Plans and Promises

I have had interesting interactions on social and traditional media this week, and it got me thinking about plans the City makes, and where those interact with promises made by politicians. I am new to making the latter, have made the former for a long time, but haven’t really thought about the differences. let me see if I can tie this together into a cogent discussion.

It started with this Facebook post:

Hey Patrick, Earlier this year you spoke of the pedestrian and cycle improvements that were soon to be built along Braid. What does soon mean? You spoke of right away, seems you’ve become just another politician, promises promises…….

I have a slightly vague memory of having this conversation, as it was around the time some public consultation was being planned around this project. I knew the project was coming along because we talked about it at ACTBiPed, and because I attended an event as Acting Mayor just before the last Federal election where an MP from and adjacent riding announced some federal funding to help fund the project.

So I replied to the Facebook post with a link to the project page (above), and slightly cheekily followed with “no promises, though”, because it seemed to me the poke about “promises” by my inquisitor was slightly tongue-in-cheek. Or maybe not, as another person took slight offence to my flippant attitude, requiring yet another response by me that provided more detail, proving once again that Social Media is a terrible place to infer nuance.

The longer version of my response is that the project is coming along, but this isn’t really something I would think of as a “political promise”. I don’t think anyone ran for Council supporting or opposing a plan to put green separated lanes on the north side of Braid Street to connect to the United Boulevard bikeway. However, some of us were more supportive than others of the Master Transportation Plan for the City adopted just before the election (I don’t think anyone NOT supportive of it was elected). I am not only still supportive of it, but am supportive of rapidly implementing the active transportation measures included in that plan, including filling some of the important gaps in our bicycling network.

When it comes to building certain connections, though, that is really a complicated discussion between Council, staff, our Advisory Committees and other stakeholders, and is influenced by the capital budget and various priorities. This particular project was seen as a good chance for some senior government grants (applied for and won), represented an important gap, and was generally seen as ready to go. Drawings were created, some cost estimates done along with some public and stakeholder consultation. Capital budget was set aside in the 2017 year to do the works. My “supporting” this plan was a very minor part of the plan coming together for 2017, even as one of the members of a seven person Council.

That said, I can see a couple of potential issues that may prevent this from happening on the existing timeline. If you look at the poster boards from the Public Consultation, you will note that the map has red lines on it. Those are property lines, and a large part of the project is within rail property. I understand that we have agreements for these properties, but as we are learning with whistle cessation measures elsewhere in the City, the way rules and agreements work on rail lines is not always straight-forward, and it is best not to be too hasty predicting how those agreements will work out when it comes time to roll out the excavator. The second issue is, of course, the upcoming Brunette Interchange project by the Ministry of Transportation. I can’t tell you too much about it because MoT has not yet released their project drawings, but if there are changes in how Braid Street works through this area, we may need to go back to the drawing board. I don’t know the answers to the questions, nor are they completely in Council’s control.

I have every reason to expect this project will proceed in 2017 as planned, but all plans are subject to change, based on the rule of best laid plans. This doesn’t mean we won’t build a safe cycling and pedestrian route between Braid and the Bailey Bridge, it just means that the connection may not arrive exactly as we envision it today, or on that timeline. We’ll stick to the goals, we may need to change the plan. Stay tuned.

As for “promises”, I remember promising to support the Master Transportation Plan, to support and work towards implementation of the transit, pedestrian, and bike infrastructure improvements in that plan, I promised that stakeholders like HUB and the members of ACTBiPed would be involved more in planning these types of projects. I also promised I would do everything I can to be the most open Councillor about talking about how decisions around the Council table are made – mostly through this blog and other Social Media, hoping that openness would build more trust in the work City Hall is doing. If we make a decision you don’t agree with, I hope you will at least understand my motivation for making that decision, and hopefully you will be angry at me for the right reasons.

Which brings us to this week’s editorial in the Record, where they are critical of Council’s approach to the Q2Q bridge. They are right that the current situation is a let-down, and that, ultimately, Council has to own that disappointment. I may (cheekily) offer surprise that they claim to have known all along it was impossible to build the bridge, and didn’t bother to point that out to anyone, even when previous engineering reports suggested it was well within scale of our budget, but that is not the part of the editorial that made me retort. Instead, I was pretty much with their argument until this:

It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out that Queensborough’s project would be low on the priority list. In fact, you just have to drive down Ewen Avenue to know that Queensborough often gets the short end of the stick.

I have to respectfully disagree with the suggestion that this Council ignores Queensborough as some sort of political calculation. That the Editor used Ewen Avenue as an example suggests to me they have not been to Queensborough in some time. Ewen Avenue is undergoing the single largest road improvement project in New Westminster in the last decade. Two years into a three-year $29 Million upgrade, the entire length of Ewen Avenue is going to be a brand new transportation spine for all modes. It has been a big, disruptive construction project, but the end result is becoming visible now, and will change how Ewen Avenue connects the community in a pretty great way.

If the issue is priorities, the Editor may be reminded that the Q2Q plan was part of a series of DAC-funded projects that started with $6.2 Million towards the $7.7 Million renovation of the Queensborough Community Centre, including the opening of the City’s first remote library. It included another $5 Million in Park and greenway improvements for Queensborough (including the South Dyke Road Walkway, Boundary Road Greenway, Sukh Sagar and Queensborough Neighbourhood Parks, and a pretty kick-ass all-wheel park). These were the first thing done with DAC funds, not a low priority.

Just two weeks ago at Council, we turned down capital funding support for a Child Care facility in Uptown because we placed the need in Queensborough as higher priority, and dedicated our limited child care funds toward filling that need. That isn’t “the short end of the stick”, that is including Queensborough’s needs along with the other neighbourhoods of the City when directing limited resources towards where the need is greatest. This council has a record of fighting (and winning!) to keep Queensborough in the same federal riding as the mainland, and a record of fighting (and losing) to keep it in the same provincial riding. Queensborough has never been an afterthought at the Council table during my time there, but a neighbourhood we continue to invest in and be proud of.

The situation for Q2Q sucks, there is no way to dress that up or say it more elegantly. A set of projects was conceived a decade ago, and of them, this project does not appear workable in the current form. The work is ongoing right now to determine how the remaining DAC funds can best be used connecting Queensborough to the mainland, and I am hoping a new and viable plan will come along soon. Call the current set-back a broken promise if you must, but the decision to not move ahead with a $40 Million option right now is not proof of a City disregarding one neighbourhood, it is a matter of understanding our fiscal limits as a City of 70,000 people with dreams perhaps bigger than our reality.

Council – October 24, 2016

We had a mercifully short Council Agenda this week, as there is so much else going on in New West these days that it was good to get a bit of a reprieve from all the new business. Regardless, it was a Public Hearing meeting, as all last-meetings-of-the-month are, and there was one item on the PH agenda.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7832, 2016 for 1209 Hamilton Street (718 Twelfth Street)
This was a public hearing on a zoning amendment that would allow a residential duplex on Hamilton Street to operate as a daycare for 20 children, and perhaps most importantly, 12 of those spaces will be infant/toddlers, which is a desperate need in the City.

This duplex actually sits on a large lot that faces 12th Street, sharing the lot with a commercial building and assembly hall. There will be no external changes to the size, siting, or height of the building, and the amount of parking available on site meets the zoning requirements. The project was supported by the Advisory Planning Commission and Moody Park Residents’ Association; there was a Public Open house held, and a presentation to the West End Residents’ Association.

We received no correspondence in response to the call for Public Hearing, but did receive correspondence on this issue earlier. A neighbour wrote us (and collected several signatures from their neighbours) in opposition. There were several concerns that I did not think were relevant to this specific application (Daycares are rarely the cause of, nor the solution to, litter), but the main thrust appeared to be a lack of parking for the facility. We also had one person present to Council who was not strictly opposed to the project, but was also concerned about the parking issue.

I need to comment on the parking issue. The Child Care facility will have on-site parking for their workers, but will need the street for pick-up and drop-off. This block of Hamilton Street is faced by 7 houses (other than the Child Care applicant). A quick Google Earth survey of the block finds that those houses have a combined 11 covered parking spots (garages or carports) and 8 more off-street parking pads. A total of 19 private parking places for 7 houses. Child Care spaces are a desperate need in our community, arguably more than car parking spaces. I cannot rectify denying a permit to an established and trusted operator because a few minutes of parking inconvenience on a street where the off-street parking is so ample.

Council moved to refer this item to the Regular Council Meeting, which followed immediately after:

The Regular Council Agenda began with a review of the above Zoning Amendment Bylaw:

Bylaw 7832, 2016 for 1209 Hamilton Street (alias of 718 Twelfth Street)
Council voted to give the Bylaw Third reading.

We then had two Opportunities to be Heard on Development Variance Permits:

DVP 00614 for 1016-1022 Fourth Avenue
The DVP here is for a project that has already been approved, but needs a couple of changes to the design. One change was the result of a minor mistakes in the drawing discovered when the project reached the Building Permit stage. The second is to shift one of the houses backwards on the lot slightly so that a mature Deodar Cedar tree on the site can be preserved.

No-one appeared to speak to the DVP, and Council moved to approve the issuance of the Development Variance Permit

DVP 00602 for 1004 Salter Street
This DVP is to allow for some of the lots in a Queensborough development to not meet the zoning rule that the lot frontage must be greater than 10% of the lot perimeter. The proposed 31 foot lots miss the 10% rule by about 4 feet, because the lot depth is a slightly-longer-than-usual 141 feet. The upside for the neighbourhood if we allow the frontages to be under 10% is more dedicated park space and better operating laneway.

No-one appeared to speak to this DVP, and Council moved to approve issuance of the Development Variance Permit

The following item was moved on Consent:

2016 Santa Parade and Tree Lighting
Set your calendar for Saturday, December 3rd. There will be an always-sunny Santa Parade on Columbia, with events downtown beginning at 11:00am. The always-exciting tree lighting ceremony at Hyack Square will be the night before, December 2 at 7:00pm . Ho ho ho.

The following Item was removed from Consent for discussion:

User Fees and Rates Review
This is our annual review of fees for various City services. The Parks and Recreation Fees were dealt with back in early October, so this covers Engineering and other fees like towing and parking.

Fees are not taxes, they are not meant to fill City coffers, but to cover the cost of the service the City is providing. For some services, this is relatively easy (a replacement trash bin costs about $40), sometimes it is part of a larger cost-recovery and capital investment model ($1.50 per hour represents a small portion of the total cost of operating the Parkade), and sometimes it is really difficult to pull out exactly how much City staff time and resources a service takes (does it really cost $2,450 to process a subdivision application, with all the public process? I’m sure some take much less, and a few complicated ones take a lot more!).

Cost recovery is the ideal, and in reality we need to measure our fees against what other Cities charge, and make sure we are remaining within a ballpark. Staff have provided us a report of a variety of “typical” planning scenarios like rezonings, and show where New West ranks compared to other Cities in the region.

If anything looks out of whack to you, the Bylaw that institutes these fees with be coming to Council on November 7th. You might want to let Mayor and Council know of your concerns before then!

We then moved on to Bylaws:

Engineering Fees and Rates Amendment (Secondary Suites) Bylaw No.7861, 2016
This Bylaw we talked about last week that formalizes how we manage utility fees for secondary suites was adopted by Council. Adjust your water usage appropriately. Or don’t, because it won’t make any difference. (see last week’s rant on this same blog)

Taxation Exemption and Exempt Properties Bylaw No. 7870, 2016
This Bylaw that we also talked about last week and lists the properties to which the City provides an exemption from property taxation was also Adopted. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, etc.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Twelfth Street & Fifth Avenue) No. 7818, 2016
This Zoning Amendment to allow a development a t 12th Street and Fifth Ave finally gets adopted, after seeing Public Hearing back on the 30th of May. I noticed they are sold out when I rode my bike by on Sunday, so they better get building!

And that finished the meeting!

The Q2Q quandary

No doubt the biggest let-down last Council meeting, indeed the biggest disappointment of my time on Council, was the releasing of the updated projected cost numbers for the Q2Q bridge preferred concept.

A short version of this project is that the City will receive “DAC” funding from casino revenues to spend on a fixed pedestrian link between the Quayside and Queensborough, based on a 2007 agreement between the City and the Province. Based on some very preliminary cost estimating, the project was put in the $10 Million range, so Council placed that amount in the budget to support the project. The idea has seen several rounds of public consultation, with several design concepts sketched out and debated. Ultimately, a design that would be acceptable to the regulatory authority that controls river crossings (i.e. a design that allows safe and unfettered barge traffic) and still allows reliable pedestrian use was developed to the point of doing detailed cost estimating. That cost came back at a little over $39 Million. The City doesn’t have $39 Million, and it is hard, with so many competing capital priorities, to see how we can get $39 Million to make this project work. I’m frustrated and disappointed.

However, regular readers (Hi Mom!) know I rarely stick with the short version, so I thought I would go into a bit more detail about how we got here, and where we may go from here, because I want to slay some of the social-media-derived myths about the project.

This project was not killed by NIMBYs. Over the last 10 years or so, the Q2Q project has gone through several iterations. The DAC agreement was in 2007, but it was always anticipated that the Queensborough Community Centre update, other park improvements in Q’Boro, and the MUCF (now called Anvil Centre) would be the completed before the Q2Q project began. The DAC funding did not arrive as one big cheque in 2007, but is allocated as projects come along, and as casino revenues come in. Q2Q was a little further down the timeline.

During those 10 years, preliminary planning work was done on a few concepts for a “fixed link”. At several times, early concepts with very preliminary sketches were bounced off of Quayside and Queensborough residents. For lack of a better term, these concepts were “focus grouped” to test public reaction and determine what potential concerns residents on either side and other important stakeholders may have. They were also run past pedestrians and cycling advocates (like me) to see if their needs were being met.

Three different “high level” crossings were evaluated about 8 years ago. These would completely span the navigable channel at a height that met regulatory requirements (and therefore be about the same height as the Queensborough Bridge). There were some concerned neighbours about the mass of the structure, and some were concerned about the fate of the “Submarine Park”, but there were also some functional and cost concerns with this early concept.

Cable stayed bridge Option 1, estimated cost $19 million.

At the advice of the Council of the time, staff stepped back a bit to take a look at options that didn’t go so high as to span the navigation channel, and would require a lift, swing, or bascule section to open and allow boat passage. This opened up a large number of potential options, including new alignments. For a variety of technical reasons, a bascule was determined to be the best option for a lightweight span with a limited footprint. This evolved, through a type of value engineering, into a couple of models of twin bascules – one at a moderate height (but requiring elevators to be accessible) and one at a low enough height that grades were accessible (but requiring more opening/closing cycles, due to reduced boat clearance).

These also saw some limited public consultation, and some neighbours expressed some concerns about the location of one of the “elevator” options. However, Council felt we had enough information to do a more detailed cost analysis of the most practical alternative. That alternative is the one that came back to Council with the $39 Million price tag. The concerns of neighbours were part of the considerations, but the $39 Million was the deciding factor.

Cost estimates are necessarily iterative.
Someone asked me how this project ballooned from $6 million to $39 Million? The simple answer is it didn’t.

The original DAC funding formula envisioned a ~$10.5 Million crossing. I can’t speak to how that number was arrived at (I wasn’t even a local blogger in 2007!) but I can guess it was a simple bit of math: pedestrian bridge, 200m span, look at a couple of recent examples around the country, don’t worry too much about details (the City can always make up a shortfall if needed from their capital budget), and since we aren’t building it for another decade, any estimate we make now is likely to be off anyway. The point wasn’t to plan a bridge at that time, but to earmark parts of this one-time funding source towards worthy projects.

The City then went to work on some of the other DAC projects: the Anvil Centre, the Queensborough Community Centre, and other waterfront improvements in Queensborough. To better make the financing work without having to enter too much long-term debt, they re-allocated some funding between DAC project areas. Consequently, the DAC funds for the Q2Q are now only a little over $6 Million, but another $5 Million in capital reserve funds was earmarked to cover the difference, meaning we still have the ~$11 Million originally earmarked.

As far back as 2009, order-of-magnitude cost estimates for the high-level crossing were in the $15 – $22 Million range. This is when the City went back to the drawing board to see if there were more affordable options, and also started to look around for sponsorship and senior government grant opportunities to see how much of a funding gap could be filled. By 2013, preliminary estimates for the first bascule concept were given as cost of $10.4 Million.

Fast forward to 2016, after Council asked staff to spend a little money on getting some detailed cost estimates on the more refined design, where $11 to $15 Million was still the general thinking, as we became aware of some of the significant engineering challenges. These included the need to install pillars in the river (not just on shore), the barge collision at Queensborough back in 2011 which definitely triggered a closer look at the safety factor for large vessels through the north arm, and the mechanical and operator costs for a bascule bridge. It seemed likely these would offset cost savings that might be realized by not going 22m high and building 1km of ramps. Add a few shifting project priorities as the public consultation and interest in the project increase (Strong enough to carry an ambulance? Wider than 2m for greater pedestrian comfort? Offset to reduce impact on vulnerable riparian habitat on the Q’Boro side?) and things start to add up.

That said, cost estimating for engineering projects is a complicated business, and like most engineering, you get what you pay for. Early estimates were preliminary, in that a lot of the project definition we not yet completed. After working to refine a project enough that we could confidently define important parts of it, Council recently directed staff to get a Class ‘C’ cost estimate, which is considered to be accurate to about 30% variance (i.e., costs are unlikely to be 30% higher or lower than the estimate). We could spend a lot more money to get that estimate down to Class A level, but when the estimate we have is well outside of our affordability range, we need to decide whether the extra design work required would represent money well spent.

I can’t speak too much about the decisions and work done before I was elected, but this webpage has links  to the reports that have come to Council since 2013, where you can (if you care) walk through the public process planning for the Q2Q has been.


This project only appears simple
I wrote a blog post a little while ago that talked about some of the complications and compromises required to make this project work, then followed up to answer a few questions, so I don’t want to go through all of that again. This is not a simple project to build, for a variety of reasons, and it is very different than a simple pedestrian overpass. Strapping a sidewalk onto the side of the existing train bridge raised other issues that seemed insurmountable. Many other proposals I have heard (a bridge to Poplar Island then a second to Queensborough, for example – why build one expensive bridge when you can build two at twice the cost?) have also been similarly evaluated, and either didn’t make sense at the time, or had significant issues that seemed to prevent it happening. If it was easy, we would have done it already.

Q2Q is still a good idea!
This is a serious setback, but I want to make it clear that I am still a big supporter of this project concept. A fixed pedestrian link between Quayside and Queensborough makes so much sense at so many levels. It has a certain tourist appeal (especially if you can build something aesthetically pleasing), but it isn’t for tourists. It is to connect people and businesses on both sides of the North Arm better, it is to connect the great pedestrian and bike routes on both sides of the North Arm, it is a vital piece of transportation infrastructure for the people of New Westminster, and for the region.

Is a passenger ferry a good substitute?
No. I do not think a passenger ferry service is a substitute for a fixed link. As a vital piece of transportation infrastructure, a fixed link provides certainty and reliability that a ferry service can’t. I think of it like a bus route (which can always be cut at the whim of a government) compared to a light rail line (which is a fixed asset difficult to remove). There is reason the bus lines running down Hastings have not resulted in the kind of development that the Skytrain running down Lougheed has – the latter is something people can count on still being there and reliable 20 or 30 years down the road – certainty is an incentive to investment. There is also the strange psychology of having to schedule/wait for a ride, vs. just being able to hop on a bike and spin across at the drop of a hat. The former “feels” like a tourist attraction, the latter more like a transportation link.

However, in the meantime, I think it is worth trialing a ferry service to determine the interest, and perhaps to argue the need for a more permanent link. Or maybe (I sincerely hope) the trial will prove my skepticism wrong. These cannot be the little aquabuses that run to Granville Island – currents and logs and heavy industrial traffic mean the Fraser needs a somewhat more robust design. We will need to invest in some dock upgrades and look for a partner to run the show. It is highly unlikely that a ferry can be made accessible for people with mobility issues. However, with luck we can have something running in the late spring.

What now?
To me, the fixed link dream is not dead, but it is definitely suffering a bit. I am hoping for a miracle some really creative thinking to come along that makes the transportation link more accessible and permanent. I am interested in looking at a more stable and reliable ferry option (like a fixed cable ferry), and wouldn’t turn my nose up at urban tramway ideas (could we connect to New West station?), or a pedestrian tunnel as is common in England, and would get us out of our 22m clearance issue. There may even be more efficient and elegant bridge designs that haven’t seen complete costing analysis but may thread the needle between what is acceptable to the river users and what works as urban transportation infrastructure.

It breaks my heart that we don’t have an immediate path forward on a bridge. I think it is a really important idea for the City, I just wish I could responsibly say the cost as presented made sense for the City.

Council – Oct 17, 2016

I’m going to go right ahead and call the October 17, 2016, edition of Council the priorities and hard choices edition. Although there was lots of good news, there were some no-fun decisions, and saying no is never popular. I didn’t sleep well the night after, because the impacts of the “no”s stand out in your mind much more than the good feelings of the “yes”es.

The following items were moved on the Consent Agenda:

Parkade Public Art Project Lighting
The remaining half of the parkade is going to have an art installation that will be visible from the Pier Park and bridges crossing the river, to be paid for out of the Parkade renewal budget. However, there is an opportunity to use lights to accentuate the public art installation and make it more prominent at night. The Public Art Advisory Committee recommended that we spend the money to install the lights from the Public Art Reserve Fund. Council agreed.

Acting Mayor Appointments for December 2016 to November 2017
The role of Acting Mayor is to fulfill the legal role of the Mayor when His Worship is out of town or otherwise unable to do so. Mostly, this means reviewing and signing forms that take executive oversight, taking the occasional meeting, and (of course) attending official functions. The 6 Councillors share the load by each taking two months out of the year (mostly with the expectation that we won’t take extended vacations during those months). I have March and August again. Send your parking ticket complaints for those two months directly to me.

Establishment of a New Westminster Rent Bank Program
This item was passed on Consent, but our MLA came to Council to delegate on the topic, which lead to a discussion. This is a great program idea, one that has been successful in many other jurisdictions as a pro-active measure to reduce homelessness.

The idea is that a social service agency sets up a short-term loan office for the sole purpose of providing rent (or utility) relief to a person threatened with homelessness. With a high rental population and high percentage of people living close to the edge when it comes to housing affordability, New Westminster can really benefit from a program like this.

Judy Darcy’s office has done a lot of the legwork on this file, forging partnerships with credit unions and service agencies, and securing some seed capital. The City’s contribution will be to provide a small operating grant to cover some expenses, well within the amount of money the City could potentially save by not having to provide shelter or policing and emergency services to people who are made homeless by a short-term financial setback. I’m glad Judy brought this to us, and am proud the City agreed to provide some modest support.

612 – 618 Brantford Street: Official Community Plan Amendment – Consultation Report
This 6-story residential building project at the end of Bent Court in the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood will be going to another round of public consultation, and will culminate in a Public Hearing, so I will hold some of my comments until then.

258 Nelson’s Court (Brewery District Building 6): Consideration of  Issuance of Development Permit
This is a consideration to issue a DP for the sixth building (and third residential tower) at the Brewery District. The DP has no variances, as it is coming after a significant amount of public consultation related to the last couple of phases of the Brewery District development. The design, density, and height of the building are as presented in the earlier rezoning consultations, so no surprises here.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area and Control Period: Work  Plan and Related Terms of Reference
Work on the a potential Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area is progressing, and needs to happen quickly. The temporary protection period that provides Council the legal authority to turn down demolition applications will expire next summer, so we need something in its place, and need to extend our public outreach in regards to creating a defensible and workable process if the community wants to take action on this.

Some public consultation on this is coming in later November. If you live in Queens Park, you might want to start spreading the word to your neighbours. We are serious about reaching out to the public here, but the timelines are tight, and this is a pretty significant change to how the City regulates building form in the neighbourhood – it should lead to exciting conversations.

Exempt Properties – Review of Questionnaire Results
There are lots of properties in the City that don’t pay property taxes, either because of statutory exemptions (ones the province requires through the Community Charter) or through permissive exemptions (ones Council allows after determining the land use serves some public good worth subsidizing). Every year, we publish a list of the permissive exemptions for all to see. Read ‘em and weep.

Report on Major Purchasing Transactions for the Period May 1 to  August 31, 2016
Three times a year, Staff report to Council (and the public) what purchases over $100,000 they have made over the last 4 months, and all “sole source” purchases over $50,000. Note, these are not new costs, but budgeted expenses for already approved projects or equipment replacement, and they are being reported out mostly to demonstrate that our procurement practices are open and defensible.

337 Fourth Street: Development Variance Permit 00611 for Parking  Space Exemption for Secondary Suite – Consideration of Issuance
The owner of this home wishes to legalize their secondary suite, which is permitted by their zoning, however they would be required to provide a second parking spot on site. This would, in turn, require the removal of two mature trees, and even the removal of a City boulevard tree.

Instead, they are asking for a variance removing the requirement for another off-street parking spot, such that the trees can be protected: providing a relatively affordable housing option in the heart of Queens Park while protecting trees. This generally sounds like a good solution to me, but if you don’t agree, there will be an opportunity to be heard on October 24, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

725 Fifth Street: Development Variance Permit 00608 for Parking  Space Exemption for Secondary Suite – Consideration of Issuance
Similar to the item right above, except it is two trees and it is in Glenbrook North. Again, if you like this idea, or hate it, there will be an opportunity to be heard on October 24, 2016. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

We then (after Proclamations) had a couple of Presentations on new development projects being proposed:

145 – 201 E. Columbia Street: Rezoning and Development  Permit (DPS00044) for Proposed Six Storey Mixed Use Commercial  and Residential (Rental) Building with Two Townhouse Units
This was a preliminary report, with the project still to go to public consultation in the neighbourhood, Design Panel, Advisory Planning Committee, and potentially to a Public Hearing if it makes it through those processes. The project is on the edge of Economic Health Care Cluster proposed for E.Columbia as peripheral development around the expanded RCH. Wesgroup is planning to make it a 6-story 70 unit secured rental building with retail or commercial on the ground floor along E.Columbia.

600 to 720 Quayside Drive: Special Development Permit Application and Development Variance Permit – Preliminary Report
This is the big project of the week, and the biggest pending project in town. This is again only a preliminary report, but the project as proposed meets the current Master Plan and Zoning as far as land use, density, parking and such, and would only need a DVP, which is generally less onerous process than a Rezoning and starting a new Development Permit from scratch – that work was done back in 2013-2014 and final Zoning awarded in November 2014. Short version: there will be a public Opportunity to be Heard, but the timelines for Public Consultation on this project are much shorter that you might expect.

I can maybe write more later about the various aspects of this project. It hits a lot of the right marks as far as public realm and completing the waterfront vision. The height (53 stories for the tallest building, which is 6 more than currently allowed in the zoning) is sure to raise a few eyebrows and will predictably attract the most media attention, but the density is the same as the previous three-tower proposal, and significantly less than the original 5-tower concept for the site. The reduced footprint means more public space and better opportunities for connecting people to the waterfront. People spend way more time interacting with the bottom 6 floors of a building than the top floors 6 floors, but you know which we are going to end up talking about.

The biggest concern I have with this project right now is the impact on the River Market, which I think is a keystone business in this City, and the defining element of our waterfront. It has had its ups and down in the 30 years since it opened, and its fate has paralleled the economic cycles in the City. However, I cannot overstate its symbolic importance to the recent renewal of our waterfront and the role it plays in making our waterfront active.

The River Sky development and the construction around Begbie Street to facilitate whistle cessation have had an impact on the businesses at the Market. They have been, like many of the businesses on Front Street impacted by the Mews development, patient and understanding that the short-term pain of being adjacent a construction site is offset by the long-term gain of promised improved streetscape, more customers, and more vibrancy in the neighbourhood.

There has been expectation, and even anticipation, of a new development project at this site, but the several years of latency has led to the impression that nothing is likely to occur until after River Sky is done. It now appears that next phase is going to come sooner than expected, and overlap with the River Sky construction is possible. There are details to dig into here, through a Servicing Agreement and Construction Management Plan, so I will remain optimistic that mitigation of these impacts is possible through adjusted timing or other accommodations, because the development as proposed brings a lot of good things to the waterfront, but we need a viable waterfront still operating when it arrives.

The following items were removed from the Consent Agenda for discussion:

Quayside to Queensborough (Q2Q) Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge –  Cost Estimate and Crossing Options
This is the most disappointing part of the evening’s agenda. I have for years supported the concept of a fixed Q2Q crossing, since I was just a lowly bike blogger at 10th and Royal. It is only after getting elected and digging into the details did I start to understand the range of complications this project presents. There have been several proposed solutions taken to public consultations, none of them perfect, but each of them presenting a unique set of challenges and coming with their own group of critics.

I can’t simplify this enough: We don’t have $40 Million to build a bridge. It simply isn’t in the budget of a City of 70,000 people with numerous competing infrastructure demands. The potential for us to fill the funding gap with senior government assistance is pretty limited, and the ask is big.

I will need to write more about this in a future blog, as the public reaction is already filling with rumours and suspicion (rhymes notwithstanding), but the short version is that it isn’t quite time to put the pencils down, but we are no longer full steam ahead (wow, mix metaphors much?). We need to look at the cost drivers, both engineering and regulatory, and look at alternatives that serve the Queensborough neighbourhood. Meanwhile, we are looking at trialing a passenger ferry service, which is (in my opinion) not an equal alternative, but may be the only path forward.

Proposed 2017 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
Time to populate your calendars, schedule your babysitters, set up your PVR, and book your vacations: the 2017 Council Calendar is live. Don’t miss a riveting minute. The gallery offers comfortable seats, but you will only need the edge. Please, no wagering.

New Westminster Child Care Strategy (October 2016)
The City is aggressively moving to address a chronic shortage of Child Care facilities (and most importantly – affordable child care options) in the City. There is a lot of absorb here in this report, and there are a variety of ways we can help support or facilitate the development of more spaces, and how to address the growing need for affordable spaces. However, we need to be strategic, because there is (and will always be) more need that we can hope to fund as a local government. This becomes obvious when you read down to the next two agenda items.

Fundamentally, this is a senior government responsibility, and we need them to start to invest so that we can concentrate on doing things within our jurisdiction to make spaces more available. However, failing a change of government to one that cares about funding the needs of families, we need to start having discussions locally about what the role of our Reserve Fund and Grants are, and whether the formulas are providing enough resources to address the growing need.

Funding Request to Address the Child Care Situation in Queensborough
As reinforced by a Public Delegation from one of the not-for-profit childcare operators in town, the situation for Child Care in Queensborough is dire, with lengthy waiting lists meeting the numerous new young families moving to the neighbourhood. The infant/toddler level of care is most troubling, as it is the economically most difficult to set up and operate.

Our Social Planner has worked on a plan to re-purpose an empty piece of City land that is already appropriately located and zoned, and has identified a potential source of grant funds to help with the capital setup costs. We moved to use the majority of our remaining Child Care Reserve fund to do the preliminary site prep work, and begin the process of securing those grants.

701 Sixth Street: Glenbrooke Daycare Society Request for Financial  Support
Here is the harder part, and a decision I don’t think anyone on Council was happy to make, to follow a recommendation no-one on staff was happy to make. We supported the recommendation to not fund this project to begin evaluating the engineering/building code changes required to add more childcare spaces to the Glenbrook Daycare location on Sixth Street.

As discussed above, we invest a lot in Daycare here in New West, especially for an aspect of program delivery that really should be funded by senior governments. However, our reserve fund is going to be completely tapped, and Queensborough is the priority right now. This project carried too much uncertainty for us to place it above other needs in the community right now.

As mentioned in the discussion above on the Child Care Strategy, we are going to have to have a discussion in Council about the funding formula for our Childcare Reserve Fund, and whether it is meeting the needs of the community.

Utilities User Fees and Rates Bylaw Amendment: Utility Charge Exemptions for Unoccupied Secondary Suites
This Bylaw simply formalizes what has been a long-standing policy regarding utility rates for secondary suites. If you have a legal secondary suite in your house, you pay 50% more for your utilities, unless you submit an affidavit to the City that the secondary suite is not occupied by a renter.

Frankly, I feel like this is a ham-fisted way to try to create fairness in our water and sewerage charges. Our practice is to make broad (almost certainly false) generalizations about how much water people use based on their domestic / housing situation, then apply those arbitrary categories to determining how much they pay to support our water and sewer utilities.

Last year, at the end of the drought that led the region to Stage 3 water restrictions, and flirting with stage 4, we had a delegation come to council asking about our approach to managing our limited water resources better, managing them more responsibly. We luckily did not have such a drought this summer, but that has not made the problem go away, it has only delayed our urgency to act.

Experience around the region has shown that metering our water utility will create conservation, and will allow us to replace these arbitrary water use categories with a fair rate system. We need to get moving on a voluntary metering system for single-family homes, and for homes that have secondary suites. It’s time.

We then processed a few Bylaws:

Parks and Recreation Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 7865, 2016 – Adoption
As discussed in our previous meeting, this Bylaw that sets our annual fee schedule for Parks and recreation programs was adopted, which makes it the law.

Engineering Fees and Rates Amendment (Secondary Suites) Bylaw No.
7861, 2016

As discussed above, this Bylaw that formalizes the way we manage utility charges for occupied secondary suites was given three readings.

Short Term Rental (STR) Policies and Bylaws
Finally, I brought a motion to Council asking that our staff start getting the pieces in place to update our Bed And Breakfast, Secondary Suite, and home based business regulations to allow residents interested in operating on platforms like AirBnB or VRBO to do so legally in the City, while managing the potential neighbourhood conflict issues that may arise to keep our residential areas safe and livable.

This came out of some discussions I have had with AirBnB operators in the City, and after attending a lot of meetings and discussions atUBCM last month. I will have more to write on this soon, so perhaps I’ll hold off a longer discussion for a full blog post.

And with that, we wrapped a long meeting. See you at Public Hearing next week!

ASK PAT: Q’Boro watercourses.

Someone asked—

Hi Pat,
My partner and I live in Queensborough. We are both plant lovers and native plant specialists, and have come to love our little place by the river – such a magical mix of water, plants, and living things… We often take walks along the waterfront and up and down the tattered side roads with their open ditches filled with teeming plant and animal life. We are constantly enjoying the native plant life that has been cultivated and also occurs natively in the area, but have a number of concerns.

First and foremost, we recently noticed that in the last month or so, a large number of big trees and shrubs were removed from the riverfront with no notice. This is the side that faces Annicis Island, and I believe a lot of the trees were deciduous. Willows, Mountain Ash, and other trees were chopped down as well as the other herbaceous and woody plants. This is something we notice happening on a small scale along the ditches as well. Most importantly, we’d love to know why these large trees were cut down, most likely because of disease or pests, but absolutely no signage was placed on the path in the Aragon where all the cutting happened, and we are very curious about the city’s policy on controlling these wild areas, if any. Could you send some information our way please in terms of this? We’d also love to know what the plan is for the large biodiversity of plant and animal species that are consistently being eaten up by the growing development and if these open ditches and waterways will somehow remain untouched. We are looking forward to new development, the Q2Q bridge more than anything and additional retail, but it worries us to see so much changing too. We would also like to know what to do when we see ditches and waterways which are being clearly polluted by the nearby industrial?

Thanks so much for fighting for a better city for us all. We look forward to your responses, and finding a way to make Queensborough more of an example of environmental stewardship. There are few places like this left – water, plants, and living things together – that have the potential for so much life and health, and unfortunately there is much work to do still, and remediation to be completed on what was done long ago.

This is going to be one of those good-news bad-news answers, depending on how you feel about ditches/watercourses. I’m likely to go on at length here, as there are actually several questions here, and I’m going to try to hit them all systematically.

I also love the Queensborough waterfront, especially the south and east sides where the City and developers have invested in the restoration of the waterfront, and have effectively made it a comfortable human space and an ecologically productive space. We just had the 4th (5th?) annual shoreline cleanup along South Dike Road, and the impressive recovery of native species and ecology along the river is always inspiring.


The fate of inland ditches in Q’Boro is, however, one of those political hot-button issues, where someone is going to be unsatisfied whatever the City does. For all the people in Q’Boro who love the frogs, the dragonflies, the ducks and even the occasional stickleback, there is at least another who hates the murky water, garbage accumulation, loss of parking, and general untidiness of having an open ditch in their front yard. I’m not going to opine whether you are outnumbered or not, but you are definitely outvolumed by people demanding that the City get rid of the ditches and install “proper” sewers as soon as possible.

From an ecology point of view, some of the watercourses in Q’Boro are protected by the Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR), a provincial regulation that is, quixotically, managed completely by local governments. Not all “constructed watercourses” are protected, however, as ephemeral and isolated watercourses and those already severely impacted are not determined to have high enough ecological value to receive full protection of their riparian areas. Further, the riparian protection need on some of the larger ones plays second fiddle to the need for maintenance to keep the water flowing and houses from flooding.

The City performed an ecological mapping exercise back in 2010 that, amongst other things, showed the classifications of the watercourses in Q’Boro. Several of the larger ones (Class A and Class B) are protected, and are not likely to be filled in the long-term. There are provisions on in the RAR for preserving and improving the quality of the habitat around them, including trees and shrubs, which can curtail development and prevent them from being filled. When you balance the need to maintain these watercourses as conveyances with the need to protect the ecology, I wouldn’t say they will remain “untouched”, but more that our engineering folks will try to protect the native species and habitats as best they can while keeping people’s houses dry.

Filling in even the smaller, unprotected ditches creates yet another problem, this one purely engineering. An open watercourse can store and transport a lot more water than if a pipe was dropped into that watercourse and it was covered up. To replace the storm water management and flood protection capacity of all of the open watercourses in Q’Boro would require huge pipe infrastructure, and all of the associated catch basins, inspection chambers, and pump infrastructure. To make matters worse, the soils in Q’boro need just as much engineering and densification to hold up a sewer pipe as they do to hold up a housing complex, which significantly increases the cost. Don’t get me started on the shallow water table and the construction/maintenance problems it causes.

Therefore the City has developed a longer-term strategy to plan for, and pay for, drainage infrastructure improvements whee they are appropriate, and addressing the eventual filling of the smaller, disconnected ditches that are not protected by the RAR. New developments in Q’Boro pay into a special DCC earmarked for drainage improvements, separate from the mainland and dedicated to works in Q’Boro. When a developer builds in Q’Boro, we take advantage of the soil densification and drainage planning they are doing to make it more affordable to install new infrastructure.

Residents in the Single Family House neighbourhoods who wish to have the drainage closed on their block can do it through a “Local Area Service Plan”, where they get the work done in a cost-sharing with the City (and pay for it over time through their taxes), as long as it isn’t a watercourse protected by the Riparian Areas Regulation (i.e. Class C or worse). We received a report to council in September 2014 (see page 88 of this lengthy Council agenda if you are curious).

Now onto the trees. We do have a recently-adopted Tree Protection Bylaw that applies to new development, City lands and private lands. I don’t know the details of the tree removal you are talking about, but if it happened after the Tree Bylaw was adopted (January 13, 2016) and didn’t occur on Port-owned land, then there should have been a posted permit. If the trees were hazardous or dangerous (as determined by a professional Arborist) then they will be replaced on a one-for-one basis. If they were simply removed to facilitate development, they will be replaced on a two-for-one basis. It isn’t perfect (two young trees don’t necessarily provide the ecological benefit of one mature tree), but it balances the limits of power a local government can do when approving development on treed lots with our desire to have more trees in our community. When planning for trees, one must have a 20+ year vision.

What to do when you see industrial pollution in ditches? First off, you need to know if it is really “pollution”. The groundwater in Q’Boro is similar to adjacent Richmond, in that it is a product of being a former peat bog. The lack of gradient and boggy soils result in stagnant groundwater that, for a bunch of biochemistry and geochemistry reasons I won’t get into here (did I mention I’m an Environmental Geoscientist working in soil and groundwater protection?) has very low dissolved oxygen, low pH and lots of dissolved metals like iron and manganese. When that groundwater hits our ditches, it is exposed to atmospheric oxygen, causing those metals to precipitate out in to metal oxides (making it murky and rust-coloured), and in the presence of biology, more complex metalliferous organic compounds. What sometimes looks like and oil slick in the water may actually be a natural “metalliferous sheen

That said, all the ditches in Q’Boro connect directly to the Fraser River without any kind of water treatment, so real polluting substances going into the ditches will more than likely find their way into the river. Section 36 of the federal Fisheries Act says you can’t do that, and enforcement of that law falls on Environment Canada. However, response to smaller spills in to fish habitat is a multi-level cooperative effort between EC, the provincial Ministry of Environment, the Coast Guard (if it hits the river) and local governments. In that sense, who you should call first probably depends on the situation.

If you see something curious, but you are not too sure, either use SeeClickFix or contact the City’s Engineering folks, and they will check it out.

If you see what is clearly a spill, and are worried about fish or see potential impacts to ducks or any such concern for wildlife, you should contact the provincial spill reporting phone / app, and they will triage and determine the proper level of response and response agencies.

If you see a dangerous spill, such as an overturned gasoline truck or a dump of dangerous substances where there may be human health or property damage implications, you should call 911 and ask for the fire department. They will be able to determine a safe response strategy, can arrange for evacuations or road closures, and can coordinate with the City’s engineering folks and senior governments whose job it is to stop the spread and coordinate the clean-up in a way that keeps people from getting hurt.

Finally, what can you do to see more ecological protection of Queensborough, and New Westminster in general? You might want to make contact with the New Westminster Environmental Partners. They organize the Q’Boro Shoreline Cleanup every year, and are always looking for interested and knowledgeable people to help with environmental protection advocacy and works. You can also consider joining the City’s Environment Advisory Committee, which advises Council on topics environmental. The application period for 2017 is open right now, and we don’t generally get a lot of applications from Q’Boro for City Committees. Bringing your voice to the table may help the City make better decisions regarding ecological protection of your neighbourhood.

Whoo Hoo! Two ASK PATs in a row that end with plugs for joining City Advisory Committees! People should really apply!

Ask Pat: Whither bike lanes?

It’s been a while since I answered an Ask Pat question, and there are a bunch of them in the queue, so I’m sorry if I haven’t gotten to yours! I’m a little over programmed right now. All good stuff, just too much! So here we go with an Ask Pat from a guy with a suspicious name:

Patrick P. asks—

Hi Pat. I find it totally bizarre that while we allow new apartment towers to be built with hundreds of new parking spots for cars, it seems no thought has been given to mitigating all the extra traffic on the road, or to giving people a cycling alternative — or to the impact on our environment. We have no dedicated (separated) bike lanes, and my bicycle commute to central Burnaby has been a challenge as there are no signs indicating a safe route. Moreover I am very worried for the safety of children like mine who want to get around town by bicycle.
Are there any plans to make our city more cycling friendly, particularly around shopping areas? What can I do to help?

I hear you. As a person who rides a bike for recreation and for daily chores, and tries to commute by bike as much as I can, with a partner who commutes to Burnaby every day on a bike, I know we aren’t yet where we should be as far as cycling infrastructure. Short answer to Question 1 is yes, answer to Question 2 is way down below at the bottom of this post, so fix a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy (or just scroll past all the fluff to the bottom couple of paragraphs)

There is a strange thing about traffic in New West: it mostly isn’t us. Two great statistics that tell you about our traffic problem is that the City has the highest percentage of its land dedicated to roads of any municipality in BC, and that New Westies drive less and own fewer cars per capita than the residents of any municipality in BC (with the exception of the City of Vancouver). Yet traffic is our #1 problem, because people like driving through New West. Presumably, they like it because they don’t have better options, not because of the nice views or the friendly demeanor of our residents.

So in that sense, if we have a car traffic problem, it isn’t the people living in towers on top of SkyTrain nodes. The extra 300 residents with (following our demographic trends) 200 more cars, used only 50% of the time, are a drop in the bucket of the 400,000 cars a day (a number I do NOT have a source for, but a number used anecdotally to describe our through-traffic for rhetorical purposes by virtually everyone) that ply our streets. There is an entire political conversation about whether parking minimums for new developments are good public policy, but I don’t think that is where you are going with your question.

Arguably, providing more housing alternatives in New Westminster (including those towers on SkyTrain nodes, and “missing middle” family-friendly housing forms) will act as a disincentive to people commuting through our City, by providing people better options that living to the east of us when they work to the west of us (you can change either of those directions to point to the same problem). The entire model for the Regional Growth Strategy and Regional Transportation Plan is based on that idea – compact, transit-friendly, mixed-use development as opposed to car-centric sprawled single-use development. New Westminster is (IMHO) leading the way for this development model regionally, and is, unfortunately, still straddled with the traffic impacts of neighbouring communities not talking as active a role in changing how they develop to suit the regional vision.

But you live in New West, work in nearby Burnaby, and want to be more comfortable riding your bike to work and to shop. Even better you want to feel safe sending your kids off to school riding their bikes. You (and I’m not just saying this because of your great given name) are part of the solution, and are fortunate to have the opportunities in your work/life/health/etc. to make that choice. The City should be making it easier for you.

I think we are, but perhaps not as quickly as either of us would like, through implementation of our new Master Transportation Plan. Passed before I was elected (although I served on the advisory committee), this plan represents a monumental shift in how we, as a City, are going to look at investing in our transportation system.

First off, it places active modes at the top of the priority list:


To me, that means we are going to spend less on making the asphalt smooth, and more on making the sidewalks, bike routes, and transit system operate better for all users. To you and me, that may seem obvious; to enshrine it in a master planning document means we are charged (us elected types and staff of the City) to do it, and put our budget where out mouth is.

What does this look like on the ground? For the first time, New Westminster is investing in green paint. It has taken a bit of time, and in the first year of MTP implementation we really invested more in primary pedestrian and transit accessibility (we are aiming for 100% accessible sidewalk curb cuts by 2018, and 96% accessible bus stops, which leads the region on both counts). We have also staffed up a bit in our transportation department to expand our ability to plan and deliver these projects. This next phase does include some significant cycling improvements.

We have already identified some “quick wins” for cyclists, where a bit of engineering can make a few key links on our established greenways work better. You will see things at 20th and London Street, 7th Ave between Moody Park and 5th Street, under the Queensborough Bridge in Queensborough, and between Braid Station and United Boulevard (for a few examples) right away. A few other slightly more challenging issues (a hill-friendly bike route connecting Downtown to Uptown) are being worked on, as are designs for the Agnes Greenway, and an extended greenway from Braid Station to Sapperton Landing Park. Safe Routes to School and Safe cycling to school are also high on the priority list.

As an aside, you probably have no idea how much that green paint costs. On a square-foot basis, it would be cheaper to do engineered hardwood. But we will probably save long-term on maintenance.

The best I can offer you is small relief in the immediate future, with a long-term vision towards a properly developed integrated and complete bike network. It is going to take a few years, but the MTP gives us the vision, and I think Council has the political drive to make it happen. When compared to Vancouver, we are a small municipality with a limited budget, so multiple separated bike lanes and the assorted infrastructure (lights, signs, paint, paving) to make them really work ideally, are an expensive prospect. I can’t guarantee they will arrive tomorrow, only that this is the direction we are headed, and I’ll be advocating for our budget allocations to suit the priorities we have set through our MTP.

If you think you have good ideas about cycling infrastructure needs in New West, there are two ways you can help.

You can apply to join the advisory committee in the City that works to make New West a better place for cyclists, pedestrians and transit users: ACTBiPed. I happen to chair that committee, and served on it for a couple of years before I was elected. I think we have managed to make it an effective group where staff and community members work together on “big picture” strategies, and also take time to dig into the detailed design elements of new infrastructure to assure they work for active transportation users. The City is receiving applications right now for 2017 Committee appointments, and you can get all the info you need to apply right here.

If working within the system doesn’t satisfy your needs, you can also get involved with the local HUB Chapter, who advocate for better cycling infrastructure and funding, locally and at the regional level. New West hosted their AGM a couple of weeks ago, and it was great to hear about the work being done in the local chapters across the region. The local group is also instrumental in getting elementary school kids trained to ride their bikes safely, running cycling safety and skills courses with the School District. They are also a very helpful voice at the table when we are making decisions about cycling infrastructure in the City. You should become a member, and then decide if you can give them your time, donate them some money, or whatever combination of the two fits your lifestyle the best!

Finally, you can ride your bike, and use SeeClickFix when you run into problems, to let City staff know that good cycling infrastructure is wanted, and bad cycling infrastructure is noticed, by residents of the City.

We are working on the MTP, on making this a better place to ride a bike, but we could always use more motivation from our residents!

Council – October 3, 2016

Back from the week in Victoria for UBCM, we were back at our regular Council meetings. Our agenda was not too lengthy, but there were some interesting Public Delegations you will need to watch the video to enjoy.

Council moved the following items on Consent:

Investment Report to August 31st, 2016
The City has money in the bank, almost $150 Million. This arises from several well-regulated situations, and more details are available in our Financial Statements. We collect DCCs from development to pay for the increased cost of servicing those developments with things like water, sewer, and roads, however, we don’t spend that money until actually works need replacing, so they sit in various reserve funds earmarked for specific projects. Those add up to just under $20 Million right now. We also have a bunch of other reserve funds, set up to pay for projected capital costs like the Canada Games Pool, or the public art program, some for specific future utility needs that you have been paying for through your utility bill, which combined together total over $100Million.

This report simply updates Council on how our investments are doing. We made about $1.6 Million in interest in the first half of the year, but are expecting to earn a little less than budgeted by the end of the year.

Amendment to the Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw
This is the annual adjustment of our Parks and Recreation fees, for everything from swim lessons to renting Queens Park Arena. Increases this year range from 0% to 5%, with almost all increases below 2.8%. Appendix C of the report is worthwhile noting, as that is where we compare our rates to those in our neighboring cities. New West ice rentals are the lowest cost in the region; our gym and pool fees are on or below average across the region. Getting and keeping fit in New West is (relative) bargain!

1209 Hamilton Street: Proposed Rezoning to Allow 20 Child Care Spaces – Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7832, 2016 for First and Second Readings
Daycare spaces are a rare commodity in the Royal City. The current economics of running a daycare and the restrictive rules for their operation (important to preserve quality of spaces and protect the well-being of children) mean setting up facilities is sometimes an arduous process. The City, through its Child Care Strategy, is trying to facilitate the opening of more childcare spaces to fill this recognized need through a variety of policy and supports.

This application is for a daycare in a current duplex house, immediately adjacent to commercial areas, close to family neighbourhoods and transportation options. Current policy would allow 20 childcare spaces in a duplex such as this, and the applicant is requesting expansion to 20 spaces, 12 of which will be for toddlers (an identified need in the community).

This proposal will go to a Public Hearing on October 24th. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

1004 Salter Street: Development Variance Permit 00602 for 18 Lot Subdivision with Park Dedication – Consideration of Issuance
This development project in Queensborough requires a variance because of the shape of the lots. All of the lots are larger than the minimum required by the Zoning Bylaw, but they are deeper than typical, meaning that their frontages are less than 10% of their perimeter (following me here?). The proposed lots are 141 feet deep by 31 feet wide, where the 10% formula would require 34 foot frontages. They are not asking for bigger houses than permitted or reduced spacing between buildings, only frontages reduced by 3 feet. Doing it this way would allow better laneway and park dedication to make for a better designed family neighbourhood.

There is some public consultation and committee review to be done yet, but council expressed general support for this model being moved forward to those steps.

Recommendation from Advisory Committee for Transit, Bicycles and Pedestrians (ActBiPed): Public Seating Strategy to Encourage Walking & Neighbourhood Livability
This recommendation came from the ACTBiPed, who advise council on active transportation issues (transit, bicycles, and pedestrians). Perhaps counter-intuitively, ACTBiPed is advocating for more public seating. Just as parking is an important part of planning for car use, and bike racks are required to encourage bike use, adequate and attractive public seating is vital for pedestrians and transit users. In a City like New West, with hills that present challenges to a portion of the community, adequate places where they can be made comfortable to stop and rest for a few minutes can be the difference between taking a walk, or taking the car. It also creates opportunity for eyes on the street, for social interaction, and for making people more connected to their neighborhood, just ask Jane Jacobs.

ACTBiPed asked that the City create a strategy to support adequate and comfortable public seating, and have recommended several policies and measures to support that strategy. Council moved this recommendation.

Recommendation from Access Ability Advisory Committee: Proposal to change the Terms of Reference of the Committee
This recommendation came from the committee charged with advising council on issues of accessibility with the goal of assuring the public realm is accessible to all people in our community, regardless of physical or other barriers. The recommendation is to change the terms of reference a bit to encourage participation from youth in the city, and organizations in the City that no not necessarily have accessibility as part of their mandate, but are interested in taking steps to improve accessibility in their organization, or in the broader community. Council approved this recommendation.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

718 Twelfth Street: Temporary Use Permit for Islamic Society
This organization has been trying to find a home in New Westminster for some time, and is requesting a temporary use permit for the Heritage Hall on 12th Street. There are some significant land-use concerns with permanently converting street-front commercial space to church religious assembly use. However, this is a temporary use to support a burgeoning organization that serves an underrepresented part of our community, so this temporary request is worthy of consideration. There will be some public consultation and an Opportunity to be Heard. Watch this space.

We also addressed some correspondence:

Uptown Business Association of New Westminster letter dated
September 21, 2016 regarding Belmont Street Parklet

The merchants of and commercial property owners of Uptown have written the City to express support for the temporary Uptown Parklet that has invaded part of Belmont Street for the last few months. I think our Parks and Planning staff did a really god job turning a very small amount of money into a really friendly place that people seem to enjoy. There have been a few complaints, and a lot of kudos. Some early concerns about potential behavior issues on the site turned out to be a pretty minor issue, although some residents have been concerned about noise at night (seemingly more related to the nearby bar than the parklet). However, during the day it is apparent that citizens have started to occupy the space and make it their own.

As a trial, our second Parklet (remember, we installed one in Sapperton last year) can be called a success, and it is time to have a discussion about how the future of Belmont Street may be reshaped, and about where else in the City Parklets may work.

Letter received via email dated September 22, 2016 from Michelle Cunningham regarding Electrical Vehicle Incentive and Zoning Bylaws
The topic of this letter was referred to Staff. There are many opportunities to incentivize the installation of electrical charging stations for vehicles, and it is better to be in front of this trend than behind it. New West has some natural advantages: our own Electrical Utility, our central location, and our large number of people living in multi-family dwellings. At the Municipal Climate Leadership Council meetings at UBCM, I heard a lot about the programs that organizations like the Community Energy Association of BC are doing to promote initiatives like this, and senior government help that is available.

We then addressed some Bylaws:

New Westminster Civic Infrastructure Temporary Borrowing Bylaw No. 7843, 2016
This Bylaw that provides the City some borrowing authority for various civic infrastructure projects, which passed the Alternate Approval Process (ugh) a few months ago, was adopted, and is now the law of the land.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (1209 Hamilton Street) No. 7832, 2016
This Bylaw addressing the daycare space off of 12th Street (discussed above) was given two readings.

Parks and Recreation Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 7865, 2016
This Bylaw formalizing the new Parks and Rec fees (discussed above) was given three readings.

There were then a series of interesting Public Delegations, worth your time and energy to watch. It will be interesting to see what arises out of a few of those discussions….