I wrote most of the following this morning on the New West Facebook Group “Rattled about Traffic in New West“, on a whim after reading this story, and wondering if people are connecting local traffic problems to the regional transportation logjam. I figured it was worth repeating here…

From before I was elected, I have said that New Westminster’s traffic problems are not solvable by New Westminster. We simply cannot accommodate the hundreds of thousands of through-drivers every day and maintain safe, livable, pedestrian- and business-friendly streets. The two ideas are mutually exclusive.

The solutions are regional. We need to give people east and south of us better options than driving along our surface streets every day. Regardless of whether you love or hate “TransLink”, an expanded, reliable, and well-integrated multi-modal public transit system is fundamental to providing those options.

That is why New Westminster supports the Regional Growth Strategy that calls for compact multi-use development near transit nodes, and why we are leading the region in this development model. This is why we support Transport2040, the regional transportation plan, and are seeing results where New Westminster residents use transit more than any others per capita. This is why our Mayor is working so hard with the Mayors Council to implement the 10-year capital plan for our region’s transportation work – it is really the best option we have towards addressing our afternoon traffic jams. It isn’t “Us vs. Them“, it can’t be. We need to work together as a region, and the plans I have linked to above are examples of the region working together, putting aside parochial complaints, and seeking regional compromises that will support us all.

And that is why this weeks ‘announcement‘ is such a betrayal. If you care about traffic in New West, you should read this article in the Sun and ask what the hell the provincial government is doing playing the entire Lower Mainland – the economic engine of this province – for chumps. And for how long will we accept that?

ASK PAT: Heavy rail

Tom asks—

Hi, loving your blog!
Bit of a general question: Do you think heavy passenger rail, of the type found commonly in Britain or Switzerland, could ever be useful in the Lower Mainland, and as an international connection for Cascadia?
Thanks for your time.

It already is! The West Coast Express is a pretty successful heavy rail transit system right here in the Lower Mainland and run my TransLink. By “successful”, I mean it is reliable, popular, and regional-development-defining. There is a debate about how to assess the financial success of the service, as they do pay a significant lease rate for the CP tracks they use, which requires the service to be subsidized from TransLink general revenue. But subsidizing passenger rail for the larger societal benefits is the norm in Europe, not an exception.

Of course, there are also rail connections to the rest of Cascadia, even if they are not really operated in a way that makes them “commuter” friendly. I would suggest until we develop widespread electrification of rail and the economics of aircraft travel are adjusted to match the environmental impacts, there simply isn’t the population density or economic model to push more rail through the challenging Cascade Mountains. Maybe the next generation will fix this.

There may be more potential in the nearer future for commuting in the Fraser Valley, though. There has been an activist group in the Lower Mainland for more than a decade fighting to get more rail service South of the Fraser. Over the years, “Rail for the Valley” have discussed the use of heavy and light rail options, specifically along the old Interurban rail corridor. This electric rail line used to operate between Vancouver and Chilliwack via New Westminster before the rails-to-rubber movement stripped it of customers and land back in the middle of last century (see Who Framed Roger Rabbit for more context).

It is clear that the long-range development model for the Fraser Valley is one that would support a heavy rail based commuter transportation system. Cities like Abbotsford are buying into the Smart Growth model of building denser urban centres with mixed uses and pedestrian and transit amenities. This is partly driven by economics working better for cities trying to deliver services, but mostly because the ALR continues to limit their ability to spread out as their populations boom. Extending the “Cities in the Sea of Green” motif could see Langley, Chilliwack ,and Abbotsford town centres connect to Surrey’s new “hub” via the existing rail corridors to King George or Scott Road.

This would really open up economic potential for those communities, and indeed for Surrey and the rest of the Lower Mainland. However, that is not the path we are on. Instead, we have spent $5 billion (and counting) on building freeways to get cars in and out of the Valley, and it appears the Provincial Government is dedicated to that path. Meanwhile, even the most modest of public transit improvements in the Lower Mainland are stuck in a funding and planning quagmire because one of the three levels of government simply refuses to show leadership or foresight.

A region-defining development like this would need a sense of vision. The Local Governments have shown similar vision, the federal government is ready to step up and fund bold initiatives like this. But much like any poorly-functioning transportation system, there is a piece in the middle that just doesn’t allow the connection to happen, and gums up the whole works.

Is it a good idea? Yes. Will it happen in the foreseeable future? No.

Outta here (for a bit)

I have, once again, been really slow to get new posts up here, and this one is mostly to tell you it is going to be a bit of time before you see another one.

The picture above is from an SFU City Conversation I had a couple of days ago with two other City Councillors, under the guise of us representing Young/New leadership in local government in the region. Nathan Pachal is definitely young (under 40) and new (in the job for only a few months), Mathew Bond is definitely young (40ish?) and is new (this is his first term on Council), and I am only young in the context of the average age of City Councillors across the region, and that new-Councillor smell is starting to wear off. It was great to be in the company of these two very bright and very engaged local government representatives

It was also good to have three Councillors from municipalities across the region come together to talk to a (mostly) City of Vancouver audience and expand the focus of the conversation to the wider region. The audience was receptive to our self- and hometown-aggrandizing, and we could have gone on for hours talking about public engagement, housing affordability, transportation, taxation, and other challenges our region faces. We were thinking maybe we should PodCast.

I also got a commitment from the organizers that a future City Conversations panel would discuss the issue of gender and ethnic diversity in local government politics, for what might be obvious reasons from the photo above!

So that is it for now. I am off to enjoy a quality long weekend with a couple of friends suffering on my bicycle for some seriously needed recuperation and to get my swollen-up cynicism gland drained. I will be far away from blogging devices. I have three (!) Ask Pats in the queue, and will button them up soon after I return. Hopefully.

In the meantime, if you want to enjoy your screen time in a hyper-local way, you should be over at Tenth to the Fraser, and see what real, local, high-quality content looks like instead of slumming over here.

Have a good long weekend, watch for flying anvils.

Taxes & the CPI

We are through the annual budgeting cycle at City Hall, our 2016-2020 Financial Plan passed, our tax increase bylaw adopted with a 2.73% increase for 2016.

I tried during this and previous tax seasons to talk about the hows and whys of our Property Tax system, but there is one topic I didn’t really touch on. It is a topic raised commonly by local contrarian, cyclist, and generally good guy, Ed. I am paraphrasing a collection of Twitter missives a bit, but my understanding of Ed’s position is that property tax increases should be limited to CPI increases, or matched to inflation. In this post where I compared New Westminster’s tax increases to the inflation rate, you can see that we are, and have been for more than a decade, above the CPI rate (which is projected by the Province of BC to be 1.9% in 2016), as is every other City in the Lower Mainland. Why?

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Every year as a part of the budgeting process, staff bring recommendations to Council about new spending, and provide us (and the public) a pretty clear picture of how much each new staff position, program, or service will cost Taxpayers, right down to the percentage of tax increases. Some of those positions, programs or services come with offsetting cost savings or revenue potential, but in the end it always seems that taxes need to go up, it is just a question of how much.

I’m going to skip a little bit past the easy political talking points: downloading, deindustrialization, and economic bleeds caused by decades of neo-liberal economic policy. That’s not to say these factors should be blithely dismissed; indeed they are real pressures on local governments, and may be the biggest factor in ongoing tax increases. Maybe in another blog post I’ll try to explain what is wrong with the entire world economy (better if you just go read Umair Haque), but for now I am going to keep this local, because we are asking what we in Local Government can do about this.

There are many drivers that push up the cost of running a City the same way they push up the cost of running of your business or household. Just as you pay more every year for food, utilities, banking charges, transportation, and taxes, the City pays more for wages, equipment, supplies, banking charges, utilities, etc. As Ed astutely observes, those increase is (more or less) related to the Consumer Price Index.

There may be long-range factors that impact how closely our operational costs match CPI year-to-year. For example, a long period of ignoring our infrastructure means it will be more expensive to repair when the situation becomes critical. Similarly, if we have extended periods where wages are not keeping up with inflation, that will come back to haunt us.

There is a third factor, however, that is completely in control of local governments and the electorate that empower them. Every year, people want more from their local government, and more never comes for free. To give examples of this, I think I can divide that “more” into three general categories (recognizing there is a lot of overlap between the three): new needs, new programs, and new approaches.

New Needs are things we have to do now, that we didn’t really have to do in the past. There is some aspect of “downloading” to this, but most of it is just a result of changing times. We currently train a group of our NWFD force to respond to Hazardous Materials incidents, in case one happens at the railyards in the City. This was partly a response to the tragedy at Lac Magantic, partly an increased awareness of the hazards that exist in our community and a demand from the public that we do all was can to address those concerns. Another example is the new policy that every single sidewalk corner will have a “let down” to make all of our sidewalks accessible for those on wheels, those pushing children in a stroller, and those with other mobility limitations. We are similarly spending money upgrading all of our bus stops to meet accessibility standards. These are just a couple of examples of things we now do that we did not do in the past, and they all cost money – more money than we collected in the past.

New Programs are things that we have chosen to do because people want them, but are (arguably) not “needs”. I was at the Youth Awards held last week at Century House, and was reminded about the programming we offer in our (still brand new) Youth Centre, a facility used by literally thousands of local youth every year. We have recently been discussing infrastructure upgrades at the Library, and I am learning how they provide the only access to the internet for a significant portion of our community. Everything from interacting to government agencies to applying for jobs is impossible in 2016 without internet access, and the needs of the community are outstripping the computer terminals we have. We are currently replacing one of our all-weather fields for the princely sum of $1.5Million, because it is past its service life. We do this because a plastic turf field is about 5x more used than a grass field, and we can offer much more programming on a limited amount of space available in the City. Our Police Department has officers specially trained to determine when a person is suffering from a mental health issue, and manage their approach in a way that is less likely to result in violence or self-harm for the member of the public. Again, new, modern problems all around, not things we did 20 years ago, but things that our community expects in 2016.

New Approaches are things we have always done, but do very differently now, often in ways that are more staff or resource intensive. I am sitting in on the Public Engagement Taskforce, a group of staff and public volunteers looking at better ways for the City to reach out to the public they serve, both so we can keep the public more informed and so we can get more meaningful feedback from the public when we need to make decisions. The way we, as a City, have turned the Official Community Plan update into a two-year-long public conversation about the future of the City, instead of just a small collection of staff and a few councillors attempting to dictate the future, is an example of how resource-intensive true engagement is, and how important it can be to a community. Again, it seems obvious to us now, but not something we expected 20 years ago.

This is not to say there is nothing we can stop doing or paying for as times change: we save a bunch of money on pesticides with the new approaches to weed management in the City; our fleet fuel budget is going down as we upgrade to a more efficient vehicle pool; the cost of running our solid waste program is definitely increasing at a rate less than inflation as efficiencies are found. Our mental health officers will likely result in lower crime levels, better supports for marginalized people, and law enforcement savings down the road. Building pedestrian-friendly streets will reduce the use of cars in our city saving us money in road maintenance, emergency response, and health care costs. There are also efficiencies of scale as population increases and density makes provision of services more convenient. But the reality is that pipes in the ground and mowing lawns are costs that track along with the CPI, and no-one is lining up to propose which programs they want to see cut in the City. New approaches to new problems are inevitably added to the bottom line.

Every election, people come along saying they will freeze or lower taxes, but do any of them provide details of how they will do it? I still fondly remember former Mayor Wayne Wright in the 2011 election shutting a rather vitriolic opponent down at an all candidates’ meeting by calmly saying “Cutting taxes is easy. It’s the easiest thing for us to do. Just tell us which programs you want to cut to make it happen”. There was no retort, because he put a lie to the “find efficiencies” and “set priorities” memes that neo-liberals use when their real goal is to undermine public services at every scale, from public transit to schools to health care.

It is also telling that even the most strident of anti-tax crusaders find that in Local Government, the bills are always coming due because we have to answer the phone when someone loses a service or program important to their lives.

As a Council, the toughest part is setting priorities. You get elected hoping to do a lot of great stuff, and run up against limited resources and an over-burdened agenda of 7 Council Members. I would love for us to develop the Gas Works site into a public art curator and public park, to complete the Sapperton Landing to Pier Park greenway connection, to build an architectural wonder for a Q2Q bridge and a energy efficient family-friendly and competition-supporting Canada Games Pool. While we are at it, I want to fill the funding gap of senior governments that is threatening the very existence of our supported Co-op housing sector, build a fully integrated and interconnected bikeway network, and plant 10,000 trees to bring our urban forest back to the national average for tree canopy. These are all important things, and they all cost money, and they would all result, eventually, in tax increases above that of inflation. We can probably avoid significant tax increases if we do none of them, along with not doing a list of other things that would make our community better.

So every year at tax time, and actually throughout the year, when new programs or better services are presented to Council, we evaluate them. We try our best to understand the long-term budget implications, ask how or if these ideas can offset costs other areas (“find efficiencies”), and determine if this is something needed right now, or if it can be put off (“set priorities”), and we hear from the public about how critically important, wonderfully visionary, or economically savvy each new idea is. And we make those tough choices, and often we say no. That’s the job.

When people say “The City should…”, I so often want to respond with “Let’s do it!”, but instead end up saying “I wonder how we could…”. That (along with no longer fully enjoying the Letters to the Editor section) is probably the biggest dose of reality going from being a community rabble-rouser to an elected official. I agree with Ed, with former Mayor Wright, and (though I shouldn’t speak for them) with my Council colleagues, that we need to be diligent at finding ways to save money, find efficiencies, and keep our taxes as low as possible. But much like Jordan Bateman, I agree that we have a responsibility to the present and future residents of the City “to build the infrastructure that will keep them safe and healthy… we must balance both present and future needs

Council – May 9, 2016

Our regular council meeting for May 9, 2016 (careful before you click that – it is a monstrous 500MB agenda package!) was a generally positive one, because it started with an announcement of an award won by the Anvil Centre, and included a delegation from a NWSS student who is doing amazing national award-winning biotechnology research. If you want to be inspired, and restore your confidence that the next generation is doing a way better job than our own, please watch the video of our public delegations, and watch Iveta Demirova’s confidence, poise, and intelligence shine though.

Now back to the ugly politics:

The following items were moved on Consent:

June 19th Riverfront Community Event – “Pier 2 Landing”
This City-run event, in partnership with many community groups, will draw people down to a Front Street closed to cars to take advantage of some open public space, and show the possibilities for the greater Waterfront Vision. We have a vision to connect the Pier Park to Sapperton Landing permanently, as part of our much larger vision of re-imagining our waterfront and a place for people to enjoy – of connecting our City to the River after decades of turning our back to the water body that defines us as a City

Like many people, I have been spending time down on Front Street, and cannot believe how open and comfortable that space is when it is closed to cars, but open for people. When people occupy that space on Front Street in June, I hope it triggers a conversation in our City about why we are even considering closing it again to turn it over to twice-daily traffic jams when it could be a glorious, multi-purpose, active, and region-defining public space. We can do better.

Dissolution of the Family Court Committee and Replacement with a
Restorative Justice Committee

The Family Court Committee has not done a lot in the last few years to reflect its original mandate. The volunteers did help with organizing events around Family Day (for reasons lost to time), but less time was spent dealing with the issues it was set up for. The current Chair, Councillor Puchmayr, recognized a more effective role for the committee was possible by creating a stronger connection to the Restorative Justice program. Council agreed to make the changes to the Committee’s Terms to reflect this.

501 – 505 Twelfth Street: Rezoning and DP Applications – Council Consideration of First and Second Reading
This is a 5-story residential building on the corner of 5th Street and Twelfth Ave. Council moved to take this proposal to Public Hearing on May 30th, so I will hold my comments until after that hearing. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Amendments to Water Shortage Response Bylaw & Response Plan
This was discussed at our last meeting, but a the Bylaw language was cleaned up a bit and this week we approved it to go for three readings.

Civic Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw and Temporary Borrowing Bylaw
I hate this. I hate the way the Community Charter is written such that this false referendum process is required for us to get loan approval. The problem is I have no viable alternative to propose.

I am sure there will be more discussion of this as the Alternative Approval Process goes forward, and I will both explain how the process works, and why I hate it so much, at that time.

For now, I will just say we need to be prepared to borrow (not necessarily borrow, but be prepared to – this is more securing a line of credit than it is taking out a loan) up to $28.3 Million between now and 2020 to fund 4 Council priorities: City Hall upgrades, library upgrades, land purchased to support a substation and District Energy Utility, and capital costs for Fibre Optic Network installations. I support all of these initiatives; I hate the process to get there.

Council Remuneration 2016
We’ve talked about this, and are moving it forward, having received very little feedback from the public.

313 Queen’s Avenue: Proposed HRA and Heritage Designation
Council voted to take this HRA and Designation for a single family home in Queens Park to Public Hearing on May 30, so I will hold my comments until after that hearing. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

413 Alberta Street: DVP Application – Preliminary Report
Council voted to give consideration to this Development Variance Application to permit the reconstruction of a front porch in upper Sapperton on May 30, 2016. If you have any feelings for or against best let us know before then, or show up at the regular council meeting on the 30th and tell us what you think!

100 Braid Street (Urban Academy): Proposed OCP Amendment and Rezoning
Council voted to take the OCP amendment to Public Hearing on May 30. This is the proposal to rezone some light industrial property on Braid at Rousseau to permit the building of a new Campus for Urban Academy, with and adjacent use for mixed high-density residential. As it is going to Public hearing, I will hold my comments until after that. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

The following items were removed from Consent for discussion:

200, 228 Nelson’s Crescent, 258 and 268 Nelson’s Court and 230 Keary
Street and 290 E. Columbia Street (Brewery District): Rezoning
Development Permit DPS00040 for 228 Nelson’s Crescent

Council voted to take this Rezoning to Public Hearing on (what is looking like an increasingly busy) May 30. This proposal shifts some of the Density on site compared to previous plans, and also adjusts some of the phasing to permit more residential to be completed prior to the completion of the “Health Care related” commercial development being built out. As it is going to Public Hearing, I will hold my comments until after that. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Queensborough Special Study Area: Proposed Widening of Blackley Street
We had a delegation speak to this concern, and have received some correspondence on the issue, so it is worthwhile discussing here. *This conversation is just on the road dedication issue at Blackley, and should not be seen as pre-judging the outcome of the Public Hearing on the OCP and Zoning.*

A local government is given great power over land use in its jurisdiction – indeed managing land use is the true power local governments have (along with property taxation), and rezoning is at the heart of that power. If you want to do things on land you own that complies with the current zoning, we are hard pressed to stop you. If you want to change or vary the Zoning (build a bigger building than allowed, a different use, etc.), you need to ask for that change, and we (as an elected Council) can say “NO” for pretty much any reason we want. If your requested change is minor, doesn’t impact other people or complies with the longer-term Official Community Plan, we are likely to say “Yes” without too much trouble. If you want to make a significant change, like upzone into more density or change from industrial to residential use in a way the OCP did not envision, you better bring something to the game to demonstrate that this benefits the whole community.

Dedication of lands from developers to a local government is not an uncommon request from a City as part of a rezoning negotiation. Sometimes a City will want to improve the road adjacent to your property, put in a right-of-way for utilities, or even turn a piece of your property into a park to serve the bigger community. The City may then ask to have (for example) a dedication along your property line to allow room for that road improvement.

In the case of the complex development happening in the Queensborough Special Study Area, an improvement of Blackley Street is seen as an important requirement for the project. To make that improvement happen the current 13m right-of way would ideally be expanded to 19m. In this case, the Developer owns only some of the property required to make this road full width, and presuming the rezoning is approved, that dedication would come from them at that time. However, there are several other property owners who live along Blackley Street, and for the entire 1-block length of Blackley to be full-width, dedications would need to come from these owners as well. Therefore, the City is putting future dedication of that space in the long-term plans for the street.

This does not mean that the City is going to take land away from the existing land owners. The zoning for those lands is currently M-1 (Industrial use), though the majority of people are living in legally non-conforming single family homes. They are allowed to stay there, living in those homes for perpetuity, and unless they are willing to sell those dedication to the City (and the City is willing to buy them), nothing will change. However, if they choose to Rezone their properties – change the landue to multi-family, or such, then the City would expect the dedication at that time as part of the rezoning. Part of the thinking is that the improved utility and road infrastructure would benefit their rezoning as much as anyone else’s, and making everyone on the street contribute to the improvements is seen as equitable.

Concerns in the neighbourhood, however, are that the dedication to make the road 19m is too onerous for some of the smaller lots, and it was suggested that the dedication should take more from the northern properties (mostly owned by the developer) than the southern properties (mostly owned by individuals).

In the end, council asked staff to come back with some plans for a 16m road, with the removal of parking on one side of the street. I want to assure that the reduction of 3m does not mean we won’t have proper sidewalks and boulevards where trees can thrive – these are two things Queensborough is generally short of, and I want that trend to reverse.

We also moved that the equitable dedication, an even 4.25m on either side of the centerline of the road, be considered preferable, based on the ability to make the road workable and safe over the period when only partial dedications will be available (that could be a 20 or 30 year period- so we need to plan ahead). This reflects both the standard practice of the City, and the best option for maintaining alignment of roads.

Queensborough Special Study Area: Conclusion of Master Planning
Process and OCP Amendment and Rezoning Amendment Bylaws

Council voted to give this project two readings and take it to public hearing, so I will hold my comments on the project until then. I will, however, write a second blog post (coming soon!) ranting about the letter we received from TransLink on this project, which filled me with blog-empowering rage.

2016 Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Program
Making our pedestrian spaces safer is a priority for this Council, and a major part of the Master Transportation Plan. There are several great plans included in this report to prioritize pedestrian crossings where we can make a big improvement in safety in a short time. So why did I oppose one of the changes?

The Coffee Corner at 6th and Belmont has long been one of the most-used crosswalks in the City. I wrote a bit about this crossing back in 2012 the last time the city planned to dump money into improving it, and my opinion has hardly changed since then. There are better ways, in my opinion, to invest our crossing-improvement dollars that installing “beg buttons” for pedestrians in one of the few crossings in the City where the population of walkers already enforces priority.

This speaks to the larger concern pedestrian advocates in our City and around North America have expressed about “beg buttons” in pedestrian-oriented commercial areas. A good summary of the discussion is available at the Strongtowns blog. Building pedestrian-oriented neighbourhoods mean placing the pedestrian on top of the priority list of road users, like our MTP and Pedestrian Charter recommend. We need to start removing beg buttons, not continue to add them.

Staff made it clear this was not a safety issue for pedestrians, as there is not a history of pedestrian incidents at that spot (although a few impatient drivers have had rear-enders – maybe a 30km/h speed limit would help them out?). Even so, I am very reluctant to unilaterally oppose recommendations from Engineering Staff, so I moved that we take this back to the Advisory Committee for Transit, Bicycles, and Pedestrians, and get the input of pedestrian advocates in the City, after which I suspect this will come back to Council.

Despite the order of these readings, bookending public delegations and some other discussion as they did, this is as comprehensive a list of the Bylaws we advanced as I can muster:

Official Community Plan (Queensborough Special Study Area) Bylaw
No. 7822, 2016
Zoning Amendment (Queensborough Special Study Area) Bylaw No. 7823, 2016

These two Bylaws, as discussed above, following a public delegation, were given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

HRA (313 Queen’s Avenue) Bylaw No. 7834, 2016
Heritage Designation Bylaw (313 Queen’s Avenue) No. 7835, 2016

These two Bylaws, as discussed above, were given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

Official Community Plan (100 Braid Street) Bylaw No. 7836, 2016
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (100 Braid Street) No. 7837, 2016

These two Bylaws, as discussed above, were given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Brewery District) No. 7841, 2016
This Bylaw, as discussed above, was given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (12th Street & 5th Avenue) No. 7818, 2016
This Bylaw, as discussed above, was given first and second readings. I will hold any further comment until after the Public Hearing scheduled for May 30.

Road Closure Bylaw No. 7824, 2016
This Bylaw is in support of the closure of a non-active piece of laneway adjacent to the 12th Street and 5th Ave development above. It was given two readings by council.

Civic Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No.7842, 2016
Civic Infrastructure Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 7843, 2016

As discussed above, and as we will discuss much more I am sure as the process moves on, these Bylaws were given three readings.

Water Shortage Response Amendment Bylaw No. 7845, 2016
This was discussed last week, and we have now given the Bylaw changes three readings.

Downtown Parking Commission Repeal Bylaw No. 7844, 2016
The Bylaw bringing an end to the long reign of the Downtown Parking commission has been formally adopted. Adjust your behavior accordingly.

And with that, we were done for the week.

Community Update update

I’m having a little trouble with the “community” posts here. I was hoping originally to give a weekly update of what I have been doing in the community when I’m not in Council meetings, to give people a better idea of what Council life is like. It is also (apparently) obligatory for politicians to post regular pictures of themselves smiling in the community to remind people that they exist. So mix those together, I figure, and it can be all about Pat once a week.

Two problems: much of what I do is boring subject matter for a blog post, and doesn’t necessarily come with a good photo. If I summarize most evenings, it looks like this:

?With a fair smattering of this:


And, if I’m lucky, occasional moments of excitement like this:


Which is all positive, good stuff, but not usually compelling blog info.

The second problem is I usually forget to take photos. #BadPolitician.

So once a week became one every fortnight, and occasionally irregular, and by then there are 20 events piled up and I get this long-winded “Community” post with many dull things and terrible photos.

So I’m going to try to post more frequently with very short posts, essentially Instagram-style, maybe as often as one every couple of days, between my regular posts that are more topic-based. As a result, I may put a few in the queue and have them come out on a regular basis, not necessarily the day the events occur, to sort of meter these things out. Let’s see how this works.

My big highlight last weekend was giving a Jane’s Walk on Saturday. I blended talking about history (of which I know little), architecture (of which I know less) and geology (or which I know a lot) in a talk and walk looking at building stones of New West.


As it was a Jane’s Walk, I also interspersed my talking part with a few quotes from Jane Jacobs’ monumental book on the nature of neighbourhoods The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Including this one, where I asked my walkers to think and chat about whether New Westminster fits the bill to realize its full potential:

To generate exuberant diversity in a city’s streets and districts, four conditions are indispensable:

1. The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two. These must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the places for different purposes, but who are able to use many facilities in common.

2. Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.

3. The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce. This mingling must be fairly close-grained.

4. There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purpose they may be there. This includes dense concentration in the case of people who are there because of residence.

In combination, these four conditions create effective economic pools of use. The potentials of different districts differ for many reasons; but, given the development of these four conditions, a city district should be able to realize its best potential, wherever that may lie.

By this accounting, we are doing pretty well…

ASK PAT: Housing idea

Terran asks—

What do you think about the recent Vancouver idea to buy homes and undervalue them? Do you think this could work in new west?

I can’t quite get my head around the City of Vancouver plan. They appear to wan to buy 20% of the housing value, and hold that portion while the market still influences the pricing of the units. If I understand it right, a middle-income-family would by 80% of a home, live in it, sell it off and receive 80% of the sale price. If the value goes up (as is likely today) when they choose to upgrade or move to Temiskaming, do they get 80% of the capital gain and the City the 20%? There are devils in details here.

My first question when putting this in the New West context would be –is it legal? Vancouver seems to be floating the idea of making changes to the Vancouver Charter to make it work, and I’m not sure how this model would fit into the Community Charter that governs New West.

There is another simple resource problem: New Westminster does not have a lot of money. We don’t really have a longer-term land acquisition strategy to speak of (we are working on developing one now), nor do we hold a lot of property relative to many of our surrounding communities. Investments that could have (should have?) been made decades ago when land values were low were not done for what I’m sure were very practical reasons at the time. Our finances are pretty good, but the few capital projects we have coming along in the next few years (Massey Theatre, Q2Q, Canada Games Pool, etc.) are going to tighten things up quite a bit.

This raises the question if this is the most effective way to leverage the money we do have. The City holds about $1Million in our Affordable Housing Reserve, and we have a task force working on a couple of strategies to leverage partnerships to assure those funds go to where they can make the best impact.

Finally, I wonder if the Vancouver solution (making apartments 20% more affordable for essentially middle-income workers) is really the affordability problem we need to solve in New West. I get the sense that New West is affordable for middle-income earners, especially if they are happy to live in an apartment setting. Single Family homes are getting out of reach, but building more “missing middle” housing types like townhouses, laneway houses and cluster homes might help provide better options to those earning family incomes in the $70-90,000/yr range (the target of Vancouver’s plan).

In New West, we are seeing creeping land costs and a paucity of rental availability that is putting a lot of stress on the lower-income cohort of our population. As the working middle are pushed to New West, they are displacing the working poor and underemployed who need affordable housing within transit or walking distance from their jobs, their schools, and their support systems.

Unfortunately, this situation is getting worse at the same time that the largest community network of affordable family homes – Co-op Housing – is going through an existential crisis caused by the federal government cutting off support, and the provincial government failing to fill the gap (as is their constitutional role).
In the meantime, New West is doing what it can to get both market and non-market rental built as soon as possible, and to develop a new Official Community Plan that emphasises diversity of housing choice. Meanwhile, the Mayor has an Affordable Housing Task Force that is working on the best potential use of the affordable housing reserves, and the Mayor himself is working with the Metro Vancouver Housing Board to develop regional affordability strategies.

Not that I am disparaging of Vancouver’s idea. In this strangely super-heated market, coupled by a booming economy where everything but wages are going through the roof, we are going to need a variety of strategies to keep our region livable. Housing is a symptom of a larger economic malaise that points back to decades of neo-liberal economic “progress” where the building of wealth is prioritized over the building of society. But that is a talk for another day.

ASK PAT: Front Street trucks.

Brad asks—

During Front Street’s closure over the past couple of months, trucks have been re-routed to Columbia and Royal. This doesn’t seem to have had that bad of an affect on New Westminster’s traffic (at least, to my eye), so what are the thoughts about banning truck traffic from Front Street entirely? Can this be visited when the Pattullo Bridge gets replaced? Front Street isn’t part of TransLink’s Major Road Network, so we shouldn’t have to ask them, right?

Although I agree the “Carmageddon” promised by Front Street closing has not arrived, there has been a shifting of trucks to Columbia Street, and anecdotal increases in trucks on Royal and 10th Ave. The City is collecting data on the traffic during the closure in order to get good numbers on the shift, and that report is not available yet, but preliminary info seems to suggest about a 30% increase in trucks on Royal. There has also been a diversion of trucks to Columbia and 10th Ave, but these three increases do not add up to the number of rucks that used to ply Front Street. It is pretty clear that a large proportion of the tucks that were on Front Street have, indeed, gone away. Presumably most of them have gone to the $5 Billion of freeways we have built for them over the last decade, as the Lord Kevin Falcon intended.

Front Street is not in the Major Road Network, but it is a designated truck route. To change that, we need agreement from the Ministry of Transportation and at least consult with TransLink. The current policy is that trucks routes cannot be removed unless appropriate alternatives are offered. So if closing Front Street to trucks means we need to allow 24/7 access to Columbia Street, then it is probably not a good deal for the City.


If the closing of that route means accepting a measured increase in Royal Ave and 10th Ave, then perhaps it is a discussion we should be having as a City. However, to have that discussion, we need some solid numbers to support the cost-benefit, and those numbers are being collected. Of course, this ends up being a political discussion – the people who live on Royal are not going to like it, and it will do nothing to make people feel better about the Qayqayt school transportation situation.

Offsetting these reasons to avoid the discussion, people need to go down to the Front Street right now and look around. I think we can, for just a moment now, have a vision of what could be. I’m not even talking about removing trucks from Front Street, I’m thinking we should explore the possibility of closing Front Street to all but local traffic. Build the Mews, turn the rest into greenway, parkland, open space for any of a thousand public uses we have not yet imagined. I don’t want to close Front Street to traffic, I want to open it for the use of human beings who aren’t dragging tonnes of internally-combusting metal around with them. There is a huge amount of space there, let’s start to dream.front

The primary argument for keeping trucks in Front Street is, of course, “Goods Movement”. The Gateway Council, the Port, the BC Trucking Association, and the Ministry of Transportation make the argument that the regional economy relies on free-flow of trucks along Front – this route is critical. This assertion will not likely be supported by any measureable dip in the regional economy caused by this 6-months closure. But don’t bring facts into this discussion.

Fitting the use of Front Street into the context of the larger Pattullo replacement strategy is important, as is fitting it into the model for the Brunette overpass replacement, which is an ongoing discussion between Coquitlam, New Westminster, and the Ministry. There are well-connected regional voices continuing to reiterate that New Westminster is a through-route, not a community, and are planning with this in mind.

Even as New Westminster aggressively pursues a smart growth strategy reflecting the Regional Growth Strategy; even as we push towards building a compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented community where most commuting and shopping trips are by foot or transit, reducing the need for expanded road capacity; even as we take a leadership role the region in meeting the mode shift goals of the long-term regional transportation vision, those very goals are challenged by our tacit acceptance that our community must play second fiddle to the commuting needs of outlying regions.

We have been leaders in planning and development to reduce our reliance on the traditional transportation models, we are becoming leaders in our transportation policy, but to see the benefit of those changes here at home, we may need to stop leading by example, and start forcing our neighbour’s hands.

Does the region need trucks on Front Street? No. Is there a better way to make use of that 5 acres of public space in New Westminster? Yes.

The rest is politics.

Sowing Doubt

The Earth is currently warming at a rate unprecedented in recent history, almost entirely due to human activity, primarily the digging up and burning of fossil carbon and introducing CO2 to the atmosphere at a rate much faster than natural biosystems can remove it. This is not a controversial set of facts.

However, much like people who refuse to believe that natural selection shaped the evolution of life on our planet, or those that believe there could be a breeding population of large bipedal hominids lurking just out of sight in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, there are some for which this set of facts cannot fit within their political, religious, or economic ideologies. No problem, it’s a big world, reality isn’t for everyone.

Problems do arise, however, when those so separated from reality are given the power to shape public opinion and political will. I provide for your review the most recent opinion of Black Press’ go-to climate change correspondent, Tom Fletcher. I recognize the Streisand Effect of even calling attention to this bunk, but perhaps we can glean from this a teaching moment.

There is a lot in here, representative of Tom’s liberal (ahem) application of the Gish Gallop on this topic, so I will only pull out two major themes, where he brushes up against the science. I’ll touch more on the politics later.

“According to the environment ministry’s 2015 Indicators of Climate Change report, B.C.’s average temperature has increased about 1.5 degrees from 1900 to 2013, slightly more in the north and less in the south. That’s one one hundredth of a degree per year”

See how only little cherry-picked factoid stripped of context can be used to sow doubt about the seriousness of the situation? The report (which you can read here) says 1.4°C per century from 1900 to 2013 (doing the math on that strange bit of language, that means 1.6°C in the 113 years between the two dates). At the risk of pedantry, this is 40% more than one one hundredth of a degree per year – an annual change of 0.014°C.

Still, a number so small, it can’t possibly a problem, right? Except…

We can all agree the climate has changed before. During an era 10-20,000 years ago there was a dramatic climatic change that saw continental glaciation in North America come to an end. What is now British Columbia went from being about 95% covered with ice to less than 1%. No doubt this type of dramatic climate shift had devastating effects on the extant biosystems, not to mention any society that existed during that time. Some survived, others didn’t. It was monumentally disruptive.

However, that dramatic landscape-shifting shift in climate came with a 3.5°C shift in temperatures over about 8,000 years. To simplify this trend to Tom Fletcher math, that is about 4 ten-thousandths of a degree per year – an annual change of 0.0004°C. The current temperature shift is happening at more than 30 times the speed of the previous, devastating one.

Except it isn’t, because the current trend has been accelerating over those 113 years. The rate of warming now is more than twice that of the first half of the century. If one looks only at the trend from 1960 onwards (as the ubiquitous use of fossil fuels and resultant exponential increase in energy consumption has expanded from the socio-economic “First World” to the majority of the planet), the rate is not only faster, but the acceleration is accelerating.

“The B.C. report ritually attributes this to human-generated carbon dioxide, the only factor the UN climate bureaucracy recognizes. And here lies a key problem for the global warming industry.

“More than 90 per cent of the greenhouse effect in the Earth’s atmosphere is from water vapour. Antarctic ice core analysis shows that over 400,000 years, increasing carbon dioxide has lagged centuries behind temperature increase. This suggests that rising temperatures lead to increased CO2, not the other way around. (Scientific American, working hard to debunk this, found a study that shows the CO2 lag is only 200 years, rather than 800 as others calculate. Still, it can’t be causing warming.)”

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and the measure of Fletcher’s knowledge of this topic is most generously described as “little”. So let’s unpack that paragraph a bit and see where his failure to do his reading has failed his keenly skeptical mind.

On water vapour, Mr. Fletcher is almost right. Water vapour is indeed a strong greenhouse gas, however the behaviour or water in the atmosphere (where it enters as a vapour, exists in all three phases at a wide variety of temperatures, and exits primarily as a liquid, influencing upward and downward energy fluxes at all times) is horribly complicated. The best estimates modelling these fluxes (and I’ll refer to Kiehl and Trenberth, 1997 here) suggest water vapour represents about 60% of the total radiative forcing under clear skies, and somewhat more under cloudy skies (at any given time, the planetary cloud cover is about 62% – a pretty cool factoid to pull out at your next dinner party). There are more complications here, as we can get into debates about defining the “greenhouse effect” relative to the impact on the planet’s surface vs. that in the atmosphere, about difficulty defining latent heat fluxes from precipitation, and other details that were definitely discussed in my upper-level boundary layer climatology courses, but that was 20 (ack!) years ago, and I am not as well versed as I once might have been.

Those caveats aside, the inference by Mr. Fletcher is that water vapour is a higher percentage than CO2, and therefore CO2 doesn’t matter. Nothing could be farther than the truth.

The same estimates put CO2 forcing at around 26%, based on historic CO2 concentrations (the 1990 concentration of 353ppmv was used, although the global concentration in 2015 is at least 13% higher than this). More importantly, one needs to recognize that the two gasses exist in the atmosphere in very, very different ways.

When we emit CO2 into the atmosphere, it essentially stays there until sorbed into the ocean or is made into rock through biogenic systems  – two very slow processes. Respiration by plants is, at best, a temporary storage, as the majority of CO2 that enters plants is returned to the atmosphere within a year or a decade, and almost all of the rest within a century. Stick extra CO2 in the atmosphere, it stays there for a long time.

Conversely, the concentration of H2O in the atmosphere is controlled by atmospheric pressure and temperature – because in normal atmospheric conditions H2O exists in all three phases (CO2 only exists as a gas in the atmosphere of earth- there are no conditions here where liquid or solid CO2 form naturally). Stick more H2O in the atmosphere, and it exits again almost immediately as rain or snow when the saturation level of the air at that temperature and pressure is met. If we double or treble human inputs of H2O into the atmosphere without changing atmospheric temperature, the net concentration of H2O in the atmosphere a decade later will be unchanged (notwithstanding the sheer enormity of the natural H2O cycle of evaporation and precipitation, where the most generous estimates of human inputs account for something like 0.005%).

So the only thing we can do to influence that 60% of forcing is to increase the temperature of the atmosphere (as meaningfully changing the pressure of the atmosphere, globally, is beyond our current terraforming technology). In contrast, by effectively doubling the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, we are wreaking havoc with that 26% of forcing – it is going up. And that’s the part we are talking about.

Now, onto ice those pesky ice cores. Those pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 changes over the last 400,000 years did lag behind temperature increases (by how much is a debated point, see Caillon et al, 2003). That should actually frighten us, not make us confident. It also in no way refutes the observation that anthropogenic combustion of fossil carbon is the primary driving force for the current temperature increases.

When the ice in those cores was being deposited (and ice cores are not the only temperature/CO2 proxies we have, but let’s keep this simple) it was recording long-scale shifts in global climate caused by Milankovitch cycles. Short version: cyclic wobbles in the axis of the earth’s rotation relative to the sun along with changes in the shape of our orbit give rise to 100,000-year long cycles of increased and reduced solar input. These shifts continue today, indeed we are just past a “peak” that occurred ~10,000 years ago, and are in the downward part of the cycle with solar input slowly decreasing right now. Global CO2 levels also shift in lockstep (or slightly after) these cycles, from 180ppm to 290ppm.

I cannot emphasize this enough – the historic climate effects of Milankovitch cycles occur at a rate orders of magnitude slower than what we are currently observing: Heating at a scale of 0.0005°C per year, cooling at a rate of 0.0001°C per year.

These historic shifts in temperature were not caused by changes in greenhouse gasses, and no-one has suggested they are. They are caused by shifts in the solar energy hitting the earth. So the cause of the much slower heating and cooling cycles recorded in the ice cores is not, in any practical way, related to the cause of the much faster heating today. They are two separate phenomena, operating in different ways, at different scales. To compare them is like comparing the tide coming in to a tsunami – both cause the sea to rise, but in different ways, through different processes with, different effects.

So Fletcher is right- the initial cause of warming 25,000 years ago, 130,000 years ago, 250,000 years ago, was not CO2, but that does not mean the cause of the present warming isn’t CO2. In fact, we know it is.

More problematically, the ice cores demonstrate that increases in temperature related to outside causes can (and do) result in increased atmospheric CO2, for a bunch of reasons relating to carbon storage in soils and the sea. This, in turn, creates a positive feedback loop. As the earth gets warmer, more greenhouse gasses (GHG) are released, and that increased GHG concentration warms the earth further. This is the primary reason why the cooling phase related to Milankovitch cycles operates at a quarter of the speed of the heating phase – once that GHG blanket is thrown over the warm earth, it takes much longer to cool off.

That should scare us, as should the other data from the ice cores. Even at the “peak” of the previous cycles observed in the ice cores, planetary CO2 was only 290ppm. We are now over 400ppm, and the trend is continuing up. It also means that once those GHG hit the atmosphere, their effects are long-lasting, and getting back to start gets much harder the further we move away from what I can only loosely call a “baseline”.

In the end, the reality of this information doesn’t matter. No amount of science-based explanation is going to change Mr. Fletcher’s mind about this topic. He will continue to believe that the hundreds of thousands of scientists at NASA, NOAA, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Science, (and every other national academy of science on earth, from Bolivia to Zimbabwe), are either pulling a monumentally complicated con only he and a few of his buddies can see through, or are fools lacking his brilliant insight into global climate systems.

His views are so separated from reality that he may as well be casting Bigfoot footprints, and should be treated as a crackpot. Instead, he is paid for his misinformed opinion, which is subsequently circulated widely throughout BC, as the lead columnist for the only newspaper that much of BC ever sees: their local Black Press iteration resulting from our era of old media consolidation.

Although the facts of anthropogenic global warming are strictly scientific, discussing these facts is unfortunately political, because the implications and any solutions to address them will require political will. By using his bully pulpit as one of the most widely-distributed columnists in the province and President of the Legislature Press Gallery to spread misinformed crackpottery about this topic, he deliberately undermines the political will required to take action. He helps relieve our leaders of the responsibility to lead. His ongoing efforts towards agnotology are a real disservice to his industry, and the public he claims to inform.

Council – May 2, 2016

Our Regular Council Meeting of May 2, 2016 had an interesting flow, with lots of Proclamations, most of them read twice. I’ll skip the formalities, and keep the business at hand:

Review of Council Remuneration Policy
The City has a policy on how Council pay is calculated. (yes, we get paid).

The process allows a review every term (now 4 years, it used to be every three years) that compares the pay level to that of 11 comparator Municipalities – those of similar size (so big municipalities like Vancouver and Surrey are not included, nor are small ones like Anmore). We compare our pay to theirs using a regression analysis using population and the size of the Municipal budget. The HR department them pulls the mid-range value and recommends that we try to match that.

The analysis has recommended a one-time raise of about 8.9% for Councillors, and about 3.5% for the Mayor to bring us back to the middle of the regression. Over the term, Council will get annual raises equal to the CPI.

This was announced a couple of weeks ago, and notices were put in the paper. The Record did a nice little story, and I personally receive a single piece of correspondence from someone I know well who thought it was outrageous. He was unable to provide to me a better system to determine how council wages should be regularly adjusted, other than linking it to the Collective Agreement of our Union Members, which (arguably) creates a perception of conflict.

No-one came to Council to speak on the issue, and Council voted to approve the process, which will come back to Council after the formal report is created by Human Resources.

The following items were moved on Consent:

Recruitment: Sapperton Old Age Pensioners Representative to
the Seniors Advisory Committee

This nomination came from the Sapperton Pensioners, the organization that owns and operates the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, where a lot of seniors programming takes place. Council move to approve the nomination of Calvin Donnelly as rep the to Seniors Advisory Committee. And you all know who he is!

Amendments to the 2016 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
We are adjusting our meeting schedule a bit to make workshops work better. Please update your VCRs.

810 Quayside Drive (River Market): DVP No. DVP00606 to Vary Sign Bylaw Requirements – Consideration of Issuance
The River Market wants to add some colourful banner signage to the north side of their building to call attention to their tenants. The signs to not fit the strict language of the Sign Bylaw, but do not (to my eye) look too out of scale or obtrusive. As the variance of the Bylaw requires public notice and an opportunity to be heard, we will review this application at our meeting of May 30, 2016. C’mon out and let us know what you think.

Repeal of “Downtown Parking Commission Bylaw No. 5769, 1988
DTPC was set up to manage the Downtown Parkade, back when it was a BIA/City joint venture. Since the refurbishment of the east half of the Parkade and the removal of the West Half, there is much less to manage, and the actual day-to-day operation has been contracted out for years. As such, the DTPC has lacked much to do. With the consent of the chair of the Commission and on the advice of staff, it was thought best to simply disband the Commission, which requires a repeal of the Bylaw.

2016 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
This report comes from the Province every year, and provides guidance to our Emergency Services staff to determine the threat level for flooding during the Spring Freshet. Things look good this year, with slightly below normal snowpacks, reducing the risk of freshet floods. We are still going to stay vigilant and ready to react, as the rate of melt-off also impacts the flood risk, but the message right now is positive.

325 and 329 Ewen Avenue: Proposed Rezoning from (M-1) to (RQ-1)
These are a couple of properties in Queensborough that are part of the “Special Study Area” where Platform Properties is working on a mixed commercial and residential development. This an area that will likely remain single family residential, but are zoned industrial. This causes some problems for the people who are currently living in these homes around insurance and such.

Additionally, these properties cover areas where a right-of-way would be useful for providing servicing to adjacent properties, as there are rights-or-way on either side of the properties that don’t connect. So rezoning will coincide with dedication of these rights-of-way for future use.

This Rezoning will go to public hearing on May 30, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

518 Ewen Avenue: Proposed Rezoning from (C-1) to (RQ-1) to Permit
Construction of a Single Detached Dwelling

This property is also in a Single Family Detached area, but is zoned for commercial. The owner would like to build a house, and a Rezoning is required.

This Rezoning will go to public hearing on May 30, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

129 Tenth Street: Proposed Rezoning
This development in the Brow of the Hill is an interesting example of the “missing middle”, eight ground-based townhouses in two separate buildings on a single large lot between a high rise apartment building and single family homes.

This Rezoning will go to public hearing on May 30, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

602 Ewen Avenue (Spagnol’s Townhouses) – Proposed Rezoning
This proposal in Queensborough is also a good example of “missing middle” housing types – 16 townhouses that are effectively small detached homes. The goal here is to get family sized homes on small footprints to increase the affordability.

This Rezoning will go to what is starting to feel like a very busy public hearing night on May 30, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

ACTBiPed – Request for Endorsement of the Bike Right BC Initiative
Teach a youth to ride a bike safely, get them to realize that a bicycle increases their freedom in a way rides from Mom and Dad never do, and they are more likely to keep using bikes as adults. All evidence is that they will be healthier, happier adults.

We are working on building safer bicycle infrastructure in the City, and have created safe routes to schools. We even help (through grants) the cycling advocacy group HUB New West teach safe cycling to school kids. I am amongst those who believe that cycling safety should be part of the regular school curriculum, just as other health education is.

Adopting this Framework shows the City’s support for working to develop a generation of engaged, confident, and safe cyclists.

We then discussed this Report for Action:

Tree Bylaw – Review of Implementation
We are a few months into having a Tree Bylaw, and several people working on development are starting to become aware of the Bylaw, so naturally, concerns are beginning to be raised in the community by people who realize the Bylaw applies to them.

There is a concern about how a Tree Bylaw may restrict your ability to build to your full allotment – which speaks to how a Tree Bylaw is going to allow us to manage infill density while protecting trees, which many would include on the fuzzy idea of “neighbourhood character”.

It is probably a good time for Council to get feedback from staff about how the roll-out of the Bylaw is going. Are we getting push-back or problems cropping up? I had a resident call me to raise concerns about a large Holley Tree in her yard that meets the size measurement for “protection”, but is an invasive species which may not be of a net benefit when we talk about the ecology of the City. We don’t want to protect trees at the cost of ecology.

There are other details around the security deposit we take for tree replacements, and what we are doing as far as the other parts of the urban Forest Management Strategy. We should get a report back in the next few weeks.

The following items were removed from Consent:

Recommended Actions in Response to the Issue of Tenant Evictions  Through Renovations
This issue has been talked about regionally for decades, but I fear we are seeing the beginning of a wave here in New Westminster. I have been involved in three situations in my short time on Council where residents have brought this issue to them, as it was affecting them personally. The regional craziness with land values has reached us here in New West, and we are the City with the highest proportion of our residents living in rental housing, with a significant proportion of that in an older and more affordable rental stock.

Both “reno-victions” and “demo-victions” are going to increase in New Westminster, and although there is a difference in how the City becomes aware of them, there is very little difference for the person, often living paycheque to paycheque, who has two months to find a new home in a remarkably tight regional rental market.

We are severely limited in what we can actually do, as the Residential Tenancy Act if a Provincial law, but we can assure that residents in our city know their rights, and renters know their responsibilities. We can also point residents towards resources, government and not-for-profit, that can help them.

I hope we can find creative ways, through our permit application processes at City Hall, to determine when evictions may be triggered, and use that reach out to renters, deliver information to impacted tenants about their rights and responsibilities, and provide contact information for services.

Stop work orders and tickets are available for us as enforcement if building manager fail their permitting responsibilities, but those penalties are pretty small, and not much of a deterrent.

Council moved that we take a motion requesting stronger protection for tenants against reno-victions to the LMLGA and UBCM, as our conduit towards lobbying the provincial government for changes in legislation.

1031 Sixth Avenue: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Update
This topic was discussed last meeting, and it appears that the owner and Planning staff are once again back to exploring Heritage Restoration Agreement possibilities, and demolition is not imminent. More to come…

Amendment to Water Shortage Response Bylaw
Last year, we saw some pretty severe water restrictions, which saw high compliance across the regions, and we got through a slightly scary drop in our reservoirs without reaching an emergency level of depletion. The snowpack is a little better this year, but the spring has not been all that rainy, so we have yet to know what our forecast hold for this summer.

Metro Vancouver is forecasting enough concern that stage 1 water restrictions are going to start a little earlier than last year. Stage 1 is not very restrictive, and with any luck we can get through the summer at that level.

Last year, we at the City heard some complaints from residents that our enforcement measures were not what the public expected. I think we can all go back 8 months and remember seeing that bright green lawn that stood out from all of the neighbours…

This year, Council has asked staff to track complaints, responses, warning and fines, and to report back to council on this compliance so we can assure the public that our Bylaws are being enforced. On a similar note, we are making adjustments to our Bylaw to facilitate nematode treatment of lawns at the appropriate time (that can only happen in June when the grubs are at the right life stage that the nematodes will infect them). There were a few language changes to make to the Bylaw before we give it first reading, so watch for that at a Council meeting coming your way soon.

We received some Correspondence to discuss:

Letter dated April 11, 2016 regarding Fraser River Middle
This issue is an interesting one. With the development of the new Middle School in the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood, some parents at the west end of the catchment are concerned about the distance to the school. There is some irony in the fact that the School District’s first proposal to place this school in the West End was vociferously opposed by the neighbourhood, but we are here in 2016, and that ship has sailed.

Schools don’t run buses anymore – it simply isn’t in their budget. TransLink is not interested in getting into the school bus business. Running buses for schools is well outside of the normal jurisdiction of a local government, and could be read as a significant downloading of a provincially-funded responsibility to local government. The division of powers is pretty clear – we build the roads, sidewalks and bike paths, the province builds the schools and gets kids there.

That said, we are all the same community, and if we can help facilitate talks with funding partners, TransLink, the School District, and the parents, then we will do what we can. I’m not sure how a bus system would operate – a significant number of legal and liability issues exist. And I am sure that the parents in Queensborough sending their kids to NWSS will be paying special attention to this discussion, as transportation has long been an issue for them.

Letter dated April 22, 2016 from the Rivershed Society
This is a request for some festival or partnership grant money outside of the regular cycle. We referred to staff, although Council did not sound very receptive to the idea…

We then moved onto everyone’s favorite call-and response chorus where we read Bylaws:

Zoning Amendment (325 and 329 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 7811, 2016
As mentioned above, this zoning amendment for two adjacent properties in Queensborough received two readings.

Zoning Amendment (518 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 7833, 2016
As also mentioned above, this zoning amendment for a single family house in Queensborough received two readings

Zoning Amendment (129 Tenth Street) Bylaw No. 7839, 2016
This townhouse project in the Brow of the Hill received two readings.

Zoning Amendment (602 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 7840, 2016
This townhouse/small home project in Queensborough received two readings.

Downtown Parking Commission Repeal Bylaw No. 7844, 2016
As discussed above, the dissolution of the Downtown Parking Commission requires a Bylaw, and we gave that Bylaw three readings.

Downtown New West BIA (Primary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 7828, 2016
Downtown New West BIA (Secondary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 7829, 2016
Uptown New West BIA Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 7830, 2016

The three Parcel Tax Bylaws to support our BIAs, as discussed last meeting were officially adopted. This is now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.

Tax Rates Bylaw No. 7831, 2016
The final piece of our 2016 budget and taxation process, the Bylaw to support our property tax increase was officially adopted. This is now the Law of the Land, adjust your behavior accordingly.