreements to rezonings and other approvals, but Council has provided preliminary conditional support, and things are moving forward.

Gas Works Site Land Use Plans and Response to Roof Collapse
This report is updating Council on what the province is doing about the recent collapse of the roof at the Gas Works building. The building and lands belong to the province, but the City has, in the past, expressed interest in partnering with the province to preserve the building and/or remediate the contaminated site it sits upon to re-purpose it for community use. We have a longer conversation to have, and some discussions with the province will have to be accelerated in light of the building damage. In the meantime, the Province is going to be removing the debris and shoring up the building to make the structure safe enough that it can be left unguarded (but not, I suppose, enough that it can be re-occupied).

30km/h Speed Limits on Residential Streets
I really wanted to make a speech here, but time was tight, so I let the report be received on Consent and saved my speechmaking for another day.

The report from staff importantly acknowledged that the Office of the Provincial Health Officer released an annual report on March 3 2016 that was directed towards “Reducing the Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes on Health and Well-being in BC” . It noted that although motor vehicle deaths have been on a downward trend for decades (it is getting remarkably safer to be inside a car), that pedestrian deaths are NOT declining. And speed is still the #1 factor in crashes – more than impairment, more than distraction.

The Provincial Public Health officer made 28 recommendations, from tougher graduated licensing to better road design and maintenance, but #12 stands out :

12. Amend the Motor Vehicle Act to reduce the default speed limit on roads within municipalities and treaty lands from 50 km/h to a maximum of 30 km/h (the survivable speed for pedestrians and cyclists).

I will be following up with staff through the ACTBiPed and Mayor’s Transportation Taskforce to determine if any of the other recommendations in the Public Health Officer’s report could be implemented by a local government and is not already part of our MTP or other plans. In short: is there anything they are recommending we could be doing to make our roads safer, for vulnerable users especially.

I think that is something this Council would be quick to support, but we can only hope the Provincial Government takes the same serious attitude about this public health issue and gives City the ability to protect their residents by implementing defensible speed limits that emphasize safety and survivability. .

BC Penitentiary Cemetery – Restoration and Preservation
There is, little known to most, a small cemetery to people who died at the BC Pen on the edge of Glenbrook Ravine. It is mostly invisible, though city staff do a basic amount of care ot it to assure it is not destroyed, but is kept to a standard of the provincial act that regulated cemeteries. There is a local heritage group interested in working to improve the conservation efforts around the site, and Council has agreed to set up a committee of volunteers with a small City staff contingent to help coordinate this effort.

Application for Strata Conversion of the Industrial Warehouse at 407 Wood Street
A property owner in Queensborough who operates a mutli-tenant light industrial warehouse wished to convert it to a Strata Ownership model. This is one of those semi-provincial semi-local government processes, but under the Strata title Act the City does need to administer it issue approvals. And Council did approve this application.

Pattullo Bridge Rehabilitation
This is an information memo on the plans for the Pattullo Bridge renovation. If you haven’t heard by now, the Pattullo will be reduced to one lane each direction from the end of April to the beginning of October, and everyone is anticipating traffic chaos. I suspect it will not be that bad once people get used to the fact that the capacity is reduced and move their plans to other routes. The Queensborough will probably feel some pressure, and I anticipate extra toll revenue for the Port Mann. We will be doing traffic counts to collect data for better traffic planning, and the NWPD will be out doing extra enforcement in residential neighbourhoods to try to make life more difficult for rat runners. Let’s all hunker down and get through it, folks, because there isn’t going to be a new bridge any time soon.

The following items were (reluctantly, due to the time), pulled from Consent.

New Reference Concept for Q2Q Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge
Speaking of bridges and difficult projects. As someone who enthusiastically supported the fixed link concept prior to being elected, It has been a real dose of reality to now be in a position where I have to try to get the darn thing built. I think our staff has done an excellent job dealing with constantly shifting realities in this project, and I know that they are feeling the stress like we are, and I thank them for their efforts..

I have had a lot of conversations with people on the Quayside, where most of the concern regarding this project has arisen. However, much of the angst I felt from the neighbourhood arose from an impression that the City was not consulting enough on this project, but was barging forward. For me, it was important to let them know that the City is still working out details, and any design you have seen before is not necessarily the “final” design, but a concept used to gauge the possibilities, to guide the consultation and engineering work.

Indeed, there have been several different designs, some higher, some lower, different locations and different construction concepts taken to public consultation and evaluated by the engineers and regulatory authorities, and those plans keep changing as a direct result of those consultations. To me, this is a sign of a consultation and design process that is working well, not one that is failing.

To me, this bridge is and has always been about connecting communities. It is a transportation link no different than the McInnes overpass or the Central Valley Greenway. It needs to be accessible, it needs to be reliable, it needs to be safe, and it needs to fit the human scale of the neighbourhood it serves. We are getting there, and this shifting of the reference design to a low-level bridge that is much more accessible, should reduce cost and impact on the neighbourhood, but we going to have to have a discussion with the Marine Carriers and the Port to get approval for this. There is a lot of work to do yet, and of course, just as before, this may not be the “definitive” design, but I think we are headed in the right direction.

However, being cognizant that those regulatory challenges exist, I think it is time for the City to look seriously at Plans B. There has been much talk about a passenger ferry system, and there are good urban planning and community connecting arguments for why a fixed link is a better way to go (and we would most likely be letting the $6Million in DAC funding go away if we cannot meet the fixed link solution). So I added to the recommended motion that we ask staff to do some preliminary scoping of alternative plans, whether that means updating the previously-evaluated ferry option and other alternative methods to “bridge” the North Arm.

New Westminster Street Food Policy
We are working towards a pretty good policy here I can support, but share the Mayor’s concerns that Pier Park was being dismissed for poorly supported reasons, and want to set some guidelines around how the Parkade can be used in ways that does not challenge the structural integrity of the Parkade. A Bylaw will be sketched up and we may have a functional food truck Bylaw by the Sumer food truck season!

1031 Sixth Ave – Cancellation of Proposed HRA
This is a terrible situation. The owner of this 120-year-old house in Moody Park ran into unexpected issues renovating the house, and decided to demolish it to build a new house. his Demolition Permit application caused the City concern, as the house, though it is not designated or protected by law, it has significant heritage value to the neighbourhood and the entire community.

Staff worked for several weeks with the owner to try to find a way to make the house salvageable, and the applicant some time and money putting together plans where the house would be shifted to the back of the property, protected with a heritage Designation, and a second house could be built on the lot for his family.

This innovative approach was taken to neighbourhood consultation, and the Moody Park Residents Association voted against allowing the project. The resistance to the project was such that the owner, already reluctant, decided to no longer invest time and money in the approach, and 9 months of progress was apparently lost.

The City will be evaluating if we have further options to protect the house in or next meeting.

We then wrapped a long night be adopting a few Bylaws.

Development Approval Procedures Amendment Bylaw No. 7825, 2016
Development Services Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 7826, 2016

As discussed at the April 4 meeting, these Bylaws that adjust how the city does Pre-approvals of projects in now the Law of the Land. Please adjust your behavior accordingly.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2016-2020) Bylaw No. 7821, 2016
As discussed at several meetings, including March 14, the Bylaw supporting our new 5-year Financial Plan was officially adopted.

And that was, for the most part, that. See you next week.

Myths and Lies

There is a lot going on right now in the transportation file in the Lower Mainland, both good and bad news, and I can hardly keep up, never mind blog about it. So while the local radio stations stoked anger a couple of weeks ago about another TransLink “outrage”, I had something completely different to get angry about: this “Fact Scheet” produced by the provincial government in regards to the Massey Tunnel replacement project:factsheet

After venting into a Word document, I put it aside and relaxed. Writing is good therapy, and I figured I would edit it up and make use of it later. Anger abated, back of mind, life goes on. Then last week I was triggered to pull it back out by this post by Transportation Economist Stephen Rees (someone you should be reading – his knowledge and insight are unique and powerful), and his writing:

I must admit that when I read it I became almost incoherent with rage.

Amen, Brother.

Why “rage” about a seemingly innocuous two-page fact sheet produced to hard sell a key government project to the business community? Because almost every proclaimed myth-busting point presented on this definitive piece of Government paper is a lie. A stinking pile of bullshit that anyone who has spent any time learning about transportation policy in the western world over the last three decades can smell from a mile away. And it is printed on Government letterhead. I’m angry that either people in the Ministry of Transportation don’t know it is all bullshit, or they do know and are still willing to publish it. I’m not sure which is worse.

That last paragraph may seem inappropriate to some of my readers (Sorry, Mom!), but please let me assure you, I use the term bullshit in the strictly technical sense of the word. And someone needs to start calling this government out on their lies.

The “myths” hit the news two weeks ago when the Minister presented his case for a 10-lane bridge to the relatively receptive audience of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. At the event, he was suggested to have “busted” some myths about the project, being spread by what he called “rumour-mongers, conspiracy theorists and those with apparently ill-informed opinions”.

Let us look at the Myths seemingly busted:


If we define “The project” as a 10-lane high level bridge, then clearly it is not the only solution to the problems presented here. Traffic congestion in the tunnel has been demonstrated to be getting better, not worse, over the last decade, and the Ministry’s own data shows that 87% of vehicles in the tunnel are cars (almost all single-occupant) while more than a quarter of the *people* going through the tunnel are in the 1% of vehicles that comprise the inadequate transit service through the tube. Providing better options for only 15% of the people who use the tunnel would virtually end congestion, leaving a bunch of money left over to finish the work to make the tunnel earthquake safe again. Saying “we need to do something” is not the same as saying “we need to do this thing”. This project is not needed. Myth not busted.

myth9There is no doubt the Ministry has talked to many people, but to say they have “consulted” is quite the stretch. The City where the majority of the project has taken place is claiming they have not been listened to, and are not in favour of the project, the regional government is opposed, as are all of the local governments (save one). No defensible business case has been presented answering for the project. The parts of the “3,600 pages of Project Information” that referred to costing and SWAT analysis were redacted.

One way to tell that “consultation” has not occurred: No aspect of the plan has demonstrably been changed to address the concerns of people consulted since this 10-lane bridge solution was first presented to the public. They started with a 10-lane high level bridge solution, and ended at it. Myth not busted.myth8

They are right, no Federal Review is required by current legislation (assuming that other accessory projects like removing the old tunnel and re-routing of the BC Hydro line that uses the tunnel are separate projects). This is because the gutting of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act by the Harper Conservatives in 2012 significantly cut back on Federal Review guidelines. Myth busted, but probably not something to be proud of.


What a steaming pile this is. “keeping traffic moving to reduce GHG emissions” is a perfect example of bullshit: it’s not wrong, it’s just stupid. Ways to reduce GHG impacts of transportation have been studied to death, and yes, idling reduction (depending on conditions) can reduce gas consumption per kilometre, but it does not reduce GHG emissions anywhere near as much as dozens of other available techniques, including modifying trip-making choices, increasing vehicle occupancy rates, shifting (freight and passengers) to more efficient modes, compact community planning, etc. etc. – policies that are directly undermined by this very project! Claiming that “free flowing traffic” induces transit use boggles the mind. The other “improvements” and “enhancements” listed here could easily be funded at a fraction of the cost of building a $3.5Billion bridge, without the boondoggle hanging over it. Why is planting a tree contingent on laying asphalt, what does one have to do with the other? Myth not busted.

myth6This may very well be true. But you know what is cheaper than building a new tunnel and cheaper than a new bridge? Making the infrastructure you already have work better. One of the more galling parts of this entire project is that no-one seems to be looking at the opportunity cost of a $3.5Billion infrastructure investment – what real improvements could we build to the regional transportation system with that kind of money. Perhaps start here.  Myth busted, not that it is relevant to the argument.myth5

Seriously. The Ministry is arguing that the route that now has 4 lanes will be congested on opening day if it has 8 lanes, but will allow free-flow until 2040 if it has 10 lanes. Chew on that for a bit. Just let the magical thinking sink in. Then remember, these are the guys who projected traffic demand for the Port Mann. Myth not busted.myth4

There is a lot of creative work here to not directly address the assertion that is being made. The bottleneck is irrelevant to this point (as we know there are too many other more affordable ways to address a bottleneck that is 85% single occupancy cars). The height of the Alex Fraser is irrelevant as well, as that is not currently a limit to crossing the tunnel. The word “dredging” is not raised at all in this retort, nor the evidence that deeper dredging in the river is a long-established goal of the various port authorities and port operators on the south arm, or that the tunnel is currently the largest impediment to a deeper channel. Myth not busted; Myth deftly avoided.myth3

This is the “myth busting” that caused Stephen Rees the most rage, because it is completely separated from reality, the reality that he has spent a distinguished career studying on two continents. There are no transportation planners, transportation economists, transportation engineers, or rational human beings who believe that more than doubling the capacity at the tunnel will not increase traffic congestion at the Oak Street Bridge. Their denial of this basic reality is simply a lie. To get the count of “60% stops in Richmond”, they had to count all of the traffic leaving the 99 to go on the East-West Connector and the Knight Street Bridge as being “Richmond” traffic. And yes, those routes will also become more congested, calling for more future “improvements”, because of the induced demand this project will bring (more on that under Myth #1). Myth not busted.

myth2Did you know that Highways are allowed in the ALR? Much of the South Fraser Perimeter Road is actually in the ALR, no exclusion necessary, just compensation paid to the property owner who has his acreage bisected or cut off. So the Ministry can put the entirety of this project on ALR land and claim “no net loss” of ALR land- although admittedly it is hard to farm asphalt.

I cannot find any evidence (outside of Ministry pieces like this) that farmers on either side of the river support this project, nor does their business case or other consultation material explain how putting hundreds of acres of farmland under asphalt could result in “net gain”. I have read stories of farmers expressing concern about various aspects of the project. I have also heard farmers speaking about the increased pressure on farmland, the inability to afford to farm on farmland with price speculation pushing up farm land prices because of projects such as this which encourage auto-oriented sprawl in valley communities. I have also read about the Port buying up farmland in Richmond to build cross-docking facilities that will be linked to this project with shiny new roads. Myth not busted.

And to top it all off:


This is pure, unadulterated bullshit. If the Ministry of Transportation can show us an example (from their alleged “experience here and around the world”) from a growing industrialized economy where adding highway capacity has not resulted in increased highway use, they should bottle it and sell it to Los Angeles, or Dallas, or Houston, or Atlanta, or freaking Hanoi. This magic solution to congestion will pay off better than LNG. That increased capacity equals increased congestion is such a well-established concept in transportation planning that it is actually called The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion by the people who study this stuff as an academic discipline. To deny this is to deny gravity, or evolution, or the atomic model. Myth not busted, but supported by a Fundamental Law.

On this blog, I’m trying to be solutions-based. I often write things that sound critical as a search for solutions, as a way to force myself to look deeper at issues, do some research, understand the counter-arguments against my point, so I can do a better job when I have to make a decision. The Q2Q bridge is an example where I am less and less certain about how to move the project the more I learn about it. Although I am still hopeful we can find a good solution, I am increasing cognizant through stages of planning and public consultation of just how complicated a project it is, and that no matter what we do, someone isn’t going to like it. And I’m trying, really hard, to stay realistic and evidence-based on this project. When I point out numerous flaws to one specific approach, it isn’t just to be a boo-bird or support “the forces of NO”, it is to challenge assumptions and try to understand *if* the idea will work, which is often easiest to do by figuring out why it won’t. That is, I suppose, a result of my training in science, where we work to find reasons to reject null hypotheses. Or maybe I’m just a detail-mining jerk.

Then I get confronted with a project like the Massey Tunnel Replacement. This is a project with no reasoned justification, no supported business case, no alignment with any other regional plan or transportation initiative. It is a megaproject that stands in opposition to regional growth plans, regional transportation plans, and provincial and federal GHG reduction plans, and will undermine them all. It’s a bad idea at a bad time, badly presented for bad reasons. It is a bad idea so bad even most of the arguments against it are bad, but are still better than the arguments for it. And this is why I get angry even writing about it.

That is what your money is building, folks, a 10-lane $3.5Billion concrete edifice to bad ideas, now being bolstered by bald-faced lies by people you are paying to tell them to you. If you are not angry about this, you need to start paying attention.

Community – Ides of April edition

I’ve been busy. Not the least with riding in (and recovering from) my first long bike ride of the year. The Pacific Populaire is 100km, 700+ riders, and on a beautiful spring day like we had last Sunday, pretty much the best 4 hours a person can spend. We had a great turnout from the @FRFuggitivi which bodes well for the cycling season ahead!

The Fraser River Fuggitivi, and a few hundred friends.
The Fraser River Fuggitivi, and a few hundred friends.

Since my March 27th post, here are a few other things that have kept me busy.

We had another meeting with the Youth Advisory Committee, where representatives from the City’s Bylaws department and Fraser Health talked about smoking. Not the usual “why you kids shouldn’t smoke!” stuff (the youth of today are smarter than we were at that age about addictions and peer pressure), but to have questions about smoking enforcement answered for them. Mostly, they want more and better enforcement of anti-smoking rules, want to know why people can smoke in parks or at SkyTrain stations, things like that. It was another one of those generation-divide type conversations, and I’m not blowing smoke when I continue to say that these meetings are really educational and inspirational for me.

The Royal City Curling Club had its annual DonSpiel- the last event of the curling season, and a good time for all. I was not on a team this year (too many things scheduled that weekend) but was able to pinch hit for one game. The theme this year was Team Jerseys, so the team for which I was asked to spare with chose to go with a grunge theme and call themselves “Curl Jam”. We won, we had fun, and we got a great pic for the back of our next Cd!

Curl Jam. We hurry hard for no-one.
Curl Jam. We hurry hard for no-one.

The same weekend, I attended the opening of a showing of Jack Campbell paintings at the Plaskett Gallery at Massey Theatre. I wrote a blog a couple of years ago when Jack died remembering my sometimes neighbour, and I am really happy that the Massey Theatre Society decided to show his works this month. It is on until April 28, and worth a visit, if only to get a sense of what New Westminster’s waterfront looked like though an artist’s eyes in the decades past.

I recognize that place!
I recognize that place!

I attended an event at Douglas College where a group of marketing students presented their semester projects, as a part of a partnership between the College, Envision Financial, and local not-for-profits. The student teams are matched with an external NFP that needs to solve a marketing, development or promotional problem. The students get real hands-on experience, the NFP gets the benefit of solid advice from people trained in marketing and promotions, and good things result. This year’s teams talked about their work with the Chrons and Colitis Canada, the Royal City Curling Club (them again!), and the Eagle Ridge Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop. This is a great program, and an example of how Douglas College is really stepping out to make a bigger impact on the greater community. Kudos to everyone involved.

Speaking of Kudos, the New Westminster Police Department had a banquet to thank their volunteers last week at the Anvil. You may not have realized it, but the NWPD have more than 100 volunteers, who contributed more than 15,000 hours in volunteer service in 2015, in outreach, crime prevention, victim services, and other functions. We are a small town, and are lucky to have our own police force that understands and can concentrate on building our local community, but their work would be no-where near as effective or affordable without the efforts of people like Bruno Bersani and Alana Dochtermann, who each volunteered over 280 hours in 2015!

While at the Anvil Centre, I dropped by the opening of a new show at the New Media Gallery. The collection is called Germinal, with three pieces around themes of animal/human hybrids, and freak evolution, and genetic migration and… subjects that might make people a little wierded out. There is a large video collage, a mesmerizing projected work where genetic algorithms are used to create and modify words, and a very cool interactive video work where you can get your animal face on. Well worth a visit!

This past weekend also saw the 65th annual Opening Day of the New Westminster Little League season, where Councillor Trentadue took the role of Acting Mayor and threw her patented off-speed sinker across the plate, a pitch that would have surely induced a swing and a miss. The woman has skills. It was a beautiful day at Queens Park stadium! baseball

There was also a Fundraiser for the Royal City Farmers Market held a 100 Braid Studios. I was able to try my hand at painting with wine, see some of the works of the resident artists at 100 Braid, and help raise a little money for the best little Farmers Market in the region (we are less than a month from the Tipperary Park opening for 2016!)

We used the same wine, MsNWimby used talent..
We used the same wine, MsNWimby used talent..

Finally, the start of April also brought an entire new and exciting venture to New Westminster. You all know Jen Arbo and Tenth to the Fraser, the website, but you may not know she has been working with a team to expand the 10th media empire. A print magazine with the same title was just launched with an “Issue #0”. It is a slick new format, really well produced, with a plan to give local writers, artists, photographers, and other artists a medium to add to the conversation that is already occurring at  I am totally not unbiased here, I have a great interest in seeing this idea fly, because there is a need for a breadth of voices in this community, and because I think the printed word still has a market. The key to me is to respect and challenge the audience by producing high-quality content, and I think “Issue #0” is a sign of good things to come.

Sure to be a collectors item.
Sure to be a collectors item.

If nothing else, the Launch Party at 6th Street Pop-up was a great event where much, much fun was had (see top of post).

ASK PAT: road pricing

Wes asks—

I’ve heard a lot recently about road pricing, as a means to fund transit and road infrastructure. What does this actually look like ? Ts it transponders and sensors all over the Metro area? Is it simply a declaration at time of insurance renewal of Vehicle KM last year and current Vehicle KM ?

I think the short answer to this question is we don’t really know yet, but we can make a pretty qualified guess.

In my earlier posts, I talked about how the “$1-toll-for-all-bridges” idea could be refined into a more practical regional road pricing model. This model would expand the Port Mann / Golden Ears transponder and licence plate scanning model to maybe a dozen locations at logical “pinch points”. That is a quick and dirty way to make it work, and uses proven technology and bureaucracy that already exists. I don’t think anyone thinks this is the long-term solution, but it is a move we can get going very quickly and get the public used to the unpopular idea that roads aren’t free, if we have the political will to make it happen.

The long-term plan is something that is discussed in the Mayor’s Plan, but was blithely ignored by the media and Bateman during the Plebiscite. The plan was very clear that the sales tax was a 10-year cash infusion for capital improvement to build the required alternatives prior to the implementation of a proper road pricing model. The plan was for increased user revenue and road pricing to increasingly fill the revenue gap to allow for continued development of the system:

“LONGER TERM: Staged introduction of mobility pricing on the road network Over the longer term, the Mayors’ Council is committed to implementing time-and-distance based mobility pricing on the road network as an efficient, fair and sustainable method of helping to pay for the transportation system.

“Mobility pricing on the road network would help generate funding to implement the remainder of this Vision and shift taxation away from the fuel sales tax—which is a declining revenue source due to increased vehicle efficiency and leakage to areas outside of the region. By generating $250 million per year from a fair, region-wide approach to mobility pricing on the road network, we will be able to fund the remainder of this Vision and at the same time reduce the price paid at the pump by about $0.06 per litre.” – pg. 36, Regional Transportation Investments: a Vision for Metro Vancouver

Systems to make this work are limited to a few existing (and a few speculated) models. The model common in the US, Europe, and Australia of charging distance tolls on limited access freeways (“Turnpikes”) based on how many exits you have passed, is probably not a practical system for BC. We have few true limited-access roads: Highway 1, and 91 and 99 south of the Fraser. Even the new South Fraser Perimeter Road is doesn’t really fit the limited access model for much of its distance. With interconnected surface roads providing alternatives and a demonstrated proclivity for local drivers to value their money more than their time, this approach is doomed to a CLEM7 failure from the start.

There are two other ways to imagine road pricing, both potentially administered by ICBC.

The simplest is a charge-per-use model where every year you report your mileage to ICBC when you update your insurance, and pay a per-kilometer charge. This is potentially the least intrusive model, but the model most likely to see tax avoidance. With modern cars, it is a bit of a complicated process to just “crack open the odometer and roll it back by hand”, a la Ferris Bueller, and there is generally electronic data storage onboard that may have be useful. Of course, this would be easier if we still had an AirCare infrastructure to put to use, but it might be in inferred “unfairness” of the model that makes it least palatable. Expect questions like “If I take a road trip to San Francisco, why should I pay BC roadtax on that?” or EV owners whinging that they should get exempted, as they often conflate their reduced GHG output with other urban design issues related to the single occupant vehicle. This also does not allow differentiation of rates based on where and at what time the mileage is run up, significantly reducing the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) utility. Should you pay as much for a Sunday drive to the park as you do for crossing the Pettullo at rush hour?

The model that would likely work best is, unfortunately, the one that is going to create the most political pushback for mostly nonsensical (and therefore hard to refute) reasons. This is the placement of GPS-type transducers in all vehicles insured in BC, and piggyback on the existing cellular networks to track all vehicle movement. This is a significant data-crunching challenge, as there are something like 2 Million vehicles registered in the Lower Mainland, but the benefits are huge. True distance and time-of-day charging can be done to get the best TDM benefits. It would be arguably the most “fair” process to balance the needs of all users, although there would be a Smart-meter type push back.

There would also be significant devil-in-the-details around how the pricing scheme was developed. In todays’ provincial and regional political climate, it would be hard to wrest that decision making from the politicians, and parochial battles would no doubt ensue. There could be interesting side benefits (it would essentially end car theft, as stolen vehicles could be easily and quickly be tracked) but these would no doubt be offset by the brain melt it would cause for civil libertarians (why does Big Brother need to know where my car goes!?). Ultimately, this is probably politically impossible in our current regime. Perhaps this situation will change as the next generation raised on smart technology are the descision-makers, and we are ready to re-think transportation as a technology challenge.

This speaks somewhat to Helsinki’s one-card model for all transportation modes. They are building a scheme where you pay for a “transportation card”, and you can use that to pay for all transportation choices: road tolls, train tickets, bus passes, bike share, taxis, Car-2-Go type car share, everything. Prices can be made flexible for time/congestion/availability issues to manage the entire system more efficiently, and you can walk out the door of a building and decide what mode (or combination of modes) is best to get you to your next destination with seamless transitions. But we are nowhere near there yet in North America.

In the end, the tolling of bridges (and possible other “gateways” such as North Road, 264th Street, Horseshoe Bay, the US Border, etc.) through an expanded transponder/licence plate scanner is the best we can practically hope for in the decade ahead. It has been working in Singapore for years, and has seen success in London and other European cities. It is a little kludgey, and definitely sub-optimal,  but as I have said before, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and we need to start moving this conversation forward as a region.

Council – April 4, 2016

Whattya think folks? Mayor Mary did a pretty good pinch-hit for His Worship, no?

It was fun handing out awards to kids for colouring contests, but before that Council moved the following items on Consent:

Resolution on the Massey Theatre
The City has been waiting, just as the community has, for an announcement that the Province is ready to step up and fund the replacement of NWSS. In the meantime, we have been working with the Province and the School Board to make the process and the path forward clearer.

It should be no surprise that the City has committed $10Million to the eventual refurbishment or replacement of the Massey Theatre, this has been part of our Strategic Goals for the term, and has been a line item in our Capital budget for some time. This Agreement in Principle, however, clarifies the roles of the School Board, the Province, and the City in the event that the School project moves ahead in the near future, and that keeping the Massey Theatre open and running is not part of the Province’s budget for the new school. This was never a cause of delay on the project, but by getting an agreement framework in place, we can assure the fate of the Massey is not a delay in the works to replace the school once the project starts rolling.

And we need a new school. If you agree, maybe you can do something about it if you have a bit of time on Sunday.

Brewery District Building 5 Housing Agreement – Principles
The current plan for the next residential building in the Brewery District development is to have secured market rental for a portion of the building. This agreement (the details of which Council approved in principle) secures those units as rental for the long-term.

Policy for Driving the Parade Float, Truck and Trailer
The City actually owns the parade float chassis, and the truck and trailer combination used to haul the float around. Through Partnership Grants, the City provides funds to the Hyack Festival Association to revamp and decorate the float every two years, and we provide the use of the truck and trailer as an in-kind grant to Hyack and any other local organization who would like to use it for their festival.

Up to no, we have not had an established policy about who can drive the City truck/trailer combination and float, as it has always been one of a very few Hyack volunteers. However, now that at least one other organization is using the float, it was thought appropriate to codify license, use, and practice policies to make sure we are doing our due diligence as far as use of the City asset and compliance with the City’ insurance requirements. In that sense, this isn’t a new policy, so much as a putting into a policy what has been the traditional practice.

Financial Plan 2016-2020
The 5-year Financial Plan must be passed as a Bylaw, and Council moved to approve three readings of the Bylaw, now that the public process has wrapped up.

2015 Filming Update
The City both has a new Filming Coordinator, and had a record year in filming revenue. The City collects permit fees and charges for Engineering Services, Police Services, and whatever the Film companies may need to operate on City lands. We collected more than $500,000 in revenue for 2015, not including money made by private landowners or the spin-off revenue of the industry (New Westminster residents were paid more than $8Million in wages working in the local film industry).

Official Name for the City of New Westminster’s Youth Facility
The Youth Centre at Moody Park has been remarkably successful since it opened in 2010. As a member of the Youth Advisory Committee, I see the use of the site, and hear the youth of the City talking about how much they appreciate the facility. However, it has never had an “official” name.

A focus group of youth were brought together to develop and decide upon an official name for the facility and decided on Boaty McBoatface.

Just Kidding! Our youth are more rational than the British Internet, and chose the relatively obvious “New West Youth Centre”. Sometimes the simplest names are the best, and this was chosen through a process that put the youth who are the user group in the front of the process, so I am happy to support it.

Council Remuneration 2016
Yes, we get paid. A decade ago, it was decided that the issue of Council pay should be put over to our HR department, and an empirical process developed by an external consultant used to determine how our pay should be compared to our cohort in other regional Cities. Our pay is compared to other municipalities similar n size (so, not Surrey, Vancouver or Richmond), and normalized relative to two measures of the “size” (and inferred Council responsibility) of each municipality: population and total budget. The only change to this process we made is that the analysis (and subsequent adjustment) is done every 4 years to match the new election cycle, instead of the previous every 3 years.

There will be a public process where people can come out and tell us much they appreciate the hard work we do. C’mon out on May 2 and let us know what you think. Should be fun.

805 Boyd Street: Rezoning
This commercial property in Queensborough Landing needs a rezoing in order to open one of those drive-up oil and lube places. This is something we don’t have a lot of in the City, and in the middle of the only real car-oriented retail area in the City is pretty much the most innocuous place to locate a business of this type. Council agreed to give the rezoning First and Second reading.

322 Sixth Avenue: DVP Application – Consideration of Issuance
This heritage home in Queens Park is located with relatively large setbacks on a corner lot, and the owner wished to install a new garage that will match the setback of their neighbor’s existing garage, which is nonetheless 1.5 feet closer to the lane that is permitted by the zoning allows. This requires a Development Variance Permit.

Council agreed to consider issuance, and there will be an Opportunity to be Heard at Council on April 25. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Proposed Development Pre-Application Process
One of the things we are trying to do this term of Council is improve some of the internal processes for approving developments. Cities approach their regulatory requirements in different ways, and I hear that New West is one of the more onerous – we over-emphasize public engagement and internal committee approvals relative to most Cities. The more changes that need to be made in a plan to get past these hurdles, and the later in the process those changes are made, the more expensive and complicated those changes get.

This proposed change in our process will not remove those steps, but it will hopefully make it easier for proponents to bring plans to the City earlier in the process for review, at a lower initial costs, and to allow the proponent to make changes or adjustments earlier when it is cheapest to do so.

Council moved to give the two required Bylaw changes preliminary readings.

We also received a few pieces of Council Correspondence:

Ministry of Community, Sport and Culture and Minister Responsible for TransLink Letter Dated March 8, 2016 Regarding Uber and  similar ride-sharing Services
I really can’t comment on this much more than I already have.

The Corporation of Delta Letter Dated March 14, 2016 Regarding George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project
I really can’t comment on this much more than I already have .

Port Metro Vancouver Letter Dated March 16, 2016 Regarding Rental  Fees for Marina Owners on the Fraser River
Ugh. When will we get a review of the Port’s mandate?

88 Residents at Laguna Landing Regarding Q2Q Bridge: Petition to Change the Location and Concept
There is lots of upcoming public engagement on this project, but I really can’t say much more than I already have.

After the Heritage Poster contest, we had a report on a Public Art process for a Pump Station Replacement Project, then had an Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit No. 00573 (Amendment #1) for 320
Salter Street

This was an Opportunity to be Heard for a Development Variance Permit for a market rental housing development in Queensborough. The Variance is required to vary the parking requirements, and that variance requires this opportunity to be heard. No one chose to exercise their right to speak, and no-one sent in any letters of opposition. Council moved to consider the development Permit for issuance.

We then had two Reports for Action:

Tax Exemption for Emergency Response Kits
Council move to support a recommendation from the Emergency Advisory Committee that we ask the LMLGA, UBCM and FCM to call on senior governments to remove PST/GST/HST from designated Emergency Preparedness Kits, to encourage people to buy them.

Day of Mourning Event April 28th, 2016 at Pier Park
The City will be hosting this important memorial event on April 28 at Pier Park.

We then did our usual Bylaws reading procedure:

Zoning Amendment (805 Boyd Street) Bylaw No. 7827, 2016
This Zoning Amendment discussed above was given two readings.

Development Services Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 7826, 2016
Development Approval Procedures Amendment Bylaw No. 7825, 2016

These Bylaws to support the changed development approval process discussed above were given three readings.

Financial Plan (2016-2020) Bylaw No. 7821, 2016
The Budget Bylaw was given three readings.

And that, aside from our usual delegations, was a night’s work.