Council – May 28, 2018

The Council meeting of May 28th was a long one, partly because of two lengthy public delegations, neither of which I am going to talk about at length here. This is because I already blogged at length about the first one here (and that post needs an update that will have to wait until I get back from the Maritimes), and the second because the topic will be going to a Public Hearing, so aside from mentioning it below, I am going to hold my opinions in respect for the process.

So it is perhaps ironic that we started the evening’s Agenda with three Opportunities to be Heard, for which very few came to be heard:

Five Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8020, 2018
We have already been through the big discussions of the City’s budget, but it is good idea to adjust our Financial Plan so it closely tracks where our budget is going. We are therefore making the following changes to the 5-year plan adopted in March:

• Adding $6.25 Million to our Capital budget, as the Electrical Utility is getting ready to buy a piece of land in Queensborough for a new substation. This is debt financed, as was approved in the 2016 Loan Authorization Bylaw, so it is not new unanticipated debt, but an expense already planned for;
• Taking $3 Million from reserves to pay for expanded City Hall renovation costs;
• We are accelerating some work and doing expanded design on the Canada Games Pool replacement, meaning we need to move some capital spending from 2019 to 2018;
• Changes to anticipated borrowing cost related to the above changes.

Council moved unanimously to refer this Bylaw for three readings.

Development Variance Permit DVP00646 for 323 E. Sixth Avenue
The resident wants to maintain front-access parking on this house that was recently renovated, which requires a variance. As a general rule, the City is moving away from front-entrance parking for residential lots that have an alley. This improves the streetscape of the neighbourhood, and makes the main road safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. As this lot has a back alley, this would normally apply to this significant renovation of the building, but they have asked for a variance related to the shape of the lot and slope, which makes a rear garage significantly less accessible.

Council received two letters in support of the variance, and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council moved to grant the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00644 for 330 Johnston Street
There is a rule that any City lot shouldn’t be more than 4x as long as it is wide, as a general planning principle. However there are a few blocks, especially in Queensborough, where the lots are extra long, meaning that typical lot widths violate this rule. This is one of those cases, and the proponent is asking for a variance of this requirement. There was no correspondence, and only the proponent came to speak to the application. Council moved to approve the variance.

After some award-presentation, the following items were Moved on Consent:

Investment Report to April 30, 2018
The City has $141.5 Million in the bank. This isn’t just money stuffed away, but is in Reserves, most of it earmarked for specific purposes. (I recently wrote more about how the City manages reserves here). Some are in a higher-interest bank account, but most is saved with the Municipal Finance Authority, where we get a pretty good return. The report is that we are not going to earn quite as much from our savings as we anticipated, as bond markets are softening a bit, but things are generally ticking along.

Major Purchases January 1 to April 30, 2018
Every 4 months, the city reports out on all major purchases, in an effort to provide better clarity of where your money is being spent. This also assures our procurement process is transparent to show who bids for work at the City, and who won, and how we did at setting budgets for that procurement.

Recruitment 2018: Remembrance Day Committee Appointment
The City’s Remembrance Day ceremony is organized by a volunteer committee. Here we are filing a space on that committee.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Zoning Amendment Bylaw for Incentives to be Implemented in the Short Term – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
As discussed at some length during our May 14 meeting, Staff is working with the community on a suite of incentives to support heritage conservation in Queens Park – the “carrot” to follow up on the “stick” of the Bylaw that prevents the demolition of heritage homes. A total of 16 incentives were discussed last meeting: 5 that the City is not pursuing further at this time, 4 that will be coming after a bit more policy work, 3 that are going to be implemented City-wide, and the 4 in this report which the City intends to implement as soon as possible. For two of them, that means a Zoning Bylaw Amendment, which will go to a Public Hearing. I will talk more about them then.

218 Queen’s Avenue: Temporary Use Permit – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
An owner of a large lot in Queens Park with a heritage home on the front of it would like to subdivide the lot, and receive a type of conditional pre-approval of locating appropriate heritage houses on the new lots, when houses available for relocation come on the market.

This is a bit of a strange request, and not something that works easily within our existing land use regulations, but when heritage homes come available for relocation, there is often not a lot of time to do all of the regulatory things needed to make the relocation work, so the landowner would like to prepare ahead of time.

This looks like a creative way to make the rather rigid parts of the Local Government Act, and will result in preservation of several heritage houses, while turning a really big (22,000 sq ft) lot into three more typically sized lots. There are some obvious controls that will need to be in place to avoid real or perceived stockpiling of abandoned homes, but I think we can work something out here that lets these assets be preserved and add to our community. This Temporary use permit will go to an Opportunity to be Heard.

838 Ewen Avenue (Modular Housing Project): Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw and Zoning Amendment Bylaw to Facilitate a 44 Unit Housing Development with Support Services for Women – Bylaws for First
and Second Readings

The Provincial government will build temporary modular housing to be operated by a not-for-profit in several cities around the Lower Mainland, as part of a Rapid Response to a serious homelessness crisis across the region. In this first phase, they rely on Cities to provide temporary use of city-owned spaces to site the structures. As you may have seen of Global Newz, the City has offered the site of a former gas station on Ewen Avenue adjacent to the Queensborough Community Centre.

The City bought the property back in 2016 when the remediation of the site was complete, and up to now have used it primarily for construction staging for the Ewen Street reconstruction project. It is still zoned for Commercial use, and is designated for parks/community amenity in the community plan, so we need to rezone the property if we wish to have people living on it, even on a temporary basis. Despite the many conversations at Delegation and in the media, this will require a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then to respect the process.

Council moved to give the proposal First and second reading, and set the Public Hearing for June 26th.

New West Hospice Society Update
The relatively new Hospice Society has been incredibly active since its founding less than two years ago (I am a little biased, as Ms.NWimby serves on the board). They have a good strategic plan, and will be looking for the city to support their vision (along with many others, from Fraser Health to community members). They are also working with City Staff to determine the steps and requirements for the City to be designated a “Compassionate City”. You will be hearing more about this in the year ahead.

Building Permit Exemption for Hoop Greenhouses: Building Bylaw Amendment – Bylaw for Three Readings
The current Building bylaw says any accessory building bigger than 108 Square feet needs to comply with the Building Code to assure human occupancy is safe, from surveying the foundation up. The Bylaw also calls greenhouses “accessory buildings”. Put this together, and you can’t have a greenhouse bigger than 108 square feet unless it is structurally robust to survive an earthquake, host a party, and keep you warm at night. We are relaxing a small part of that to allow hoop-style greenhouses that don’t present the risk or occupancy issues that the building code is meant to address. May your tomatoes be warmed by this.

2018 Child Care Grant Application: For Douglas College Early Childcare Centre
The City has a grant program to help child cares operating in the City. This Daycare applied on time, but we had a paperwork snafu and their application got skipped. We did not exhaust the funds this year for this grant, and the application is valid, so Council agreed to award the grant. A little late is better than never!

Interim Alternative Development Review Process: Proposed Terms of Reference
The rate of development applications are making it difficult for the City to keep up. This is not a New West specific issue, it is a common theme across the region, but one we are feeling. Our turn-around time on these types of applications is one of the better in the region (according to the Fraser Institute, so maybe take that with appropriate grains of salt), but we are always asking our staff to find better ways to provide customer service, and this report suggests an interim measure to get past a current logjam.

There is a reason applications are complicated. The City has a tonne of policy and requirements for new development, be it a laneway house in the West End or a mixed-use commercial-residential building in Sapperton. The larger projects have to be assessed against our Family Friendly housing policy, our affordable housing and secured rental policies, opportunities for Community Amenities, and fit into our overall community plans. Design elements are impacted by our Zoning Bylaws and Official Community Plan, details from the size of sewer hookups to the turning radius in parking garages have to be evaluated to assure they meet building code and other requirements. Buildings are complicated, and it is a responsibility of a City to make sure they are built in compliance with regulations and policy. They also need to be designed and presented adequately that public processes like open houses and Public Hearings are based on good data. This is the work of civic engineers and professional planning staff, and the City simply doesn’t have enough of them right now to manage the work load, leading to delays. The same forces that are leading to a logjam are making it difficult for us to hire the professional staff to help address the logjam – there aren’t that many experienced development planners available right now in the Lower Mainland labour market, and (despite what the Fraser Institute says), Cities are getting outcompeted by the private sector, especially on wages and benefits.

Staff are suggesting we allow the proponent to have their own professional staff do some of the work currently done by staff internal to the City, such as policy analysis (writing a report on what City policies the new project intersects with, and how it meets those requirements) or technical evaluation of regulatory needs (like parking counts, etc.). City staff would still review and sign off on the resultant analysis, so we would not give up oversight, but much of the busy work to get to that final oversight could fall back directly on the developer instead of being done by City staff and charged to the developer via fees.

This will be an interesting trial, and Council agreed to have staff test this out as a temporary measure to address our current backlog. I am challenged a bit by this appearing to represent “outsourcing” of jobs, and am concerned that we have strong measures in place to assure no loss of oversight. I am willing to give staff a chance to try this out, and appreciate the work they are trying to do to find a flexible way to be ore “customer oriented”, but we will need to use caution here, and look forward to the evaluation of it after this one-year trial wraps up.

1011 Ewen Avenue – Sale of Portion of Land – Queensborough Fire Hall
A developer is interested in developing a piece of vacant land at the entrance to Queensborough, but there is inadequate site access to support the best use model. The solution is to provide a second entrance off of Hampton Street, which requires them to purchase that land, half of it currently belonging to the City, the other half belonging to the Ministry of Transportation.

There are a few complications yet to work out with this development, it has only received preliminary approval from the City, and will need to go through an extensive public process. The impacts on the Firehall operations are also still being evaluated. However, a fair market price of the land has been determined, and the proposed sale is conditional on the other work being done successfully to make this new road access necessary.

647 Ewen Avenue (Slovak Hall): Heritage Revitalization Agreement to Convert Hall for Two Residential Units and Add Three Townhouse Units – Preliminary Report
This is a preliminary report on an interesting project to revitalize a perhaps underappreciated heritage asset in Queensborough. It will also bring in some gentle infill density (three townhouse units or a total of five housing units). This I preliminary report, and will go to a public open house, the RA, and all of the other committee and such reviews. As this will eventually go to Public Hearing, I’ll hold my comments until then.

The following items were Removed from Consentfor discussion:

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Special Limited Category- Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The somewhat byzantine structures of the Local Government Act when it comes to Heritage Conservation Areas mean we need to set up a blanket area of protection and secure that in our Official Community Plan, then if we have a good reason to exempt specific properties from protection, we need to amend our OCP after the fact. During the HCA set-up, we recognized there was a group of properties that don’t fit snugly within the two end-member “valuable heritage asset worthy of protection” or “no heritage value whatsoever” categories. As a stop-gap, we set up a special category for all 85 of these properties, and put them under full protection with the intent of doing more detailed analysis of the properties to determine which ones may have been inappropriately included within the protected category.

After Phase 1 of this analysis, Staff is now able to recommend 34 of these properties be removed from the “Protected” category, and have drafted a n OCP Amendment Bylaw to support this re-classification. Of the 34, one property owner declined to be removed from the protected category. This Bylaw will go to Public Hearing, so I will hold further comments until then.

Draft Environmental Strategy and Action Plan
The City has been working on an update of our Environmental Strategy for a couple of years. This is a little close to my heart, perhaps, formerly being an Environmental Coordinator for a local government, and a long-time advocate for local government environmental sustainability. I have watched how local government environmental strategies have evolved from anti-littering campaigns to energy and emissions plans to more integrated ecological network services models, including the emergence of things like tree protection strategies, re-greening of built spaces, and the Step Code.

This document outlines the proposed Environmental Strategy that staff has put together through public and stakeholder consultation. It is important to note that this strategy ties together many things already happening in the City, as our larger sustainability vision requires that the environment is considered in all City policy development. So the OCP, our Integrated Stormwater Management Plan, our Urban Forest Management Strategy, and Master Transportation Plan all inform this strategy in some way, as do various parks and community planning policies.

The plan, as it is, will be going to a Public Open House in June. I hope those interested will come out and let us know what we are doing right, and where we need to make improvements. I also hope I will have a chance to blog a little more about this topic then.

Council approved to going out for public comment, but added two aspects for discussion with the public. First, we want to know what the public thinks a local governments role should be when it comes to advocacy for environmental measures. Secondly, we want more about how we plan to measure success. The performance indicators are an important part of this, which are mentioned in the strategy, but not a lot of detail. I hope the public consultation can help inform what types of metrics we can use to assure we can measure progress.

620 Third Avenue (Westminster House): Temporary Use Permit for Youth Residential Recovery Program – Preliminary Report
This application is for a residence very close to my own, so it is best practice if I recuse myself from participating in the discussion about it because there may be perceived or real conflict of interest.

We also had three items that were Added to the Agenda late, because that was the kind of week it was:

Recruitment 2018: Restorative Justice Committee Appointment
There is a position open for a person who could bring an Indigenous perspective to the Restorative Justice committee, and a great candidate has been found! Council moved to appoint her.

Changes to the Strata Property Act: UBCM Resolution
There have been some concerns raised in the community about recent changes to the provincial Strata Act that makes it easier to sell a Strata property and dissolve it. This includes increased risk of eviction not just of renters who may rent from strata owners, but effective eviction of owners themselves, without and of the protections from unreasonable eviction that renters may have. Council moved to provide our concerns to the appropriate members of the Provincial Government, and to take a resolution to the UBCM meeting in September asking for these issues to be addressed.

New Westminster Urban Solar Garden Project Update
The first Urban Solar Garden in the Lower Mainland was proposed late last year, and quickly sold out when the City started selling shares. It looks like the cost for installation of the panels will be at the low end of our estimate, and the Queensborough Community Centre will be the host building for the first Solar Garden. Installation services can now be procured, and photons can start exciting electrons into doing our bidding!

1400 Quayside Drive (Poplar Landing / Muni Ever Park): Work Plan for Conceptual Site Design
He grass field adjacent to the Third Ave overpass at the west end of Quayside Drive is jointly owned by the City and Metro Vancouver. It has a Combined Sewer Overflow tank on it that was built about a decade ago through a combination of Federal and Provincial grants and is jointly operated by New West and Metro Vancouver. This former industrial land was remediated as part of that project, and the long-term vision was always to host the CSO Tank, have some public park space (the CSO Tank actually has public washrooms on top of it that have never been made accessible because the surrounding land has been in limbo), and to develop some combination of market and non-market/affordable housing.

After a decade of no much happening, and with the Provincial purse strings for affordable housing projects seemingly loosening, the City wants to start moving ahead with this project, and Metro Vancouver has agreed to work with the City on some conceptual planning. There is *a lot* of work to do here, and all designs are currently conceptual, but staff want to take them out to the public in an open house and give people a flavor of what may be coming, and get some feedback.

Finally, we went through our Bylaws for the week:

Official Community Plan Amendment (To remove Heritage Conservation Area Related Protection from Phase 1 Special Limited Category Study Properties) Bylaw No. 8025, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw that acts to remove some properties from the highest level of protection in the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area was given two readings. It will go to a Public Hearing on June 19. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Zoning Amendment (Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Bylaw for Incentives to be Implemented in the Short Term) Bylaw No. 8024, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw that supports a couple of the incentives being introduced to promote the protection of heritage homes in Queens Park was given two readings. It will also go to a Public Hearing on June 19. You now have incentive to show up for that meeting and tell us what you think.

Official Community Plan Amendment (838 Ewen Avenue) Bylaw No. 8021, 2018 and
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (838 Ewen Avenue) No. 8022, 2018
As discussed above (and at length during Public Delegations, and consequently in the media, social and otherwise), these Bylaws that support the construction of a Temporary Modular Housing project at 838 Ewen Avenue in Queensborough were given two readings. This will go to a Special Public Hearing on June 26. Please show up and tell us what you think.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8020, 2018
As discussed above, and given an opportunity to be Heard at Council this evening, This Bylaw to amend our Budget was given three readings.

Building Amendment Bylaw (Building Permit Exemption for Hoop Greenhouses) No. 8018, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw to relax building code requirements for hoop-style greenhouses that exceed 108sqft was given three readings.

Housing Agreement (813 – 823 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 8001, 2018
As previously discussed, this Bylaw to formalize the housing agreement with the developer and secure below-market rentals for perpetuity in the proposed building on Carnarvon Street was adopted by Council. It is now the law of the land.

Heritage Designation Bylaw (220 Carnarvon Street) No. 7958, 2017 and Zoning Amendment Bylaw (220 Carnarvon Street) No. 7959, 2017
As previously discussed, these Bylaws to provide permanent protection to the last house on this stretch of Carnarvon Street and in exchange for a change in land use to allow commercial and a secondary suite was adopted by Council. It is now the law of the land.

Council Procedure Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 7986, 2018 and Local Government Elections Procedures Bylaw No. 7985, 2018
As discussed back on February 5th, these Procedure Bylaws to adjust Council dates and language to fit the adjusted election schedule and language by the Province was adopted by Council. Vote accordingly.

At long last, we had one piece of New Business rising out of a Motion on Notice:

WHEREAS the City of New Westminster has identified and communicated
to the National Energy Board of Canada, serious concerns with the routing of the Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain Pipeline through the sensitiveBrunette River watershed;
And whereas we have also raised concerns regarding safety, security, and contingency planning in the context of emergency response;
And whereas we have identified the social and economic impacts that a catastrophic pipeline failure would have, not only on New Westminster but on the entire Fraser River watershed;
Therefore be it resolved that the City of New Westminster supports the Province of British Columbia’s position in seeking clarification from the Supreme Court of Canada on the province’s jurisdiction to protect BC’s environment, including those matters which the City have identified to the National Energy Board of Canada.

I note that Council passed this resolution unanimously, only hours before said pipeline was announced to soon be the property of the taxpayers of Canada. Life moves at you fast when you live in a petro-state.

Council – May 14, 2018.

It occurred to me that I totally failed to provide a Council Report for our special meeting on May 14th. This was a special meeting we scheduled during the day to provide more time for Council to workshop the potential Heritage Conservation Area incentives for Queens Park. We had a very long meeting on May 7, and decided than that this topic could not be given a proper vetting at 11:00 at night after a long meeting, so we deferred for a week. Then scope creep started and staff added one more item to the agenda, which we moved on Consent:

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure: Outstanding Referral for Street Closure Bylaw No. 7935, 2017
As with an earlier discussion on the May 7th meeting, this is a Street Closure Bylaw that staff has discovered was not administered properly back in 2017 when it comes to consultation with the Ministry of Transportation. So we are rolling it back to permit MoTI to do their thing, in anticipation that we can re-adopt after then give us the thumbs-up.

We then had a good discussion for the main event of the meeting:

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area Incentive Program: Proposed Implementation Framework
The Heritage Conservation Area measures in Queens Park are an ongoing initiative. Addressing the imminent threat of demolitions of important heritage assets related to land value increases, the City acted as quickly as it could within the limits of the local Government Act to bring in measures that allow us to pause those demolitions, and then spent a year determining how to make those protections more permanent.

As far as heritage preservation measures, creating legislation to curtail demolitions is definitely at the “stick” end of the public policy spectrum. From the start, the City has been committed to also introducing measures that provide the “carrots” that will incentivize better heritage protection, and have been undergoing extensive public and stakeholder consultations, along with legal and economic reviews, to see what works best to provide those incentives.

This report both provided a tonne of information on those consultations and studies, and also outlines some proposed policy and programs to provide meaningful and useful incentives. The discussion around the Council table was engaging and really productive (and I highly encourage those interested to watch the Video and see how consensus-building works when you have a collaborative team that often disagrees on points of policy, but want to achieve a common goal). Through the discussion, we reviewed a suite of 16 potential incentives, some we have asked staff to draft into a Bylaw immediately, others we have asked them to do more work to develop, a few we asked them to introduce City-wide, and some we agreed to not pursue.

As the Bylaws that support these incentive programs will be going to a Public Hearing, I don’t want to dive too deep into their relative merits or weaknesses (perhaps we can save that discussion until after the Public Hearing), but I do want to outline what were the principles I took into the discussion and tried to rely on to inform my decisions:

• These incentives are meant to make it easier and more attractive for people to invest in an preserve homes that are of high heritage value in what is a unique neighbourhood in that I has the highest concentration of pre-WW2 homes of any similarly-sized neighbourhood in BC.
• These incentives should encourage heritage conservation while also supporting other City policies, such as tree protection and providing more housing diversity.
• These incentives should not unfairly burden homeowners in other neighbourhoods by asking those residents of Queensborough or Sapperton to pay extraordinary costs to support the housing costs of Queens Park residents.

An important part of the discussion was the results of the public consultation. As there were 16 different incentive areas explored, the public opinion varied:

In the end, the incentives we move forward with will be going through an implementation period, and we will have more chance to talk about them at that time.

And that was all for our relatively short mid-day meeting, apologies for not reporting out sooner.

Counting Lanes

The Canada Games Pool replacement project is moving along. We have just completed a second round of public consultation, and one group have taken this opportunity to encourage the City to do more than the initial concept plan that resulted from the work to date. As they spent some time delegating to Council and have got quite a bit of messaging in the media (social and otherwise), I figured I would write a bit about how we got here, and my understanding of the request.

A couple of years ago, this Council made the decision to replace the Canada Games Pool (CGP) with a modern facility instead of investing tens of millions of dollars in replacing end-of-life components of the existing building and mechanicals. This has led to a lot of work on planning for a new facility, from figuring out what the “program” of the new facility needs to be, what it will cost, where it will fit on the site, and other technical and financial considerations. This has included two lengthy conversations with the public and stakeholders.

There are a few points that constrain our opportunities here. Council agreed with strong advocacy in the community that the existing pool cannot be torn down until the new one is built – we cannot afford to have a lengthy period without the swim programs and other amenities that the CGP provides. It was also determined that replacing the late-life Centennial Community Centre (CCC) at the same time would provide worthwhile synergies and assure continuity of programming. Finally, an extensive analysis of locations around the City brought the conclusion that the existing location had many advantages, and that the cost of moving the pool to a different neighbourhood just didn’t make sense, financially or for the disruption it would cause.

This is recognizing another limit on the current site, in that the front parking lot of the current pool was built on the upper reaches of the Glenbrook Ravine, which was filled in the 1960’s, burying a regionally-important sewer line under it. We cannot build above that sewer line (due to Metro Vancouver owning a right of way that excludes any construction), and moving it would cost a significant portion of what a new pool costs, so that further constrains the site. However, preliminary design and architectural work demonstrates that we can fit a decent-sized (~115,000 square foot) facility on the site immediately to the south and west of the existing pool.

Another thing Council did was tour new pool facilities across the Lower Mainland. We visited the Edmonds Community Centre, the Hillcrest Community Centre, the Poirier Complex, the West Vancouver Community Centre, and more. We also had an extensive tour of the current Canada Games Pool. On all of these visits, we are able to talk to the operators and project planners to talk about what works, and what doesn’t. Most interesting was to discuss what they would do differently if they were to start a pool replacement project from fresh. A few of us even scheduled a visit to a larger pool facility in Gatineau when in Ottawa last year, and have been tracking new pool facilities across the region to understand who is doing what.

Of course there have been a tonne of conversations here in New West with the pool user community, and people who don’t currently use the pool, but might like to except for its lack of serving their needs. There was both formal consultation and more informal meetings with stakeholder groups (such as the Hyack Swim Club). A few of us on Council also went out and did a few days of door knocking in the neighbourhoods around the pool to better understand what people think about the current pool, what they know about the replacement plans, and to hear if the budget freaks them out.

I have to say the most consistent feedback I received was that the current pool is not as inviting to families and community use as other more modern facilities. Part of this is the somewhat aged structure (described by some as dank and stuffy), but also the lack of play space and the colder water temperature (which makes it better for competitive swimming) that makes it harder for families to enjoy the space together. We also had feedback that the gym was too small and not comfortable because it shared humid and warm airspace with the pool. We also heard from a significant user group that they loved the humid, warm gym environment. A very small number of people valued the diving towers and the water slide, but most wanted more flexible spaces. The value of the pool as a community amenity and the programs run by our recreation staff were a consistent theme, but when it came to details, there was a wide diversity of opinions. I have no idea who you are reading this, but I bet at least one point I raised above is something you disagree with, as is the reality of public consultation.

The process to filter through this feedback included working with an architect experienced in building these types of facilities and measuring out what different program components would add as far as square footage and cost. The cost part, of course, includes the cost to build the facility, but also a business case based on the needs of a rapidly growing community. This means determining the capacity of pools, changerooms, gym facilities and such needed to accommodate (increasing) anticipated users. The operational costs are put into context of the potential for revenue generation and revenue growth. New Westminster is a relatively small city with challenging infrastructure needs, and it became clear that the budget was going to drive part of this conversation – we are going to build the best pool we can, but simply cannot afford to build everything that everyone wants. We knew hard decisions were going to have to be made.

Amalgamating the public feedback and other data, and coming up with a program to fit as many needs as possible, was a challenging process. The report on the first round of consultation and the reasoning that led to the proposed program, can be read here. It is this program that the City took out for a second round of consultation last month, and we have yet to receive a report back at Council about the results of the consultation; that is the next step here.

This is the background to the Hyack Swim Club’s appearance at Council to delegate on their needs and desires for the pool. I don’t want to put words in their mouth, but the message was that the proposed program is inadequate for holding the scale of meets that they think we can attract. We could still hold regional meets up to the level that the current facility can host, but we could not host national-level meets that are currently only possible at Kamloops and Victoria. In the media (social and otherwise) this has been characterized as requiring the addition of two more lanes, which sounds pretty minor, but there are hints it is more than this. So I’ll take a bit of time to put some context around that specific issue, recognizing this is at topic I am still learning about, so I stand ready to be corrected.

One big decision in any new civic pool facility is – do you build a 25m or 50m pool? The emphasis on fitness and lap swimming, including the legacy of the Hyack Club, is the reason the City suggested a 50m pool instead of a 25m pool (or even two 25m pools, which would be similar in cost to the one large pool, but provide much more user flexibility, which is the decision Richmond made with the new Minoru complex project). The demand analysis described above suggested that New West could meet anticipated swim demand by building a 25m 10-lane pool and a secondary leisure pool. It is the legacy of competitive swimming at the pool that led to the alternative 50m pool plan being considered.

The current pool is 8 lanes, and the proposed program would also be 8 lanes, with 2.4m lanes. The proposal also includes a much larger leisure pool that can accommodate some lane swimming, but also have the amenities people come to expect from a community pool serving families and other leisure users. So, contrary to some social media reports, we are not proposing a smaller pool that we currently have, but one with a functionally-similar main tank, and a significant second tank. It is my understanding (and I stand to be corrected here, as I have some reading to do!) that the Hyack Swim Club’s request is not just for two more lanes, but a deeper main tank, a much larger secondary tank with potentially less family / leisure useability, a significant increase in deck space for stands, and perhaps some other functional changes. The full proposal needs to be evaluated for fit and cost (capital and operational).

If I was to express frustration about this process, it is that the competitive swimming community always advocates for 50m pools whenever a new pool is built, but there never seems to be a pool built that satisfies their needs. Hillcrest and Grandview are just two recent examples of 50m pools that were built to accommodate a vocal competitive swimming advocacy group, but are(according to the presentations we received at Council) inadequate for competitive swimmers. The proposals for the new Harry Jerome complex in North Vancouver is going through a very similar conversation today (note – that “editorial” in the newspaper is actually a paid-for sponsored ad, which is its own weirdness), and I hear from the recreation operators that there are simply too many 50m pools being built in the region.

In summary, the conversation is ongoing here in New Westminster, and it is great that the Hyack Swim Club has been working to inform Council about their needs. I have had some correspondence from them since the Council delegations, and they have provided me some reading material to review. I hope to gain some better understanding about the details and (importantly) the business case implications involved in meeting the Hyack Swim Club’s expectations while not compromising what the rest of the community wants from a recreation facility. This conversation is not at all a setback for the project, but a perfect example of why we do public consultation. Our goal is (as it always has been) to have a project definition ready for when the Federal and Provincial government open the application window for infrastructure grants, and though there has been no confirmation of that date, we are in a good place to work out these details in time to make the window.

More to come!

MC Podcast!

A couple of years ago, a few new City Councillors from “the suburbs” of Metro Vancouver were invited to take part in a City Conversation at SFU, a program that brings people together over a brown-bag lunch at SFU Downtown to talk Urbanism. It was fun, and got us all speculating over a beer about how we can find an excuse to do this again. Then someone (I think it was Mathew Bond) said “Podcast”.

Two years later, almost to the date, we have a Podcast! It’s called Metro Conversations, and you can listen to the first 6 episodes at iTunes and GooglePlay. But first a little context.

Our initial idea was to repeat the City Conversations model: 1-hour conversations with a small panel of subject matter experts with an intimate audience, facilitated by the Council of Four (myself, Mathew Bond, Kiersten Duncan, and Nathan Pachal). We record these conversations, and put them out as Podcasts.

We also thought we could fill the space by also sitting down occasionally for a “Metro Chat”, where just the four of us discuss an Urbanism topic. The idea here is that we are elected people who are not subject matter experts, but can provide a bit of a bridge between experts and people interested in what goes into making a more livable city. We also bring context from our local parts of the region, as Urbanism too often emphasizes the urban centre and that is where it is more easily embraced. As we will explore, it is around the edges that the benefits and impacts of modern city-making are really felt.

As will be readily apparent to listeners, we are not professional broadcasters, but we are passionate about our communities, and love to talk about Urbanist topics and how they impact our communities.

We have a half-dozen episodes up and running, and a couple in the can that we are working on as far as making them audible. This is our first try (we could even call it “Season 1”?) and are hoping to hear form people about what they like, what we need to do better, or what topics you want us to tackle if and when a Season 2 is organized. So please tune in, and let us know what you think by going to our Facebook Page and providing us feedback.

There are People to Thank:

SFU Public Square for the grant and their (paid!) interns for doing a bunch of the busy work and coordination that we simply would never have completed if you left it to four City Councilors who live all over the place and have full time jobs and long lists of commitments that make our working together on anything difficult. This was only possible through the Public Square.

Michael Alexander from the City Program at SFU for pulling us together and giving us the inspiration to try something different.

Random #NewWest peeps Wes Kinna (for masterfully helping with sound at live events), Stephen O’Shea (for creating a cool distinctive sound for intro/outro), and Christa MacArthur (for lending us her distinctively non-distinctive accent).

The Network Hub in New West, the District of North Vancouver, City of Langley, City of Port Coquitlam, and City of New Westminster for hosting spaces for us to hold conversations.

And all of our guests and audience members who made the live conversations work.

Ask Pat: Arenas

Jeremy asks—

What is the current usage rates of our arenas? I see calls for a third area, but I don’t know how often our current arenas are empty, or how many groups trying to book ice time would be unable to do so.

Simple answer is I don’t know, but my reflex answer is that our arenas are well used, rarely empty, but not bursting at the seams. As usual, that answer needs to be put into context of how the City plans and builds new and replacement facilities.

A new facility, be it a swimming pool, a skating rink, or a skate board park, has a capital cost (what it costs to build the thing on the day we build it and over the long term in upkeep and maintenance), and an operating cost (what it costs every year to keep the lights on, staff to maintain the ice and run programs in the facility). Those second costs can be small, like a skate park, which costs very little to maintain once built; or very high, like the old Canada Games Pool, which is a real energy and resources hog.

Conversely, many facilities earn revenue from pool or ice rentals and program fees, but it is almost a fundamental principle of public recreation facilities that the revenue never covers the capital and operational costs. For every person who walks into the Canada Games Pool to swim, take a fitness class, or drop heavy weights on the heads of change room occupants, the City subsidizes their visit by about $2. There is no financial model where a pool with services like the Canada Games Pool even breaks even on earned revenue (otherwise private business would be competing us out of the business, no?),  and models where private companies run ice rinks rarely provide a high level of programming without significant support from clubs and local governments. Many facilities, such as the library, the skate park, or a playground, earn little or no revenue, but are nonetheless important amenities to improve the quality of life of people in a community.

I mix all of these together because building a new facility is never a stand-alone decision. It is *always* about placing things in a priority, which means both understanding the (perceived and actual) demand, and recognizing how existing and new facilities impact your capital and operating budgets.

The demand part can sometimes be recognized by the public and user groups before it comes to the attention of Council, who ultimately hold the purse strings and have to make the priority call. However, lacking a very motivated special interest group, it is much more common that staff who operate these facilities recognize capacity issues or unmet need and bring these challenges to Council through strategic and budget planning. This is the situation with library upgrades, with the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre replacements, with the expansion of the Queensborough Community Centre, and with the decisions we have made to invest in more flexible (but much more expensive) turf field replacements.

Sometimes, those priorities get shuffled by events. A neighbouring community building a new pool or an event like the Arenex collapse can shuffle the deck, causing us to move priorities in order to assure our program needs are met, and to assure we have the capital flexibility to deal with unexpected needs when they occur. The Arenex is an example of something that we now have to add to our capital budget, and to our planning. The capital cost of its replacement is covered for the most part by insurance, but it still needs to be included in a budget, and we still need to take staff off of existing projects to go through the replacement planning, project management, procurement and design work to make sure we replace it with the right thing. Again, staff time is one more thing that has to sit in a priority list – what work do we delay to rush the replacement of the Arenex?

So back to answering your question. We have not heard from staff that there is a huge unmet demand for ice in the community or the region, at least not in comparison to other unmet needs that have been placed higher in the capital planning priority list. And they would know better than I would, as they are the ones managing the day-to-day resource needs of the community.

That said, with recent requests from some members of the public, Council has asked staff to do a bit of work and better define for us where a third sheet of ice (or other ice allocation improvements) fits on the capital plan priority list, and whether there is a compelling demand case for moving it up. This has to also include some analysis of where ice demand is regionally so we can better understand how the two new ice sheets on our border in Burnaby and two more sheets in Port Coquitlam will impact regional needs. So staff are going to add this work to their work plans, and prioritize it alongside ongoing work to support the Arenex programs and plan the replacement, getting the Canada Games Pool project ready for senior government grants, and all of the other capital works already in our plans. This is a responsible way to approach new capital funding requests, whether they come to us from staff’s understanding of need, or from a data-gathering petition at the beginning of an election campaign.

Council – May 7, 2018

Our Council meeting on May 7 was long and a little chaotic. It included several announcements and proclamations, and large numbers of people coming to Public Delegations. Because we were aware some people were delegating on agenda items, the schedule was mixed up a bit so Council could hear from them before we made any decisions (I will blog about these delegations in a future blog; they are topics we will be talking about more in the upcoming weeks and months). This means the order of things that happened over the 5+ hours is not really reflected in the agenda you might read online, and I honestly don’t want to sit through a 5-hour video recording to make sure my blog is in order of occurrence, especially as I am editing this up almost a week after the event because I was helping run a conference in Whistler all week… all this to say the following may not be in the order of occurrence, but I think it covers all of the decisions we made.

This Council Meeting included an Opportunity to be Heard:

Amendment to Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 (Amendment Bylaw 8013, 2018)
We talked about this a bit during First and second reading at the last meeting, but the City is updating its construction noise Bylaw to reduce some allowable weekend work hours and bring our construction schedule more in line with what other Cities do. It is a crazy construction time right now, with the regional economy booming and many housing projects of every shape coming on line. Residents are definitely feeling (hearing) this, and hopefully this will provide a little relief. That said, the change is modest, and it is really hard for us to create too many limits of construction noise within business hours.

We had one letter from a concerned developer, but no-one came to delegate during the Opportunity to be Heard, and the Bylaw Amendment was given third reading by Council.

Fire Escape Stairs at 642 Columbia Street Public Art Integration
A few months ago, we tasked our staff and the Public Art Advisory Committee with exploring ideas to make the fire escape on the Front Street a more appealing part of the Front Street Mews, and approved some budget from our Public Art Reserve Fund to pay for it.

There where 42 (!) proposals received from the Public Art community across Canada and the world. A panel made up of arts professionals and the local community shortlisted this to 4, who provided more detailed proposals, from which the PAAC recommended a piece from a team in Victoria called “Floralume”.

The goal here is to take something that was necessary as part of the Parkade removal and re-imagining of Front Street into a public space, and turn it into a place-making opportunity. I think this interactive multimedia sculpture has the potential to do this – and actually become a regional showpiece that will draw more people to Front Street. It also came in a little under budget, which is a bonus.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Uptown New Westminster BIA Renewal Bylaw No. 8019, 2018
This is an update on the Bylaw that empowers the Uptown BIA to operate. This also updates the tax rates and overall plan to better support the BIA’s new Strategic Plan. The Uptown BIA does a lot of great stuff, from supporting the Winter Farmers Market to installing branded bikes racks to the Uptown Live music festival. It is great to have such a positive partner in the business community in the City.

Recruitment 2018: Amateur Sports Grant Program Appointment
Recruitment 2018: Parks & Recreation Committee Appointment and
Recruitment 2018: Restorative Justice Committee Appointment
We needed to replace a few members of these volunteer community committees, and did so!

813 – 823 Carnarvon Street: Housing Agreement Bylaw for three readings
This is the housing agreement that will secure 66 below-market rental units in the smaller of the two towers at the PALS development on Carnarvon. There are a couple of levels of non-market housing that will be operated in this building to support seniors with limited incomes (with an emphasis on those from the performing arts community). 39% of the units will be “housing income limit” where rent is based on the occupant’s income so not to exceed what is considered affordable, and the other 61% of the units will be below market, but based on markets cost, at what is called “CMHC Level 1 Affordability”. Council moved to approve the Housing Agreement.

514 Carnarvon Street (Holy Trinity): Official Community Plan Amendment Section 475 and 476 – Consultation Report
This is a report on the ongoing consultation with the community on this unusual development project, which would see a largish but narrow tower built adjacent to the Anglican Cathedral on Carnarvon. This project has seen quite a bit of adjustment and re-imagining as it has gone along. The proponent (the Anglican congregation) wants to see some combination of market, secured rental and non-market (affordable) rental, but mostly want to rasie some money for the restoration of their historic cathedral.

The consultation is ongoing here, and this report is more of an update than anything else.

New Westminster Transit Priorities
As a regional centre in the center of the region, New Westminster has a role to play in regional governance, and making the use of transit as reliable, accessible, comfortable and convenient as possible in our city is fundamental to the success of our Master Transportation Plan, our Official Community Plan, and regional plans for growth and transportation sustainability.

New Westminster is already a region-leader in transit use: our residents use transit more than any other community excepting maybe the City of Vancouver itself. But we can do more, and this document outlines what the City recognizes as priorities to make transit work better for more people in New Westminster. The idea here is to provide clear policy guidance when we are working with our transit partners (TransLink, the Ministry of Transportation, and our neighbouring communities). We have identified areas where we need improvement – such as the overall dismal service to rapidly-growing family-friendly neighbourhoods in Queensborough, and bus speed and reliability issues that impact our most important routes.

This is a planning document, but also an advocacy document, and part of the great foundational work being done by our Transportation department that may not be flashy or avail us of a ribbon cutting, but will provide tangible benefits to the community in the long run.

2018 Q to Q Pilot Ferry Service
The big news of the meeting is confirmation that the Q to Q ferry is back in 2018, with an improved service based on feedback from last year. The pilot service being offered this summer will have longer hours and be more accessible, and will have the same fare structure, but more option for how to pay (including a monthly pass). I will write more about this in a future blog, but I am really proud of the hard work our staff put into this, and am excited about the service. I expect May 19th will be crazy!

Recruitment 2018: Electric Utility Commissioner Reappointment
The City’s Electrical Utility is not actually run by City Council, but by a Utility Commission. We have a representative on that Commission, we set their budget, we approve their Strategic Plan, and we appoint Commissioners, but the day-to-day running of the utility is up to this commission. We just re-appointed one of the excellent Commissioners.

323 E. Sixth Avenue: Development Variance Permit to Vary the Off-Street Parking Requirement – Consideration of Opportunity to be Heard
This residential property in Upper Sapperton is located on a steep slope on a cul-de-sac wants to vary zoning by continuing to have front access to parking after renovation. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on this on May 28th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

330 Johnston Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary the Minimum Frontage – Consideration of Opportunity to be Heard
This is one of those long properties in Queensborough where subdividing to a typical width for the neighbourhood means it will be more than 4x as long as it is wide, which requires a variance. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on this on May 28th. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

New Westminster Public Art Plan
The PAAC and staff have been working on a Public Art Plan to provide clearer policy guidance when considering and approving new Public Art. I raised a few inconsistencies in the plan as presented, and hoped that more clarity could be provided within the Themes presented. After a bit of discussion, Council agreed to send the plan back to the PAAC and staff for a little more work prior to approval. More to come here.

Naming of a New Street in Queensborough
This report proposes that we name a new road in Queensborough “Roma” (-Street or -Road) in honour of the important role the Roma Hall played in the history of the Q’Boro community.

I have recently had occasion to learn more about the history of the Roma Hall, thanks to Emma Canil, as she spoke about the important role it played in her extended family’s immigrant experience in New Westminster. This is a landmark built by a community who came to Canada from across the sea to escape economic depression and geopolitical strife, in order to support their community and honour their heritage while contributing to Canada’s mosaic. So I approve of the name, in honour of the organization and community it represents.

This, however, raised a question for me that I asked staff to follow up on. I am not sure where we are in the progress towards updating our street naming policy. That we have not adopted a policy that puts our history of colonization in context or addresses the underrepresentation of women in place names in our City. I think the process that got us towards this name included many proposed names which would not represent that spirit. I hope we can move forward on those fronts before too many more of these applications come to us.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Special Limited Category Study Progress Update
There are 80 properties in the Queens Park HRA that have “Special Limited” protection, somewhere between fully protected and not protected at all. The plan has always been to eventually migrate all of these properties to either protected or not based on assessment of the heritage merit and zoning entitlements. Of those, we are providing an opportunity for some of them to do a bulk sign-up for extra protection so they can avail themselves of the incentive programs being introduced by the City to encourage heritage restoration and protection. This report gives an update on that evaluation process and efforts by staff to reach out to homeowners to let them know this is happening.

Interim Fees and Securities Provisions for Small Market Strata renovations
One of the principles of how Cities collect revenue is that “fees” are not “taxes”. The latter we can use for any purpose, the former are meant to only exist as a cost-recovery for services the city offers. In that sense, building inspection fees should be on a cost-recovery basis, not subsidized by taxes or other revenues. This proposal balances the desire to maintain that standard, but find a way to reduce the cost for renovations of small market strata renovations, and many of these smaller multi-unit buildings are seeing increased need for extensive envelope or structural repairs, but are challenged by the cost of these repairs as there are fewer homeowners to share the load.

Again, I love that our staff are identifying initiatives to support more affordable housing all across the spectrum, this (relatively affordable market strata in older buildings) is just one piece of the puzzle, but an important piece, as they all are.

I have an ongoing issue with how we manage security deposits for these small-unit buildings and homeowners. Often these works require the City collect security to assure legally required works are done, and those security requirements can sum up to tens of thousands of dollars that the City holds, and returns at the end of the project after final inspection. I think that having to provide tens of thousands of dollars of security to the City – essentially tying up a bunch of money at a time when a homeowner is feeling significantly stressed about costs – seems a real deterrent to people doing renovations and building improvements, and I’ll include the deposits in the Tree Bylaw with this.

I have asked Staff to review if there is a better way to provide security to the City. Perhaps (and I am spit-balling here ,as there are probably regulatory issues I am not aware of) through a legal agreement where the owner is required to pay the City if the security conditions are not met, and if they, after the fact refuse to pay, we can collect through our taxation process? Council approved the motion here ,ans asked for Staff to report back on security options.

We also addressed some specific correspondence:

District of Houston letter dated March 29, 2018 regarding a Human Trafficking Task Force and
Cathy Peters email to District of Houston dated February 26, 2018 regarding Child sex trafficking in BC Municipalities and how to stop it:
We moved to receive this correspondence, but I asked that we no move to take the recommended actions in the correspondence, that is to make specific policy requests to senior governments.

Cathy Peters is a strong and vocal advocate for the protection of children, and I support the protection of youth from exploitation and some measures Mrs. Peters is suggesting to better protect youth in our community, but do not agree that all the measures she is calling for will achieve these goals.

The “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act” is one of those Harper-era Orwelian-named pieces of legislation that instead of acting to protect people who may be exploited, further stigmatizes and criminalizes them, and does little to increase the protection of vulnerable people in our community. Organizations such as the Pivot Legal Society have argued this legislation is unconstitutional. So I cannot agree to us advocating for its implementation.

We then, late at night, got into a slightly modified Bylaws shuffle:

REGARDING Zoning Amendment Bylaw (1050 Boyd Street and 1005 Ewen Avenue) No. 7700, 2014;
REGARDING Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7917, 2017;
REGARDING Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7920, 2017; and
REGARDING Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7944, 2017
Our staff were doing some diligence as part of the updates of our zoning bylaws, and discovered a discrepancy in how we consulted with MOTI (which we are required to do when a rezoning happens within some prescribed distance with a freeway entrance). So we are rescinding these adoptions, and will re-adopt once MOTI checks the box they need to check. There is no shift in land use happening here, but this type of detail may matter to someone at some point down the road, so we are stepping back to make sure we do it right.

Housing Agreement (813 – 823 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 8001, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw that secures housing in a proposed development on Carnarvon Street as below-market rental was given three readings by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (318 Fifth Street) Bylaw No. 7977, 2018 and
Heritage Designation (318 Fifth Street) Bylaw No. 7978, 2018
As discussed at the Public Hearing on April 30, these Bylaws that permit a laneway house in Queens Park in exchange for restoration and protection of a heritage house was adopted by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (312 Fifth Street) Bylaw No. 7979, 2018 and
Heritage Designation (312 Fifth Street) Bylaw No. 7980, 2018
As discussed at the Public Hearing on April 30, these Bylaws that permit another laneway house in Queens Park in exchange for restoration and protection of a heritage house was adopted by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (224 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7989, 2018 and
Heritage Designation (224 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7990, 2018
As discussed at the Public Hearing on April 30, these Bylaws that permit the subdivision of a lot in Queens Park and the building of a second house in exchange for restoration and protection of a heritage house was adopted by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (520 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 8004, 2018 and
Heritage Designation (520 Carnarvon Street) Bylaw No. 8005, 2018
As discussed at the Public Hearing on April 30, these Bylaws that permit an extensive renovation and land use changes for the permanent protection of a heritage house in the Downtown was adopted by Council.

2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8014, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that sets our property tax rates for 2018 was adopted by Council.

Downtown BIA (Primary Area) 2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8015, 2018;
Downtown BIA (Secondary Area) 2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8016, 2018; and
Uptown BIA 2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8017, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that sets the rates of the parcel taxes we collect on behalf of our three BIAs was adopted by Council.

And that, at something like 11:30 at night on a day where I was at City hall at 9:00am for a Task Force meeting, was tiredly that.

Public Hearing – April 30, 2018

It was a lengthy Council Meeting on Monday, with 16 Public Hearings covering 10 projects (because many projects include more than one Bylaw, there needs to be a separate hearing for each one). If you are interested in the rest of what happened on Council this week, follow this link. If you want to see what happened in the Public Hearings, watch the video here (and don;t miss the deliberations Council had on the Public Hearing topics in the following Regular Meeting video). As an aside, this public hearing and some of the conversations around it have me thinking I need to write a “Public Hearing 101” blog post to explain some of the process to people for whom this is their first interaction with Council. But for now, this post is just my summary of the 10 projects that came to Council on April 30.

Back-of-the envelope stats of what we approved:
9 Projects;
225 Strata units;
72 Secured rental units;
4 Laneway/Carriage homes;
5 Protected heritage homes;
597 Off-street parking spots.

318 Fifth StreetHeritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 7977, 2018 and
Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 7978, 2018
This project would see a large heritage home Queens Park designated as a Heritage Property with a Heritage Restoration Plan in exchange for allowing a largish family-size laneway house on the property. As the house is already in pretty good shape and well preserved, there was some debate about the heritage benefit and timeline for completing some of the works considered as part of the long-term restoration.

To me, the project is great example of preserving heritage in our City, while still allowing our housing stock to evolve and create more flexible types of homes in Queens Park, increasing the viability and vitality of the neighbourhood. It is also an appropriate place for a larger laneway house, as it backs a commercial parking to and will intrude over adjacent houses (and really the laneway house is not much larger than the existing 3-car garage it replaces).

We got hung up a bit on timing for the window replacement of the main house. They are vinyl windows in good condition, and are not reflective of the heritage of the house, so heritage advocates wanted to see them replaced sooner rather than later. The counter argument is that they are mimicking an appropriate window style, and replacing them now is both wasteful, and an undesirable intrusion into the now-functional envelope of the house. The compromise found through the public consultation and work between stakeholders was to have the work done within 10 years.

I agreed that we should ask the Homeowner to commit to replacement of the windows on a timeframe appropriate for the long term viability of the house – be that end of life or sooner – with appropriate wood-frame windows, and secure that commitment in the Heritage plan

There was one written submission on this project, and we had 5 people delegate to council, including the proponent. 3 spoke in favour, 2 expressed concerns related to the windows issue above. Council voted unanimously to give this project Third Reading.

312 Fifth StreetHeritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 7979, 2018 and
Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 7980, 2018
Very similar to the previous project, this property right next door will see a similar laneway house built in exchange for a somewhat more extensive heritage conservation of the main house, including moving the home forward on the site. We had no correspondence on this project, and the only delegate on the topic was the Queens Park RA speaking in favour. Council voted unanimously to give the project third reading.

224 Sixth Avenue Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 7989, 2018 and
Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 7990, 2018
This project will see the preservation of a relatively modest heritage home in Queens Park that is on a larger lot in exchange for subdivision of the lot and the building of a second house that meets the Queens Park guidelines for heritage conservation. Again, and example of infill in a Heritage Conservation Area that increases housing choice and respects the heritage character of the neighbourhood.

There was a delegate who raised an issue with part of this application that is kind of secondary to the actual application, which is the dedication of a Statutory Right of Way at the back of the property as part of the City’s long-term transportation and development goals. This issue was actually discussed at a previous meeting, and Council received a report from staff on it a couple of weeks ago.

We received some correspondence on this project (including the petition entered by the delegate), and had two delegates at the Public Hearing – the Queens Park RA spoke in favour, and the delegate who raised the SRW concern. Council voted 6-1 in favour of giving these Bylaws Third Reading.

520 Carnarvon StreetHeritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 8004, 2018 and
Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 8005, 2018
This is an application for extensive renovation and addition of a suite to the last single family house on 500 block of Carnarvon Street, in exchange for designation of the house and permanent protection. We received no correspondence on this application, but did receive a few delegations at the Public Hearing, all in favour. Council voted unanimously in favour of giving this project Third Reading.

306 Gilley StreetHeritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 8007, 2018 and
Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 8008, 2018
This is a slightly more aggressive Heritage Conservation and infill density project in Brow of the Hill. Again, a relatively small heritage house on a larger lot will be restored and protected, and a new “infill duplex” will be built on the same lot. This will provide two new smallish, but family-friendly three-bedroom units, that when all added together still fits under the 35% site coverage requirements of the zoning. This is an interesting approach on a lot that only has a small-street (call it a lane if you want, but it has a name) frontage, in a neighbourhood with a huge variety of housing already. The APC, Design Panel, and Community Heritage Commission approve of the project, and the RA had no opposition.

We received two pieces of correspondence on this project, and had a few delegations at the hearing. The proponents spoke in favour, but a couple of neighbours raised issues around the parking on the site, the loss of trees, and fire separation. The project will allow three parking spots and a fourth “flex-parking” spot, though the neighbour doubted the sites are large enough. There is a loss of trees, but they will be replaced on a 2-for-1 basis as per our Tree Bylaw. The fire separations meet the code, and are similar to those of some nearby houses that fill a larger portion of their lot.

Council voted unanimously to give the project Third Reading.

1084 and 1130 Tanaka Court and a portion of the existing road right of way Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8011, 2018This project would see a banquet hall built on a vacant lot near the Casino in Queensborough. We received no correspondence on this project, and no-one came to speak to it. Nothing controversial here, and it will be good to see a piece of commercial property developed. Council voted unanimously to support the Third Reading.

118 Royal Avenue Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7954, 2018
This project would see a 4 fee-simple row homes built on a single family lot in the Downtown immediately next door to Qayqayt Middle School. This is a valuable housing form that fills a gap in the city, but I had several concerns with the design of this project as it developed. We spent a lot of time at the Public Hearing talking about the bike route issue, but there was also, on my mind, a design issue with the building that made me reluctant to support it.

There were a few compromises in the development of this site, including a lost potential to assemble the adjacent single-family houses in a areas where the land use plan indicates low-rise apartment as a preferred land form. The choice to build rowhomes (as opposed to strata townhouses) is supportable, but in the case of this project, that required that each property face Royal Ave, and the project could not be designed to face west, where each house would have a view of the park, and the park/playground area would be provided “eyes on the street” and be addressed by the front of a building, not by the side of a development. Overall, I think the design fails for the spot provided it.

The bike route issue was the second point of opposition, and this goes a bit to how the City receives dedications for transportation or other uses during development (discussed at length as part of the 224 Sixth Ave project, above). In this case, a narrow dedication was taken to improve the quality of the sidewalk along Royal Avenue, with the intention that eventually (through further development of adjacent properties), the separate pedestrian/cyclist route adjacent to the Royal Avenue will be extended to meet Windsor Street a few hundred feet to the east, and connect to the greenway network south of Royal (Agnes Street and Pattullo Bridge replacement). As was explained by the HUB member delegating at the Public Hearing, this routing is not great for vulnerable road users, and they have been advocating for many years that a lower-grade connection between Agnes and Royal is best located around the periphery of the playing field. This would be easiest to achieve through dedication of a strip along the west portion of the property (in addition to or instead of the north portion). At the least, they were hoping that we could assure that the development is built in such a way that we don’t preclude the eventual routing of a pedestrian/cycling route around the periphery of the park.

In the end, Council voted 4-2 (Mayor Cote recused himself for conflict) to reject this proposal, sending the developer back to the drawing board.

41 – 175 Duncan StreetOfficial Community Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 7982, 2018 and
Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7983, 2018
This project would see a largish piece of formerly-industrial but now vacant waterfront land in Queensborough converted to a 170-unit townhouse development, and will include enhancement and expansion of the waterfront trail network in Queensborough and the building of a much-needed child care facility on site.

This project was originally zoned for 48 Townhomes and 425 apartment units, so this rezoning represents a significant shift towards more family-friendly and ground oriented development, congruent with the pattern of development in Queensborough. There was quite a bit of engineering and design work to make the project work better adjacent to industrial property to the west and the infrequently-used but not-going-anywhere rail line to the south. Most importantly on that second item, the development design is consistent with the most recent FCM Railway Proximity guidelines to reduce conflict between rail use and adjacent land use.

We did receive some correspondence on this development, for and against (mostly citing the rail conflict concerns). The Residents’ Association support the project, as did th eDesign Panel and Advisory Planning Commission. We had no-one come to speak at the Public Hearing.

Council voted 6-1 in favour of supporting this project.

228 – 232 Sixth Street Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7996, 2018
This project in the Brow of the Hill will replace the now-decrepit converted single family houses that were home to an iconic Italian restaurant on Sixth Street with a 6-story multi-family development. This project has taken quite a bit of time to get through, and included at least one pretty significant re-design to address some proximity and privacy issues with the relatively new highrise to the north of it and the older three-story walkup to the west of it.

We receive quite a bit of correspondence on this project, some in favour (especially from nearby business owners) who would like to see the street revitalized), but the majority from the two adjacent buildings that were opposed for several reasons outlined in the Public Hearing.

One significant aspect of the opposition was parking. This building will have 53 residential units and is located on the Frequent Transit Network less than a kilometre from two SkyTrain stations, in an extremely walkable part of the community. As the zoning is currently written, and before any incentives are added, this would require 74 parking spaces (1.4 per unit). The proponent wants to provide 66 parking spaces (1.2 per unit). I only repeat these numbers because I got them slightly wrong during deliberations, and want to correct the record – my rapidly misreading of the 653-page council report in front of me at the time. A delegate was very concerned about where the 8 (or was it 16?) extra cars would go. I respectfully suggest we are actually building too much parking for this development, and there will not be 8 cars circling the block looking for parking.

Car ownership in New Westminster is going down. The stats we used to put together the 2014 Master Transportation Plan (and they were older stats by then) has 1.2 registered automobiles per household in the City. The downtown area near SkyTrain was closer to 0.7 cars per household. It doesn’t take too much interpretation of the trends to assume people buying apartments in the most walkable parts of the City will have car ownership levels equal to or lower than the city-wide average.

A second concern raised was the fate of the trees on the property line to the west. The property owners to the west have not yet agreed to a plan for these shared property assets. This is an issue the developer will need to address before the Bylaws that support this project are adopted, and in full compliance with the City’s Tree Protection Bylaw.

Finally, there was quite a bit of concern about proximity to adjacent buildings, and how the setbacks from the property line will impact current residents of those buildings. The proposal by far exceeds the setback required by the Zoning on the west side, and has been designed to step back with height to further allow light. The ground floor/garage entrance/patios are built to the lot line, but the adjacent property here has a semi-underground garage at that elevation, so that proximity should not impact the quality of life of the current residents.

The building to the north is built to the lot line with a flat wall, built in anticipation of development of this property with a pedestal and set-back, so proximity is not an issue here, however the design above 30 feet (i.e. on top of the pedestal) has the suites closer to the lot line that permitted in the zoning, and that is where the variance is required here to make the building fit. Clearly, the building to the north was designed and built anticipating this, and the tower on that building was set further north on the pedestal to provide more space for this. As a result, the distance between the tower and suites in the new buildings will be 13.5m (44 feet) and the closest approach (existing balcony to new soffits) 10.7m (35 feet). See this diagram:

Overall, this is a positive development that fills a gap in the Brow neighbourhood and provides a good variety of housing types. Council voted 6-1 in favour of supporting the project.

406 – 412 East Columbia Street Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7995, 2018
Finally, this project in Sapperton brought the most correspondence and many delegates to speak to its merits. It will see a six-story building built on a vacant lot in the commercial strip of East Columbia. The ground floor will have retail, the second floor professional offices (one might anticipate health-care-related given the location) and then 4 floors of secured market rental residential units.

I think the developer (working with staff) got the mix right here for the neighbourhood. The 72 rental units come in a variety of sizes, and the commercial-office spaces meet the long-term goals of the RCH area. If I have one criticism of the project, it is that 144 parking spaces seems a ridiculous amount for a building that is 400m from a Skytrain station in one of the most walkable parts of the City. However, the future office needs are difficult to anticipate, and with fully half of that parking intended to serve the commercial/office part of the building, I expect it may relive some of the street parking pressure felt in adjacent residential neighbourhoods.

As I said, the vast majority of written correspondence and public delegation on this project was in favour, and Council voted unanimously to support it (Councillor Williams recused herself due to potential conflict).

Council – April 30, 2018

Most last-Council-meetings-of-the-month are Public Hearings, where Bylaws that require a Public Hearing as per the Local Government Act are opened for Public Comment. We had 16 Public Hearings on 10 projects, and that part of the meeting went on for almost 4 hours (you can see the videos here) . However, I am going to blog here first about the rest of the business we did at Council (as most of the Crowd had left by then), and blog about the Public Hearings in a follow-up post.

After we finished the Third Readings of the Bylaws discussed at Public Hearing, we got onto the rest of the Agenda, which started with moving the following items On Consent:

2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8014, 2018
As we are reaching the end of our annual budget program, the next step is to pass a Bylaw that supports the tax levels we approved in our earlier discussions about operational and capital budgets. The amount of revenue we will collect from property tax will go up 2.95%, and we are adding on a 1% Capital Levy to better support our Capital Plan, most notably the Canada Games Pool project. Though the average tax increase is a total of 3.95% over last year, your result may vary.

Downtown BIA Parcel Tax Bylaws and
Uptown New Westminster Business Improvement Area Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8017, 2018
These are the Bylaws that allow the City to collect a parcel tax from the members of our City’s three BIAs (one Uptown, two Downtown). Remember, all of this money is collected by the City from the businesses in the BIA areas, and then returned directly to the BIAs so they can run their business area improvement programs, as their own elected boards figure is the wisest way.

Recruitment 2018: Economic Development Advisory Committee Appointment
Staff changes in a company that has participated in our Economic Development Advisory Committee has resulted in them asking us to shift their representative to the Committee, which we did.

Recruitment 2018: Environment Advisory Committee (EnAC) Appointment
A representative of the local business community has been appointed to the Environment Advisory Committee.

Recruitment 2018: Emergency Advisory Committee (EAC) Appointment
A representative of St Johns Ambulance has been appointed to the Emergency Advisory Committee.

Appointment of the City Clerk
The City is replacing our City Clerk – the person who sits at the Mayor’s right hand during Council Meetings, and whose job it is (among other things) to make sure everything we do is legal by the language of the Law and close enough to Roberts Rules. This is one of the few staff positions that has a regulatory role, defined in the Community Charter, so a Council Resolution is required to put the new Clerk in office.

Appointment of the Chief Election Officer and Deputy Chief Election Officer for the 2018 General Local Election
The City is also required to appoint a Chief Election Officer for the upcoming Municipal Election. Under the Local Government Act, these are staff positions that are required to be defined by Council Resolution. This resolution does that. Election on!

Front Street Metro Vancouver Sewer Upgrade: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The disruptive sewer work on Front street is the gift that never stops giving. Some underground sewer works on operating sewers need to be done in the middle of the night when sewer loads are lowest, because when you dealing with liquid shit, you want to deal with as little as possible. So the city is providing a Noise Bylaw exemption the works that have to happen at night can happen at night.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Innovation Week 2018 Review and 2019 Request
Innovation week has been a very successful business development initiative in the City, and an important part of our Intelligent City strategy. It has put the City on the regional map when it comes to bringing new industries together and in touch with public and private support networks. It also is a forum for sharing ideas that will push our community forward. But it isn’t free, and there were some identified areas for improvement for next year.

This report outlines a plan for 2019 Innovation Week, and provides a preliminary budget. Council had a bit of a discussion about the budget, but in the end agreed (in a split vote) to approve a modest increase in the budget, but we did request some more info about what parts of the budget can be covered by existing staff in similar staff roles (ie. where we can find efficiencies with internal staff).

I do want to call attention to Councillor Puchmayr’s point during our deliberations. At the CivX conference in Vancouver this year, there were elected officials and staff from several Cities around BC who were jealous of the cooperative model we have in New West – where Council supports staff and community leaders to work together to develop innovative approaches in our own operations, and to reach out to innovative businesses to grow in the City. This is a great program, recognized outside of New West, and an important part of our Economic Development Plan and our ongoing pursuit of a better-run City.

2018 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
This is an update report on how the snowpack and weather forecast impacts our flood and water restriction planning.

There is a lot of snowpack in the interior this year, and a lot arrived late. It is well above average in the Columbia/Okanagan watershed (where there is a pretty high risk of flooding right now), but we also have higher than average snowpack in much of the Fraser River drainage basin. Higher snowpack doesn’t necessarily mean flood, but it does increase the risk of flood, and the risk of larger floods. A lot now depends on how the weather shifts and how quickly that snowpack melts. A cycle like we had last week (Really hot for several days followed by protracted rain) is the kind of thing that causes flooding, as it heats the snow up to melting point then provides a quick boost of water to flush it out. We are not panicking yet in the lower Fraser, but are paying close attention, ready to react if the risk goes up.

The snowpack in our watersheds is also above average, and we should hope for some cool spring weather to slow the melt, so we won’t have to deal with Stage 2 or Stage 3 restrictions this year.

After these Agenda Items were managed, we wrapped a long night with our regular reading of Bylaws:

2018 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8014, 2018
As discussed above, the Bylaw that codifies our tax rates for 2018 was given three readings.

Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Primary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8015, 2018 and
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Secondary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8016, 2018 and
Uptown New Westminster Business Improvement Area Parcel Tax Bylaw No.8017, 2018
As discussed above, these Bylaws that empower us to collect taxes from BIA area businesses in order to fund the operations of the three City BIAs were all given three readings.

Development Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8009, 2018
As given third reading on April 9th, this Bylaw that sets the rates for Queens Park homeowners to take part in the “special Limited Category” group property assessment program was adopted. It is now the Law of the Land.

Bylaw Notice Enforcement Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw No. 8012, 2018
As given third reading on April 9th, this Bylaw that adjusts our Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw to comply with changes in the local and regional Water Restrictions was adopted. Just in time, too, as 2018 Watering Restrictions started today!

And that was all the business of the day. Again, I’ll get into the Public Hearing discussions in a follow-up Bog Post, when I get time to write it!