UBCM 2016 – Part 3

The UBCM convention is a lot of things, besides a regular go-to-rooms-and hear-panel-talks convention. There are all the trappings of an AGM (financial report, election of officers, etc.) including a reporting out of what progress the UBCM has made over the previous year. It is also an opportunity local governments to speak to the provincial government about important issues.

The main way that the UBCM, as the collected body of all locally elected officials in BC, lobby the Provincial Government is through drafting and passing Resolutions. This year there were something like 180 resolutions proposed, ranging from opposition to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline to requests for changes in the local government regulations regarding ill or injured elected officials who must miss meetings, to how we will seek to tax or regulate short term rentals. Each was discussed, debated, potentially amended, then voted upon by the assembled delegates.

Election ballot, resolution book, and voting "clicker". The tools of the UBCM trade.
Election ballot, resolution book, and voting “clicker”. The tools of the UBCM delegate trade.

New Westminster put forward four resolutions for consideration (and were, through representation on the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, involved in the development of others). This is a quick review of how the New West-led resolutions went down:

B137 asked that the province amend the Residential Tenancy Act to allow renters the right of first refusal to return to their units after renovations, to provide more protection for renters from being displaced by “renovictions”.

Unfortunately, this resolution was late in the program, and we ran into time constraints on the agenda. Resolutions not passed by noon on Friday are passed as a block referral back to the UBCM executive for consideration. This doesn’t mean they die, but it doesn’t bode well for them.

Councillor Williams made a valiant attempt to resurrect it through a procedural removal from the block referral, but we failed to get the 60% vote required to make that happen, and the resolution was referred.

Both B142 (asking for a provincial sales tax exemption for Emergency Preparedness kits, an initiative of Councillor Puchmayr and the Emergency Advisory Committee) and B144 (asking that the Ministry of Transportation and the Federal Minister of Transportation work to create standards for reflectivity of clothing for non-professional road users) were also referred back to Executive due to time constraints.

This is a bit of a disappointment, because both B137 and B144 were items that were brought to our Council by citizens of New West, and it would have been great to have been able to motivate members to support it, share the issue with our local government colleagues, and give our citizens a voice within the Province. This is only one avenue to do this, and we will have to look at other methods, or even bring this back next year, where we can hopefully get earlier in the agenda.

Finally, resolution C13 asked that the burden of proof for claims of PTSD for first responders be reduced, due to the nature of the work, which would allow speedier and more efficient treatment of such claims under WorkSafe BC. There was a similar resolution (B43) forwarded by Coquitlam, which was endorsed during the convention, so this Resolution was effectively withdrawn, being redundant.

So New Westminster didn’t change the world with our resolutions. However, we were there speaking on and supporting (or defeating) resolutions, right to the bitter end at 5 after 12 on Friday. There were a great many good ideas passed, and many initiatives supported, so the collective voice of the local governments of British Columbia are telling the provincial government what direction they want to see the province go. I guess we will find out if we were heard going into the election in May.

The UBCM Convention is also an opportunity for local governments to sit down in face-to-face meetings with Government Ministers, Members of the Opposition, and senior Ministry staff. Members of New West Council had discussions about important transportation infrastructure issues in our City, about increasing opportunities for affordable housing, about TransLink, and about development of our IDEA centre and the associated District Energy System for Sapperton.

These meetings are not where big agreements are signed, or issues are hammered out, they are a place for us to tell them what we are up to, to discuss opportunities for them to help (be that with investment or helpful legislative measures), and for us to identify potential synergies with provincial goals and strategies.ubcm3

It was interesting for a rookie like me to observe, learn, and even contribute a bit to the conversation with my more experienced council colleagues. I’m hoping us opening ourselves up for collaboration pays off with some great projects and improvements for New West.

This is my first time at UBCM, and I am learning how to navigate it all. I was at a networking lunch event when I talked to a Councillor from another larger city that had been to many of them; perhaps too many. When he asked if I was enjoying my first time, I said yes, for the most part. He then said something that confused me.

“This is your reward for all the volunteering.”

I assume he was speaking of the networking lunches, and the evening receptions held by everyone from CUPE to CAPP to Port of Vancouver, where food and drink are well distributed. I dropped by several events, and did indeed network and make connections with people across the province, but shouting at people in crowded convention rooms gets dull pretty quick (yes, I am getting old). If this is the reward, it’s not a terribly enticing one.

But the other point is that I’m not volunteering. This is a job. I get paid to do it. You can argue we get paid too much or too little, but we are not volunteers. Taxpayers have paid for me to attend UBCM, and I have a job to do here. People who know me will know I have done a lot of volunteering for organizations of various sizes, for various reasons, and I have a tremendous respect for the work volunteers do in our community – in New West especially, we rely on a dedicated and serious volunteer population, and would be poorer without them. That said, I don’t take the volunteer mindset into Council work, I take a work mindset into it, and try to treat the work with the level of professionalism it deserves. I also think the job has rewards much greater than rubber chicken and a glass of free wine.

This was relevant during the resolution sessions when we were discussing things like extending parental leave protections to elected officials, and creating and enforcing harassment protocols for UBCM events and conventions, so that no-one has to be made feel uncomfortable or threatened in their workplace (both resolutions supported). Council is a workplace, not a club, and should be treated as one.

Maybe I’m being over sensitive to an off-the-cuff remark, but I have been immersed in politics for several days, and between the resolutions and meetings with Ministers and MLAs, I have been forced to parse information from nuance of language. Because people often mean things in how they say things, whether they recognize it or not.

It also reflected the two worlds of UBCM, and of local politics in general: those who are there to get things done and make things happen, and those there because the seat holds something like prestige, or power.

Fortunately, I met and was able to learn from some great people at this event who were all about that first category. Kiersten Duncan from Maple Ridge, Matthew Bond from North Vancouver, Michelle Kirby from Oak Bay, and others. The future looks bright if there are people like this holding the flame.

Perhaps special mention should go to our Host Mayor, Lisa Helps. While in Victoria, I stumbled upon a local lifestyle magazine called Douglas, in which there was an interview with Mayor Helps. As a mainlander only vaguely aware of Island politics, I only knew she was progressive, somewhat polarizing, and tackling some tough issues (that are not especially unique to her City). When I read this interview, I was refreshed by her open manner and straight-forward attitude about her role as a Mayor and the problems they are addressing. Every piece of it says she is a woman interested in the hard work of civic governance, not about being populist or ideologue (there are plenty of those types already, even on her own Council), and not wasting her energy trying to appeal to the blowhards with more cynicism than ideas. She doesn’t have time to pander, she is too busy running a City. It was a refreshing read. Here, I’ll link again so you can check it out.

I continue to find inspiration at UBCM.

UBCM 2016 – Part 2

It’s been three days of UBCM 2016, and I hardly have time to write my thoughts. Somehow, Langley City Councillor Nathan Pachal has pumped out several really great blog posts about the talks he has been to. I see him at every event, and have shared food and drink with him, (we are conspiring together on something…), so I have no idea where he finds the time, but it is worth while reading if you want to get a different view of some of the talks. Actually Nathan’s Blog is good reading any day, he is a smart guy.

So back to me, and that weird existential angst I was expressing around climate change last post. It has not abated, as I have attended talks on other subjects, and have had some scheduled face time with a few Ministers and Members of the Opposition, but I was also given the gift of inspiration.

After climate change, the biggest issue facing BC right now is housing, at every level.

During the Large Cities Forum, we had presentations on the remarkably progressive approach that Maple Ridge took when trying to address a long-standing tent city issue. There was much discussion of the social aspect of this type of homelessness, and the importance of giving people franchise over their space, and building trusting relationships between the residents of the tent City and the people trying to keep the tent City safe, and hopefully move people to a more tenable living situation. They had people who had been living outside for a decade or longer, and some who were simply terrified of the idea of going into a building.

There was a transition from this discussion to talking about the health aspect of homelessness, and those difficult to house. Although there are many ways for a person to become homeless, the most common are one (or a combination) of three: Youth aging out of foster care, people leaving the criminal justice system, and people coming out of hospitals after longer stays. I all three cases, they have been disconnected from their support systems, have nowhere to go, and end up on the street. They generally have barriers to receiving even the most basic services. They often can’t get basic healthcare at a clinic because of a variety of barriers inherent in the system.

There are good people working on this issue, and many good ideas about how to prevent the worst tragedies. St. Paul’s is working on a transition program, where people leaving Emergency Room care, if they don’t have a home to go to, can go to a temporary shelter on the hospital grounds. They are more likely to heal, they are less likely to return to emergency any time soon, they are more likely to get access to detox or mental health services they need, they are less likely to die on the street.

But, again, it is frustrating. With all the good work being done by local governments, by Health Authorities, and by various provincial agencies, it isn’t enough. We are constantly reminded that BC has the greatest economy in Canada, and we are the Greatest Place on Earth, but too many of these people (and let us not forget that point – these are people, citizens of our province as deserving of dignity and safety as you or I) are simply being left to rot. A crisis we are nibbling around the edges of, but certainly not treating as a crisis.

There was also discussion about the other end of the housing spectrum – run-away housing prices. Short version is economists expect prices to continue to rise medium-term (even allowing for possible “short term corrections” of 10-30%). Single family houses in across the lower mainland will double in price in the next decade or so, if the trends are to be believed. The wind went out of the room when that was suggested.

We were then refreshed by a very entertaining talk by Tom Davidoff about how we are doing it all wrong. Housing prices are going up 30% a year, while housing supply is going up 2%. This has resulted in the ridiculous situation where 95% of the households in Canada simply do not have the income to buy a home in Vancouver, or as he put it, the City has banned 95% of Canada from living in it. His solution? Build denser neighbourhoods, especially row homes and townhouses (not so surprising), and facilitate that by massively increasing property taxes (!), and giving the province the power to override local parochial densification concerns (!!). Naturally, the message that Mayors need to raise taxes and give up control over zoning was not what local governments wanted to hear, but it was entertainingly delivered.

I also went to a workshop on contaminated sites stuff and invasive species that will probably not interest the readers of this blog in the least, but was really interesting to me.

I had a good chat with representatives from AirBnB before Vancouver announced today that they are going to take on regulating AirBnB. I was already aware of the approach taken by Nelson (and some of its strengths and weaknesses of that approach), and am ready for us in New West to have the conversation about short-term rentals. There are more than 300 listings on AirBnB in New Westminster, far more than the number of hotel rooms in the City. The trick is how to develop a regulatory environment where responsible homeowners who respect their community and neighbourhood can operate legally, while preventing unscrupulous, unsafe, or otherwise problematic operators. How do we address the larger concerns in the community? Much to do here.

Finally (for this post), we were treated to an excellent and inspiring Keynote by Dr. Samantha Nutt, who is one of those heroes that make you wonder how they can even exist in this world or cynicism and short-term thought. She is the founder of War Child, and organization that provides various types of aid to children impacted by war in the worst parts of the world. She provided the inspiration, and some great wisdom.


I can’t get into the length of her talk, it was full of absolutely heart-rending stories of war and suffering, and yet somehow full of hope and laughter about why we do what we do. She joked about being shot at, threatened, illegally detained, made sick with rashes she could not identify and afflicted with plagues that have her doubled over in the worst bathrooms in earth, and yet her husbands’ job is even worse – he is a politician. This is a bit of a ridiculous pander to a room full of politicians, but her point was that there are many people doing things around the world, big and small, trying to make positive change, and all of them, all of us, question whether we are making progress, whether the fight is worth it. And there are people trying to stop progress, who we have to outwit, outlast, and out think.

This was actually a message I needed to hear, because too much of UBCM has been about small steps to address big problems, recognizing that we are not making enough progress, and there are serious structural barriers – sometimes actual people – who are in the way of this progress. Why do we continue to work against these forces?

“Leadership is a test of endurance, and at least we aren’t just spectators”

There was another message in her talk. We, here in Canada, sitting on our fat asses at a conference, are complicit in these wars on Somalia, in Darfur, in Eastern Congo. By selling them the arms they need, by buying conflict metals that fund those weapons sales but keep our smart phones (and this Blog) running. You can hear her give a different talk with similar messages here. I honestly cannot believe I am lucky enough to share the planet with a woman like this.

So go out, do what you do, make positive change.

UBCM 2016 – Part 1

Like most locally elected people in BC, and a fair smattering of your Provincial representatives, I am in Victoria this week attending the Union of BC Municipalities convention.

This annual meeting is a chance for local government to share ideas, strategies, successes and failures. It is also a chance for us to meet with members of the provincial government and the opposition to tell them our gripes, ask them for money, or find out what their plans are for our communities, pretty much in that order.

This is my first time at UBCM (I couldn’t take time off of work last year), and my schedule for these 5 days is pretty packed, but I am going to try to blog out a few impressions in two or three posts.

My first impression is that the Saanich Peninsula is a great place to ride a bike! I send my luggage ahead so I could spend Sunday multi-moding my trip over. A good friend from Oak Bay rode up to Swartz Bay to meet me, and we pulled off a beautiful 60+km roll down the west side of the Peninsula, over a hill to Goldstream Park, and back along the Galloping Goose. It was a wonderful way to cleanse my spirit before a week sitting in conference rooms.

My first day and a half at UBCM was much less spirit-lifting, because I attended workshops and meetings primarily addressing climate change, and I wish the news was better.

In a broad-reaching workshop on Monday, the Minister of Environment, people from the private sector, NGOs, and local governments discussed progress and problems not to make big change, but just to meet the barest of our Paris commitments. There were representatives from the Minister’s Climate Leadership Team who came out (after the Minister had left) to decry how little in the plan the Provincial government asked them to put together was actually met by the resultant Climate Leadership Plan. That plan doesn’t get us anywhere near the targets we have committed to.


A big part of the problem in BC is that almost all of our electricity is fossil-fuel free (flooding of valleys notwithstanding), so the quick wins of shutting down a few coal plants is not available to us, as it is in other jurisdictions. Most of our emissions are buildings and transportation. We are doing a lot with buildings, but spending $4Billion on bridges to nowhere that none of the region wants instead of $2.5Billion on transit improvements that would make a huge difference in how our region emits carbon shows that Climate Leadership is taking second fiddle to… something. Because it sure as hell isn’t economic development.

Why do we need a Climate Leadership Plan that actually leads on climate? Because we have legislation (provincial, federal, and international) that requires it; because the potential cost of doing nothing is daunting and will crush local government budgets, not to mention global economic security; and because it is a *huge* economic opportunity. We are a highly educated, technically savvy, well-resourced jurisdiction. The amount of R&D that will come with forging a new post-carbon economy is game-changing. We can play catch up to that and buy the results of that R&D from others, or we can take the lead and reap the rewards from fostering innovation here.

All it takes is leadership. Many local governments are doing many great things, but we have two problems. We lack resources. We simply don’t have the tax base to make the kinds of investments that need to be made. We also are risk adverse as a rule, and it is hard to sell bleeding-edge ideas to a reluctant population. If I told the people of New Westminster that we could reduce the energy needs of a new Canada Games Pool and save the city $20 Million over 50 years of the life of the building, but it costs and extra $10 Million that we need to spend (actually, borrow!) today, It would be hard to convince the voters that is a good idea. Because taxes and stuff. There is a lifecycle cost reason to reduce energy use and therefore emissions, but there is a cynical electoral reason to spend as little as possible now, and let the next generation worry about the consequences.

In many ways BC is way ahead. We have the highest percentage of municipalities that have Community Energy and Emissions Plans of any jurisdiction in North America. We have a carbon tax. There was a lot of good stuff in the 2008 Climate Leadership Plan, and it has worked, without tanking the economy. Local Governments and others asking for more form the Climate Leadership Plan 2016 are not asking for the moon, we are asking for the kind of leadership in 2016 that the BC Liberals showed in 2008. Time to take the next step.

I have recently been invited to join the Board of the Community Energy Association of British Columbia, and am now part of the BC Municipal Climate Leadership Council (yes, I care about this stuff), so I was able to attend the BC Municipal Climate Leadership Breakfast in Tuesday.

We met at 7am with the Minister of Environment and a few other members of Cabinet, a couple of members of the Official Opposition, and the sole Green Party MLA. We had local government reps from several BC Municipalities, from Vancouver to Dawson Creek, talking about what we are doing locally, and (it has to be said) some asks for the province to help. Though my writing above includes a lot of criticism, it was a productive, non-partisan, collaborative conversation where the need for leadership was discussed in a respectful manner (helped by the excellent leadership – there’s that word again – of the two Mayors from North Vancouver).

Every person in that room wants to lead on climate; we all said we wanted to do more because we recognize the problem. However, MLA Weaver was quick to point out that none of it will matter if we move along with LNG production. All of the hard work and serious investments local governments in BC are making will not add up to enough savings to make up for a single LNG Plant the size of the one being announced literally while I post this.

It was at the Monday morning Study Session, after 3 hours of talk around half measures and aspirational ideas, where a younger Councillor from Haida Gwaii stood at the Q&A microphone and said, in the most respectful way possible, that he didn’t want to sound like Chicken Little here, but the sky is actually falling.

I also got a similar impression, especially as the Provincial Government representatives tried to polish the turd that is the new Climate Leadership Plan. It’s not that we are fiddling while Rome burns, it is more that Rome is burning, we are mixing ourselves a cool drink an enjoying a cigar while thinking about purchasing a fire extinguisher, when economic conditions are right.

Council – September 19, 2016

This week’s council dealt with some pretty significant issues in terms of the effect on how our City will look in the decades ahead, despite it being a fairly short agenda. Consequently, there was a lot of spirited discussion, and although mostly agrees on the direction we want to go, and the end result, there is some pretty strong disagreement on a lot of the process questions.

However, before that, we started off with an Opportunity to be Heard or two:

Development Variance Permit 00610 for Vary Sign Bylaw Requirements for Boston Pizza at 88 Tenth Street
The Boston Pizza wants to adapt its signage to make themselves move visible from Stewardson Way, but this requires a variance from our Sign Bylaw. We received no written submissions on this proposal, and no-one came to exercise their Opportunity to be Heard for or against the idea.

This is a pretty reasonable request, the sign fits the spirit of the Bylaw in scale and design, except that the strange geography of the Columbia Square Mall creates more street frontages than is normal, or envisioned in our Bylaw. Allowing the restaurant to advertise their presence internally to the mall parking lot and to the adjacent road seems like a reasonable request.

Council moved to support the Variance Permit.

That said, I was tempted to vote against it because of Brad Marchand, but he is lining up with Sidney Crosby in the World Cup this week, so I’ll cut him and his stinking rat face some slack and not punish every Boston themed enterprise by association.

Temporary Use Permit No. 00012 for part of 97 Braid Street
Fraser Health wants to build a temporary parking lot for their employees and contractors during the first phase of construction for the RCH expansions. We need to issue a temporary use permit because “parking lot” is not one of the current allowable uses of that open lot at Braid and Brunette.

We had no correspondence on this, and only one person came to speak on the issue, expressing concerns about the screening and visual impact of the lot, mostly pertaining to tree planting around the lot.

It is a temporary use, and the fencing and screening will be removed, but Staff was requested to review the landscaping plan in regards to the visual impact of the lot. I was also concerned that Rousseau not become a route for the shuttle bus that Fraser Health wants to run, as we don’t need more traffic impacts on local neighbourhoods when there is a viable alternative.

Council moved to support the temporary use permit.

On the neighbourhood impact point, I hope that Fraser Health takes this opportunity to promote Transportation Demand Management for its employees, discouraging the use of cars in parking lots, and encouraging the transit and other options available to them. They have agreed to work with the City on ramped up enforcement of parking restrictions on the residential streets around the Hospital during this time, to try to convince employees that parking tickets aren’t “the cost of doing business” when you work at RCH.

We then had a presentation from staff:

OUR CITY 2041 – Draft Infill Housing Design Guidelines
As part of the development of a new Official Community Plan, we are looking at ways to manage “infill density” in our residential neighbourhoods.

The draft Land Use Plan that is going to public consultation over the next few weeks includes some changes in single family neighbourhoods, including opening up the possibility of Laneway Houses (LWH) and Carriage Houses (CH) in most areas, and some limited areas where smaller Townhouse (TH) or Rowhome (RH) projects may be strategically fit into existing neighbourhoods.

However, to make this work while protecting the livability of our single family neighbourhoods, there need to be limits – not every lot or property is appropriate for LWH/CH introduction, and TH/RH done poorly can have a negative impact on neighbouring properties. Staff has drafted a set of such guidelines for both instances, which are up for public consultation. It should be a lively discussion.

LWH/CR: There are three ways that the viability of the single family detached lot for a LWH/CH is being considered: overall density, proportional density, and size. Currently, single family lots are generally limited to 0.5 FSR, which means if you have a 6,000sqft lot, you can build a 3,000sqft house (6,000 x 0.5 = 3,000). Staff are proposing no change in this maximum density. The allowable FSR of 0.5 must be split between the main and secondary house. Proportionally, the second house cannot be more than 0.15 of that FSR. Finally, the LWH/CH cannot be smaller than 350sqft, or larger than 950sqft.

Therefore, if you have 5,000sqft lot, the LWH house must be (5,000 x 0.15 = 750) 750sqft or smaller. If you have a 2,000sqft house on that lot, then the LWH can only be 500sqft (2000+500 = 2500 = 0.5 FSR). If the lot is bare, you have the option to build one 2,500sqft home, or a 2,000sqft house and a 500sqft LWH/CH, or even a 1,750sqft house and a 750sqft LWH/CH. There are also other guidelines about open space, window placement, and maximum building envelope that will reduce the impact on neighbouring properties.

For the TH/RH guidelines, these are looking at smaller, more compact developments that you might be familiar with in Queensborough or in Fraserview, and there are many guidelines around setbacks, building form, scale and open space that are designed to make them fit better into neighbourhoods – to effectively make then less obtrusive neighbours to single family homes.

Again, these are draft guidelines, and meant to start the discussion in the community. There are a half a dozen Open Houses coming up and on-line consultation, I encourage you to take part. If you read this Blog, you probably care a bit about the direction the City is going, this is a chance for you to provide real input that matters. All info here.

The following items were moved on consent:

Draft Flag Policy
The City occasionally run flags up poles (i.e. for Pride week, to celebrate Philippine National Day), and sometimes drop them to half-mast (when solemn events occur). As we are a City, we need a policy for this. The most notable difference for most of you is the little flags on our desk have been rearranged a bit to make sure we are giving proper dominance to the Canadian Flag.

We then had a few Reports for Action

City Resources and Expenses Associated with the City Truck, Trailer  and Chassis Usage in Parades
The City has invested in a truck, trailer, and chassis to support the Hyack Festivals Association float program, along with contributing to the cost of design and production of the float.

Although this program began far enough back that no-one is really sure how it started, and like many things in the history of the City, appears to be on the basis of a handshake agreement, several costs are coming due. The vehicles are at end of life, and need to either be refurbished or replaced.

Unfortunately, this decision came to us without first having a discussion with the primary stakeholder – the Hyack Festivals Association. We would never decide the fate of the Legge Theatre without consulting the Vagabond Players, or the Art Gallery without talking to the Arts Council, so I don’t think we should make any decision until we at least know what Hyack wants or needs from this program, and their ability to pay for it.

The report was tabled until Staff can perform that consultation and provide us some more info.

Queen’s Park Heritage Control Clarification of Scope and Process
The highlight of the night was our detailed discussion of the process staff is proposing to address Council’s decision to impose a Heritage Control Period for the Queens Park Neighbourhood while a Heritage Conservation Area plan is developed.

Through some unfortunate communications by the City, including Council, precipitated by a failure to respond to media reports last June, the use of the term “moratorium” has been used to characterize the Heritage Control Period. I tried to be very careful back at the time, and have tried to be careful to avoid the term since, because a municipal government does not have authority under the Local Government Act to declare such a moratorium.

There are strict limits to a local government’s ability to regulate demolitions. As a property owner, you have the right to apply, and to be heard in a reasonable time. A City has a right to work through a process, but must reply to a request in a reasonable time. If a homeowner does not like a decision made on a permit application, they have a right to appeal to Council, and we may or may not have the right to turn them down. The Heritage Control Period extends to us that right to say “no” for the sake of heritage preservation, but does not remove the applicants’ right to a fair hearing before Council.

It is a bit unfortunate that we are getting into a process debate at this period, because I think (and I should not speak for all of Council) that most or all of Council is in favour of heritage protection for Queens Park, but we need to determine what the process will be to get us there, and that the community both understands the implications of this, and has been consulted on the details of the implementation.

We have, as a City, not done a great job so far on communications so far on this project, and we need to sharpen up. It was a bit of a fractious evening at Council, and the policy direction we are taking was supported on a split vote, but I think it was good for us to go through a bit of the process discussion now, and get the larger conversation started.

The process we have decided to put in place for the Heritage Control Period is a good one because it provides a high level of protection, it is completely defensible if a proponent dead-set on demolition comes to Council and we turn them down, and it gives us an opportunity to test a process prior to the introduction of a more permanent approach. The process is very similar to the First Shaughnessy process Vancouver used a couple of years ago, and that managed to act as a de facto moratorium, in that no heritage demolitions were approved during the period, while never facing a court challenge.

The following item was removed from consent

Traffic Control Requirements for Special Events
There have been a few issues for some event organizers around traffic control measures. Specifically, the Uptown Winter Farmers Market on Belmont Street was feeling a financial pinch from having to provide two full time traffic control officers during their bi-weekly road closures. Having to pay for a single event is one thing, but when you hold 10-15 events a year, the bills add up. Add to this that the road closure on Belmont is such that people are unlikely to accidentally drive on the closed street, as long as the barriers are placed properly and the road is full of tents. Traffic management is pretty much keeping people from wandering into cross traffic at the ends. Volunteers can do that.

The RCFM asked us to review this policy, and our Festivals Committee, staff, and the NWPD agreed to some adjustment to the policy impacting all event holders, not just the RCFM. Hopefully, this will make one of myriad of tasks for event organizers a little clearer and more efficient.

With no Bylaws to read or adopt, that brought our meeting to an end!

Council – Sept 12, 2016

This week was our annual City Council on the Road trip to Queensborough. This is just like a regular Council Meeting, except we hold it at the Queensborough Community Centre, and more people show up!

Our agenda was not too long this week, so we started with a couple of announcements regarding the LEED Gold certification of the Queensborough Community Centre, and a progress report on the Ewen Street upgrading project (two years down, one to go!) and a few smaller pedestrian safety projects we are fast-tracking in Queensborough.

We passed the following items on Consent

2017 Development Services, Planning Division User Fees and Rates Review
One of the Principles of local government in BC is that some things are paid out of taxes, and some things are paid on a cost-recovery basis (this is a “principle” that is often hard to be too strict about, because of the hugely complicated overlap between the two groups, and the cost and hassle of keeping the division strict would overwhelm the cost recovery, but we try the best we can). Fees for things like processing development permits are intended to put the City’s costs for working a development through the review and consultation process as much as possible on the developer, not on the taxpayer.

Another principle is that we do not want to have our permits completely out of line with other Cities in the region, but because we “compete” with other cities for business, commercial, and residential taxpayers, and because being anomalously high or low relative to other Cities is a sign we are probably doing something wrong.

The changes proposed will bring us back in line with the median across the region. I am happy to support this change, as it assures we are regionally in the right ballpark on our fees, but that doesn’t mean the entire region isn’t over or undercharging, or that being in the middle of the pack removes our responsibility to find efficiencies in our operations. And we want to be regional leaders, don’t we?

So to support these principles, it would be great if staff did a bit of a desktop exercise to estimate the actual cost to the City for processing these applications – how much time does it take staff to review the average application, how many staff are required, and what are the costs – are we recovering half the cost? 90%? Or are we making money? I suspect there is a huge range, as applications vary in their complication and in the sophistication of the applicant, but estimating a range would be a useful exercise for council, especially as we are re-evaluating where we fit in the regional context.

1016 – 1022 Fourth Avenue: Development Variance Permit for Five Lot Subdivision with Duplexes on Each Lot – Consideration of Issuance
This Permit is essentially a housekeeping exercise on some of the language of the existing development permit, previously passed by Council. A few issues were discovered during further planning by the site developer that required clarification of language, and a relatively small adjustment of setbacks was made to accommodate the mature tree that is extant on the property, in concordance with our new Tree Protection Bylaw.

1209 – 1211 Fourth Avenue: Development Permit for Eight Unit Townhouse Development – Consideration of Issuance
This application has been winding its way through the process. The owner does not appear to be in much of a rush as the Public Engagement and Panel Review work was completed back in 2012. It is an interesting site on a pretty steep hill, but a good example of “missing middle” townhouse development we need so much on the mainland of New West.

Sewer Pump Station Rehabilitation – 2016 – Budget Re-Allocation
One of the fun parts about developing on flat land like in Queensborough is that you need to lift your sewage. You install your pipes with a bit of a slope to keep ‘em flowing, but eventually you get too deep and need a pump station to lift the sewage to a new, higher pipe to get more slope. Sewage lift stations are expensive, and need quite a bit of maintenance to keep your pipes clean because you wouldn’t believe what people flush. A couple of the lift stations in Queensborough apparently need major servicing sooner, rather than later, so we are moving some budget money forward.

This is a re-allocation of budget not an increase, as we would have spent this in 2017 or 2018 anyway as part of the regular maintenance schedule, we are just expediting the process a bit due to need, and to get some economies of scale, we are doing 5 stations as part of a single tender.

100 Braid Street (Urban Academy School): DP – Preliminary Report
Up to now, we have seen the site re-zoned. At this step, we are seeing detailed design of the school building, which is the first phase of development for the site.

This project will go to Design Panel, Sapperton RA and to a public open house, so please show up and tell us what you think.

Intelligent City Advisory Committee Amended Terms of Reference
The next phase of the ICI is starting to unfold, now that fibre and BridgeNet are approved, and installations are occurring. It is time to talk about the other interesting possibilities related to becoming an “Intelligent City”. We have had some interesting discussions recently about using more intelligent traffic control technologies… but we’ll save that for future discussions…

The following items were removed form consent

Sign Bylaw Update: Consideration of Public Consultation
The City is looking at its existing Sign Bylaw, and a few updates are intended to make the process easier and more consistent for businesses (we want to rely less on variances to the Bylaw). This is a pretty full re-write, but relies on the existing bylaw and its various edits and revisions to set the framework.

There are some mundane requirements, like having an engineer certify that the sign won’t fall and hurt somebody with the first puff of wind, or making sure lights meet electrical code. However, there is also the more complicated desire to assure businesses can install appropriate or needed signage, while limiting the visual intrusion of signage and maintaining an attractive streetscape for users.

This latter requirement is, of course, a challenging goal, and will rely on a lot of input from the business community, the Design Panel, and everyone else who lives, works, and shops in New Westminster. So we are sending this draft Bylaw out for some public and business input.

I asked that we also consult with the Access Ability Advisory Committee. I think they would want to provide comment on the types of signs that impair mobility on our streets and sidewalks, but also on making signs more effective for the visually impaired, and how signage impacts navigability for people suffering with dementia, as per our Dementia-Friendly community action plan, which may also include input form the City’s Senior Social Planner.

I have a few more comments in regards to some of the new restrictions, but I am happy to have this go to consultation as is, and hear what the business community and other stakeholders have to say, and reserve my right to comment when it comes back to Council!

701 Sixth Street: Glenbrooke Daycare Society Request for Financial Support
This Daycare is looking to expand, and the spaces are woefully needed in New Westminster. They are asking the City for some financial help as they have significant start-up costs if they wish to expand.. We have a Reserve Fund for these types of requests. However, our current reserve fund is mostly earmarked for addressing the situation in Queensborough, where daycare and pre-school needs are beyond crisis levels.

In the end, we need a little more info from this applicant before we can decide if it is the best use of some of our reserve fund, or if there is another source the City can dip into to support these very-much-needed spaces.

Metro Vancouver Regional Affordable Housing Strategy
I attended forum at Douglas College last Thursday hosted by Judy Darcy, our MLA, where representatives from the DSU and from Senior Services Society spoke about the challenges of our current housing crisis, and David Eby (the Opposition Critic on housing) and our own Mayor spoke of strategies to address it.

I think there were two messages I took away from that forum. First, as emphasized by Mayor Cote, is that the current housing crisis in BC is occurring at every level of the socioeconomic spectrum. There are tent cities popping up not just in Vancouver and Victoria, but in Abbotsford, in Prince George, in Maple Ridge. We have shelters filling up with the working poor – people with full time jobs who just can’t find a place they can afford. Waitlists for supportive housing through Housing BC are years long, and one of the cornerstones of affordable family living – the Co-Op housing system – is falling apart as their capital grants are stripped by senior governments. Rental rates are shooting up as the vacancy rates are below 1%, and even those fortunate enough to afford downpayments and mortgages in this overheated market are finding they cannot afford places large enough to accommodate families, as the $1Million line sweeps eastward across the region towards the most distant suburbs.

The second message was form David Eby, who emphasized that although the problem is multi-faceted and complex, the solution is really simple: we need a provincial government who believes housing is part of their mandate.

The regional government has a role in developing affordable housing strategies, and this document outlines a strategic plan for what Metro and the member Municipalities can do to alleviate the problem. I look at the 24 goals in this strategy, and more than half of them would be more achievable with the Provincial Government working with the cities of the region to make them more livable It’s an election year, maybe something good will happen.

Meantime, I am proud of the work New Westminster has done already. Again, much of this was brought in before my time on Council, but we are seeing the positive results now. When you look at this strategy and see that New West is already working on 23 of the 24 recommendations, there is no doubt we are a regional leader in almost every aspect of housing, punching well above our weight as the 10th largest Municipality in the region. But our powers are limited, as is our budget. Working with our regional partners on a regional affordable housing strategy is important to the current residents of New West, and to the future residents of New West, and I am happy to endorse this strategy.

We then adopted the following Bylaws

Sewerage and Drainage Regulation Amendment Bylaw No. 7863, 2016
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 7860, 2016

As discussed on August 29, these bylaws better regulating discharges to our storm drainage system for construction sites was adopted. It’s now the law of the land, and I would appreciate it if you adjusted your behavior accordingly.

HRA (508 Agnes Street) Amendment Bylaw No. 7866, 2016
As also discussed on August 29, this HRA extension was granted through adoption of this bylaw.

And then I rode my bike home across the Queensborough Bridge, as the last rays of the sunset tinged the horizon orange (see banner photo above)… feeling like not just the end of a long day, but that the summer is ending soon. Grab a little more of September before it is gone, folks!


So we went to Portland on the Labour Day long weekend.

The one in Oregon, the city notable for its place-making street cred, for its plethora of funky beer choices, and for its spamming New West with roses planted by people in capes. I hadn’t been to Portland for probably 20 years, so I swung a 4-day weekend and we hit the rails. Instead of a long travelogue, I just want to blog a few short impressions of Stumptown from what was, basically, a first visit.

port1Travelling by train is very civilized. The pace is right, you can enjoy the journey, I got a bit of work done. It was fun to see New West go by from the train bridge, even if it was hours after we left New West to get to the train. Having an Amtrak station in New West would be great, but there might be a stronger case for putting one in Surrey by Scott Road Station…


There are some incredible streets in Portland. The Pearl District area and much of Downtown all the way to Portland State University has leafy, historic, sometimes cobbly, and clearly multi-modal streets. At times, you get a seriously European feel to the streets, except they are generally wider and more open that found in historic European Cities. And there are a lot of one-way streets, which kind of removes the Euro-feel, but makes “jaywalking” a lot easier.

port3Clearly, Portland has put a lot of thought into ways to keep their streets and public spaces friendly, or “sticky” in the Jacobsian sense. Public drinking fountains, well designed (and utilized!) stand-alone public bathrooms, squares with large fountains clearly designed to be played in on hot days as opposed to viewed from a respectful distance, and many newer spaces designed to blur the line between public and private spaces. There is a lot of reason to be on the street, and spend a bit of time watching the world go by – or “loitering”, as some may call it.

port4I’m, not sure why, but I was somewhat surprised by the serious number of homeless people in Portland. It seemed there were tents everywhere, and at least one well-established Tent City in the Little Tokyo area. Drug abuse and mental illness issues were apparent, and the gentrification of areas north of Downtown is happening in the midst of a lot of poverty. We never felt unsafe, but it is clear Vancouver isn’t alone in finding difficulty “trickling down” the prosperity.

port5Wow, get away from the cool parts, and it is a short trip to freeway Hell. The contrast between the west shore of the river (where the Harbour Drive freeway was removed and turned into a park in the late 1970s) and the east shore (where I-5 Freeway stacks and flyways fill the skyline) is pretty much a case for choosing the kind of City you want. From all around the City, there are peek-a-boo views of stacked freeways. It would be interesting to study how the 4-lane I-405, which somewhat constrains the western expansion of Downtown, may actually add to the density and resultant vibrancy of downtown.

port6We rode bikes! Portland has a relatively new Bikeshare program, sponsored by some local shoe company. It is similar to, but different than, both Vancouver’s Mobi and New York’s Citibikes, mostly in that all of the electronics are embedded in the bike. A little solar-powered console above the rear wheel takes your info, controls the lock, and includes a GPS locator to tell where the bike is, meaning you can park it pretty much anywhere, not just at the designated stations. We paid $12 for a day pass, which gave us 180 minutes of rides. The system was easy to use, the bikes adequately tough and stable, and no helmet law required! (although I noticed most people on bikes were wearing helmets, probably more reflecting the inconsistent cycling infrastructure in most neighbourhoods than the need for a law).

port7Once we had bikes, we crossed the River to Mississippi and Hawthorne, two commercial/residential neighbourhoods that were not suburb, but more the fringe of the urban area, rather like W41st in Kerrisdale or East Columbia in Sapperton. Both had their charms, but Mississippi won me over with a more human scale road. Mississippi Ave is 12m wide, two-lanes with parking; Hawthorne Blvd for much of its length is one of those 16m-wide 4-lane + central turn lane no parking behemoth stroads that suck the energy off of the street. Both were cool areas, worth the time to stroll, one just felt more like a place I wanted to spend time.

port8There are a lot of food trucks in Portland, entire City blocks dedicated to their semi-permanent establishment. We appreciated them during our walks about, but I was a little surprised how their ubiquity didn’t actually foster much originality. Burritos, Shawarma/Gyros, and Pad Thai were ubiquitous, but there wasn’t a lot of kale tofu macaroni options. Why does mainstreaming something always take the fun out of it?

port9The Saturday farmers’ market at the South Park Blocks, however, was incredible. There is so much farming in the Willamette Valley, with a moderately warm climate, plenty of sun, and a long growing season, the variety of “local” fruits and vegetables is astounding. With a market like this, why would anyone ever go to Whole Foods?

port10Yes, peer pressure, after three days, finally dragged me into Powell Books. Skepticism verging on cynicism (I don’t have time to read any more books!) was abated by my seeing a book of Neal Stephenson essays, and a Robert Millar autobiography, which I both *had* to have. What a sucker.

port11There was also some beer pressure. We stopped at several small to medium sized breweries and character tap houses. We tasted beer from the premises, and beer from far-off places like Bend, and Bellingham. We tasted barrel-aged beers, sours, barley wines, and Westcoast IPAs that were like concentrated hop syrup. We were often surprised, seldom disappointed. It was also nice to be immersed in an atmosphere where drinking beer was about flavours and aromas, creativity and locality. The tap house scene was brick walls and art, not TV screens and sports. We sat at the bar, told people our stories, an they told us theirs. The food was locally sourced charcuterie, not hot wings and dry ribs. The whole vibe was hipster to the max, but cool and comfortable.

port12Finally, we saw a Wilco show. Which was remarkable. I have seen them many times in the past, but every time brings new and different pleasures. This was a softer, more laid back version of Wilco than some of the recent tours, which suited @MsNWimby fine, but they still blew the roof off with Spiders (Kidsmoke). Best quote of the night (I can only paraphrase) was Jeff Tweety describing Nels’ thrashing his beat-up Jazzmaster at the end of the otherwise-mellow Impossible Germany: “If you have a band, and you have a song, and you have a guitarist who can do that with it, you put it on the setlist every f’ing night!” I have to agree. Every time I see him play it, I swear it is it the greatest guitar performance I have ever seen. Every damn time. (the spine-shiver hits me at about 5:30 in the video below)

My overall impression is that Portland is fun, and an interesting place to spend time, but it reminds me that we do things really well here in Greater Vancouver. Portland has the laid-back Vancouver vibe (one we are perhaps losing?), but lacks the scenic surroundings. They do some streets and public spaces really well, but are clearly facing development pressures and expanding suburbs that limit their ability to calm their streets. The cost of housing looked like it was creeping up, if not to Vancouver crisis levels, clearly there were a lot of people left behind, and no apparent (to a passing tourist) effort to address the issue. By USA standards, it is an incredibly easy-to-visit city, with an active downtown, and has some cultural elements that really stand out, but it looks more fun to visit than to live there.

Maybe Bend.

ASK PAT: Electrical utility

Chelsea asks—

Why does New Westminster have its own electrical utility? What benefits does it deliver to residents and businesses? Seeing as every time Hydro raises its rates to pay for new infrastructure or repairs we have to raise ours too.

Reason I ask is that as a single homeowner living in an apartment, I pay a flat rate that is higher than BC Hydro’s step 1 rates, and I never use enough electricity to move me into step 2 if we were on BC Hydro. So basically…families and people who use a lot of power over a two-month billing period are getting a discount compared to BCH, and I’m paying more.

We also don’t get the benefits of online access to our electricity consumption or basic things like e-bills. It’s nice that I could still pay my bill in person at City Hall if I chose…but I think I’d take being able to see my usage online, just like my cellphone bill or my cable/Internet.

I could have sworn I already wrote this blog post and drawn the graph below, but I can’t find anything in my archives, so I guess I just dreamed about it, or half-wrote it then moved on. So thanks for the reminder!

First off, we have our own electrical utility because we have always had our own electrical utility. It started in 1891, which makes it 70 years older than BC Hydro, and even 7 years older than Hydro’s grandfather, BC Electric Railway Company. Though most local municipal power systems across BC were amalgamated into BC Hydro (or West Kootenay Power, now FortisBC, or other entities), a few still remain independent.

The most obvious benefit is that the City makes money selling electricity. We purchase it at wholesale rates from BC Hydro, and we sell it at retail rates similar to what BC Hydro charges users in adjacent communities (more on this below). The difference between the two is about $8 Million a year. Some of that goes to pay for the operation of the utility (maintaining all those poles and wires, and the staff to do so) and contingency funds to pay for asset replacement as the system ages, but a significant portion of it goes into the City’s coffers, where it effectively offsets property taxes.

There are a few other benefits as well. We generally have more reliable power service and faster response during storm events, because we have dedicated crews and contractors who concentrate on dealing with New West issues while BC Hydro is sometimes stretched a little thin during large storm events. We also, by owning so much of our own utility assets, can leverage that for things like installing a fibre network (happening now) and district energy utilities (coming soon, I hope).

Historically, our Electrical Utility has emphasized reliable service and economy, and has (how can I put this politely…) lagged behind a bit on customer service innovation like on-line billing. They don’t have much of a web presence, and mostly operate out of a non-descript building adjacent to our works yard. Even finding out how our rates work can be a bit of a challenge with the City’s website, as most customers would not think to search for Schedule A of the Electrical Utility Bylaw to get answers. Really, in 2016, they shouldn’t have to. This is a place where a little Community Engagement effort would go a long way.

Now onto the rates issue. The City’s policy has been to maintain retail rates similar to BC Hydro retail rates, and overall when all of our different residential, commercial, industrial, and other rates are combined together, you find this is the case. However, the actual structure of how we charge is slightly different, and ultimately, some people pay a little more than they would on BC Hydro, some pay a little less.

As you have discovered, our base rate for residential users (the amount you pay to have an account, regardless of electrical use) works out to be a few cents higher per 2-month billing period (New West charges $11.92 per 2-month period, BC Hydro charges $0.1835 per day). We then charge a flat $0.0993/ kWh of use, where BC Hydro charges $0.0829 for the first 1350kWh per billing period (2 months) and $0.1243 for any above 1350kWh. So, although collectively, we pay about the same rate, residential users (like you and I ) who use less electricity probably pay more per unit relative to BC Hydro rates, that people who use a lot. To graph it out, it looks like this:


According to BC Hydro, the average BC household uses about 900kWh of electricity every month. If this average holds true for New West, then the average household is paying about $5.80 per month more than they would in a BC Hydro service area, or almost $70 more per year. Strangely, if you are an efficient apartment dweller and use half that amount of electricity, your monthly New West premium is even higher – at $93 per year.

If you use about 1130kWh per month, then your rates are the same as BC Hydro, and the more you use, the more your savings go up. At twice the average, 1800kWh/month, you would get about a $200 per year discount off BC Hydro rates by living in New West.

As our rate structure is flat, you are not subsidizing larger users – we all pay the same for each unit of electricity in New West. However, comparison to BC Hydro’s stepped rate structure gives the impression that we are encouraging consumption, but not doing enough to actively discourage it. If you add the base and metered values together, here is the true cost of what you pay for every kWh of electricity, based on your usage:


For context, my (admittedly back-of-the envelope) estimate is that the average New West household saves about $160 a year in Property Taxes (or, depending on your viewpoint, receives $160 worth of extra services from the City they don’t need to pay for through taxes) because we have an electrical utility and the profit it earns for the City. That might make you feel better, except that property taxes index with the value of your home, so again, the big-house-owner probably gets more benefit than the apartment dweller.

In summary, I don’t think this is good. I support the concept of City using the Electrical Utility to provide a financial benefit to the residents that own the utility, and offset their taxes. I support using “similar to BC Hydro” as the benchmark for our retail rates. However, I think the impression of benefitting larger users that is created by our flat rate structure sends the wrong message. I remember asking some questions about this back when I was still pretty new to the job, and I seem to remember getting a report that more of less confirmed what the graph above shows.

I’m not on the Electrical Commission, and I’m not sure when the next rate review will occur, but I’ll see what I can do.

Council, August 29, 2016

The first post-summer meeting occurred on August 29th, which is really only about 2/3 of the way through summer, but the levers and tubes in the Mayor’s Office that control the weather have been dialed back towards continued cooling and precipitation, and the days have shortened enough that it was dark outside before the end of the meeting.

As it was the last meeting of the month we had a Public Hearing at the start, with only one item on the agenda:

Zoning Amendment (Housekeeping) Bylaw No. 7862, 2016 (415 and 444 East Columbia Street)
When a couple of commercial properties in Sapperton were zoned, the specific use “pharmacy” was not included in the zoning language, although that same use is allowed in pretty much every other commercial space in the neighbourhood. It so happens one of the vacant spaces is a perfect fit for a successful pharmacy in Sapperton hoping to expand. The best way to manage this problem is to fix the zoning language for the two properties that were missed all those years ago.

We had two people present written submissions, one in favour (the proponent) and one opposed (who felt there were already too many pharmacies in the City). We had one person appear at the Public Hearing, requesting clarity about the change, without expressing an opinion for or against.

Council moved to give the zoning amendment a third reading.

We then moved into our Regular Meeting agenda, where we started with the Bylaw just discussed in Public Hearing:

Zoning Amendment (Housekeeping) Bylaw No. 7862, 2016
The above-mentioned Zoning Amendment Bylaw was given Third Reading.

The following Items were moved on Consent:

Hyack Square Dedication Brick Revised Layout and Budget
As part of the Wait For Me Daddy celebrations a couple of years ago, the City set up a Dedication Brick program, where you could purchase a brick with an inscription and have it added to the paving around the statue for perpetuity.

Sales of the bricks didn’t necessarily meet expectations, although we still expect something like 200 dedicated bricks to be installed. The numbers have led to a bit of a re-design of the paving plan.

Arts Strategy Update
The City’s existing Arts Strategy dates back to 2008 – it is time for a refresh. The City has grown a lot since 2008, as has the Arts scene. The Anvil Centre being the largest example of this change, along with the upcoming renovation of the Massy Theatre, but there is so much more. The hugely successful annual Cultural Crawl, the opening of interesting arts scenes from the Heritage Grill to Old Crow Coffee and 100 Braid Studios, the re-alignment of the City’s festival season, secure funding for our Public Art program…

There is a need to refresh the strategy to leverage the best we have for continued growth of the City’s arts and culture, and make the most of the support the City provides. A plan will be put together in the next year to inform the 2017-2022 planning window. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to take part!

508 Agnes Street: HRA Amendment Bylaw No. 7817, 2016
This Heritage Revitalization Agreement is a few years old, and the Owner has not been able to complete all of the work included in the agreement – heritage renovations often have their own timeline. The delays are well defended and reasonable, but the Agreement has an expiry date, and so Council needs to agree to extend the HRA to allow the owners to complete their work.

97 Braid Street: Temporary Use Permit for Off-Site Parking for Hospital Staff and Construction Workers during Phase 1 RCH Redevelopment
During the upcoming major works at RCH, the regular parking patterns will be disturbed, both for regular hospital employees who are losing part of their lot, and for construction workers. Fraser Health has swung a deal with the owners of 97 Braid to set up temporary parking in the big empty lot at Brain and Brunette in front of the Sky Train Station.

The City had concerns that charging Hospital staff and construction workers $40 a month to park in an outdoor gravel lot more than kilometre away then rely on a shuttle, is going to exacerbate the situation where RCH employees and contractors park in residential neighbourhoods around the hospitals. In light of this, Fraser Health will work with our Bylaws staff to step up parking enforcement in Sapperton residential neighbourhoods.

88 Tenth Street (Boston Pizza): DVP00610 to vary Sign Bylaw
Boston Pizza want to change some of their signage to make their business more visible from Stewardson Way, which requires a variance of the sign bylaw. The signage is not too obtrusive, and fits with the design of the building, so I have no reason to oppose the idea, except maybe that I have never forgiven, and will never forgive, the dirty stinking Bruins. F#*&$% Marchand and his fat, stupid face.

Proposed Sewerage and Drainage Regulation Amendment Bylaw No.
7863, 2016 and Associated Bylaw Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No.
7860, 2016

Our Sewerage and Drainage Bylaw is being updated to better regulate the discharge of water from construction sites. When they dig a hole and put a foundation for a building, construction crews need to get rid of the rainwater and (sometimes) groundwater they encounter.

This Bylaw change will allow us to better control the quality of those water discharges that go to our storm drainage system to reduce sediment that had negative impacts on our storm drainage infrastructure (pipes, valves, pumps) and contaminants like concrete fines which can impact water pH and damage aquatic habitat when the water is eventually discharged to the river.

2015 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report
We have a regulatory requirement to test the water quality in the City to assure it meets provincial drinking water standards for things like dissolved metals, bacteria and chlorine levels. And we are required to report this out. The reports show the water is safe to drink. No need to buy the bottled stuff.

Appointment of External Auditor
The City, like most organizations handling public money, need to hire and pay for an external auditor to make sure our books meet all applicable accounting standards. We re-hire every 5 years, and the time is now.

1102, 1110, 1116 and 1122 Salter Street, OCP Amendment, Rezoning, Public Consultation
This mixed housing development in Queensborough will include small detached houses, duplexes, strata townhouses, and freehold row homes, and will result in the dedication of some land for a park.

This project has to go through several levels of review, including public consultation, and will eventually got to Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.

1023 Third Avenue: HRA and Heritage Designation – Preliminary Report
Another Preliminary report, with committee and public consultation work to come, but this project looks interesting. The Heritage Home on the lot has been increasingly in bad repair over the last couple of years, so I am happy to see a serious effort being put into preserving it and yet finding room for more innovative and sensitive infill in the Brow neighbourhood.

Consent Agenda passed, our regular agenda items were then discussed, starting with an Opportunity to Be Heard:

709 and 705 Cumberland Street: Development Variance Permit
These properties were created as a subdivision of a single lot as part of a Heritage Restoration Agreement for the Historic house on the lot. Unfortunately, during renovation of the heritage home, the conditions of the HRA were not able to be kept, and the heritage home was lost. Therefore, the City is taking away the subdivision that was granted. This requires a Development Variance to change the original development plan. No-one showed up to exercise their right to be heard.

Amongst the Presentations to Council was a reporting out by TransLink on the recent Public Consultations for the Pattullo Bridge replacement project. There will be an entire blog topic here, coming soon, so check back in if you really want to hear my pontificating.

Piling Noise
I don’t know if you noticed they are driving piles for two construction projects downtown. The City has construction noise bylaws that limit what times loud noises can be made, but we ae realizing that pile driving noise is different that the running of generators and powersaws. It has been loud downtown and on the Quayside.

Now, we recognize that many of the people most disturbed by this work live in building that are, themselves, built on piles. However, “we’ve always done it this way” is a terrible reason to accept any standard, so the Mayor has asked Staff to explore what other jurisdictions do in regards to regulating pile driving, if we can adjust timing or methods, and to ask if there are other technology solutions that are less disruptive (such as using vibration installation, drilling, or even noise suppression at the driving site).

It may not mean immediate relief, but there are still building lots downtown and on the waterfront, and pile driving is not ending with these projects, I am glad we are looking forward to reduce the impacts (pun!) of future development.

OCP – Draft Land Use Designation Map & Community Consultation
Yes, the OCP is back for more Consultation. I will have more to say in future blog posts about this, but we now have a Draft land use map, based on the consultation that came out of all of those earlier maps you may have seen if you took part.

To make sense of the new map, you need to read the new Land Use Designations. You also need to recognize that these changes have no effect on the current land use, and that zoning requirements about what kind of development will fit on what kind of lot are yet to come.

However, it is worth your time to look at the map, and to take part in the upcoming public consultation meetings coming up in late September and October to get your two cents in on the future of the City. All the info you want or need is here.

Fraser River Middle School – School Bus
According to the Ministry of Education, a Grade 8 student can get themselves to school 4.8km away. That means that, according to the Ministry’s funding mechanism, no student in New Westminster lives too far from the new Fraser River Middle School to walk there.

Some parents of the Connaught Heights and West End areas disagree, and have taken matters into their own hands. They plan to contract a bus service, and run it as a neighbourhood co-op. This after being frustrated by the Ministry’s refusal to fund a bus, and TransLink’s refusal to adjust their service to accommodate school routes (which must sound familiar to Queensborough parents of NWSS students!). They have approached some funding partners to reduce the burden on the parents, and to help get the proof-of-concept running.

The City doesn’t run school busses, full stop. It is not in our mandate, and no other City in the Lower Mainland does it (I don’t even know of any in BC that do). The Ministry of Education’s shift away from funding school busses over the last decade have been shameful, but the City stepping in creates all kinds of problems, from cost to liability, to basic fairness. Of the $5.48 per mil you paid in Property Taxes this year, $1.67 per mil goes directly to the Ministry of Education – we already collect taxes for them.

That’s not to say the City doesn’t have a role in school transportation from our $3.42 per mil. We need to provide safe sidewalks, crosswalks, and roads. We need our police to enforce school zones and encourage safe driving around schools. We have created Safe Routes maps, and continue to make infrastructure improvements. We also help promote safe cycling courses in the schools, and work with the local School District implement transportation plans for every school.

However, this initiative is not the City getting into the school bus business. It is providing some seed funding to a community- lead initiative, financed by parents to benefit a neighbourhood and (hopefully) reduce the number of cars running around our residential nieghbourhoods twice a day. A few months ago, the City agreed to provide a bit of seed funding to assist the Downtown-Uptown Connector shuttle bus (“DUC”), to help determine if this community-led initiative is viable and serves a populace. That is clearly within our mandate, and I am happy to support it.

New Westminster Civic Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 7842, 2016 – Results of the Alternative Approval Process
To the surprise of no-one, the AAP failed to receive the required number of submissions from the public to force a referendum on this loan initiative, with about 0.2% response rate (which falls short of the 10% required). The City is now authorized to borrow up to $28.3Million from the Municipal Finance Authority to fund several infrastructure initiatives.

Consideration of Heritage Alteration Permit Applications during the Heritage Control Period in the Queen’s Park Neighbourhood
This Item and two Demolition Permit applications were tabled by Council for consideration in a future meeting – meaning we will have more discussion about this in two weeks at our next meeting. For now the most I can say is that the types of concerns raised by delegates at Council in regards to the policy developed around the Heritage Control Period are a pretty good summary of the reasons why we tabled these discussions until staff can provide Council with more information to support decision making on these issues.

We then did the usual Bylaws shuffle:

Sewerage and Drainage Regulation Amendment Bylaw No. 7863, 2016
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 7860, 2016

As mentioned above, these Bylaws regulating discharges of water from construction sites was given three readings.

HRA (508 Agnes Street) Amendment Bylaw No. 7866, 2016
As mentioned above, this extension for the HRA to give the owners more time to complete their renovation work was given three readings.

Queensborough Special Study Area – OCP Bylaw No. 7822, 2016
Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7823, 2016

As last discussed in the Public Hearing on May 30, 2016, these changes to the land use in parts of Queensborough were adopted by Council.

Civic Infrastructure Loan Authorization No. 7842, 2016
As mentioned above, this authorization for the Infrastructure Loan was adopted by Council.

And that, but for some correspondence basically referred to Staff, was the end of summer exciting return to regular Council programming. See you in two weeks.