Innovation! Transportation!

Next week is Innovation Week in New West. It actually starts with an Opening Reception at City Hall this Friday night which should be off-the-hook (with free music and video presentations and a special Steel & Oak release!) If you are in the #NewWest #Twitterati, you probably know this already, but some of you may wonder: “What is Innovation Week? And what can it do for Me?”

Let. Me. Tell. You.

As part of New West’s Intelligent City initiatives, Innovation week is a showcase of how technology, innovation, and sharing information can make our City work better, can make us a stronger community, can make businesses more prosperous and residents happier. It is about strategically leveraging innovative ideas like the City’s award-winning Open Data portal with hardware like the BridgeNet fibre network to build a better and more equitable future.

Now I read that last paragraph, and it is all true, but it doesn’t really tell you what Innovation Week is, does it? Let me try again.

Innovation Week is a series of panel discussions, hands-on workshops, networking sessions, tours and activities all open to the public, and inclusive of all ages, experiences, and interests. There will be classes to teach kids about coding, a Hack-a-Thon for teams of coders to develop new tech, forum discussions about new ideas, chances for Tech start-ups and businesses of all sizes to connect with Private and Public funding sources to bring ideas to reality. All wrapped up in fun enough with arts and music to keep your mind fresh. Through the week, you will be given reasons to dream, and information and resources to make that dream work.

I will probably write again about more events (if I get time, or else I will live tweet from there!), but I want to call attention to two events in particular, as they are interesting (I think) to the entire region:

Metro Conversations is a talk series I have been helping to organize with council colleagues from other municipalities. Out Fifth Conversation will be on Tuesday the 27th in the evening on the topic of The Promise of Innovations in Transportation. But instead of just dreaming of autonomous vehicles and hyperloops and Tunnels, we are going to ask whether the technological promises addresses what we actually want from our Cities – safe streets, livable neighbourhoods, sustainable communities, social connections and equity. This will be a fast-paced hour-long conversation, free to attend, but you might want to register as we don’t have the biggest room.

As a bit of a primer: watch this video form 1958, and ask yourself, is this the community we want? And how does this differ from Elon Musk’s vision of tunnels and hyperloops “connecting” our community.

The second event I with broad regional appeal for people like me who care about Sustainable Transportation and how it interacts with City Planning will be the Transportation Forums on March 1st. I’d suggest you book the time off work and enjoy the entire day, but you really don’t want to miss the evening event, as Mobility Pricing is sure to be the hottest political topic in the Lower Mainland through the fall elections and into 2019.

The evening forum will feature the Chair of the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission, one of the most respected and outspoken Urban Planners in Canada, and an Economist who can unpack the idea of what “fairness” is when it comes to paying for our regional transportation infrastructure. The Mayor of New Westminster will moderate the discussion, and it is free to attend.

If you are like me, you may be interested but apprehensive about Mobility Pricing. I have engaged in TransLink’s “Its Time” consultations, and understand how Mobility Pricing works in Singpore and London and Helsinki, but am cognizant of the challenge we have in Vancouver setting up a system that fits our region, and can be politically supported by the broad interests of the region. I’m hoping this forum will answer some of the questions I have, and allow me to better engage with the proponents and critics of road pricing.

There is a tonne of other great stuff happening between February 23 and March 3. Please come out and support these events, and thanks the many sponsors who help lead these conversations in New West. That link again.

Council, Feb 19, 2017

Apparently it was a cold, sunny day on February 19th, but Council Chambers were kept warm with a mid-day Workshop on the City’s Economic Development Plan (which you can see here and read here).

Our evening began with Public Hearings on the following Zoning changes:

Zoning Amendment (Housekeeping) Bylaw No. 7924, 2018
This Bylaw makes a bunch of “housekeeping” changes to our Zoning Bylaw. These are changes like replacing the word “church” with the words “place of worship” to modernize the language, and “Update references to Local Government Act Section 921 to Local Government Act Section 493” to catch up to changes that happened in other legislation, and to standardize units of measure. This should be pretty uncontroversial stuff as we are not changing any practices here, just updating language to clarify existing policy. Not surprisingly, we had no correspondence on the Bylaw, and no-one came to speak to Council on the issue.

Council moved to Refer this Bylaw to the Council Meeting immediately following, where Council gave the Bylaw Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment (1319 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 7981, 2018
Steel & Oak wants to expand their seating area from 30 seats to 50, and this requires a Zoning Amendment, as we don’t currently have a zone in our Industrial Areas that allows public assembly of more than 30 customers. S&O have been great business leaders in the City, helping at a variety of community events, and becoming unofficial spokespeople for their home community. Their operation has not caused any concern with the neighbours, Bylaws or the police. Alas, our long legacy of Bylaws often means it takes way too long for zoning changes like this to work through our processes, and this should not have taken more than a year, but I’m glad we finally got to this point so S&O can hire more staff and continue to build our local economy.

We received no correspondence on this application, and only the Proponent came to speak to the amendment. Council moved to refer this Bylaw to the Council Meeting immediately following, where Council gave the Bylaw Third Reading and Adoption, and also passed a follow-up resolution to support S&O’s application to the Provincial Government for the concomitant license change.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Retail Sale of Cannabis) No. 7966, 2018
We discussed this during our recent workshop on Cannabis regulation, The City is making a temporary change to the Zoning Bylaw to clarify the current regulatory environment, in preparation nfor the new regulations we hope to have in place for when the Federal Government legalizes the recreational cannabis industry. Even since I wrote that piece a couple of weeks ago, there has been some change both provincially and federally in regards to senior government framework and timing. Staff is working on putting together a public consultation process, and hope to bring a comprehensive set of regulations to Council this summer.

We had a couple of people come to speak to this issue, mostly involved either directly or peripherally in the industry, and mostly curious about what our permanent bylaw regime is going to look like. Council moved to refer this Bylaw to the council meeting immediately following, where Council gave the Bylaw Third Reading and Adoption.

Following the Public Hearing, we moved to our Regular Agenda and Opportunities to be Heard on various variance permits:

Development Variance Permit DVP00636 for 319 Ash Street
A Resident in Brow of the Hill wants to formalize a secondary suite, but doesn’t want to knock down a tree to build another off-street parking space. That requires a variance. One piece of correspondence appeared on table in opposition (in the interest of full disclosure – letter from a former employer of mine!), and the only the proponent appeared to speak in favour. IMO, the Brow needs as many trees as it can get. Council moved to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00640 for 232 Eleventh Street
This property in the Brow has been difficult to develop because it is on a steep slope and the only street frontage is on the top edge of the property. It has been vacant for some time as a result. The request is for the City to allow off-street parking in the front yard (though the house will really “front” facing down the hill, the primary road access is technically the “front”), which requires a variance.

No-one in the neighbourhood seemed to object, and staff think this is a reasonable solution. Council moved to support the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00641 for 354 Johnston Street and Development Variance Permit DVP00619 for 353 Johnston Street
AI put these together, as they are two adjacent properties with the same issue. The extra-deep 147-foot lots on Johnston Street (no relation!), when subdivided to a pretty typical modern width (33 feet), don’t comply with one of our Zoning laws that say the long side of a lot can’t be more than 4x the width. So they need a Variance. These lots are common in Queensborough, and not particularly controversial.

We had no-one correspond with us on this, and had one person come to speak in opposition, worried that there is not enough on-street parking on a street where every house is built with 4 off-street parking spaces. Council voted to approve the variance.

Temporary Use Permit TUP00015 for 457 East Columbia Street
A resident wants to open an old-fashioned quarters-in-the-slot-blast-pixelated-aliens Arcade in Sapperton. We have pretty restrictive Bylaws for arcades created in the 90’s for a bunch of reasons that probably made sense at the time (after all, this was pre-Grunge and the Seattle scene!) so they need a Variance. We received quite a bit of correspondence on this, almost all in favour. If I had known Arcade folks liked writing to City Hall so much, I’d have charged them a quarter each… the RA supported the idea, and no protests from local businesses.

Council had several questions around the business plan and the potential for alcohol sales. If I could paraphrase all of Council comments: what can we do to make your business model more robust; sorry it took so long to get this organized; and hopefully Staff can bring a more permanent solution to Council sooner rather than later, but we don’t want to delay this Temporary Use permit to get you up and running as soon as possible. Good luck!

We then had a slightly more detailed than expected report from our Electrical Utility on the response and follow-up to the Queensborough Bridge Electrical Fire last October.

If you live in Q’Boro, you no doubt remember not having electricity for 28 hours. The fire was caused by a failure of one of the circuits in a conduit attached to the bridge, which impacted adjacent conduits. This report outlines costs related to the initial repair ($65,000), the follow-up repair to make the system stable again ($150,000), and an estimate for a better longer-term repair ($350,000). This also emphasized the need to build a Substation in Q’boro, which has always been a plan but may be accelerated due to this.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Financial Plan, 2018-2022
This is the Bylaw that formalizes our five-year financial plan, which includes a 2.95% tax increase and a 1% capital levy. I will blog more on this when I get a chance, but for now Council moved to give the Bylaw three readings.

Recruitment 2018: NTAC Appointment
The Q’boro RA representative to the Neighbourhood Traffic Advisory Committee is appointed.

Recruitment 2018: EDAC Appointment
An adjustment to the representation on the EDAC, due to the inability of one member to serve, and based on an application received during the most recent Committee Application process.

Official Community Plan Implementation Work Program: Update on Scope of Work to Address Emerging Issues
We have some staffing issues in our Planning Department. Part of it has to do with retirements and attrition, some with a very aggressive set of Council initiatives that have eaten up a bunch of planning staff time – Implementing OCP measures and the HCA, proactive approaches to Affordable Housing, ongoing development and new policy areas like the Cannabis regulations and Short Term Rentals. Staff are giving Council (and the public) a bit of notice here that their capacity for new tasks is getting strained.

I am concerned that we will get caught flat-footed on Short Term Rentals policy, but recognize our bandwidth limits here, and cannot think of any of the prioritized policy areas that I would “bump down” to put STR policy on the fast track. Another approach here is to expand our capacity, but this will be an ongoing discussion on Council as we are near the end of our 2018 Budget process and may need to defer this discussion for the next budget period.

100 Braid Street (Urban Academy): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Construction sometimes sticks you between a rock and a hard place. Sunday morning construction is a hassle for neighbours, but sometimes needs to happen. In this case, the builders need to close two lanes of Braid street, which would have bad impacts on neighbourhood and regional traffic if done mid-week, and the Saturday would be better, but there is a Wedding being held next door! A wedding! So Council granted a variance to allow one day of Sunday construction so the school project can put up their roof trusses.

200 to 700 Blocks Columbia Street Sewer Interceptors: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Construction sometimes needs to happen at bad times because it works better then. Major sewer works especially work better at night when sewer loads are smaller, for obvious reasons. Treatment of the major sewer works under Columbia Street with a Magnesium Hydroxide every once in a while prolongs the lifespan of the works by counteracting the chemical erosion caused by the hydrogen sulfide that emits from your… uh… waste. Council moved to give this variance so the milk of magnesia can be delivered to the guts of the City.

Possible Modular Housing Projects
The topic of Temporary Modular Housing has been pretty hot in Vancouver, where the homelessness crisis is most acute, and there has been some push-back from residents there around plans to give their neighbours safe roofs over their heads. Here in New West, our staff have recognized that there is demand here for these facilities, but we are challenged by a general lack of City-owned land upon which to place them.

Perhaps ironically, two potential candidate locations the City owns are not available because the City has provided them to not-for-profits to build permanent non-market housing, a project that has been going on for more than a year. Staff have evaluated many pieces of land in the City over which we have some control (City and Provincially-owned), and have identified two priority locations, one in Queensborough, and one on the Mainland.

We are moving forward with geotechnical analysis (the temporary buildings need to have solid footing) and working with the province to determine how to best bring these sites on-line, or even if the province is interested in bringing their program to the sites we have available. I think Council is interested in seeing these developed as part of our comprehensive approach to housing affordability, and I hope we can fast –track any approval the City need to provide to pave the way for getting people into safer homes. Its cold out there people.

Applications for Grant Funding to the FCM – Municipal Asset Management Program and UBCM Local Government Program Service 2018 Asset Management Planning Program
Creating a more comprehensive Asset Management program is one of the Strategic Priorities set for this Council term. The very short version of this is to look at everything the City owns that has a lifespan (road lines, telephone poles, HVAC systems, sewer pipes, that arcade-style basketball hoop thing at the Canada Games Pool, etc.) and provide a systematic process to evaluate their lifespan, maintenance and replacement cost, and put those costs into a financial framework to better assist long-term financial planning. Luckily, the FCM is giving out grants to support this kind of work, and we are going to apply for one of those grants. Cross your fingers!

514 Carnarvon Street (Holy Trinity): Affordable Housing Update
The parish of the historic Holy Trinity Cathedral are hoping to develop their lot in order to raise funds for restoration of their building, expansion of the community space on their campus, and to provide both non-market and market secured rental and strata residential units in the same building. Although this project has already seen a couple of years of reshaping, it is still pretty early in the process for the project. There will be public consultation and a public hearing if this project proceeds. Stay tuned.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Servicing of Water Lots Within Port of Vancouver Jurisdiction
This is an information report brought to catch Council up on some issues raised more than year ago by some residents of float homes in Queensborough. For the most part, they are living on water lots under Port of Vancouver jurisdiction. For reasons going back through decades of zoning decisions, there are other people living in legally non-conforming residences on the “flood” side of the dyke, in lots that are at least partially Port jurisdiction, and can only be serviced through the Dyke (which comes with another set of complications). The Port’s land use plan for their water lots are more industrial than the current use reflects, or even what the City’s long term use plans may be. Short version: the Port doesn’t like float homes expanding into their industrial land base, and the City is reluctant to provide services to them, especially if the Port doesn’t approve.

Modernization of the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act
The ACTBiPed was provided a presentation from the Road Safety Law Reform Group pf BC, a collection of road safety advocates, cycling groups, lawyers and Public Health researchers, outlining the need for a serious reform of the Motor Vehicle Act of BC.

The very fact it is called the “Motor Vehicle Act”, but is the primary provincial regulation covering the use of the provinces’ public transportation realm is telling – we need to start thinking about the safety of all users of public space, and distribute the rights and responsibilities more equitably. The Act was drafted in 1957, and hasn’t changed much since.

The proposals of the RSLRG, are mostly changes to protect vulnerable road users, and are based on research done in other provinces (most notably Quebec and Ontario). They start with redrafting the Act as a “Road Safety Act”, and separating different road users (motorists, cyclists, pedestrians) based upon their real risk and the different ways they operate in public spaces.

This includes changes to make cycling more safe (i.e. a three-foot passing law, clarifying when a cyclist may pass on the right and lane occupancy priorities), and for make in pedestrian spaces safer (including rules to reduce cyclist-pedestrian conflicts). There are also several well-understood and researched safety changes, including making 30km/h the default speed limit on local roads without a centre line, allowing “red arrow” lights to restrict right turns, etc.

ACTBiPed asked Council to endorse the recommendations made by the RSLRG, and to sponsor a resolution at the upcoming UBCM meeting in support of modernizing the MVA. Council approved.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in New Developments
This is obviously an emergent technology, and one that most local governments want to support to reduce the air pollution and GHG impacts in our community. Some communities are aggressively updating their zoning and development Bylaws to encourage or force the installation of works required to facilitate plug-ins in new residential and commercial buildings. Council asked staff to review and bring back options for us to approve new requirements and make it easier for our residents to switch to electric.

We then read and adopted a couple of Bylaws:

Draft 2018 – 2022 Financial Plan Bylaw 7992, 2018
Council gave the Bylaw that codifies our 2018-2022 Budget three readings.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (235 Durham Street) Amendment
Bylaw No. 7975, 2018

Council adopted this Bylaw that gave a homeowner working on a heritage Restoration a little more time to get his requirements fulfilled.

Finally, we had a piece of New Business:

Motion on Notice, Single-use Plastic Bags and straws
Councillor Williams brought forward this Notice of Motion a couple of weeks ago. I support the intent, but the actual motion included a “due date” I was concerned about. I think we need to work with Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Program, and this is something we can roll into the Environmental Policy update staff is working on as part of our Strategic Plans this Council Terms. Finally, I note we are not alone in doing this, as Port Moody and Victoria are on the bandwagon here, and I suspect we may be seeing Provincial action soon.

And that was all except for the singing. Yes, we sang.

Ask Pat: Stormont redux?

CH of Burnaby asks—

Have you changed your views on the Stormont Connector now that there is an opportunity to revamp the access to the new Pattullo Bridge? You were against the connector a few years ago. Do you still want all that traffic meandering through your residential areas? 

To your first question: No. And your second question sets up a false premise.

The Stormont Connector is a really expensive solution to a poorly defined problem, as I wrote about at length six (!) years ago. Nothing has substantially changed since I wrote that, except that the plans for Pattullo replacement have shifted from a 6-lane bridge to a 4-lane bridge, and the Port Mann now provides 10 toll-free lanes shifting even more regional traffic to that bridge. If anything, we have less reason to spend billions of dollars building a freeway through the middle of our city, and asking Burnaby to do the same.

Do I want rush hour traffic meandering through New West neighbourhoods? Not really, but I also don’t want a freeway running through the centre of the City, and there is no reason to believe that adding the latter will take away the former.  It simply doesn’t work like that.

So TransLink and the Ministry of Transportation are going to replace the Pattullo with a similar-capacity bridge, and there will be some minor increases in vehicle through-put, mostly related to better designed intersections at each end of the bridge. I think the opportunities New West has through this process are to improve the east-west connections through our City. We can make it safer and easier for Victoria Hill residents to walk and cycle to Downtown or to QayQayt. We can safely connect the Central Valley Greenway across McBride (finally) with enhanced connections to the proposed Agnes Street Greenway. We can vastly improve the public realm around Albert Crescent Park. There are many potential wins here for the City of New West, I just don’t see how a Stormont connector is one of them.

This topic also gives me a chance to give props to North Vancouver MLA Bowinn Ma, whom I was able to chat with at the Pattullo press event on Friday, and who continues to impress with her straightforward smarts and ability to engage on technical topics. It is refreshing to have an MLA speak so clearly and knowledgeably about urban transportation issues as Ma did on twitter last night:

Yep, She gets it.

Council – Feb 5, 2018

It was a report-full and public-conversation-full Council Meeting this week, with a lot on the agenda, so put on a kettle of tea. We started with an open invite for the public to comment on:

Draft 2018 – 2022 Financial Plan
This is our annual budget consultation. As required by the Community Charter, our budget must be balanced over a 5-year cycle, and there are some prescriptive reporting requirements. We also provide more information in order to make the somewhat enigmatic budget figures more understandable.

I will blog more about this in the coming weeks, but the short version of the draft plan is that general revenues are projected to go up by about $5.8 Million. Of this, about $1.6 Million (28%) is from new taxes related directly to growth and $1.3 Million (22%) is related to new fees collected mostly from supporting growth (permit and engineering fees, for the most part). Add to this a proposed 2.95% tax increase that bring in an extra $2.2 Million (38%), and a new 1% Capital Levy to support our ambitious capital renewal plan which will bring in about $750K (13%) to be directed to our Capital Reserves.

Utility rates are, not surprisingly, going up mostly due to local and regional Capital investment, from water tunnels under the river to new sewer treatment plants. We are still not sure what BC Hydro will be doing with electrical rates in 2018, as the utility predicted a 3% increase and the Premier suggested he would freeze that for a year. We will need to talk about the long-term policy implications for the City of BC Hydro creating unsustainable deferment accounts – we need to maintain our capital (including some new substation needs) and need some certainty in rates to plan for that.

We had a few people present to the plan, some sharing our concern about the infrastructure gap and the need for Senior Governments to help local governments, others with more technical questions about the numbers. We also received some written correspondence on the budget. Council moved to receive the report, and staff will now work towards creating supporting Bylaws to make the Financial Plan official.

The following items were Moved on Consent

Updates to the City’s Election Bylaws
Why has no-one told me there is going to be an election this year? As God is my witness, the fountain of information coming out of the Provincial Government has been unrelenting, with new and constantly-updating financing and declaration rules. However, these Bylaw changes are simply about making sure our local election rules comply with the Provincial regulations. There will be little change here, except the dates of the early ballots will be adjusted to avoid the polls falling on the Thanksgiving weekend when many people travel.

235 Durham Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Amendment Bylaw No. 7975, 2018
This HRA project has been delayed by the owner for a few reasons relating to family issues. The owner does plan to proceed, but needs some more time. As these Agreements have deadlines, Council had to agree to extend the deadlines through a Bylaw.

835 Eighth Street (New Westminster Secondary School): Proposed Redevelopment of the New Westminster Secondary School
The new High School project is rolling along, but unlike the RCH project (see below) it doesn’t need any zoning approval or anything from the City. However the City does have some interest in the transportation connections, relationship to Massey Theatre, the Moody Park Arena and Mercer Stadium. So it is good to get an update on the plans as they move along.

Mostly, seeing as we have no regulatory role, I think the City’s main desire here is to stay out of the way and let the new School get built. The one issue we needed to deal with is a triangle of land that belongs to the City but the School District wants to use for crane installation and construction staging. So we are making that happen.

406 – 412 East Columbia Street: Principles for a Housing Agreement
A developer is working on a plan to build a mixed-sue building on a vacant lot in Sapperton. It will combine street retail, office space, and purpose-built secured rental housing. To secure the potential residential units as rental for the life of the building, a legal agreement will be prepared between the City and the developer. This report outlines the principles of the agreement, and now that council endorsed the principles, staff will draft a formal agreement as part of the development review process.

Bylaw Closing a Portion of Highway – 1084 Tanaka Court
A portion of land adjacent to Tanaka Court (the road one uses to get to the Lowes parking lot in Queensborough) belongs to the City, and though it is designated as part of the road, it is only really useful as part of a redevelopment of the adjacent piece of vacant land. In order for the City to sell it, we first have to “close the road”, so it is a titled lot, or can be amalgamated on to the adjacent lot. That takes a Road Closure Bylaw.

Assuming the Ministry of Transportation approves, this Bylaw will go to a public Opportunity to be Heard. Watch your local CityPage for the announcement!

Recreation Management Software Replacement Project
Parks and Recreation are ready to pull the switch on their major registration and facility management software upgrade. This is the software used for all recreation and cultural programs and facilities rentals. Naturally, this is a big shift, but staff have been working on this for a year the new provider of the software has a solid reputation with a lot of experience at this stuff. Fortunately, they are a Burnaby-based company, and there are 22 other municipalities that use the system, so we are not all on our own here.

That said, its new software, so expect a few hiccups and a bit of time on a learning curve, but hopefully registration will soon be smooth and easy like never before!

We then had a few Reports for Action

Status of 2015-2018 Strategic Initiatives – Update
This is our new practice of receiving regular reports on the progress of many of our Strategic Initiatives for the term. This time around, we heard progress reports on these three initiatives:
Library upgrades: The Library is our second most-visited facility (after the Canada Games Pool), and hasn’t seen major renovations in a few decades. The older side of the building is from the 50’s and needs some pretty significant work done on the building envelope and stricter, aside from the need to upgrade the facility to suit modern needs. Libraries are very different places in 2018 than they were in 1958, and we have not kept up with that change. So there will be (unfortunately but necessarily) disruptive work going on in the building for the next year and a half. The ongoing plan is to only deactivate portions at a time to keep as much continuity in service as possible, so please be friendly to the staff as they make the best of a bad situation. The end result will be worth it!
Economic Development: The City has taken a more proactive role in Economic Development in the last few years, and are very fortunate to have great partnerships with our Chamber of Commerce, our two “official” BIAs and three Business Area Associations. The major thrust here is through the Intelligent City initiative to promote and retain more tech-savvy businesses while continuing to support our retail and commercial areas as the population grows. This is a never-ending job, but a solid strategy and team is vital.
Environment Strategy: It is time the City did a comprehensive review of its various environmental programs and initiatives, and provide a strong framework plan to assure we are being strategic with our priorities. There was some great initial public consultation for this program in the fall, with some new ideas, some suggestions and criticisms of the City’s current programs, and visions of a more sustainable City. We expect to see a policy document some time in late spring bringing these together.

813 – 823 Carnarvon Street: Rezoning to Allow a 204 Unit Market Residential and 66 Unit Non-Market Residential Development – Bylaw for First and Second Readings,
This is a proposed development in the Downtown Tower District that combines a Market condo tower (a little shorter than the adjacent Plaza88 tower) with a smaller tower of non-market rental suites. The organization running the non-market Tower is called PAL, and they hope to run a facility similar to one they have on Coal Harbour where seniors who have worked in the arts can live in a means-tested affordable housing building attached to the market tower.

The project will be going to public consultation and eventually to Public Hearing, so I don’t want to say too much about it until the public has a chance to chew on it. However another topic came up through the discussion of the project, and that resulted in a follow-up motion from Council.

I did, however, raise a concern about the amount of parking going into a building that is immediately adjacent to a SkyTrain Station – 275 parking spots for a 270-unit building (including guest parking and some parking to support the commercial in the podium). I think we are at a time where we can start significantly reducing the parking numbers for developments like this. Underground parking is a significant cost for developers: depending on site and ground conditions, $30,000 – $50,000 per spot. Underground, they make construction much more expensive and disruptive to the community as large excavations and de-watering projects must be tolerated; above ground, they create out-of-scale buildings with terrible streetscape.

The City has a program where developers can build less than our regulated “parking minimum”, but they must pay cash in-lieu to the City based on some formula. This program dates back to 2011, and may need a revisit, as times change and we have a new Master Transportation Plan and housing affordability issues that this should directly address. During Q&A, this developer expressed concern about the cost of building four levels of parking, and was confident they could market the condos without parking spaces – it is the City and our policies that are forcing so much parking to be built across the street from a SkyTrain.

So, we are going to review these policies (though I suspect it is too late for this specific project).

813 – 823 Carnarvon Street (Affordable Housing): Principles for Housing Agreement
This report outlines the shape of a Housing agreement that would assure the second building in this development would remain non-market affordable housing for the life of the building. If the project were to be approved, these are the conditions the City would expect the developer and not-for-profit operator to stick to.

Aside from some subtlety of language around storage space allocation and a bit of a follow-up gripe about requiring parking in a supportive housing development, Council moved to support the principles in the report.

After a report from our Police Department, some awards given to a couple of outstanding officers, and some proclamations and public delegations (I blogged a bit about a few of them here, and will talk about another on in a subsequent post), we moved onto the items Removed from Consent for discussion.

Community Mural Policy
Staff and the Arts Commission worked on a policy where the City could support community-driven mural projects on City and private buildings. It looked pretty good, but Councillor Trentadue did raise an interesting issue around how the City seems to be creating a situation where people wishing to beautify their own private building may run into a bureaucracy wall when, really, outside the Sign Bylaw, we should only be interested in mural on our own property. Council moved to send it back to Committee for a little more work prior to passage.

616 – 640 Sixth Street (Market Rental): Principles for a Housing Agreement
Similar to above, this is another proposed development that has not had Council Approval, but Staff is working to put together a Housing Agreement to secure the conditions of the Purpose Built Rental part of the development. Again, aside from a few minor language changes, Council supported the principles.

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital): Rezoning to Allow Renovation, Modernization and Redevelopment of Hospital Facilities
The City has some permitting to manage as the Royal Columbian Hospital redevelopment occurs over the next decade. This report gives us some idea what is coming down the pike. It also includes a report to be used by Fraser Health and their consultants to drive the public realm designs of the buildings.

From a City perspective, I am mostly concerned about how this building integrates with our traffic and pedestrian systems. If staff and visitors of the Hospital are all going to arrive and leave by cars on East Columbia Street, none of our goals for making east Columbia a vibrant Great Street are going to be realized. It will be a disaster.

Good news is that Fraser Health and City are committed to making alternatives work, including moving the main automobile ingress and egress down to Brunette Avenue, and whatever changes need to happen to Keary Street and/or Sherbrook to support this needs to be understood early. We also need to assure the pedestrian, cycling ,and bus infrastructure on East Columbia is well integrated and makes those attractive options.

Fortunately, the initial concepts look positive, and Fraser Health is talking Transportation Demand Management to help with their own parking issues, which is a huge step towards making a new, expanded hospital support East Columbia and the livability of the entire community. Exciting times ahead.

We then, as always, did our Local Government Act Prescribed Bylaws dance:

Zoning Amendment (813 – 823 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 7974, 2018
As described above, this proposal to build a two-tower mixed use residential building on Carnarvon Street, including a supportive housing component, was given two readings. There will be a special Public Hearing on March 5th. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Council Procedure Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7986, 2018
Local Government Elections Procedures Bylaw No. 7985, 2018
Automated Voting Machines Authorization Amendment Bylaw No. 7994, 2018
These three Bylaws to adjust our Council schedule, make some necessary changes to our Elections Bylaw to meet the new Provincial laws, and to authorize the voting machines for the 2018 Local Government Elections were given three readings.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (235 Durham Street) Amendment Bylaw No. 7975, 2018
As described above, this Bylaw to facilitate a request for a time extension for a homeowner to do their heritage restoration work was given three readings.

Tanaka Court Road Closure Bylaw No. 7991, 2018
As described above, this Bylaw to close an unused portion of the Tanaka Court right-of-way was given three readings. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard scheduled once the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is given us the green light.

Corporate Record Management Bylaw No. 7987, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this update to our procedures for record retention, destruction, and transmission to our permanent archive was Adopted. It is now the Law of the Land. It should be fun seeing what comes out of the deep file search of some of our very old Bylaws and they are transferred to digital.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7953, 2018: Passive Design Incentives for Single Detached Zones
As discussed last meeting, this Zoning Bylaw amendment that will provide modest incentives for the building of more energy efficient homes in the community was Adopted. It is now the Law of the Land. Adjust your thermostats appropriately.

We then had some New business</> coming out of last week’s notices of motion:

Motion on Notice, Umbrella Cooperative
This is a not-for-profit operating a community health clinic in New Westminster specifically developed to support people with language or cultural barriers to public services. They could use a little help and the City is formally asking the Province ot help them out, and to provide for more of this type of service to our new residents.

Motion on Notice, First Nations Representatives on Committees
The City is working on a diversity mandate for Council Advisory Committees, and I think it is important that First Nations representatives (be they from local or regional First Nations, or people who live in our community and have lived the Indigenous experience, regardless of their tradition territory) is an important part of that. We will make sure there is a mechanism in place for next Committee Recruiting season to make this happen.

Happy Family day everyone. Pop by the Anvil Centre, as there will be many things happening!

on HCA effects

Another council meeting, and another delegation from residents concerned that the Heritage Conservation Area in Queens Park has unleashed economic disaster on Queens Park. I have not written up my notes from yesterday’s meeting yet, but I first want to talk about a subject that came up in the Open Delegations, and a meeting tomorrow about it.

I feel the need to explain that I am a champion for people delegating to keep Council informed about their concerns. I want Open Delegations to be an inviting and comfortable place, and am cognizant that there is a power dynamic here. My directly challenging delegates could be seen as – can genuinely feel like – I am “punching down” from a position of authority. For that reason, I am very sensitive in that setting not to engage in a debate about the facts delegates present. Too often that comes across as challenging their right to be heard. If I counter their facts in that setting, it can be construed as dismissing or doubting their opinions, and ultimately, not being respectful.

So I often takes notes and thank them, and save my questions or comments to delegates for points of clarity, to reinforce things I agree with, or to initiate discussions about how Council or Staff can operationalize around their concerns (see other delegations that day).

Regular readers (Hi Mom!) would also note I have an itch to correct the record, so I am writing this to correct one common theme I heard, with all due respect to the strongly felt convictions of the delegates: There is simply no evidence that the Heritage Conservation Area has impacted the values of homes in Queens Park. At least, not yet.

When the annual BC Assessments came out recently, many people noted that housing values have not increased as much as condo values this year. This is a trend across New West and the region, and may be attributed to condos starting to “catch up” to the last few years of significant increases in the single family home sector. It also appears that many single family homes remained stagnant or even decreased slightly in value this year. This is the case for most homes in Queens Park.

This (horribly scanned, apologies) image shows every residential property in New West based on how their assessment changed in 2018. GREEN went up more than 15%; YELLOW was an average increase between 5 and 15%; ORANGE had an increase under 5%; RED a decrease.

A careful analysis of individual homes throughout Queens Park, however, show that there is no bulk difference between homes that fell under higher levels of protection (those built before 1940) and those with limited or no protection. With only a few exceptions, the variations within the neighbourhood seems more related to the block the house is on than anything else.

Same crappy scan, same colour codes. Note single-family parts of upper Glenbrook and Upper Sapperton areas had similar declines as Queens Park.

Perhaps more tellingly, homes in the Glenbrook and Upper Sapperton neighboruhoods had similar stagnant or slight reductions in value. These houses are not (for the most part) older homes, have no Heritage Conservation Area, and only resemble Queens Park in that they are fairly high-value homes on relatively large lots. If the HCA caused the stagnation in Queens Park, we will need another, yet completely separate, explanation for this remarkably similar stagnation on the other side of McBride. Declines were generally 1-5% in both areas.

Note, the 2018 assessment were completed only a month or so after the rules around the new HCA were developed. Although there was a 6-month temporary conservation measure and significant community conversation about the potential HCA, it is fair to say that the implementation of the HCA may not have had an impact on the Assessors work, but the market by that time definitely had a strong wind that something was going to happen, what with the Lawn Sign war and all.

What I m saying here is that we don’t yet know the short- or long-term impact on housing values related to the HCA. We have evidence from other jurisdictions that there may be a small short-term decline, followed by accelerated increases, and that the long-term trend is towards higher values. However, give me a trend you want to see, and I can probably find a Heritage Area somewhere that matches it. There are hundreds of districts like this around North America, and there are too many confounding variables to say with certainty what the impact will be. The best bet, based on an accumulation of data, is that the impact (positive or negative) will be small.

I do want to emphasize that increasing property values was not a goal of the HCA; protecting the heritage of a unique neighbourhood was. That said, Council recognized that the heritage goals will not be met simply by banning demolitions of heritage homes, but we need a suite of measures to encourage residents to preserve the neighbourhood. Preventing demolitions was priority #1 simply because of the timelines imposed by the Local Government Act, setting up regulations around renovations, repairs, and upkeep was also a high priority.

The City recognizes the need to provide more “carrots” to give people reason to invest in their heritage properties. So we are working through a process of determining what an appropriate set of incentives are that will make it more attractive for people to take advanced protection measures (like Designation), potentially help with specific cases where the broad brush of the HCA may make it difficult to fulfill their zoning entitlements, or where we can find opportunities to increase housing choice, affordability, or flexibility while protecting heritage assets.

Having started this post speaking of the group of delegates from yesterday, I do want to note that the final delegate on the topic did provide a pretty well-organized list of potential incentives that should be part of the conversation. Coincidentally, there is an Open house at Anvil Centre on Wednesday Night where staff, residents, and subject matter experts can talk about this. It may be worth while attending if you live in Queens Park:

Council on Cannabis

My reports on the January 29th regular meeting and Public Hearing are here and here, respectively, but we also had a constructive Workshop session during the early afternoon that you can watch in its videotronic glory here.

Implementation of Cannabis Legislation
The Federal Government have announced that some time in July, 2018, the production, distribution and sale of cannabis for recreational use will be legal in Canada. This has resulted in a bit of a rush (by government standards) to develop appropriate regulatory controls around an industry that will transition from underground to commonplace. This has involved every level of government working at essentially the same time, trying to figure out where the overlaps and gaps are. At a national level, there is no precedence for this, so complications ensue…

What we know right now (and I am simplifying a bit here) is that the feds are going to regulate the commercial production and packaging, and create quality and other standards. The provincial governments are going to be responsible for distribution systems and regulating the retail market. Local governments will do what we always do – regulate local land use (through zoning) and business regulations to manage parochial concerns (business hours, signage standards, buffer zones, etc.).

The pressure on local governments right now is that we can’t really do our job until we have a good understanding of the framework that senior governments will provide. They are putting together laws, but we are not yet certain about what the details will be. In the regulation-as-sausage-making sense, we cannot just create new Bylaws instantly: between doing the drafting work, community consultation, legal review, Council approval, Public Hearings, and implementation, it can take 6 months or more to build an effective bylaw regime. July is 6 months away.

With this in mind, Council held a workshop to give staff guidance on a proposed regime for managing cannabis sales and production locally, within the limits of our regulatory role. Staff prepared some briefs on the ways they see this rolling out, leaving significant wiggle room as we are somewhat reading the tea leaves of semi-complete senior government regulation. It isn’t perfect, but it is a proactive approach.

All ideas were discussed as a set of basic principles to be put together into draft bylaws, with the intention of taking this out to public consultation to get a sense of where the community is on this. Therefore, take my comments and those of Council on this as a set of starting principles, which may change by the time we are finished this process later in the year. The discussion revolved around 5 basic areas:

1) Limiting retail locations (Zoning Bylaw)
The Province has indicated there will be government-run cannabis retailers and private retailers. This looks a bit like the current liquor store model. We can write a zoning bylaw to allow the sale of cannabis as an “add on use” to existing retail-zoned areas. Similar to a liquor retailer, an applicant would come to City Hall with a proposed location, staff would evaluate against a general set of guidelines and process an application that would require some public input. The actual guidelines are currently up in the air. What restrictions to put on these retail stores (if any) are the meat of the public discussion to come. Should there be a 300m buffer to the nearest school? 100m buffer from each other? Should it only be allowed in some retail areas, not others? Should there be a prohibition on selling in neighbourhood corner stores as opposed to retail strips? This is the conversation we need to have right now.

Notably, it does not look like consumption sites will be legal in the short term. There are a bunch of WorkSafe BC and other rules around smoking in work places, and edibles and tinctures will apparently not be legal until 2019, so we are limiting our discussion in the short term on retail sale for off-site consumption (think liquor stores, not pubs, for the alcohol corollary)

2)Production facilities (Zoning Bylaw)
It is anticipated that production will be pretty industrial, and due to security and energy costs, relatively large operations. Whether there will be a smaller “craft” production market is yet to be determined. The Federal Government is regulating this, but the City will need to assure our Zoning Bylaw allows this use in appropriate places. We have larger M2 zoned properties, mostly in Queensborough and the Braid Industrial Area, where staff feel it is most appropriate, and we have smaller M1 zones that are more light industry like in the Braid Triangle and adjacent to Stewardson Way. Which of these is most appropriate?

These industrial operations may smell, and it is a little unclear how prepared Metro Vancouver is to regulate air quality from them. It is not even clear where the proposed federal rules government production will intersect with the air quality bylaws of the regional government. This is something to watch.

3)Business licensing rules (Business License bylaw)
This is where we regulate things around the day-to-day operations of businesses, like hours of operation, staffing, limiting age of customers, and business streetscape. I am generally in favour of making this as similar to liquor stores as a starting point, but am willing to be convinced that either a more rigorous or more lax approach is appropriate. One important aspect is how we regulate the sale of “paraphernalia”: should it be limited to places that sell the product? we currently have (somewhat dated) Bylaws restricting the sale of “drug paraphernalia” in the City – these will need an update.

4)Public Consumption (Smoking Bylaw)
Another challenge that falls somewhat in to local jurisdiction is our public smoking law. Not all marijuana is smoked, but the nuisance and negative health impacts of second hand smoke are as real for pot as for cigarettes. Our current Bylaw does cover all smoking materials, so no big change needed here, though some clarifying language may help. I have other concerns around public education, but will cover that below.

5)Domestic production
The feds are going to make it legal to produce a few plants at home for personal use, and the city may want to create regulations around this, such as requiring that it only be done indoors or in an accessory building. I’m not sure if we need to take these measures, as I suspect much of the negative impact of previous “grow-op” practices were a product of growing under a prohibition regime – the need for intensive lights, hydroponics, etc. People growing a plant in their living room or deck may be no different than growing poinsettias or tomatoes, but I really don’t know. I feel we need some input from our Fire Chief and buildings staff to better understand potential issues.

This, and the smoking bylaw part above, brings up my final concern: New Westminster has a high proportion of people living in Multi-Family Buildings, be they condos or rentals, and I don’t really know how these new rules are going to impact that sector. Will building managers or stratas regulate the growing of plants on decks, the smoking of cannabis on decks, or even within apartments? Does the Strata Act or the Residential Tenancy Act address these issues already? What are the rights of residents (be they owners or renters) and what are their responsibilities? How much can stratas self-regulate this? I am afraid the City will be asked to intervene in this type of conflict between neighbours, and I don’t know if we understand how to manage this.

I want to know from the province about their efforts to educate the general public about the new rules, and where funding will come from to support local governments in addressing conflicts.

The City is initiating a public conversation about all of these issues, in the hopes that we can have a solid framework as soon as we have certainty on senior government regulations. I’m not sure we will have every piece in place by July, but we did emphasize to staff that we don’t want to drag our feet on this, even if it means holding Public Hearings in the summer (which is not a preferred practice).

Staff suggested we need to make a few changes to our existing Bylaws now in order to prevent unanticipated problems leading up to July and the city getting its entire regulatory regime passed. It is still illegal to sell cannabis from a storefront in Canada, and in New Westminster we have taken the approach of not providing business licenses to businesses wanting to engage in illegal activity. Staff recommended updating the language in our Zoning Bylaw to clarify that practice, and bring the language up to date with newer Federal regulations. They are not recommending changing any practices here in the short term, just making sure the language meets the current standard to remove uncertainty. Council agreed to give those Bylaw updates First and Second reading.

So stay tuned, folks, and let us know what you think about this new direction we are taking. I think we are entering with open minds and clear intent, but also aware that there will be some hiccups along the way.

Council – Jan 29, 2018(B)

I covered the January 29th Public Hearing in this earlier post. Our regular meeting began with Opportunities to be Heard on several development variance permits:

Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw No. 7976, 2018
Queen City Taxi is applying yet again, through the long and complicated process, to get more taxi licenses in order to provide better service in New Westminster. The amendment of our local Bylaw is part of the process. They wish to expand service by three regular cabs and an accessible cab. I’ve ranted about this before.

We have one presentation from a resident who was concerned about lack of accessible cabs, and Council referred her concerns to the Access Ability Advisory Committee.

With no other presentations, Council moved to adopt the Bylaw Amendment.

Development Variance Permit DVP00637 for 430 Boyd Street, 350 and 354 Stanley Street and an unaddressed parcel
There are a couple of variances needed to make this 80-unit townhouse project in Queensborough fit better on the site. Tandem parking spaces allow more flexible layouts and some separation between buildings is slightly smaller than required by the zoning bylaw (on the order of a few feet at most) . We had no-one come to speak to the variances, and received no correspondence. The project was supported by the Residents’ Association and the Design Panel, and fits with the Queensborough Community Plan.

Council moved to approve the Variance and the subsequent Development Permit.

Development Variance Permit DVP00638 for 728 and 734 Ewen Avenue
Similar to the above project, there are a couple of variances needed to make this 37-unit townhouse project in Queensborough work, and again Tandem parking is the big one. We had no written submissions, but had the proponent present in favour. Again, this project is supported by the Residents’ Association, the Advisory Planning Commission, and the Design Panel. It fits the Community Plan and had a public hearing in 2014(!).

Council moved to approve the Variance and the subsequent Development Permit.

Development Variance Permit DVP00639 for 746 Ewen Avenue
This project is directly related to the neighbouring one above, and brings another 30 townhouse units to Queensborough, and had similar approvals from the community and committees. Council moved to approve the Variance and the subsequent Development Permit.

All told, that’s 149 relatively affordable family-friendly homes approved for Queensborough.

Following those Opportunities, we moved onto our regular agenda, starting with the following items Moved on Consent:

2018 New West Grand Prix
The 2017 was by so many measures a success, and we are getting ready to organize year two.

Last year we had few spills, but many thrills. As a cycling fan, the women’s race was particularly exciting, even as the eventual winner absolutely dominated. Kirstie Lay went on a suicide solo break that lasted for way too many laps. Each lap we thought she was surely going to get reeled in, but she kept the gap up in a Merckxian display of strength and determination. It was pretty cool.

Unlike Kirstie, we started a little late last year, and had a few organizational hiccups. They were small, and not really noticed by the fans or the racers, and we have learned a lot about how an event like this fits in New West. We have a head start this year, and things are already lining up. Volunteers and sponsors really made this a success. It was a fun event for the volunteers, many of them had no idea what a professional bicycle race looked like, and were amazed by the speed and the force with which this mass of athletes blasts past (they move a lot of air!). If you want a t-shirt, we always could use more volunteers!

Recruitment 2018: Recommended Appointments to Committees
This City relies on volunteers. They provide time and energy to get so many things done in the City, but they also give City Staff and Council guidance based on their subject matter expertise. Every year we have to sift through a large pile of applicants for Committee appointments. Here are the 179 appointees to 25 committees, commissions, or boards. Thank you all, and to the many others who applied but didn’t get picked – please apply again next year!

We have yet to adopt measures to assure diversity and representation on these committees – that is a work in progress and we will hopefully have an updated process for these appointments next year. I think we have a pretty good gender balance on these committees, 86 (48%) male, 93 (52%) female, but our process does not allow us to screen based on other demographics such as ethnicity or socio economic status. More to come…

Zoning Amendment (Housekeeping) Bylaw No. 7924, 2018: for Minor Updates/Corrections to Zoning Bylaw No. 6680, 2001 – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
There are several “housekeeping” changes required to one of our older but still valid Zoning Bylaws. They range from correcting spelling to updating definitions and fixing now-broken references to changed provincial regulations. These changes do, nonetheless, require a public hearing, so c’mon out on February 19 and let us know what you think.

232 Eleventh Street: Development Variance Permit DVP00640 for Height, Retaining Wall and Front Yard Parking – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
A landowner want to build a single family house on a small, steeply sloped lot in the Brow Neighboruhood, and has a few challenges involving the roof height and accommodating off-street parking. This will go to an Opportunity to be Heard after reviewing with neighbours. I’ll hold my comments until after that process.

Temporary Use Permit for Amusement Arcade, 457 East Columbia Street
It looks like the arcade is back. Again, I am not sure what the concern is that led to the City restricting them back in 1990, but that was 28 years ago when I spent a little too much time playing Cabal up at Lester’s Arcade in Burnaby…

There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on the required Temporary Use Permit on February 19. C’mon out and let us know what you think!

Investment Report to December 31, 2017
The City has about $159 Million in the bank, mostly in group funds with the Municipal Finance Authority (see rant below). This annual report on our investments isn’t terrible news, but we are slightly behind where we want to be on returns on our investments.

Major Purchases September 1st to December 31st, 2017
This is our ternary report on major purchases. Mostly, this serves as the final step in our transparent procurement process. Bids are open, and the winning bid is reported out to assure that we are justifying purchase decisions.

810 Agnes Street – Rezoning and Special Development Permit for 29 Story Residential High Rise – Preliminary Report
This is a preliminary report on a large proposed residential development in the Downtown “Tower District”. There is a lot of work to do yet on this project, and there will be a public engagement process involving a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments

Proposal to Amend the Terms of Reference of the ACTBiPed Committee
The Advisory Committee for Transit, Bikes, and Pedestrians has always had strong representation from local pedestrian advocates, but there has never been a formal Organizational representation like we have for cyclists (HUB has provided a representative for several years). The Committee wanted to create an opportunity for a pedestrian advocacy organization on the committee.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Capture Photography Festival Public Art Project
You may recognize the large photographic pieces attached to a couple of brick walls in the City last year as part of this program. Our Public Art Advisory Committee is recommending taking part again in 2018, and have identified a priority location for an installation: The ugly fence along East Columbia at Sapperton Park.

In this report, the PAAC has recommended an artist to create the public art piece, which will be funded from our Public Art Reserve Fund. It is a great example of how Public Art doesn’t have to be a stand-alone piece in a square somewhere, but can be adding expression and aesthetic value to boring or dull infrastructure to make our communities nicer places to spend time.

Fire Escape Stairs at 642 Columbia Street Design and Public Art Integration
Speaking of boring or dull infrastructure, the fire escape built on Front Street is not the most elegant structure ever built. Once the rest of Front Street was improved, many noted it is incongruous to the new setting. An engineering marvel built to meet the newest fire escape standards, but ugly.

Luckily, the City has a Public Art Advisory Committee made up of City staff, arts professionals, and members of the public dedicated to bring aesthetics, expression, and creativity to our public spaces and advise us in how to integrate art and design into our community. When many of us see an ugly structure, they see a canvas waiting to be activated.

In this report, the PAAC is suggesting using some of the Public Art Reserve Fund to make this space work and look better. Council approved.

Corporate Record Management Bylaw 7987, 2018
This new proposed Bylaw will codify how the City manages its records. There is a bunch of regulation controlling how we, as a corporate entity, manage information. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act balances the need to make information accessible while protecting privacy where needed. We have staff in City Hall whose job it is to manage these matters and assure all City operations comply with the law.

This Bylaw would formalize that the records management are the responsibility of the City Clerk, and would formalize the process through which old records are made digital and aging records are transferred to the City’s Archives for permanent storage or, if appropriate, destroyed.

1319 Third Avenue (Steel and Oak): Increase in Seating Capacity – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
Steel & Oak have a tasting room attached to their brewery in an industrial area in the Lower 12th area. They want to expand the seating capacity in their tasting room, but our Zoning Bylaw does not allow more than 30 people in an assembly space in our industrial areas. So they need a Zoning Amendment to allow the seat expansion. This will go to Public Hearing on February 19th, so I will hold my comments until then.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Summary of Community Consultation and Proposed Expansion of Incentives Work Plan
The Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area process is ongoing, as the City evaluates different types of incentives to encourage the preservation of heritage assets. The first round of community consultations around incentives discussed zoning-based incentives that may provide more building space entitlement (to build an extension to an existing house or a laneway/carriage house) or stratification of large homes. They were generally appreciated, but some people definitely wanted to see more, and we are giving staff the ability to explore a wider set of incentives and new rounds of public consultation. Here is a lot of good feedback from the neighbourhood and stakeholders here, and work to do!

Metro Vancouver’s Proposed Bylaw: Regional Wood Smoke Emission Regulation
Metro Vancouver is delegated the regulatory authority over Air Quality (smoke, emissions, dust, smells) by the Province, mostly because most of the causes of air quality problems are closely related to Municipal jurisdiction (zoning, business licensing), but the results of bad air quality crosses municipal boundaries. MV has the Bylaws and enforcement staff to manage this issue.

MV is bringing in regulations to reduce wood smoke pollution, and are phasing in these changes starting in 2020. They would ban using fireplaces in the summer (when the air quality impact is higher), and then would move towards requiring all fireplaces be registered and have a low-emission appliance. We had a great discussion with the Manager from Metro Vancouver during the meeting, which I think helped to clarify some of the questions around this proposed change. Metro is doing lots of public consultation on this (and no changes are planned until at least 2020), so let them know what you think!

2018 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
Snow levels are not anomalous, and it is a la Nina season, so there is no increased or decreased risk of flood in the spring. Stay tuned!

Update to Investment Policy
I went on a bit of a rant here, as this is an issue we have talked about in the past, and despite some political will across the Province, we don’t seem to be able to make enough impact that the Provincial level.

We have discussed Divestment in the past, and have taken some action to UBCM and the Municipal Finance Authority, but we have never been successful at getting the MFA to provide ethical investment options to municipalities. Instead, the MFA tells us that divestment is a difficult problem that is really hard to solve. No news there.

When we invest in the oil industry we are investing in the value not of the oil in the ground, but of the value to be extracted when that oil is burned and the carbon released into the atmosphere. We are essentially betting that we can continue to put as much carbon into the atmosphere as we want, as long as it is profitable. We are betting against the continued stability of our climate, and against the same costs we are going to have to suffer as local governments as climate change worsens. I can’t support that.

So here we are, in New Westminster, fighting a bitumen pipeline on the Brunette River, yet our investments are supporting the other side of this fight. I believe it is our duty to divest, and I believe it is in our self-interest to divest.

Instead of supporting an update in our investment strategy that works against our own interest, we are going to take a better look at how we can make progress with the MFA, or what our other investing options are.

319 Ash Street: Development Variance Permit to Permit a Secondary Suite without a Parking Space –  Consideration of Opportunity to be Heard
A homeowner in the Brow of the Hill wants to formalize a legal secondary suite, but lack of a back alley and trees up front make it hard to put in more parking, so they need a variance. This request will go to an Opportunity to be Heard on February 19, 2018; C’mon out and tell us what you think!

354 Johnston Street: Development Variance Permit for Minimum Frontage – Notice of Opportunity to be Heard; and 
353 Johnston Street: Development Variance Permit for Minimum Frontage – Consideration of Opportunity to be Heard;

There was a bit of confusion about the wording of these two Variances on the agenda, but we got it clear. This is another case in Queensborough where very long lots are being subdivided to typical lot widths, but they run afoul of a requirement that lots can’t be more than 4x deep than they are long. This request will go to an Opportunity to be Heard on February 19, 2018; C’mon out and tell us what you think!

We then went through the Bylaw Readings:

Zoning Amendment (1319 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 7981, 2018
As discussed above, Steel & Oak wants to expand seating capacity in their tasting room. Council gave this Bylaw amendment first and second reading. A Public Hearing will be held on February 19th, c’mon out and tell us what you think!

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7924, 2018 (Housekeeping Bylaw): To Make Minor Updates/Corrections to Zoning Bylaw No. 6680, 2001
As discussed above, we need to make some minor changes to language of our zoning bylaws. Council gave these amendments first and second reading. A Public Hearing will be held on February 19th, c’mon out and tell us what you think!

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Retail Sale of Cannabis) No. 7966, 2018
We had a long Workshop discussion in the afternoon about how to best approach the pending legalization of recreational cannabis sales. I will do another separate blog post on this topic (Part C!), but we agreed at that workshop to amend our Zoning Bylaw to formalize some of the language and our current approach as a temporary measure to prepare ourselves for July. This is more of a stopgap until July than anything else. It will go to Public Hearing on February 19th, C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Corporate Record Management Bylaw 7987, 2018
As discussed above, we are formalizing our Records Management in a Bylaw. Council Gave this Bylaw three readings.

Heritage Properties Maintenance Standards Bylaw No. 7971, 2018; and
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw No. 7973, 2018

These Bylaws in support of the goals of the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area were given three readings last meeting, and are now Adopted. It’s now the Law of the Land. Adjust your building envelope maintenance schedule accordingly!

We had one late-addition item of New Business:

Restorative Justice for FCM
Councillor Puchmayr brought this item from the Restorative Justice Committee asking that Council support a resolution to FCM calling for the Federal Government to make Restorative Justice part of standard police training across the country. Council unanimously supported this motion.

Then we had a few Notices of Motion for future meetings, and called it a day. Stay tuned, as in the next few days I will write up Part C of this epic council report, talking about our Cannabis Regulation workshop.