We had a long day on Monday. I had a task force meeting at 9:00 am, and left City Hall just before midnight. 15 hours. And much of that was spent going through the Public Hearing topics. But I’m not going to talk about the Public Hearing here, because that is going to take a whole bunch of space and time and a little more thinking on my part about how to frame my responses to the events of the evening, so I’ll just deal with the info on the Regular Agenda, which began with three Opportunities to be Heard:
Business Regulations and Licensing (Rental Units) Amendment Bylaw No. 8130, 2019
The City has been pretty aggressive at addressing the renoviction situation, after the situation was rising to crisis levels last year. I have to give kudos to our staff for finding creative ways to leverage the City’s limited regulatory power here to fill gaps in the Provincial regulations, while we wait for those regulations to hopefully be updated and strengthened. I am pretty proud that other cities are following the lead of New Westminster, and that tenants around the region are seeing better protection because of our actions.
As we are on the leading edge here, Staff have brought forward some improvements on the Bylaws we passed back in February to use our Business Licensing powers to regulate how evictions occur in the City. Learning from practical experience, these changes will make the Bylaw easier to enforce and more effective. This includes making the timing of the offence at the delivery of eviction (if that eviction is found to be non-compliant), to clarify that every day the situation is not addressed constitutes a new offence (allowing the City to pile up fines to create real deterrence), and other administrative changes.
No-one came to speak to the Bylaw, and we received no written submissions. Council moved to adopt the Bylaw.
Closing of a Portion of Boyne Street at 34 South Dyke Road Bylaw No. 8074, 2019
There is an unused road portion in Queensborough the City wants to close. That means there is a piece of land that is not a regular taxable lot, but designated as highway that belongs to the city. This piece of highway has never had need for a road on it, so it is vacant land. There is a development on one side of it, and another development happening on the other side, but the roadway is still “surplus” to the city’s needs.
As is policy in these cases, the road can be sold to the adjacent landowner and integrated into the development, as long as conditions the City needs are met. We need a bylaw to do this, to “raise title” on the land so it can be valued and taxed appropriately. No-one came to speak to the Bylaw, and we received no written correspondence. Council moved to adopt the Bylaw.
Development Variance Permit DVP00664 for 118 Regina Street
The owners of this heritage house in Queens Park want to put a 12-foot addition on the back to create a more livable back space in the house, but because the side of the existing house is closer to the property line than would be currently permitted, an addition to the back will also be too close to the property line, meaning a variance is required.
We had no speakers and no written correspondence, and Council moved approve the variance.
The following items were Moved on Consent:
NWACC Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8073, 2019 – Results from Alternative Approval Process
The replacement for the Canada games Pool and Centennial Community Centre is going to require that we borrow money beyond a 5-year term, which requires special consent from the community. The City has two alternatives under the Community Charter – a City-wide referendum or this Alternate Approval Process (AAP) where we ask the City to tell us if they oppose the idea. If 10% of the public register opposition, we need to go to referendum.
I hate the structure of the AAP, always have, but that is the process available to us if we believe (as I do) that referendums are terrible way to choose what vital service the City – or any government – is able to deliver.
Anyway, the APP was completed as per the legislation, we had 41 people let us know they opposed the borrowing Bylaw (which is short of the 5,061 required to force referendum) so we can proceed with adopting the borrowing bylaw (below).
2018 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report
The City samples your water to make sure it is safe to drink, because dysentery sucks. We have 13 sampling stations, and they measure things like coliforms and e-coli, chlorine levels, turbidity and metals. We collected more than 1,000 samples in 2018, and all passed quality criteria.
Sixth Avenue and Second Street Intersection – Open Delegation Response
We had a couple of delegates come to Council back in April to express concerns about a pedestrian improvement in Queens Park. Staff looked again at the changes, and have had discussions with the Neighbourhood Traffic Advisory Committee, the Queens Park Residents’ Association, and the NWPD, and have determined that the improvements planned are the best option for the site. With a City full of intersection improvements needed, the treatment here is the one that makes the most sense.
Glenbrook Ravine Park Invasive Plant Management Plan
Glenbrook Ravine is a green treasure in the City, but most people will not recognize that much of the green you see there represents invasive species that are actually terrible for the local ecosystem networks. Blackberry and English Ivy have completely proliferated in the ravine, where other invasives like Scotch Broom and Knotweed are still very limited in extent. Realistically, the limited extent invasive can be knocked out relatively easily, the proliferating ones cannot – but we can take efforts to reduce their impacts (i.e. stop ivy from destroying the alders),
Through ad-hoc efforts of community volunteers like Kyle Routledge and groups like the New West Environmental Partners, there have been some efforts to start addressing this problem, but the problem is bigger than these small efforts, and needs a long-term coordinated plan if it is going to make progress. This report outlines what that long-term strategy looks like!
228 Nelson’s Crescent: Housing Agreement Amendment Bylaw 8135, 2019 for Three Readings
We have a housing agreement with Wesgroup on the secured market rental building in the Brewery District, but the language of the agreement is making CMHC nervous, so we made a small modification so everyone is secure that the Feds will get paid if things go terribly wrong, I suppose.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion
330 East Columbia Street (RCH Project): Gas Service Installation on Brunette Avenue – Request for Construction Noise Bylaw No. 6063, 1992 Exemption
The hospital upgrade requires a gas line upgrade, which means digging up Brunette Ave in front of the Hospital. Because traffic on Brunette must flow, they are going to do this work at night, which requires an exemption from the Construction Noise Bylaw for a week in late August.
I voted against this. I’m not against the work getting done, but do it during business hours and let people sleep. Fully charged and feeling punchy after the Active Transportation Summit, I am feeling strongly that we need to start pushing back a bit against the assumptions of motordom. I’m ready to start voting against these small erosions and start prioritizing livability before traffic flow. The exemption was granted in a split vote.
Child Care Situation in Queensborough
Affordable, accessible childcare is a desperate need across the City and region, but in New West the need is most acute in Queensborough. Where most neighbourhoods in New West have childcare spaces exceeding the provincial and regional average, Queensborough stands out with only 11 spaces per 1,000 children (compared to the regional average of 18.5). For a variety of reasons, both private and non-profit daycare providers are not setting up in Queensborough.
This is just a status report, but the City and School District are going to work together to address this, and specifically ask the province to help us out. Council discussed the need to find some creative solutions, as the current model (and current funding models) simply is not providing the need.
Amendment to Subdivision and Development Control Bylaw Schedule “B” Design Criteria Sections 1, 3, 4, 5 and Part of 8
Looking at the title, does anyone have any idea what this report is about?!
Let’s see if I can break it down. We have a Bylaw that tells anyone who wants to build some things in the City what they need to do to connect that thing to the rest of the City – what kind of water, sewer, electrical, road, sidewalk, etc. connections the developer or builder will be responsible for to assure that everything works together when the building is complete, and the developer pays for their share of the costs, not downloading it onto taxpayers. Attached to that Bylaw is “Schedule B”, which describes in detail all of the designs the City requires. Parts of the Schedule, in turn, describe General Requirements, Storm Drainage System, Sanitary Sewer System, Water Distribution System, and the designs of road pavement. Not surprisingly, technology and engineering demands change over time, and so we need to update the Bylaw to reflect these changes, which we have not done, apparently, since 2006.
It seems arcane, but there are some nuggets in here. The biggest changes are in how we account for projected climate change impacts on rainfall patterns (we need to store more rain water locally or build bigger pipes to address more intense storms). Consistent with Metro Vancouver work, we are incorporating a “moderate climate change forecast” for 2050 (for most infrastructure) or 2100 (for high-risk or critical infrastructure) based on this report.
I have had discussions with people trying to build laneway or carriage houses, and one common complaint is that the rules for connecting to water and sewer do not seem to reflect the situation where we have two residences on a single lot. Some of the existing bylaws create problematic situations like having to trench across an entire property when there may be a closer second connection, or having to run a new sewer line under or through an exsiting building. Staff assured us that they are learning from the experiences of these early adopters, and these Bylaws have the adaptability to support these changes.
Q to Q Ferry Service Plan for Permanent Service
In the last year (May 2018 – June 2019) we had 80,000 rides on the QtoQ ferry, and the City subsidized the service by a bit over $700,000. Staff are asking us to enter into a new procurement for a permanent service, and though I am supportive of the QtoQ, I am challenged with the projected cost, based on the existing ridership.
I had hoped that we could extend for another year, and have some better discussions with potential partners like TransLink and the Ministry of Transportation, both of whom were at the Active Transportation Summit, and both of whom have been expressing interest in supporting more innovative and multi-modal transportation options like the QtoQ, while we continue to see if we can cost share or bring more cost efficiency to the system. However, Council voted to commit to a 5-year contract, in light of how that may provide more security for users and may result in us getting a better contract with a provider.
I do think there is room to continue those conversations with senior agencies and potential partners. In the meantime, some small service adjustments are proposed to make the system run more efficiently
2019 Council Remuneration
We once again sent the touchy issue of Council Remuneration to an outside agency for review, as we agreed to do 4 years ago last time this came up. They recommended that Council pay be increased by 15% to make up for the change in federal taxation regime, which removed the tax exemption from half of our pay, essentially reducing our take-home by 15%. Then we should continue annual CPI increases. This would make our pay fit close to the median of our comparator communities, and essentially make out take-home pay match what we got in previous years. I am happy with this recommendation.
The report also recommended an increased vehicle allowance, but that recommendation did not make it through to our report, as staff will be looking at it as part of a more comprehensive update of our council expense policy.
639 – 655 East Columbia Street: Preliminary Application Review for Infill Townhouses
This is a preliminary report on a potential land assembly and townhouse development on East Columbia right across from the Lower Hume Park entrance. There is quite a bit going on here, including designing a new entrance and intersection at Hume Park, preservation of two possibly-heritage homes and potential to “strand” one property at the extreme north end of New West.
I don’t know why preserving these two single family homes would be congruent with what the bigger goal is here – more affordable and flexible townhouse-type development. If we are going to talk about the cost of preserving these homes as providing community asset, I would rather it be more affordable housing and expansion green space adjacent to Brunette River – even a connection to the Interurban train on the south side of Brunette, and preservation of significant trees. .
Anyway, a preliminary report for review, and there is lots of work to do yet here.
City of Victoria letter to UBCM dated May 29, 2019 regarding restoring Provincial support for libraries
We received a letter from the City of Victoria requesting we support their request to the Provincial government, and we did so and will send a note to the effect. I hope they don’t get it in their head that we are over that whole stealing-of-the-Capital thing….
Finally, we had one Bylaw for Adoption:
New Westminster Aquatics and Community Centre Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8073, 2019
This Bylaw, which gives Council the authority to borrow up to $93.6 Million for a term of 20 years to build the replacement for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre was adopted by Council. Things are getting real now.
And like I said, I will follow up when I get a chance with a reporting out of my experiences at the Public Hearing. Lucky there is a long weekend coming!