Demoviction Conversation

Amongst the joys of my job as a City Councillor is collaboration with other elected types around the region who are trying to solve regional problems in new ways. I’m also a bit of a data geek, so I love getting new information and learning from people much smarter than me who have innovative approaches to problems.

In the interest of bringing these things together, I am working with some pretty cool colleagues to develop a “MetroConversations” series. We had a successful first event in New Westminster last November, and have plans to expand and grow the program in 2017. The second in the series is happening in Langley City next week, hosted by the brilliant and telegenic City Councillor Nathan Pachal

The topic is as relevant in New Westminster as anywhere in the region: How do we replace an aging stock of rental buildings without displacing people who rely on an affordable rental building stock?

There has been a lot of talk about this in the City of Burnaby, and although they get a (perhap unfair?) majority of the press, this is truly a regional concern. The City of New Westminster has done a lot to incentivise the building of family friendly apartment housing, secured rental housing, and other housing forms in the hopes that we can eat away at the affordability monster. We also have a huge stock of condo and rental buildings, mostly in Brow of the Hill and Sapperton, that are aging and don’t meet modern building standards. At some point, replacement of this stock is going to create a Burnaby-like situation, unless we take a proactive approach to the issue. That said, who knows what that proactive approach looks like?

This MetroConversation will feature people who have a better idea of what works and doesn’t when it comes to managing our affordable housing stock – actual subject matter experts who view the issue from diferent angles. As always, this will be an interactive conversation, not a boring set of speeches. Bring your questions, bring your ideas, and help add to the conversation in the region.

The room is relatively small (we want an intimate conversation) so please be sure to register to make sure you can get a seat, we totally expect to sell out.


Council – February Feb 20, 2017

If feel like I am very busy these days, but we had a remarkably short Council Meeting on February 20th. So short, that I was actually home in time to cook dinner for MsNWimby, which I think is a first for my time on Council. We had a longer Workshop during the day, which I will try to blog about later…

Like most meetings that are the last of the month, this one featured a Public Hearing on a single project (but two bylaws):

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (720 Second Street) Bylaw No. 7887, 2017
Heritage Designation (720 Second Street) Bylaw No. 7888, 2017

This project would see the 1912 corner store at Second Street and Durham Street in Glenbrook North restored to its vernacular Edwardian glory and converted back to its original layout: commercial at the ground floor with a small family home above. In exchange for restoration and permanent protection of the building, the owner is applying for a subdivision of the lot to build a relatively small Craftsman-style bungalow on the other half of the lot.

The Heritage Commission and Advisory Planning Commission approved of the project, and there was a generally positive response to the plan from the residents’ association. We received 3 written submissions in response to this application, one opposed to the subdivision, but in favour of the heritage restoration, and two concerned about the impact on street parking. We also had three presentations at the Public Hearing, the proponent (who was in favour), a neighbour with questions regarding potential commercial uses and the heritage value of the building (but not necessarily opposed), and one neighbour who expressed support for the project.

Council moved to refer these Bylaws to the regular council meeting which immediately followed:

Our Regular Agenda began with the Bylaws referred from the above Public Hearing:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (720 Second Street) Bylaw No. 7887, 2017
Heritage Designation (720 Second Street) Bylaw No. 7888, 2017

This project was pretty easy to support for me, and it seems my Council colleagues agreed. There is a heritage win in preserving a building that seemed important to the neighbourhood, there is a great potential that the space will be turned into a neighbourhood daycare, which is in desperately short supply in New Westminster, an the infill density (the proponent is turning one converted house into a commercial space, a similar-sized house, and two rental suites) will include some more affordable options in a very family-friendly neighbourhood.

The one concern I have heard was the impact on street parking. The residential buildings will have off-street parking to meet their needs, but the commercial parking will indeed impact street parking availability. I did a quick Google Earth Survey, and calculated that of the 29 residential houses within 100m of this property, one is under construction, and the rest share no less than 29 indoor parking spots and 45 outdoor off-street parking spots. I am not compelled to believe there is a lack of parking on this block, at least not enough that I am going to say no to much-needed daycare spaces in the neighbourhood.

Council voted unanimously to give these bylaws third reading.

This was followed by an Opportunity to be Heard on a Development Variance:

Development Variance Permit DVP00620 for 100 Braid Street (466 Rousseau Street)
You might remember the Urban Academy / Wesgroup plan for the 100 Braid Street site. The school wants to get building, but the other lot, where 100 Braid Studios is, is not slated for demolition for some time; potentially a few years yet. Unfortunately, if it stays there, it will be too close to the lot line created by the subdivision, and the subdivision is needed to move the school project forward. Such is government.

The easiest solution here is to allow the building a variance from the applicable zoning law, so it can remain closer to the lot line than would regularly be allowed. No-one came to the Opportunity to be Heard to talk to the variance, and our staff have reviewed it and cannot think of any good reason for us to say no.

Council voted unanimously to approve the variance.

We then had a Report from staff:

Train Whistle Cessation Update
This was a lengthy update on the progress made by the City in getting trains in the City to stop blowing their whistles at every crossing. We recently passed a resolution deeming the crossings along Front Street (at Begbie and under the east end of the Parkade) whistle-free, and the rail operators have until the beginning of March to change their practices. Downtown should get quitter then. Two down, we have 20 more crossings in the City to deal with.

The crossings we anticipate being done in 2017 are in Sapperton just below the foot of Cumberland, and on River Drive near the Queensborough Bridge. Assuming the required equipment is delivered on time and there isn’t any certification SNAFUs, the Quayside Drive crossing should also be done by the end of 2017. The crossings along Ewen in Queensborough should be worked on in 2018, as the geometry of many of the intersections create some issues that need yet to be worked out to Southern Rail’s satisfaction.

The other two Sapperton crossings are in pause mode right now, as their final work will depend on the outcome of two other projects. In the cast of the Spruce Street crossing, the alternate access to Sapperton Station needs to be developed, and in the case of Braid, the Brunette Interchange Project will obviously impact the work to be done.

The City has committed $3.75 Million in capital works for these projects, including $2 Million in 2017. We are committed to doing the work, and are confident we will get there, but if you are frustrated by the pace, I share your feelings. It sounds slow, I know, but this is a terribly complicated process, involving two levels of government, four separate rail operators, and a trainload of standards and regulations to work through. However, we now have a website dedicated to the project, which will be regularly updated so you can keep track of progress. We are getting there.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Hyack Festival Association request for additional funding for the 2017 Parade Float program
The new Festival Committee (of which I am a member) reviewed the request brought to Council in January for an extra $30,000 of Festival Grant funds to expand their float program and support and expanded Qayqayt Howl event as part of Hyack Week.

As the 2017 grants were awarded by the previous Festivals Committee, the new committee reviewed the applications from Hyack Festival Association in light of the available funds, and the decisions made by the previous committee. The committee had to say no to several organizations, as the $225,000 budget was exceeded by over $300,000 in requests. The new committee saw no reason to change the allocations provided to the community groups, and as much as we would like to say Yes to everyone, there is a reason we set a budget and try to stick to it. Hyack was provided $61,800 in grants (out of a request for $101,800), and the new Festival Committee agreed that this was a fair and prudent award based on the terms of the Grants.

234 Second Street (Queen’s Park): Heritage Alteration Permit No. 083 to Permit New House Construction – Council Consideration
This is the other side of the Heritage Conservation Period in Queens Park. Not only do requests for demolition have to come through Council, some new house construction also need to meet the (previously optional) heritage guidelines set up for the community, and Council needs to approve the building plans. We did so.

This is not an idea process the way it is, but the Heritage Conservation Period is temporary, and hopefully there will be smoother processes developed as part of a future and permanent Heritage Conservation Area, assuming the community and Council decide to go that way. Please think about attending one of the open houses coming in early March if this issue is important to you!

Queen’s Park Conservation Area Regional Stakeholder Consultation
We also need to consult with other affected agencies around the region when we make changes like introducing a Heritage Conservation Area. This report simply outlines the agencies that will and will not be consulted.

Financial Plan, 2017-2021
I really need to sit down and write some more on the update Financial Plan. It has been through public consultation, we have reviewed the capital plan at some detail, we have projected tax rates, this is now the Bylaw that supports that plan. Council agreed to give it three readings.

2016 Filming Activity Update
Filming for TV and movies is a big deal in New West, and growing. We had 203 filming days in the City, and the City moved about $900,000 in revenue from those film permits. His doesn’t mean the City made $900,000 in profits. In reality, filming is pretty close to a break-even prospect, as most of that revenue is collected specifically to pay for engineering folks and police to arrange road closures, providing various services like fire inspection, paying our film coordinator to help coordinate the permitting processes, rentals to pay for lost parking revenue in the event parking meters are blocked, and things like that.

This number also does not include the economic spin-offs, from private property owners earning rental fees to allow film companies to use their houses or business properties, or the various service companies that exist to source to the film industry. Nor does it take into account the millions of dollars in wages paid to New Westminster residents every year from the film industry.

A single item was Removed from Consent so that a speech could be made about it.

2017/2018 Electrical Utility Rates Bylaw No. 7901, 2017
Our electricity rates are going up to match the cost of electricity that we purchase from BC Hydro to power our utility, based on the long-established policy of the City. Under that policy, New West customers (system-wide) pay the same rate as BC Hydro customers, and the city uses the difference between the wholesale rate way pay for power and the retail rate to run the system, and return the profits to the City’s coffers to offset taxes.

BC Hydro rates are going up 3.5% on April 1, so New Westminster rates are going up 3.5%.

After this, we went through our regular Bylaws ritual:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2017-2021) Bylaw No. 7906, 2017
This Bylaw that makes our 2017-2022 Financial Plan the law of the land was given three readings.

Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 7901, 2017
This Bylaw that formalizes the increase in electrical rates to math BC Hydro increases was given three readings.

And aside for a few announcements, that was a meeting.

TransLink Fare Review

Now that we are all used to having a Compass Card, and even whingy, retro-grouch, late adopters like me have adapted and find the payment system easier to use, it’s probably a good time to discuss whether the current payment system for public transit makes sense. Fortunately, TransLink is doing that right now.

The system used by TransLink now dates back to the BC Transit days, more than 30 years ago. The familiar zones, transfers, off-peak discounts, and concession fares have only been tinkered with since the SkyTrain was shiny and new. The shift to single-zone buses to accommodate Compass Card was probably the biggest system-wide shift, but the arrival of Compass and long-awaited expansion of transit service make this a good time to review if the system we have really serves its customers best.

As New Westminster is the community that relies on transit more than any other on a per-capita basis, I hope people in New West take the opportunity to take part in the on-line survey and share their ideas.

Fares paid by transit users represent about 37% of TransLink’s revenues, a little over $510 Million out of total revenues of $1.4 Billion. However, it is not the intention of the ongoing fare review to increase the amount of revenue generated from current users. It is more about making the system more efficient and more attractive to users, which may result in increased revenue through boosted ridership.

At this point, TransLink are asking three simple, high-level questions, although each leads to longer discussions about how we want our transportation system to work, and what we want it to be. They are described in more detail here, but my short version is:

1) Zones: Should there be a flat fare for the system regardless of distance traveled, or should people pay more to travel further? If the latter, how fine-grained do you want zones to be? We currently have 3 zones for SkyTrain and one for bus and separate ones for YVR and West Coast Express, but could easily break the region up into 10 or more zones, or create “floating” zones where the edges shift based on where you first enter the system.

2) Travel Time: Should you always pay the same rate to ride transit, or should TransLink continue to give discounts outside of the busiest hours to try to spread the load (and crowds) across the system? If the latter, should there be only a Peak and an Off-Peak rate, or should the rate shift throughout the day, even hourly?

3) Service Type: Should all transit cost that same, or should you pay more for SkyTrain than you do for a bus; more for B-lines than for regular buses; different rates for West Coast Express and SeaBus? Perhaps more provocatively: should we have “business class” buses, with WiFi and cushy seats and foot massage for a premium cost?

I have my own opinions (surprise!) on all three of these topics. I even got to share them at a stakeholders meeting for elected types a few weeks ago. Fortunately, I also got to hear differing opinions on each of the points from people around the region. Most of these arguments discussions ended up circling around providing a “simple” system vs. a “fair” system. I tended towards the latter argument, mostly because I want a system that works for the day-to-day users and encourages use by residents of the region, and am less fussed about whether the system is quickly understood by tourists. I’ve traveled in transit systems in lots of countries in the last few years. Whether it was New York’s flat $2.75 a ride or Singapore’s highly variable distance-based sliding rates, we always managed to figure it out very quickly, and with a digital cards, it was never enough of a hassle that it made riding transit difficult.

I was also very curious about how any future payment system would be integrated with a regional road pricing scheme. It has always bugged me that tolls to cross the river or the Burrard Inlet have always existed for transit users in the form of “zone boundaries”, but driving across the bridges remained toll-free. If we want to leverage fair pricing of our regional transportation network towards Transportation Demand Management goals, the fare system must be integrated.

Finally I have a bunch of opinions (surprise!) about other aspects of the TransLink fare system. Why do we charge youth when they are travelling with their parent? Where are the employer incentive programs? Why am I paying an extra $7 at YVR? But these are not part of the current discussion. That type of fine-tuning and incentive program development will need to be a new discussion once TransLink has scoped out a renewed fare model based on the three principles above.

So go and take the survey, please, in the next couple of days, and give TransLink a bit of guidance about how you use the system, and how you want to pay for it. Make it work better for you, and for the region.

Census 2016 (part 1)

The 2016 Census data is starting to trickle out. I’m not sure if it is for dramatic effect, or if different data sets require different massaging levels, but the info you and I provided Stats Can in 2016 will be released in several stages through 2017. The first tranche, released this week, is population and residential dwelling count per census tract, along with numbers that can be calculated from those, like population change since 2011, population density, and residential vacancy rate.

…from Canada Census website.

It should be no surprise to anyone that New Westminster is growing. Just a little under 71,000 people called New Westminster home in 2016. In terms of population growth, New Westminster grew about 7.6% over those 5 years (which works out to an average of about 1.2% increase per year). This rate of growth is above the average for Vancouver (6.4%), BC (5.6%), and Canada (5%).

There is a website called CensusMapper where the raw census data is popped into a map of census tracts as it becomes available, providing quick analysis opportunities for data geeks (like me).

Density is a simple measure of the number of residents per square kilometre, and density is one area where New Westminster leads the nation (by some estimates, we are the 4th or 6th densest Municipality in Canada). This s a result of several factors, including us having a relatively small land base (only 11 square kilometres), 150+ years of being the centre of expanding hinterlands that created their own local governments, and our being largely built out as an urban community. It is no surprise that Downtown and the Brow are the densest parts of the City, Queens Park and the industrial areas the least dense:

INSERT DENSITY 1 (image extracted from
Population Density, persons per square km. (image extracted from

There are a few things off with this presentation, as the census tracts include areas like the river and park land, so the east half of Queens Park neighbourhood is shown as less dense than the west half, which does not necessarily reflect the true residential density differences on either side of Second Street. In the image below, I highlighted in orange a downtown tract that is biased by including the river – without the river, it may be darker purple like the adjacent tracts.

INSERT DENSITY 1 (image extracted from
Population Density persons per square km. (image extracted from

Finally, there are some interesting patterns in the Population Growth plot. It is clear (and not surprising) that growth is not evenly distributed throughout the City. We have been building a lot of family-friendly ground-oriented “missing middle” housing in Queensborough, and that has led to predictable growth. Areas where we have towers and other forms of multi-family dwelling are growing, with only very moderate growth in the West End and other single family neighbourhoods. The only surprise is that the Connaught Heights neighbourhood, during significant regional growth driving an ongoing housing crisis, somehow shrank in population.

INSERT Popgrowth (image extracted from
Percentage population gr0wth, 2011-2016 (image extracted from

This is a concern. Both our City’s long-range planning and the regional planning documents depend on concentrating growth along rapid transit lines, for a variety of sustainability and livability reasons. We have slower growth around Braid and Sapperton Stations than in the relative transit desert of Queensborough, and actual population loss around 22nd Street Station. Keep this in mind as we discuss the OCP in the months ahead.

Council – Feb. 6, 2017

The February 6 meeting of Council started with a series of presentations, including a discussion of the City’s Budget, and an Opportunity for Public Comment on the topic.

Draft 2017-2021 Financial Plan
As regular readers (Hi Mom!) will be aware, the City annually approves a budget in a form that is regulated by the provincial government. Those regulations require us to prepare a 5-year financial plan, and for the budget to be balanced. As part of the lengthy public process, this is the third or fourth time parts of this plan have come to Council, and there have been ongoing requests for public input from Council, on the City Page, and on the City’s website. Considering the importance, we get remarkably little feedback or constructive criticism from the public on this.

I will write further blogs in the upcoming weeks about the 5-Year Financial Plan, and the Bylaw that sets the Property Tax levels for 2017 will be coming back to Council next month. This will result in further conversation, I’m sure.

We had one person take the opportunity to present to Council on the 5-Year Plan, and I wanted to touch on some issues he raised. First, we are not hosts of “one of the highest Property Taxes in Metro”. Our average is 11th out of 22 local governments in the Metro Vancouver area, and our taxes per capita and per household are both below the average (here is a post I wrote last year, and another one, both covering this topic). I have also done a comparison (although this is a couple of years ago) looking at MLS housing values across the region and how our Mil rate compares, and again, we are right around average for almost every tax class. Second, the City is not permitted to run a deficit; we need to balance our budget every year. We are, however, allowed to borrow money, and we are allowed to put money in reserves. Currently, we have about $65 Million in outstanding debt that we are paying off. We also have a little more than $120 Million in our long term investments and in the bank as cash. If we were to cash in our savings and pay off our debt, we would be up more than $50 Million. However, that would not be a great long-term strategy for the City’s finances.

Quayside Park Redevelopment – Preferred Design Option Overview
The playground at Quayside Park (where the Expo86-era model submarine is) needs to be removed, because there is a major storm drainage line under it that is failing. Replacing that line is not an option, it needs to happen, and excavating around the park is the only reasonable way to do it.

Fortunately, the park itself is nearing the end of its design life, and doesn’t really meet modern standards for such a valuable amenity for the Quayside community. Our Parks staff have done a year of design and public consultation on this topic, and this report shows the preferred design that came form that process. Works will occur this spring, with the park out of service for a couple of months, but back in much improved order by June.

2016 Year-End Strategic Initiative Status
We received short updates on four of this Council’s Priority Initiatives, which are all making progress, although some of this progress is less visible than might be expected (hence these reports):

1. Arts Strategy: There is a lot going on in the City in the arts, between developments at the Anvil to activate the public space and programs, advancement of our Public art program, and strengthening of our partnerships with organizations from the Arts Council to Massey Theatre Society. The strategy has gone through a considerable amount of public discussion and is coming together, expected to come to Council in a draft form in the spring.

2. Truck Route Strategy: The City has tried to shift trucks to peripheral routes in the City for several years. This is not something the City has complete control over, but requires regional cooperation. We are cooperating well with TransLink and Surrey on the Pattullo Bridge project, and with Coquitlam on the Brunette Interchange project. We have also had discussions with the Port about sharing their GPS truck destination data, hoping to use that to developing data-based solutions to help with traffic flow. A work in progress…

3. Economic Development Strategy: We recently reviewed the Business Survey the City performed, which is an important part of data gathering for this strategy. There is also an event coming up in late February – Innovation Week – that will bring many aspects of the City’s ED file together with a broad group of partners to develop ideas about how Innovation will change our economic development, and our City in general.

4. Riverfront Greenway: The long-standing dream of connecting the Pier Park to Brunette Landing Park with a pedestrian and cycling route along the river is getting some legs beneath it (pun! I’m on fire today!). There are some significant engineering challenges here, including the general paucity of space for a trail between the Railways’ wide buffer zone, steep slopes above and below Front Street, and a river with large tide fluctuations. Then we need to thread the needle through or around a couple of bridges. We are hoping the Pattullo replacement project provides some opportunity to develop a collaborative design. So, not much more than a few lines on a map right now, but the momentum is definitely there.

Before those presentation, the following agenda items were moved on consent:

City of New Westminster Poet Laureate 2017-2020 Appointment
Welcome Alan Hill to the role of Poet Laureate, the fourth person to hold that position since the role was created. I am impressed by Alan’s work, and by his vision for making the written and spoken work a bigger part of our City’s arts scene. He also happens to be a great guy raising a family in Glenbrook North. Congratulations, Alan, and I look forward to seeing you at Civic Events!

630 Ewen Avenue: Official Community Plan Amendment and Rezoning from Queensborough Residential Dwelling Districts (RQ-1) to Comprehensive Dwelling Districts (630 Ewen Avenue)(CD-70)
This is a project to develop supported housing in Queensborough as part of the City’s larger affordable housing strategy. At this point, the project requires an OCP amendment and Rezoning. Council approved moving this through to the Public Process that will include committee reviews, public open house, Public Hearing, etc.

43 Hastings Street: Road Closure and Dedication Removal Bylaw – Council Consideration of First, Second and Third Readings; Zoning Amendment Bylaw – Council Consideration of First and Second Readings
This is another project to develop affordable housing, this time in Downtown. At this time, the project requires a closure of an unopened road portion, which (like most everything we do) requires a Bylaw. Council approved sending this to first and second readings.

Queen’s Park Working Group: Terms of Reference – Amendment to Add an Additional Member
This move resulted from discussions about how to manage succession planning in the working group, as its mandate has been extended since it was first put together, and the Queens Park Residents’ Association membership has changed. There is a balance here between making sure stakeholders are represented and losing momentum that has been generated by three years of working collaboratively.

After a rather exciting Presentation and Delegation period, which you need to watch on video to enjoy (seriously, it is worth going to 1:42:00 in the video and watching 5 or 10 minutes), the following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2017 New Westminster Pipe Band Community Grant Request
Something apparently went wrong with this application, and the Pipe Band was not included in the review of grants that took place in the fall. This puts us in a difficult situation, as their $3,000 request was not assessed alongside the other Community Grant applications the Community reviewed, and I don’t know how they would view this request had they received it. The Community Grant Committee had $115,000 in grant requests, and had to say no to $67,000 in requests. There were 7 organizations had their grants refused outright and several others received significantly less than they requested. However, this organization does have a long history of successfully applying the Grant to their program. Council, attempting to divine the desires of a committee that no longer meets, and recognizing  it was likely a paperwork SNAFU that put us in this situation, approved granting them the same amount the group received in previous years, which is less than they requested, but should continue to support their program.

215 Manitoba Street (Queen’s Park): Heritage Alteration Permit No. 82 to Permit New Construction – For Council Consideration
This is a follow up to the first demolition permit the City issued in Queens Park during the Heritage Control Period. Council approved the demolition after receiving reports that indicated the house had little heritage value, and that no significant loss of neighbourhood heritage values would result from its demolition. However, the replacement home requires a Heritage Alteration permit, which means it need to meet the rather strict Queen’s Park Historic District Residential Design Guidelines.

The replacement as proposed meets those guidelines, and also requires no variances from the current RS-1 zoning as far as size, FSR, height or such. The project was recommended for approval by the Heritage Commission and the Technical Review Panel.

Train Whistle Cessation at the Begbie Street and Front Street Crossings
The endless adventure continues. The engineering work for Whistle Cessation on the Begbie and Front Street crossings downtown is complete (at a cost of just over $1 Million to the City), we only need to go through the paperwork exercises. By passing this resolution, we are formally serving notice to the rail operators under the Railway Safety Act. They have 30 days to comply. Assuming no surprises, whistles should stop sounding in Downtown New Westminster as soon as March.

2017 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
It is a bit early to start planning for the 2017 Freshet, but despite our wintry winter, provincial snowpacks were mostly at or below average levels at the beginning of January. The notable exceptions are the South Coast and Lower Fraser Valley, which are 14% and 11% above average – and note this is before this week’s extra snowpocalypse events. Lots of snow is yet to fall across the province, and so much of freshet risk is related to how quickly it melts as opposed to how much there, but no need to worry yet.

Environment Advisory Committee: Corporate Sustainable Food Policy
This discussion grew organically (pun!) out of discussions at the Environment Advisory Committee. Food security and the impact of our food choices on the environment were part of the discussion, and there was some concern that City Hall doesn’t appear to be taking a leadership role in this regard in how we provide food at City functions and facilities. The committee started with the simple question: are the ubiquitous tropical fruits and cured meats the most sustainable choices for City Hall meetings? It definitely expanded beyond that narrow topic to thoughts of developing more of a corporate-wide policy about food.

I think this is a discussion worth having as part of our City’s larger Environmental vision, and am happy to support the Committee’s recommendation

We then did our regular run through of Bylaws that needed Council action:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Hastings Street Unzoned Right of Way) No. 7899, 2017
Road Closure and Dedication Removal (43 Hastings Street) Bylaw No. 7898, 2017
These Bylaws that support the closure and rezoning of an unopened road portion in Downtown, so they can be included in an Affordable Housing Project, were given two readings.

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Bylaw No. 7892, 2017
This Bylaw that supports the City’s updated Protection of Privacy policy was adopted by Council. It is the law of the land.

Finally, we had one item of New Business:

LEED Gold certification for civic buildings
The City currently has a policy that new civic buildings meet or exceed LEED Gold standard, however the LEED standard is now only one of several certification standards used to measure the lifetime environmental footprint and energy efficiency of new buildings, from LEED to NetZero to Passive House. As the city is considering a significant investment in capital projects in the years ahead (Canada Games Pool, new Animal Care Facility, a replacement for the Arenex), council has asked staff to provide us a report outlining the costs and benefits of different standards, to determine if our slightly myopic LEED Gold policy is still the best way to achieve our energy efficient building goals.

…and with that, we were done for the night, except for a couple of council members needing to dig their cars out of 12 hours of snow.

Ask Pat: Working together

Matt asked—

So once again, the MOT (Ministry of Transpiration) rolls into town looking to save us from gridlock. I won’t bore you with my opinion on this strategy, but it got me thinking: Where and how does the wishes of the MOT mesh/clash with the wishes of the Mayor’s Transportation Plan.

I think you get my point, but let me expand. I understand the MOT is responsible for certain transportation needs, goods movement is one of them. So I know that truck corridors and the like are the purview of the provincial government and municipalities have to play ball. But on the other side of it, when and how does the Province have to place nice with the Mayors’ Council, or less formally, the wishes of Metro mayors?

There are clearly vastly different visions of how to move people and goods within our region between the current provincial government and the (some) regional mayors.

Square this circle for me.

It is pretty simple. Cities exist at the pleasure of the provincial government. Every power local governments have, including organizations of local governments like the Mayors’ Council and the regional government committees, exists at the pleasure of the provincial government. They have the ultimate ability to overrule any local government decision, and the only price the provincial government would pay for exercising that power unreasonably would be a political one.

This should be obvious when looking at the Vancouver School Board situation. A public body, elected by the public through open elections driven by politics, was fired by the provincial government for being “too political”, or more specifically, for acting in a way that was partisan and defiant of the provincial government.

In the case of transportation in the Lower Mainland, you are correct in identifying there are at least two ongoing visions, and some significant incompatibilities between them. The first is outlined in the Mayor’s Vision and TransLink Transport 2040 plan that it supports. This was developed by the region (with, notably, the approval of the provincial government) and was designed to reinforce the Regional Growth Strategy and the Official Community Plans of the 22 Municipalities that make up Greater Vancouver. The second is being driven by the Gateway Council, a business-government hybrid organization that is primarily interested in moving goods through the region by providing subsidies in the form of taxpayer-funded asphalt through our neighbourhoods and cities.

No point of hiding which of the two visions I support.

There is a lot of history to this transportation schism. It goes back at least as far as Skytrain planning and the setting up of TransLink. There are roots in technology choices for rapid transit that resulted in SkyTrain technology being chose, through the Mayor’s refusal to approve building the Canada Line before completing Evergreen, and the subsequent stripping of their powers by Kevin Falcon. It is reflected in the sudden interest in building a $4 Billion bridge to nowhere while putting every roadblock in place to delay funding of critical public transit expansion. It continues today in the Vancouver Board of Trade (a prominent member of Gateway) calling for a 6-lane Pattullo Bridge long after the regions’ Mayors and TransLink have already settled on a 4-lane solution.

It is not cynical to suggest MOT appears to take more guidance from the Gateway Council than from the Mayors. So it should be no surprise when a government so proud of its fiscal prudence suddenly finds $600 Million to build a highway expansion project, and that the residents of those communities are surprised at its sudden arrival.

I have some pretty significant concerns with the project that MOT has presented to New Westminster and Coquitlam. Efforts to improve the Brunette overpass have somehow brought the UBE back on the table, and it is pretty clear how our community feels about the UBE. That said, I also have reasons to hold cautious optimism about this proposal, because it has resulted in unprecedented conversations between the Cities of New Westminster and Coquitlam.

For the first time anyone can remember, staff and elected official from both cities are sitting down together to discuss our transportation connections, our concerns and needs, and are looking for the common ground, in the hopes that it can help define the best approach to the this project for both communities. I cannot speak too much about what is happening at those meetings (there will be press releases when appropriate), except to say that I have learned a lot about Coquitlam’s view of these issues, and I know they have heard and understood our community’s issues. I’m not sure we are going to come out with a perfect solution that satisfies all parties, but I am encouraged by the respectful and honest discussions going on, and the hard work staff from both cities are doing to make our political fantasies something that may be operational (that is more difficult that you may imagine).

If we hope, as local governments, to influence provincial policy as it impacts our communities, we need to work together like this towards practical solutions, and make it easy for the provincial government to agree with our vision. That doesn’t mean we need to fold over to political pressure when bad provincial policy hurts our communities, but it also means we can’t collapse behind our own borders and pretend our local issues have no influence on regional issues. In the end, we may fundamentally disagree, but let us at least assure we understand what the position is that we are disagreeing with, and why.

But to answer your original question – when does MOT need to play nice with municipalities? When the Minister determines it is required for political reasons. Vote accordingly.

Council – January 30, 2017

We had a relatively short Council meeting this week, partly because we had a long workshop during the day, and a Public Hearing in the evening. You never know how long a Public Hearing is going to go, so the Agenda was a little short. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t exciting and full of fun stuff.

We had 4 Public Hearings, but three were on different aspects of one project:

(612 – 618 Brantford Street) Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 7876, 2017; Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 7886, 2017; and Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 7885, 2017
This project is interesting for several reasons. It is a 6-story apartment building on a small street in uptown just north of Bent Court. The building includes a lot of 2- and 3-bedroom suites which meet our Family-Friendly Housing policy, and the ground floor apartments are designed to face the street and make for a attractive street interface. The HRA part of this is related to the 1898 house on the site, which will be preserved, move to the west (sunny) side of the lot, and restored into a three-bedroom family home.

The project was modified through discussions with the Design Panel and Advisory Planning Commission, both of which gave approval to the final plan. The Residents association was generally in favour. We received one piece of correspondence for the Public Hearing, which was in support of the project.

At the Public Hearing, we had one neighbour speak against the project. To paraphrase what I hear in her presentation, she was not convinced the restored heritage home was worthwhile, and was worried about the impact on street parking.

I did not share her opinion about the preservation of the house, and think that a project like this is an important component of how we, as a City, are going to accommodate growth and the need for housing with the desire to preserve heritage assets, especially houses more than 100 years old. I also noted the project has more parking than suites (50 parking spots for 42 suites, plus 7 guest parking spots) which is a few short of the zoning requirement, but a variance I am willing to support for family-friendly housing Uptown.

Council referred the applications to Regular Council for Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment (Housekeeping) Bylaw No. 7893, 2017
This Bylaw makes several minor changes to our Zoning Bylaws to reflect the reality of how commercial spaces are used in the City. It allows pet daycare at animal care facilities, adds Daycare to a few select commercial zones, and updates the list of Liquor Primary operators in the city.

Not surprisingly, no one sent us correspondence, and no one came to speak at the Public Hearing in regards to this amendment. Council referred the Bylaw to Regular Council for Third Reading.

We then moved into our Regular Meeting, where we discussed the aforementioned Bylaws:

Official Community Plan Amendment (612 – 618 Brantford Street) Bylaw No. 7876, 2017; Heritage Revitalization Agreement (612 – 618 Brantford Street) Bylaw No. 7885, 2017; Heritage Designation (612 – 618 Brantford Street) Bylaw No. 7886, 2017
Council gave these Bylaws Third reading, moving the project towards formal adoption.

Zoning Amendment (Housekeeping) Bylaw No. 7893, 2017
Council gave this Housekeeping Bylaw Third reading, moving it towards formal adoption.

The Following items were them moved on Consent:

Poet Laureate Emerita Award
Candice James’ terms as Poet Laureate came to an end, as the Terms of Reference for the position limit how long a person can serve. Her service as our third Poet Laureate was exemplary, and the Arts Commission recommended to Council that we officially offer her the honourary title of “Emerita” for perpetuity.

Applications for Grant Funding to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Infrastructure Planning Program
The City is applying for a grant to help pay for some infrastructure planning work – determining where we need tot spend and when to maintain our infrastructure. This is only planning work, not actual infrastructure repairs, as $10,000 doesn’t go very far, but well take it if we can get it.

Report on Major Purchasing Transactions for the Period September 1 to December 31, 2016
Three times a year, Staff report out on major purchases, as part of our open accounting. You can look at this report and see what we are spending your money on, and how the open procurement process worked out.

Investment Report to December 31st, 2016
The City has several Reserves Funds to pay for future capital works and commitments we have made under our DCCs, along with a bit of surplus money from previous budgets. We keep some of that money in the bank so it is readily available, and we keep some in Municipal finance Authority funds that give pretty good return and are very low risk. You can read the report for more details, but very short version: it’s about $124 Million, and we budget to earn about $2 Million in interest on that money.

Bylaw Updates to Permit Amusement Arcades in the C-4 and C-8 Zones, and to Update as a Permitted use Amusement Arcades in the C-3, C-CD-2 and C-CD-3 Zone: Zoning Amendment Bylaw 7881, 2017, Business License Amendment Bylaw 7903, 2017 and Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw 7904, 2017 – For First and Second Readings
The City is looking at taking a more open and adult approach to permitting video arcades/ pinball halls (depending on your generation), and getting rid of the current blanket prohibition.

Funny to read the regional bylaws where these types of operations are permitted with varying levels of control. It is easy to read the Moral Panic in the development of these bylaws. From Surrey’s: “No person under the age of 16 years is permitted to operate a pinball machine after 10:00pm, except Fridays and Saturdays or the night prior to a statutory or school holiday, unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian”.

Council moved to give there Bylaws two readings.

The following item was removed from the consent agenda for discussion:

Privacy Management Program Approval
Freedom of Information is an important principle in governance today, and the flip side is privacy protection. They are so intertwined that they are regulated together under the provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA). The City has implemented FOI procedures, even have a staff member whose job it is to manage FOI compliance (so Council or senior management cannot decide unilaterally when or why something is protected from public eyes).

A new, refreshed Privacy Policy is part of this. The City manages lots of information about homeowners, about users of our public facilities, about our own staff. The balance of how much of *your* information is public and how much is private, and the process to determine the difference, must comply with the provincial law. The policy being introduced here doesn’t replace or supersede the law, it provides guidance to staff on how to remain compliant, and makes clear whose job it is to assure compliance.

We wrapped our usual business, as usual, with reading of Bylaws:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Amusement Arcades) No. 7881, 2017
Business License Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7903, 2017
Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 7904, 2017

As mentioned above, Council gave these three Bylaws that support the operation of Arcade amusements in the City two readings. We will review these Bylaws at a Public Hearing on February 20th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Bylaw No. 7892, 2017
As mentioned above, this Bylaw managing how the city will comply with Provincial Privacy laws, was given three readings by Council.

Development Cost Charge Reserve Funds Expenditure Bylaw No. 7900, 2017
As mentioned on January 16, this Bylaw that re-allocates some DCC funds to build some sewer infrastructure was Adopted by Council. It’s the law of the land, may the sewage be pumped to the benefit of all.

And that, excepting some somber discussion of current local, national, and international events that have us all looking for catharsis, was an evening at Council. It is a strange time with too much to get depressed or distressed about. People are good, be good to each other, and don’t let the bad out there change you, or convince you it is winning. It never has before.