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.