Council – Feb 24, 2020

I start the occasional council report talking about busy weeks, but this was a seriously busy week. Two evening meetings, public hearings, workshops, and budget, budget, budget. There is a lot to report though it being busy makes it hard for me to find time to write stuff, so I am breaking this up into a few blog posts. I am not going to talk about the budget discussions now, as those conversations deserve their own space, so I am going to cover the rest of Council here. You can watch the video here, which is extra interesting to my Mom on account of the Acting Mayor thing and all.

After a proclamation on Pink Shirt Day, our Regular Agenda began with two presentations:

Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project Update
Staff from the Ministry of Transportation Project team came to give Council and the public an update on the project. We can expect that some preliminary geotechnical work (drilling holes to confirm soil conditions) will start soon, and the main work on the bridge starting this spring. There was also some info about community outreach the construction team is going to do to manage inevitable construction conflicts.

I’m excited to see this project actually moving. It has been a good decade of conversation and false starts, and the public consultation has been comprehensive. At this point, the real focus for the city will be making sure the final design details for the landing on the New West side will integrate as well as possible into the urban area around it. I am especially concerned that the east-west movements past the bridge entrance are improved, so Victoria Hill residents can feel more connected to Downtown, and vice versa. You can get project info here.

Sapperton Green Master Plan Update (97 Braid Street)
The development called Sapperton Green, which is proposed to replace the warehouses between Braid Station and Hume Park, was presented as a Master Plan back in 2017. It has recently been revised to support affordable housing in alignment with the City’s Inclusionary Housing Policy. As presented, this change could bring a bunch of affordable housing, but would represent a 23% increase in residential density on the site.

There was also some discussion about the Phasing of the project, which would see the Braid Street frontage built up as part of a Phase 1, including affordable, purpose built rental, and strata housing along with some commercial space. Phase 2 would cover the area around the Braid Station and where the current Amazon warehouse is, then a third Phase would build the Hume Park side.

Council moved to endorse the changes to the Master Plan in concept prior to them going to Public Consultation. There will be some open houses and a chance for public feedback, you can get some details here.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Recruitment 2020 Appointment to Board of Variance
We appoint people to the Board of Variance, a provincially-regulated commission in the City. As one of the people selected to serve on it for a three-year term is now in conflict due to getting a job working for the City, so we need to replace them, which we did.

Arts Commission Representative to the Public Art Advisory Committee
There is a rep of the Arts Commission on the PAAC, nominated by the Art Commission itself, which Council now ratifies.

65 First Street: Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8178, 2020 for First, Second and Third Readings
This is an interesting case. An older mid-rise condo building near the Pattullo has been sold to a developer, which means some majority of the owners of the Strata units have agreed to the sale. As a complicating factor, the building apparently has some long-standing maintenance issues. However, many of the units are currently being rented out at relatively low rent levels, suggesting that the sale may result in renoviction or demovictions of some lower-income residents.

The developer wants to develop the property, but no development proposal has come to Council yet. The developer would like to continue to rent the units until such a time as a development plan can be hammered out and approved, but the renters in the building are in limbo. So staff is recommending the City and the developer enter into a Housing Agreement to provide some protection for those residents.

That housing agreement stipulates that the rentals will follow the City’s Business Regulations Bylaw (the one that was just upheld by the Courts), and the Residential Tenancy Act, and that the existing rental units (22 of the 61 units in the building) will have the same rent as prior to the sale, and only have RTA-available annual increases, as long as the current tenants are there. There will also be extra tenant protection measures in the event a Development Plan for the property is approved by Council at some time in the future.

There may be some further discussion of the details, but this seems like a reasonable and compassionate approach – it protects the current vulnerable tenants, allows the owners with a bunch of sunk equity in to the condos to move on as they choose, and gives the developer a clear pathway to redevelopment of their property. Council moved to ask staff to put together the Housing Agreement.

Miscellaneous Zoning Bylaw Amendments: Zoning Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bylaw No. 8172, 2020 for Two Readings
This is an update of our existing Zoning Bylaw to fix a few inconsistencies, like references to senior government legislation that may have changed overtime, clarifying some definitions, renumbering some sections to be internally consistent, etc. This will not change how zoning works in the City, just make them internally and externally consistent. As this is a Zoning Bylaw amendment, it will go to Public Hearing on March 30th. Read Attachment 2, then come out to tell us what you think!

Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Grant Application Council Resolution
The City has a poverty reduction committee, led by the City but involving the various non-profits operating in the City to address poverty and its impacts. We are applying for a Provincial Grant to support two programs as part of that initiative; and application that requires a Council Resolution in support.

2020 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
This is the first snowpack / ENSO report of the season. We typically get these between the middle of winter until after freshet in order to evaluate the flood risk in the CIty and allow us time to put any mitigative measures in place if risk is higher than usual. Snowpack is a bit high, ENSO conditions are predicted to be neutral, so risk is slightly elevated for spring floods, but nothing to respond to yet.

Recommendations from Intelligent City Advisory Committee
The last Meeting of the Intelligent City Advisory Committee mostly involved discussion about the fate of the program after the Advisory committee is disbanded. There is an Intelligent City Strategy, and an operational plan for the three pillars of the Strategy. We have staffed up and have the work in the strategy included in the staff work plans. The three pillars of the strategy will be parsed out to existing advisory committees, and a staff member is specifically assigned to manage the coordination between the three and is accountable for the measureable goals of the Strategy. A staff working group will continue to draw on the expertise of the community members who have been so instrumental in getting the Intelligent City program off the ground and working.

We then broke and started our Public Hearing for the night:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (2223 Ninth Avenue) No. 8180, 2020
This property in Connaught Heights has an older house on it, and due to some historic redevelopment practices dealing with slopes in Connaught Heights, it is sitting at a lower grade than the properties on either side. The owner wants to redevelop the property and build a house similar in grade and size to the ones on either side, but that requires a rezoning. The house will have a secondary suite and a Laneway house.

No-one sent Council correspondence on this request, and no-one came to address the Public Hearing. Council moved to give the application Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (719 Colborne Street) No. 8176, 2020
This property in Glenbrooke North is on a unique narrow-but-long lot and a single family home on it with a large garage built during original development. The owner wants to formalize a basement suite and a small accessory living unit above the garage. This will not increase the footprint of the buildings in any way, but is simply a conversion in use of existing buildings.

There was one piece of correspondence received on this application, expressing some concerns about the intended use. The proponent and one neighbor in opposition (over street parking and traffic concerns) came to address Council at the Public Hearing. Council moved to give the application Third Reading and Adoption.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Amendment Bylaw (815 Milton Street) No. 8179, 2020
This heritage home in the Brow of the Hill neighborhood is protected by a Heritage Designation Bylaw, and the owner proposes to lift the house 4 inches to make the basement livable, and put in a legal basement suite. For a few complicate reasons related to the protection of the house, this minor change requires an amendment of the HRA Bylaw. No-one wrote to Council about this or came ot the Public Hearing to speak to the matter, and Council moved to give the amendment Bylaw Third Reading.

We then had two <b<Opportunities to be Heard on Development Variances:

Development Variance Permit DVP00673 for 301 Stewardson Way
This is a Development Variance request to allow for a variance of the Sign Bylaw to support Key West’s new signage program as part of their overall site redevelopment that is being buttoned up as we speak. The signage plan is not out of scale with the building or design, and nothing unexpected for a business of this style.

We had one neighbor come and express concern about light intrusion from the car dealerships. I have some sympathy for this concern, as having large parking lots that can be seen from the surface of the moon at night is good for security of the site and presence, but is a questionable practice in light of a variety of health and environmental concerns related to light pollution. However, the sign variance was not one that was going to make this situation worse, nor was it an appropriate method through which to address outdoor business lighting in the City. Council vote to approve the variance.

Development Variance Permit DVP00675 for 510 St. George Street
This is a variance to allow a heritage home in Queens Park to be lifted by three feet to make the basement a livable space. It would exceed the zoning for building height by quite a bit (almost 5 feet), but would not be completely out of context of surrounding heritage buildings. They are also doing some heritage restorations of the building along with the lifting. We received no correspondence and no-one came to speak to the variance. Council moved to grant the variance.

We then went back into Regular Council to address the items Removed from Consent for discussion:

Amendments to the Sign Bylaw: Election Signs
After a recent discussion of the sign bylaw as it relates to election signs, Staff have worked on the language of the proposed Bylaw changes, and are prepping a bylaw to take out to public consultation. This consultation will include stakeholder consultation with the Provincial and Federal parties, and all of the candidates who ran in the most recent Local Government elections.

Land Use Policy: Work Program for Endorsement
This is a bit of Staff asking Council where to prioritize their work for 2020-2021, given a tight budget and a lot of demands. Council has asked for Staff to provide some visioning of a “car-light” master plan for the 22nd Street Station area, or Connaught Heights and immediately adjacent areas of the West End. We had previously asked for some guidance on Infill housing to allow more duplex and triplex development in the city, which would mean deferring the Infill housing initiative.

I was torn about this, as I have a reflex response that says “let’s do what we already said we were going to do before we take on something new”. However, this is a case where the Climate Emergency declaration means we need to think about priorities and how we shift them to address the emergency at hand. It is clear that the redevelopment of a low-density area immediately adjacent to a SkyTrain station following Transit-Oriented Development principles and adding on a visionary layer of what a “Car Light” or even “car Free” community looks like in the decade ahead is a chance to push the envelope a bit.

We need to take bold moves when they are offered to us. So I support the change.

Recruitment 2020: Appointment of Members to the Massey Theatre Working Group
The Massey Theatre is going to be a City Asset next year, as the School District hands the building (and all of it’s maintenance and operational costs) over to the City. The City has struck a task force to oversee this transition and advise Council on making it as smooth as possible for everyone concerned. We appointed Councillors Trentadue and McEvoy to that Task force.

We then went through Bylaws including the following adoptions:

Housing Agreement (228 Nelson’s Crescent) Amendment Bylaw No. 8149, 2019
Housing Agreement (268 Nelson’s Court) Bylaw No. 8148, 2019
These Housing Agreements that will guarantee Purpose Built Rental in two new buildings at the Brewery District were adopted by Council. PBR is still being built in New West, and is still needed!

Official Community Plan Amendment (1111 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No.8145, 2019
Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1111 Sixth Avenue) Bylaw No.8146, 2019
These Bylaws support the construction of a Daycare and accessory building adjacent to the heritage church in the Brow of the Hill were adopted by Council.

And that was the Agenda except for a few Resolutions, which I think I’ll write about in a follow-up post, because I think I’ll give people time to actually read them before they comment on them.

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