Council – March 29, 2021

Back to long agendas full of important stuff. Put on the kettle, this will be a long one. Sorry, but there is a lot going on right now in the City. We started the Agenda with two big presentations that maybe I’ll push off longer discussions around to follow-up blogs, aside from mentioning them here:

New Westminster Aquatic & Community Centre: Project Update & Next Steps
This report outlines the result of the major construction procurement for the NWACC and steps forward for the biggest infrastructure project he City has ever done. The good news is we are basically within budget, and will be breaking ground next week and hoping for completion by the end of 2023.

City-Wide Bold Steps Work Plan 2021
Yep, we declared a Climate Emergency, and it was not an empty declaration. It was immediately followed by Council asking staff to come up with an actionable plan and viable targets – 2050 targets to meet the IPCC goal and our country’s commitments, and 2030 targets that require immediate action to achieve and will get us on the path to 2050. This report lists the many project areas under each of the 7 Bold Steps that the City is working on, by way of an update, and a 2021 work plan for the Climate Action staff at City Hall.


We then had a Temporary Use Permit approval:

Temporary Use Permit for 40 Begbie Street
Purpose Society and Fraser Health want to operate a Health contact centre to reduce risk for people who use drugs in New Westminster. This will include witnessed consumption, drug checking, harm reduction supplies, peer employment opportunities, education on safer drug use, and referral to treatment and health services, combined with the supports that Purpose already provides at the site. This requires a Temporary Use Permit to align with zoning.

The public consultation on this was (as expected with the Pandemic), mostly on-line, and we had a lot of response, including about two dozen pieces of written correspondence. Overall, the vast majority of feedback we received from residents and downtown businesses alike is support for this type of approach, and a recognition that we need to take action on the poisoned drug supply crisis, though some are concerned about neighbourhood impacts, with some adjacent businesses going so far as to suggest they will close or move.

I hope people will recognize this type of intervention will save lives (which should be everyone’s priority in a civil society) and by reducing the suffering and desperation of some drug users, a secondary benefit will be a reduction of the behaviours that make comfortably housed people less comfortable in their community. This program will also provide Purpose some resources to mitigate some of those community impacts around Begbie Street and Lorne Mews. Council voted unanimously to support the TUP.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Update on Non-Profit COVID Recovery Support Program for 2021
The not-for-profit sector has been hurt by COVID like most organizations, but are generally less able to receive senior government support or operate with cut-back resources, especially as volunteer availability has dropped markedly with Pandemic restrictions. The City’s Economic Development Team has taken a directed approach to identify specific needs of the NFP sector in New West through hosting “Virtual Education and Networking Night” VENN Events, and have identified an opportunity to support an educational program with bursaries (to be funded through our existing Economic Development budget) for people who work and volunteer in the NFP area.
The goal here is to build their capacity and strength so they are still here to help us with the recovery.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
This is our regular update form the 5 task forces, read if you want to know ow the City is supporting residents, businesses and those in need through the Pandemic.

Updates to the Restorative Justice Committee
This Council term, we have shifted somewhat how our Council Advisory Committees work, as I’ve talked about a few times and don’t want to rehash here. The Restorative Justice Committee is one we have not been able to find a consensus on how to manage, as Council is generally in support of restorative justice, and recognize its valuable role in rectifying some of the harms our justice system inflicts on Indigenous people, the courts are very strictly not within our jurisdiction. That said, we are in the middle of a wider City-ride reconciliation process, and are undergoing comprehensive reviews of policing in the City, and it was thought this committee may provide valuable input to those two processes, so we will continue to support the committee for the time being.

Cancellation of the Section 57 Notices on 711 Walmsley Street and 1402 Seventh Avenue
Every once in a while, a property is found non-compliant with a building code or zoning bylaw and the owners are resistant to bringing their property into compliance, so Council puts a notice on the title of the property under Section 57 of the Community Charter. This mostly warns any future owners or mortgage holders that the property is non-compliant and serves to protect them from inheriting a non-compliant property. If the property is brought into compliance, Council can remove the notice on title. These two properties are now compliant.

Withdrawal of Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) Motion Concerning Local Government Candidates Access to Multifamily Dwellings During the Campaign Period
It doesn’t usually happen like this. We were going to advocate to the Provincial Government for changes to the Elections Act, but a few days after we drafted our resolution, the province went ahead and did it without us even asking. I wish it was always that easy!

Support for the Help Cities Lead Campaign
This is a campaign that many BC Municipalities are getting behind, asking for support from the Provincial Government in setting up local governments to help with our 2050 community climate goals by making changes in the building sector. The specific asks are: allowing local governments to regulate GHG emissions in new buildings (like we already can for energy efficiency under the Step Code); creating a home energy labelling requirement; introducing a PACE financing program; regulating GHG emissions from the existing building stock; and mandatory building benchmarking and reporting. These are all important steps towards addressing the ~17% of current GHG emissions that are from the housing sector in New Westminster.

This report is asking that Council endorse these ideas, and let senior government know. I will also be bringing a resolution to this effect to the Lower Mainland LGA as an Executive resolution.

Update and Next Steps Related to the Community Action Network Leadership Training Program
The City has worked with the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition to involve people with lived experience in poverty and homelessness in the Community Action Network Leadership Training Program, and the first cohort of leaders has completed the program successfully. There are some recommendations going forward to continue to support this cohort with their community leadership activities, and to continue to the program for new applicants.

1319 Third Avenue (Steel & Oak): Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment and Manufacturing Facility Structural Change Applications – Preliminary Report
Steel & Oak Brewery want to expand the seating in their lounge, which will take a zoning text amendment. This is a preliminary report, and would go to Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

1324 Nanaimo Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Preliminary Report
The owner of this house in the West end wants to subdivide and use an HRA and designation of the existing house, while building a second house of similar size on the lot. This is a preliminary report, and would go to Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

MOTION regarding Liquor Primary Licence for 759 Carnarvon Street
We gave a Public Hearing to the zoning bylaw here last meeting, but when dealing with a Liquor Primary license the province requires a solemn declaration by Council that we really, really think it OK. Laws are funny.

Energy Save New West 2020 Impact Report and 2021 Initiatives
Did you know Energy Save New West is one of the longest running and most comprehensive community energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction programs in Canada? New Westminster punching above its weight again. This is a for-information report about the impact of the work that has been done, ongoing program offerings, and new initiatives for 2021 – including ways you can save money heating your home and water with help from the City.

2021 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
It is the time of year where we start getting these snowpack reports and freshet forecast to let us know how ready we need to be for flooding come late spring. This is probably the least favorable forecast I have seen in a few years – the entire Fraser Basin is above average snowpack and the spring forecast is for melt to start late, so that means our flood risk is probably higher than on the average year. That said, freshet levels are impacted by lots of factors. We are not worrying yet, but are maintaining a cat-like state of readiness.

Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Implementation in New Westminster 2021
On the good news side, vaccinations are coming. They are already going on at Century House, but in early April they are going to shift to a larger facility at Anvil Centre, staffed 7 days a week from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm. The City is working with Fraser Health to make sure they have the venue they need, and we will be hosting an on-line Q&A session on April 8th to answer people’s questions and share information about the first mass vaccination in recent memory. I am so ready for this.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Application of Regulations and Status of the Implementation Program
This report is a for-information report to clarify some details of the Heritage Conservation Area in Queens Park in light of recent comments at more than one public delegation. This paragraph is most apropos:

“A Heritage Conservation Area is a policy in a municipality’s Official Community Plan (OCP), which is a high level visioning and policy tool. A Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) is a type of zoning that includes specialized regulations for heritage revitalization and protection. A Conservation Area policy promotes the protection of a distinctive heritage area, and defines the types of protection applied to that area. Regulatory tools, such as HRAs and Heritage Alteration Permits (HAPs) are needed to implement that protection. The use of one does not take precedence over, or impede, the use of the other.”

Though there is more detail in here worth reading if you care the least about Heritage houses in the City.

Cannabis Retail Locations: Sapperton Area Application Update – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The City approved several locations for cannabis retail back in 2019, and a few of them have not yet opened. Turns out the provincial license for the proposed Sapperton site was terminated by the Province after we provided First and Second reading of the zoning Bylaw, but before it came back to us for Third Reading. So staff are recommending we rescind the First and Second readings (though the application remain suspected instead of closed, which I don’t understand)

The “second place” applicant for Sapperton is apparently still interested, and already have passed their Provincial hurdles, so Staff is suggesting we start the process with them, which seems fair to me. There is a bit of community concern about the location, but as those can be tested at the Public Hearing, I will hold my comments until then.

Hume Park Outdoor Pool – Summer 2021 Status
Hume Pool is not planned to be open in 2021. This is disappointing to many people who live on the east side of the City, but there are practical reasons that staff recommended this to Council back in November during our open budget deliberations. These reasons are related to both limitations on the operation related to the Public Health Orders and how those made the math of operating the pool not great in a cost-benefit sense for 2021. Part of this is the age and layout of Hume would limit occupation to 15 people (pool and deck area) and only two people per change room at any given time, making it a marginal operation. Add to this the difficulty of staffing in 2020 (it to with how Lifeguards are trained up) and the need for some long-awaited maintenance work that is better to be done during the summer, and the decision to not open in 2021 made sense from the Parks and Recreation operations standpoint.

That said, Council has heard the community on this, and have asked staff to provide us some options and outline a pathway to opening. This doesn’t mean it will open, but just that we want to assure we are making an informed decision either way that we can defend to the community. We’ll be back at this next meeting.

E-Comm Correspondence
The regional E-Comm service is run by a Board, and New West has intermittent representation on this Board, along with our regional partners. There is a whole bunch of backstory here, but we have been trying for something like two years now by various approaches to get Board representation that is better reflective of our region. Even getting diversity by gender is turning out to be challenging. We push, our cohorts in adjacent Municipalities have pushed back. But we will continue to push.


We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (221 Townsend Place) Bylaw No. 8253, 2021 and
Heritage Designation Bylaw (221 Townsend Place) Bylaw No. 8254, 2021
The Bylaws that support the permanent protection of a Heritage house in Queens Park and subdivision of the lot to permit the building of a second house as was discussed at Public Hearing last week were Adopted.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (466 Rousseau Street – Urban Academy Text Amendment) No. 8211, 2020
The Bylaw to permit and expansion of the Urban Academy school in Sapperton that was given a Public Hearing back in October of last year was Adopted.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (1135 Tanaka Court) No. 8250, 2021
The Bylaw to support the use of an industrial building in Queensborough for making cannabis-infused food products was adopted by Council.


Then we had three pieces of New Business

MOTION: Advocacy and Support for the Arts Sector

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Mayor writes to the Premier and Provincial Health Officer on behalf of Council, advocating for a clear plan and schedule that outlines a 2021 opening for the Arts and Culture sector and an anticipated schedule for communicating this plan to the Arts and Culture Organizations across the region such that they can begin the preparation for re-opening with sufficient lead time to be successful.

The Local Arts community has reached out to us expressing concern about the re-opening plan, and their inability to plan for re-opening with sufficient lead tim to get their artists, performers, producers, support and technical staff, together and start programming. Putting on a performance isn’t like re-opening a restaurant or hockey arena, and clear guidance from the government is seemingly lacking.

Update on Pier Park Opening
After some slightly heroic work in making arrangements with the railways and emergency services, staff are able to get the Pier Park opened in time for the upcoming long weekend. We recognize it has been really hard for residents, especially those who live downtown, to be without this important public space for the last few months, and yes it is a somewhat reduced public space from what it was before the fire, but ire ally is the City’s outdoor living room, and we missed it. The good news is that the playground replacement within the new ramp entrance is also nearing completion, and it is going to be epic. Have fun!

Appointment to Electrical Commission
Finally, we had an opening on the Electrical Commission, and we found a great Commissioner who will bring a wealth of knowledge in community energy planning to help lead New Westminster Electrical through the next couple of years when they will (hopefully) play a pivotal role in us meeting the goals of our Seven Bold Steps.


And that was it for the evening. Mostly good stuff, a few things to be excited about, and a lot of work yet to do. Same as it ever was.

Ask Pat: 22nd Street

GM asks—

Hi Pat, found you website and it is a hidden gem! So many great content. My name is Gilbert and I’m about to move New Westminster from Coquitlam. I’m about to purchase a house near 22nd Skytrain. I heard about the 22nd master plan and thought it could be good opportunity for me to enjoy the commute while ride along the development with the city. Do you have any insight on that area? Looks like the city suspend the OCP due to pandemic. Thanks in advance!

Right off the bat, I need to say: Ask Pats are bad places to ask for real estate advice. Besides me just being really slow to respond (sorry!), these are my blogged thoughts, not official City communications. Any speculations I may make need to be recognized as just that, and not something to base important decision-making upon. If you bought a house in New West, great! If you are selling one in New West, hope things go well. But for the love of all that is Hyack, don’t use this website to inform either of those decisions!

The area around 22nd Street Station is known as Connaught Heights, and is an interesting neighbourhood. It is the “last piece” of New Westminster, in that it was not even an official part of the Municipality until 1968, which is why it is slightly out-of-phase with the rest of the West End. One way this has manifest is the lack of sidewalks. Before the local economy went (to use the technical term) into the crapper around 1970, the City generally built sidewalks on all its streets. The 1970s downturn meant investments like this slowed down, and by the time it recovered we were into the modern “get new builders, not taxpayers, to pay for new infrastructure” phase of civic planning. With so little new building in Connaught Heights, it mostly didn’t get done. (The City has started a program to build sidewalks in Connaught Heights as part of the new Master Transportation Plan, supported by TransLink and starting with a new one up 21st Street).

There is other strange legacy stuff in Connaught. The BC Hydro right-of-way where a major over-ground utility line crosses sort of diagonally thought the neighbourhood leaving a somewhat fallow “green space” that some residents use for recreation. The re-alignments of the Queensborough Bridge landings, the swath the SkyTrain runs though, the cut of Southridge Drive and the weird connections to “old Marine Drive” make Connaught a bit of a stand-alone island of a neighbourhood from a transportation sense. This was made more so by varying ideas about traffic calming introduced over the years.

Whatever the cause, the neighbourhood hasn’t really changed in form since the Skytrain station was installed in 1985. It is still mostly single family detached homes, with one low-rise apartment building, a big church and a little school. It’s worth noting homes are still being replaced on a fairly regular basis, but always with larger lot-maximizing houses. This is not resulting in “growth” in the traditional sense, as the Connaught neighbourhood has essentially the same population it had 20 years ago (in the most recent census in 2016, Connaught was the only neighbourhood in New Westminster to shrink in population).

This is relatively rare for neighbourhoods with SkyTrain stations in the middle of them, and at odds with the regional emphasis of Transit Oriented Development. There are a few other stations with single family homes across the street 35 years after station opening, but with the possible exception of 29th Avenue in Vancouver, no transit hub has been as persistently low-density as 22nd Street.

Why? Someone smarter than me wrote a theses on the topic. It is especially interesting to read Chapter 6 of that thesis where a bunch of reasons why are discussed. Turns out the reasons are myriad, including City plans that didn’t encourage change, the difficulty of assembling single family lots, and a general sense that the community would resist significant change:

Sign on the lawn of a house about 20 feet from the main entrance to 22nd Street station.

In the Current Official Community Plan, most of Connaught Heights is listed as a “Comprehensive Development District” whose land use purpose is described as:

In a way, this makes it similar to the Brewery District or the Sapperton Green area. The vision would be to create a single “Master Plan” for the area so that new housing, utilities, amenities, and transportation can all be planned together. There is a map in the OCP that gives some preliminary vision of the neighbourhood, with mixed use centered on 7th avenue, with the RH and MH being high density (towers), RM being middle density (likely 6-storey) and RT being ground-oriented townhouse style:

However I need to emphasize this is a very preliminary guideline, and through the Master Planning process, a more refined land use plan would be developed, taking into account transportation, amenities, interaction with the SkyTrain and adjacent road network, protection of green spaces, etc. etc. It may end up very different than this map, or even different than what pops out of the Master Planning, as priorities and economics change over the life of a long-term project like this. The initial plans for the Brewery District did not anticipate the shift to Purpose Built Rental that the community has seen, for example, and we have still to work out some details of the last building on that site.

The difference between this and the Brewery District or Sapperton Green is that the latter are owned by a single company, so the work to create this “Master Plan” could fall on them, with guidance from the City and engagement with the community. 22nd Street is still single family homes with separate owners, so if a Master Plan is to be developed, it will fall on the City to do that work. The OCP outlines a plan to start that work:

As you suggest, that planning work has been kicked down the road a bit. Partly because of limited staff resources, and Council’s decision to emphasize different work like supporting affordable housing, rental protection regulations, and supporting development review for projects already in the application process. This was more recently punted further down the road when we had to re-prioritize work in light of COVID and some other emergent policy development areas.

So, the area will change, lawn signs notwithstanding, but I really don’t know what the timeline is. Either the City will develop a Master Plan and the development community will respond by assembling lands to bring it to fruition, or the development community will find some unlocked value in the area and force the matter by assembling ahead of time and drive the Master Planning. However, a lot of pieces have yet to fall into place, and as we see the slow pace of development in Sapperton Green or perhaps a more similar parallel the “Eastern Node” in Queensborough, this type of change can take a long time.

Council – March 22, 2021

Building on a trend of more, shorter meetings, we had a Public Hearing on Monday and not much else. Well, one more item, so let’s cover that before we get into the fun part of the meeting:

Funding Submissions to the Provincial Community Emergency Preparedness Fund for Evacuation Route Planning and Update the New Westminster Emergency Evacuation Plan
We are applying for a grant from the Provincial Government to help pay for some updated emergency planning work. Staff in Fire & Rescue have identified Queensborough and Quayside are areas where we need to put a little more emphasis on updating evacuation plans in the event we have a serious incident, thinking about flooding, a hazardous materials incident, or in the event of a major regional event that impacts critical transportation links like the Queensborough Bridge or one of the rail overpasses.

Council moved to support the application!


We then had a Public Hearing on two relatively small applications:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (759 Carnarvon Street) No. 8255, 2021
The Metro banquet/event hall on Carnarvon in Downtown has operated for more than a decade on special event licenses when an event requires alcohol licensing. They want to get a Liquor Primary license to remove that specific hassle that they deal with 100+ times a year. They are not planning to change their business model or operations as part of this, and their operation has not caused hassles for staff or police in the past, so there is no reason to assume that it will now.

We received no correspondence on this, and no-one came to speak to Council on the application. Council moved to support the application, and in the subsequent meeting gave the Bylaw change Third Reading and Adoption.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (221 Townsend Place) Bylaw No. 8253 and 2021 and Heritage Designation (221 Townsend Place) Bylaw No. 8254, 2021
The owner of this house on a small side-street in Queens Park wants to subdivide the property and build a second house on what is currently their side-yard. As the existing house has heritage significance, a Heritage Revitalization Agreement was the chosen pathway to this, and the approach was endorsed by the Community Heritage Commission. In exchange for designation, some restoration, and permanent protection of the heritage house, a subdivision would be granted and a similar-sized house built.

There are some details in here. The subdivided lots would be 2,380 sqft., which is quite a bit smaller than the minimum for the designated zoning (6,000 sqft), which is the major relaxation being requested here. There are a few other relaxations, such as decreased set-backs for the existing house (it is not moving, the house is currently non-complaint, and permanent protection would mean it would be non-compliant forever), as minor set-back relaxation for the parking pad (though the project meets standards for off-street parking), and a very slight increase in lot coverage (35.7% instead of the 35% allowed). The “density” if measured by FSR is 0.71, compared to 0.70 that would be the max permitted on site, the “density” if measured by living units will go from 1 to 2 (neither house is being designed to have a secondary suite) where the zoning entitlement would be up to three (a house with secondary suite plus a carriage house).

We had quite a bit of correspondence on this application (around 50 pieces total, mostly opposed), and had about a dozen people come to speak to Council on the application, again the majority opposed. It is always dangerous to try to paraphrase and condense the many thoughts offered by the community, but I will try to address the most commonly heard concerns (speaking for myself, as always, and not all of Council).

Street parking is oversubscribed, traffic congestion, safety of children. The application meets the requirements for off-street parking, one per residence, and presumably the permitted three residences would produce more traffic than the two we are permitting. Competition for unassigned common space to store automobiles is never a compelling argument to stop new housing being built in my mind.

The density is not consistent with the neighbourhood. The increases over permitted density are minuscule. These small lots may not be common in Queens Park, but they are not unique. There are many ~2,000spft lots in the community dating back to the late 19th Century, with similarly small homes, and they are every bit as important to the heritage of Queens Park and the grand Victorian on the 8,000 square foot garden lot. Indeed both of these lots will be larger than the immediately neighbouring lot (at 1,800sqft). Housing variety like this is not an anomaly, but is part of the character of Queens Park.

A loss of green space. This is, of course not public green space, but a private lawn with a garage on it in a neighbourhood with ample green space, both public and private, compared to any other neighbourhood in the City. Again, the primary measure of private green space is the 35% maximum permissible lot coverage under the zoning, and the two lots will have 35% and 35.6% lot coverage.

No heritage win, or a violation of the spirit of the Bylaws. This may be a bit more subjective than the others, but it is a theme heard for every HRA application in Queens Park. So it is worth talking about again. The Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area does not permanently protect homes, it instead gives Council a set of tools to protect homes that have significant heritage value. It is still at the whim of Council (this, or the next, or the one after that) if and how to apply those tools. Before the HCA, there was nothing Council could do to prevent a heritage home from being demolished if the owner wanted to do that. With the HCA, Council can prevent some demolitions, and it also has enforcement powers to prevent “demolition by neglect”.

A Heritage Designation provides a higher level of protection. With a Designation on title, the owner cannot demolish a house, and has an obligation to replace it if it destroyed by, say, a fire or flood. It is a legal agreement that binds the owner (and future owners) and Council (and future Councils). When an HRA is completed, the house is designated, and is protected at a much higher level than being an identified heritage asset within an HCA.

Typically, and HRA comes with the owner of the building seeking a relaxation from a zoning bylaw limitation on the use of their property in exchange for that designation. So saying “HRAs are being used to violate zoning laws!” is to actually say the HRA is being applied exactly as they are intended. If there are no zoning relaxations, there is not HRA. In this case, the heritage “win” is relatively minor – a house of heritage merit is permanently protected and the owner is bound by a legal agreement to protect it which passes on to all future owners – in exchange for what are relatively minor relaxations of the zoning law that are otherwise reasonable and not onerous on the community. That’s the deal.

Overall, I am comfortable with this application, especially when shown the other options for the site that the owner chose not to follow (such as expansion of the house and the building of a lane way house). I have always expressed my feeling that the HCA should not “freeze” Queens Park in place, but that we should still explore opportunities to expand the variety of housing in the neighbourhood, including small lot infill like this, laneway/carriage houses, and (yes) even stratification of some of the larger houses that have been divided into multiple units for years, if possible with our stringent building codes.

In the end, Council voted 5-2 to support this application and the heritage designation, and gave both Bylaws Third Reading in the subsequent Council meeting.

FREMP 2.0?

I’m going to try herd not to be too political here, but there has been something brewing that intersects both with my City Council life and my being-a-Professional-Environmental-Scientist life. As is typical in both, I have had several conversations with lots of different people over the last year or more about this, but while I was talking, others were doing, and one of those get-it-done people has put together an event where people who both talk smarter than me and do more than me are going to talk about what needs to be done if we want to be smart about doing things.

I’m talking, of course, about FREMP.

The Fraser River Estuary Management Program was, for almost 30 years, a non-profit agency funded by all three levels of government that supported responsible development and environmental protection along the Fraser River Estuary – essentially from the ocean to the Mission Bridge. Along with a sister agency called the Burrard Inlet Environmental Action Program (“BIEAP”), this was an organization that brought stakeholders together to coordinate planning, protection, and development of the federally-regulated shorelines of the Lower Mainland.

This coordination meant that when there is a change in industrial use along the waterfront, when a community suggested a project like the proposed Pier-to-Landing walkway in New West, or when environmental remediation or compensatory habitat projects are needed, there was a “one counter” approach that allowed a coordinated review by the three levels of government and relevant First Nations. It was easier for each of the government agencies, because they knew where everyone else was on projects. It was easier for proponents because they could speak to one agency and not get mixed messages from different levels of government. It was better for the estuary because impacts and compensation could be coordinated based on a plan that sought to balance the many pressures on the system. As a bonus, all of the works along the river would provide data to an invaluable repository – data vital to inform future planning and to help us understand the health of the ecosystem.

FREMP wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t deserve to be killed. As part of the now-legendary gutting of Canada’s environmental protections under the Harper Government, the Federal contributions and support for the program were cut. This matters, because with all the interagency overlap in Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River, ultimately they are federally regulated. When the Port and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans could no longer participate, the Provincial Government ministries followed their lead, and the agency was folded, leaving local governments in a bit of a lurch. The Port was tasked with environmental reviews within their narrow jurisdictional parameters, and every project was going to have to find its own path. Regional coordination was no longer coordinated. Project proponents are on their own. There is no longer a cohesive regional environmental plan for the Estuary of the most important salmon river in Canada, or for the Burrard Inlet.

The situation is shitty, and has been shitty for long enough. Several stakeholders along the river, including local governments, environmental organizations, and First Nations are talking about what I hesitate to call “FREMP 2.0”. As you may read into the above, there is some political baggage around BIEAP- FREMP, and though it was valuable, it was not a perfect design. The discussion now is around what would a better FREMP look like? There are two important components, and the interaction between the two is obvious.

The first is a return to inter-agency review and coordinated regional planning in the estuary. A one-counter stop for project applications, and a clearing house for project details and data. This will benefit local governments hoping to revitalize their waterfronts, or protect valuable industrial land-use areas. It would also serve developers and industry who would have a clearer, more predictable path to project approval, mostly by having clear understanding of the stakeholders to be engaged. Ideally, it would also make it easier for First Nations to manage the constant demand for consultation feedback by providing them the resources they need to assure their concerns are addressed, and by assuring the knowledge they carry about the history and present of the river informs planning discussions.

The second is to provide oversight to the health of the estuary ecosystems. This would mean coordinated habitat protection and restoration, and a return to collecting that important data depository of the current and future health of the river that sustains us. Part of this is understanding the changes in the river that are coming with climate change, and developing strategies to address future flood risk, ecosystem services, and water quality concerns.

All this to preface: if you care about the Fraser River, development along the river, and the protection of this unique ecology, you may be interested in this free Webinar being put on by the Climate Caucus next week. Coquitlam City Councillor is the main organizer and moderator, and she has three brilliant panelists who know much more than I about the ecology of the Fraser River, the threat, and opportunity. This should be a great introduction to the conversations that no doubt lie ahead for the Metro Vancouver region. Join us!

Population 2020

Statistics Canada’s population estimates for 2020 are out, and there is a bit of news coming from them. Maybe more “confirmations” than “news”, but it is interesting to look into our assumptions of how the region is growing compared to the data. As a Local Government elected type, I am actually more interested in how the population is growing compared to the predictions used to develop the Regional Growth Strategy that guides development in our City and the rest of metro Vancouver.

First, the headlines. New West grew fastest (as a percentage of population) of any Municipality over the 2019-2020 year. Residents will recognize the reasons for this, with a couple of fairly high profile residential developments coming on line in the last year and a half, including a couple of major Purpose Built Rental projects. Our being in first is likely a one-year blip, but our growth rate since the 2011Regional Growth Strategy was created is among the highest in the region, only behind Surrey, Langley Township, the Tsawwassen First Nations Lands and Electoral Area A (which is mostly UBC endowment lands). But the growth rate isn’t the whole story. We added just over 15,000 people in the last 9 years, compared to more than 120,000 in Surrey and 80,000 in the City of Vancouver proper.

How does this relate to the Regional Growth Strategy? That document was approved by all Municipalities in Metro Vancouver back in 2011, and serves as the master regional planning document. In order for our region to plan new utilities like water and sewer services, flood protection, green space needs, transit and roadways, we need to predict how many people are going to be living here in the decades ahead, and where in the region they are going to live. So the strategy includes growth predictions for 2021, 2031, and 2041 produced by demographic experts who do that kind of thing. As we close in on 2021, we have an opportunity to see if the predictions have so far got it right.

The newest Stats Can numbers are for 2020, so we can compare the actual change over 9 years with the predicted change over 10 years from the RGS:

Here are the headlines I pull out of this. Metro Vancouver predicted the regional population would increase by 18% over 10 years, it has increased 16% over 9 years, which puts us pretty much on track to be within 1% of the estimates. That’s pretty good. However, before looking at the breakdown by community, I want to project the growth rate of the last 9 years to one more year so we are having as fair a comparison to 2021 goals as we can (until after the 2021 Census, which should be available a year from now):

You can see that the population growth of the region is less than 1% behind what was predicted, meaning about 22,000 fewer people moved to the region than expected – not bad for a decade-long population trend for almost 2.8 Million people, especially as the factors affecting this (immigration, global socio-economics) are largely out of the control of local and regional governments. The difference in how this growth was distributed across the region is a different story, and this is something local governments have more (but not ultimate) control over.

That last table might be easier to digest in comparative pie charts:

Edit: To @MarkAllerton’s point, this may be a better graphic? 

Aside from Electoral Area A/UBC, you can see a few cities have exceeded their growth targets, and perhaps there are no surprises which ones: North Vancouver City (densifying its waterfront and the Londsdale corridor), Maple Ridge (a fast-growing suburb supported by lots of new freeway infrastructure), New West (growing a transit-oriented urban area), and Surrey (growing both its transit-oriented City Centre and its freeway-supported suburbs). Vancouver marginally exceeded its growth target as did White Rock and Delta. In raw numbers, Vancouver added 21,000 more residents than predicted (sorry, Councillor Hardwick!), where Surrey added 18,000 more residents than predicted and New West just over 4,000 above the goal.

Who didn’t meet their target? Again, the Tsawwassen First Nation is a bit of an anomaly, and for that matter so are Belcarra and Anmore, whose tiny population counts are irrelevant to regional trends. West Vancouver – the only significant municipality to actually lose population during this period of unprecedented growth – should surprise no-one that they didn’t meet even their meagre Regional Growth Strategy targets. Perhaps the bggest surprise is how far behind the Tri Cities are in comparison to their goals. All missed by more than 10%, even as they received the biggest regional transit investment of the last decade in the Evergreen Extension. Coquitlam is more than 20,000 residents short of the regional target – a number very similar to the number of extra residents that moved into Vancouver.

This is interesting, and is a conversation we have to have as a region as we look to update the RGS in the next year. Perhaps in the context of the first suggestion in a recent Op-Ed by Delta City Councillor Dylan Kruger (note: Delta is really close to its targets, though those targets are a little light due to lack of transit infrastructure planned that direction), where he suggests the region should:

“Tie provincial and federal grant dollars to achievable municipal housing targets. We can’t keep spending billions of dollars on SkyTrain projects without guarantees that cities will actually allow transit-oriented development”

Maybe we need to ask Metro Vancouver and senior governments to tie their City-supporting grants and benefits (new Metro Vancouver park money, Provincial and Federal Active Transportation funding, transit capital funding, Green Infrastructure funding, etc.) to municipalities meeting and exceeding the regional targets that those Municipalities already agreed to. It is the Municipalities who are building the housing that our region demonstrably needs that will also feel the greater need for green space and sustainable transportation investment to support those residents.

Premieral Popularity, Part 2

Remember when I wrote this piece three years ago? I made what I think was a pretty convincing case on a dubious data set that political popularity in Canada correlated inversely with time in office. The Angus Reid poll looked like this:

And I graphed popularity vs. days in office, and found a pretty strong correlation (R = 0.92!) suggesting a direct inverse relationship. The way to be popular as a Premier is to be new on the job:

What a difference time makes. Three years and a raft of elections later, the Angus Reid folks did the poll again, and here are the results:

Aside from the obvious (Horgan still on top; doesn’t matter if you are a Boomer or GenX as long as you are a white guy; PEI still doesn’t matter), I am stumped by trying to find easy single-cause narratives here. The one from three years ago certainly doesn’t work:

The correlation looks bad. If we take the anomalous Premier Rankin (who was very recently selected to lead a party that has been in power for a few decades, but has yet to introduce himself to the electorate) and the graph is as close to a random distribution as I can draw:

So my certainty from three years ago was misplaced. I was wrong.

But, hey, it’s Pandemic time, and surely that throws everything else aside. So we can safely assume that the most important public health and economic emergency of our generation must have thrown the numbers for a loop. Surely Premier popularity must correlate with their ability to manage the Pandemic and keep the voters safe, right?

Nope. Looks like the only thing I have reinforced here is that I really know nothing about politics. As you were.

Feedback

I don’t often do this, but I want to avoid misunderstanding in the community about my recent motion to draft a formal apology around the Komagata Maru incident, and possibly pre-empt my response being used out of context by my correspondent. I received an e-mail from an organization that occasionally spams local government officials with somewhat strident positions on a variety of topics concomitant with their name “Immigration Watch”. I don’t even want to excerpt the e-mail here because there were some pretty hurtful things in it, but I thought it worth sharing the response I sent the author.


Hello Mr. ______.

Thank you for writing to New Westminster Council. As the Councillor who moved the motion requesting the City draft a formal apology, I guess it is on me to correct a few misconceptions you seem to have about the motion.

To start off, no-one from the Sikh community or any other community “demanded that New Westminster City Council apologize to them for the Komagata Maru Incident”.

About a year ago members of the New Westminster community asked Council to consider a memorialization of the Komagata Maru event somewhere in the City**. The City has several similar memorializations of historic events scattered about, including a bust of Simon Fraser memorializing his European discovery of the estuary, memorialization of prominent Labour actions on the waterfront, plaques marking the Great Fire of 1898, the lives of those imprisoned in Woodlands, or the location of the historic Chinatown. We tasked our Museum and Archives staff to research of there was a local connection to the Komagata Maru incident that warranted such a memorialization. We anticipated, I suppose, that members of the South Asian community living in Queensborough at the time may have taken an active role in support of the passengers.

What we found was clear evidence in the written record that the New Westminster City Council in 1914 took a very active role in the incident. Far from being passive observers or advocates for reduced immigration (this was a decade when immigration to the City from European countries was booming), our Council took action to assure not that immigration laws were adhered to, but to “call on the Federal authorities at Ottawa to… if necessary, enact new laws, to effectively deal with the total exclusion of Asiatics from this country”. It was further suggested by our elected officials at the time that “all the ingenuity and courage of the Government would be exercised to keep out Orientals”. It is clear from the correspondence that this was a multi-partisan effort fueled by narrow economic interests supported by notions of white supremacy.

I do want you to note that these actions by our local Council were occurring in a community where there were already significant South Asian and East Asian populations. People from British India, China, and Japan were working on the farms in Queensborough, in the lumber mills along our waterfront, and in commercial enterprises on Columbia Street. They were building our community and raising their families, and were as Canadian as the people serving on City Council, even if they did not enjoy the same rights. Many of their descendants still live in New Westminster.

Hearing these narratives, and in light of the vision for the City outlined in our current Official Community Plan and this Council’s Strategic Plan for the term, which include creating “a welcoming, inclusive, and accepting community that promotes a deep understanding and respect for all cultures”, we recognized that the actions of the previous Council were exclusive and harmful to a voiceless portion of the community. There are many people whose actions I cannot take responsibility for, including the persons of varying faiths on the Komagata Maru, the Government of Canada that created racist immigration policies, or others who may have exploited the situation for personal or political gain at the time. I can, however, speak to the residents of my community with humility and respect, and recognize actions taken by the legislative body I now represent were specifically and intentionally harmful to residents of this community, and may make them feel less welcome in their home. It is for that – the actions of New Westminster Council that knowingly harmed the residents of New Westminster – for which I asked Council to issue a formal apology. I am happy that my Council colleagues unanimously agreed.

Reading your letter, you clearly have strong feelings about a number of issues involving the Sikh community. I hope you can approach these concerns with an open heart and good will towards your fellow Canadians. As an Atheist myself, I sometimes fall into the trap of characterizing an entire faith community through a lens that filters out their individuality or even their humanity. I try hard to see past my filter and recognize people as individuals, and put aside that broad brush. That, to me, is an ideal we should strive for not as Canadians, but as citizens of the world.


** It too late to edit the letter I sent, but I failed to give credit to Councilor Das for the motion she brought forward in late 2019 in response to the calls from the community. We get a lot of correspondence and delegations on a lot of topics, and this may have slipped by us if Chinu hadn’t put the issue into a Council Meeting agenda and motivated us to get staff working on researching the historic ties our community has to the story. Far from the footnote I am adding here, this work by Chinu was the important action that resulted in our memorialization effort, and I don’t want that to go unrecognized. 

Ask Pat: Micromobility

Peter asks—

Traffic is always a contentious topic, I always appreciate your views (agreed or not). Curious of your thoughts on the growing micromobility options (electric bike/scooters, etc) and how they may affect our current traffic situation as it grows (as projected)? My industry organization had a recent article about it with some concerns over insurance/registration and before that I hadn’t even thought about it. Here’s the link (page 20-21) 

This is a can of worms. I’ve written around the central issue here a few times, but thanks for framing it with the ARA article, because it shows that it isn’t just “bike guys” and pedestrian safety advocates like me who are thinking about it. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any proof that any government is really thinking about it with any seriousness. And that’s a problem.

There is a revolution happening in personal transportation, and I do not think that is hyperbole. Advancements in technology borrowed from smart phones (inertial sensors, compact computing power) and electric vehicles (battery and power management tech) are delivering what was probably initially envisioned by the inventors of the Segway as a re-thinking of personal transportation. They promised it 20 years ago, but it is here now faster than government appears to have expected.

There are powered skateboards, balancing mono-wheels, scooters, and bicycles of varying shape and utility. They are getting cheaper and easier to access every day, and in the rush to “disrupt” traditional market systems, they are being introduced not just as consumer products, but as shared mobility devices you can use by the minute or mile and leave behind. They are breaking down the barriers between automobiles, bicycles, and pedestrians.

That could be a really good thing.

E-bikes have opened up cycling to a whole cohort of people who may not have been able to use a bicycle for transportation, my Mom and my Mother-in-Law included. Both have reached a stage in life where cycling is still accessible until hills get in the way. Their e-bikes have kept them active and out of their cars for some trips, especially as both live where public transit simply does not exist.

There are other people for whom electric mobility aids have extended their neighbourhoods and independence, by extending the distance they can comfortably travel without Transit or a car COVID has only  made these personal mobility options more attractive. When you think of these devices from the lens of not replacing a car trip, but instead expanding your walkshed, you can envision how impactful these devices can be on our neighbourhoods and business districts. Taking a bunch of cars off the road and reducing the need for parking, traffic management, and other negative externalities of automobile reliance is really just the bonus.

The other side of the coin are the inherent problems that come from that old regulatory trichotomy of automobile–cycle –pedestrian. Those aren’t just social categories, they are codified in law. The Motor Vehicle Act and local Bylaws are structured to define transportation by these categories. Pedestrians are walkers and people using mobility aids because of a disability; automobiles are everything that has an engine and a license plate; cycles are big-wheeled human-powered devices people sit astride. Most legislation is designed to safely separate automobiles and pedestrians, with cycles somewhere in between in an already-fuzzy area. There is a category of “motor assisted cycles” in the BC Motor Vehicle Act, and many e-bikes currently available fit within the strict definition therein, but even that rule is an ineffective and oft-criticized bit of the MVA.

Last time the city updated the Streets and Traffic Bylaw a couple of years ago, I noticed the blanket prohibition of all skates, blades, and boards on City streets – a bylaw probably never enforced except to occasionally hassle skateboarders. I pushed back and asked that the bylaw be changed to put these devices into a similar category as cycles so people can use them as long as they are not endangering others – a bylaw probably never enforced except to occasionally hassle skateboarders. But even then, the surge in micromobility devices was not something we were thinking about.

How are they going to affect traffic? They won’t. I can go down the long path here of writing up Induced Demand and The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion, and a pair of paradoxes called Jevons and Braess’, but I’ll sum up all that potential background reading by saying we will always have the traffic congestion we are happy to tolerate: no more, no less. Nothing will fix that short of societal collapse.

What these new micromobility devices can do is give people different options so those with a lower tolerance for congestion can avoid being the traffic those with a higher tolerance are stuck behind. In that sense, they don’t need to reduce traffic congestion in order to make our communities more livable, easier to get around in, and more accessible for more people.

The insurance/liability concerns always arise when alternate road users are viewed through and auto-centric lens, but it is not a real concern. People operating powerful, heavy, fast-moving machinery in shared public spaces are required to purchase liability insurance for that use, because of the significant risk those devices cause to other users of that public space. Pedestrians are not required to have this insurance, but they still have liability for damage they may cause to others sharing those spaces. If I am inattentively running down the sidewalk and knock a person to the ground causing injury, I am liable for that injury and can expect to be dragged into court if we cannot come to some agreement about compensation. Like most, I carry homeowners insurance that includes third party liability for incidents like this (assuming I am not intentionally breaking the law). It costs almost nothing for the insurer to add this to my home insurance because the risk is so low. Cyclists and skateboarders are (mostly) covered in exactly the same way.

The problem with the raft of new mobility devices is that they sit in a grey area of the law, and though their users are likely covered by personal liability insurance, it’s hard to determine if they are breaking the law when using an electric scooter or hoverboard on a sidewalk, city street, or bike lane. If there is no legal space for them, is their use even legal? Ask a lawyer.

Formally recognizing these various devises as legitimate users of our transportation space also gives us the opportunity to design that space to work for them. How we design will have a bigger effect than how we regulate when it comes to preventing people using mobility devices from getting injured, and from injuring other people. I suspect most of this work will be in assuring new bike lane designs can also accommodate common devices that move at a similar speed with a similar mass as cyclists.

I summary, I suppose you can throw this on the pile of issues that are raised whenever we talk about changing the 1950’s-era Motor Vehicle Act and replacing it with a Road Safety Act. Our current Motordom-derived model of how we regulate our transportation space needs a re-think, because the revolution in technology is happening fast, and we are simply unable to manage it through the existing paradigm. This is also why I am a firm believer we will not see Level 5 Automated Vehicles any time soon: the technology may get there, but the regulatory environment will take much, much longer. But that’s a whole other rant.

Council – March 1, 2021

Almost a year after our last full meeting of City Council before the Pandemic shut us down, we seem to have this virtual meeting things sussed. We even had smooth public delegation, though it just doesn’t carry the weight of having people in the room. In the meantime, we had a full agenda, starting with two Development Variance Permits:

DVP00674 for 34 South Dyke Road
There is a 16-unit townhouse project on an empty lot in Queensborough that was given rezoning approval last year. Unfortunately, in spite of the project having tandem-style parking, there was an error and the rezoning failed to include that in the language, so we now need to do a DVP now to correct that. We gave notice a month ago, and received two pieces of correspondence from a neighbor asking about unrelated aspects of the already-approved development. Council voted to approve the DVP.

DVP00683 for 805 Boyd Street (Walmart)
Walmart in Queensborough wants to put some directional signage up on their building that is not aligned with the sign bylaw, which requires a variance. We gave notice last month, no-one wrote us any correspondence about this, and Council voted to approve the DVP.


We then had a Report for Action:

Police Reform Framework – Input from the Reconciliation, Inclusion and Engagement Task Force
The provincial government is looking into updating and/or reforming the Police Act, and New West wants to take part in this. We have a Reconciliation, Inclusion and Engagement Task Force that is digging deeper into this, but they wanted to bring this part of the discussion to the larger Council.

There is a whole lot going on here, and I can’t possibly summarize here. The provincial Special Committee is looking at not just the Police Act, but also the Mental Health Act, the way the RCMP work in the province, and how all of the above relate to UNDRIP. Alas, the “key drivers” for this deep dive into police operations do not directly include addressing systemic racism in policing, but instead dances somewhat around the edge of that. Perhaps more concerning, the UBCM advocacy paper submitted seems directed towards various ways to increase policing spending (though asking for the Province to contribute more to that funding, of course). Read the room, dudes.

There is more coming here, but in the short term, we are going to strike a small working group including members of Council, staff, and likely a few key community stakeholders to provide feedback to the Province on the tight timelines.


We moved the following items On Consent:

Local Government Election Candidates: Access to Multifamily Dwellings during the Campaign Period
Door-knocking has always been an important part of electioneering in New Westminster, and a part of the campaign I really enjoy. A few of my council colleagues and I have even (before COVID, of course) gone door-knocking outside of election period to get the pulse of neighbourhoods on specific issues. But more than half of New West residents live in apartments, and door-knocking in apartments is difficult. There are federal and provincial law that say stratas and building managers cannot restrict access to campaigners who want to knock on apartment doors in multi-family buildings for elections at that level. For local elections, the Residential Tenancy Act gives renters the same access, but the Strata Act does not. As a result, people who live in single family homes get better access at elections than those who live in multi-family.

The City is proposing some steps to improve this access in time for the 2022 election, and are going to take a resolution to the Lower Mainland LGA and UBCM asking that Local Election candidates have the same right to access as Federal and Provincial candidates to strata properties.

City Consistency with Ministerial Order No. M192/2020 and the Provincial Health Officer Gatherings and Events Order
This is an update on the process for Council and Public Hearing meetings as the Pandemic and resultant Provincial State of Emergency is ongoing. Nothing particularly new here, just an update to clarify the legal orders under which we have been operating and an endorsement to continue in this mode until we are confident the public health emergency is over. A year, in folks…

733 Thirteenth Street: Rezoning Application for Child Care – Preliminary Report
A childcare operator in the West End wants to move their operations to a house around the corner. This requires a rezoning of the current large single family house on the lot and minor changes to the building. This is a preliminary report that will go to public consultation.

759 Carnarvon Street (The Metro): Zoning Amendment Bylaw to Allow a Liquor Primary Licensed Establishment – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
A downtown events hall wants to formalize their Liquor License situation with a stand alone liquor primary instead of the special events licenses they have relied on for more than a decade of operation. This will require (by Provincial Law) a Zoning Amendment, and we will take that to Public Hearing, likely on March 22. Call us up and let us know what you think!

221 Townsend Place: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The owner of a house in Queens Park wants to restore and preserve at 1907 house permanently in exchange for a subdivision and building an infill house on their side yard. This will go to a Public Hearing, not yet scheduled, so let us know if you have feedback.

Regional Growth Strategy Amendment: Metro 2050
Metro Vancouver is working on an update to the Regional Growth Strategy, currently called Metro 2040. As a signatory Municipality, we are required by law to have a Context Statement in our OCP that addresses the regional plan, but have until 2023 to make that change (though I suspect out current context statement will still fit pretty well). This report is just for information on the process Metro is undergoing. There is a lot of emphasis on industrial land agricultural land protection more than major changes in housing policy, some increased emphasis on ecosystem services and social equity, and though there isn’t a specific emphasis on it, Climate Action is a thread running through the rest of the document. Good reading here if you want to know about the future of the region.

Single-Use Item Regional Regulation Resolution for UBCM
The Province has given local governments some increased authority to introduce ban on the sale or use of single-use plastic items in an effort to reduce plastic waste and burdening our solid waste systems with a complex mix of hard-to-recycle materials. In a previous discussion, Council asked that this authority be given to regional governments, as having a Metro Vancouver region with 21 different sets of regulations is a ridiculous approach for consumers, businesses, and suppliers. Staff have drafted a resolution that we will take to the UBCM conference to reflect that request.

Canada Healthy Communities Initiative Grant Application Approval
We are applying for a Federal Government grant to help pay for an outdoor seating intuitive in the City. I’m all for it!

819 Milton Street: Rezoning Application for a Duplex – Preliminary Report
The owner of a largish lot in the Brow of the hill with an older house on it wants to replace that house with a pretty funky looking duplex that is “suite ready”. This requires a rezoning, and will have some public consultation coming, and there may or may not be a Public Hearing (this one might get waived). If you have opinions, let us know!

723 Fourth Street: Demolition and Temporary Protection Order
The owner of this house in Glenbrooke North wants to knock it down and replace it. There is no other application, so I presume they are planning to replace with a new single family detached, but it is only coming to council because the existing house is more than 100 years old, and our policy is to circulate the application to committees and council and the applicant if they really, really, want to demolish it before we give them a permit. Council moved to allow them to have a permit.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Naming of City Asset in Commemoration of the Komagata Maru
There has been some interest locally and regionally in commemorating the Komagata Maru incident. We had a request a year ago to consider the New Westminster context, and our Museums and Heritage staff doing some research into both the locals in the South Asian community who supported the passengers of the Komagata Maru, and local elected people of the time who took actions to support those who would prevent the passengers from having safe harbor here in British Columbia. There was even a special community meeting in New Westminster, led by Mayor and Council, asking for the “total exclusion of Asiatics from this country”.

One request from the local South Asian community has been to find a City asset that could appropriately be re-named in commemoration of the Komagata Maru, with the Facilities, Infrastructure and Public Realm Task Force recommending something on the Q’boro water front, but also on the “mainland”. Staff have suggested the QtoQ dock infrastructure and the adjacent walkway (we have taken to calling “the dock and walk”) on the Queensborough waterfront, as it could be seen a symbolic to the action to prevent the passengers from being able to dock and walk on Canadian soil, is appropriately located, and also provides an opportunity for interpretive signage. ( I note with some irony that the MV Sun Sea was docked across Annacis Channel there for a decade)

In light of the research our staff uncovered, and recognizing the harmful impact that the actions and words of the 1914 City Council had on so many residents of our community, Council also moved that we draft a formal apology to the community, families, and descendants of those impacted negatively by those actions and words.

Proposed Retail Strategy Workplan
Our Economic Development staff are working on a strategy to guide the City to better supporting local-serving retail at a time of rapid transition in how people shop. This work will occur over 2021, with a report back to Council in early 2022.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Our regular update from the Pandemic Response Task forces, including work to support vulnerable and at risk people, where we recently introduced some hygiene services to make it easier for under-sheltered people to have a shower, do laundry, and get basic hygiene supplies through the Reaching Home Program. We also had a bit of a longer discussion on efforts to increase the amount of emergency shelter space in the city.

108 – 118 Royal Avenue and 74 – 82 First Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Special Development Permit Applications – Preliminary Report
This project would see some older houses on the south side of Royal Avenue replaced with a 6-story strata apartment building, with the preservation of two heritage homes on the site. Although I had a few technical questions about the process, this is a preliminary application that would see a Public Hearing before approval, so I will hold my comments until then.

40 Begbie Street (Lower Mainland Purpose Society): Temporary Use Permit for a Health Contact Centre (Overdose Prevention Site) – Notice of Issuance
Purpose Society and Fraser Health are proposing a Health Contact Centre in this property downtown, where Purpose has been operating various services for several years. This will include various overdose prevention services (observed consumption, drug testing, harm reduction supplies, and access to peer counseling, education and referral to treatment services). The City is considering a Temporary Use Permit as opposed to full rezoning to accommodate this for a three-year trial period.

There has been some community engagement on this proposal, including with the Residents Association and downtown businesses. We will consider the TUP at out March 29th meeting, if you have questions concerns or feedback, provide it before then!


We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (404 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8235, 2020 and
Heritage Designation Bylaw (404 Second Street) No. 8236, 2020
These two bylaws that support the renovation and preservation the butcher shop in Queens Park were Adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (837 – 841 Twelfth Street) No. 8139, 2019
This Bylaw that permits the construction of a 5-story 29-unit apartment building on an empty lot at 12th and Dublin which was given a Public Hearing back in October of 2019(!) is now ready to be adopted by Council.


Finally, we had these resolutions as New Business, and it being a long agenda, I will only report the motions and let you write the authors or watch the council video if you want to understand more about these issues:

Motion: Support for Farmers in India Councillor Puchmayr
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the New Westminster City Council stands with the Indian farmers, and asks the federal government to continue to speak out against these regressive laws, and to accelerate the message of concern to the Indian government up to and including imposing economic sanctions against India.

Motion: Poisoned Drug Supply Crisis Councillors McEvoy and Nakagawa
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster calls upon the Government of Canada to declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency so that it is taken seriously and funded appropriately as well as to immediately seek input from the people most affected by this crisis and meet with provinces and territories to develop a comprehensive, pan-Canadian overdose action plan, which includes comprehensive supports and full consideration of reforms that other countries have used to significantly reduce drug-related fatalities and stigma, such as legal regulation of illicit drugs to ensure safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives to toxic street drugs, and decriminalization for personal use.

Motion: Lifting Restrictions on Farmers Market Vendors Councillor Johnstone
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Mayor and Council write to the Minister of Health and Public Health Officer requesting that the arbitrary restriction of non-food vendors at Farmers Markets be lifted in time for the 2021 summer Farmers Market season, and that the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, the Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, and the MLA for New Westminster receive copies of that correspondence.

Motion: Support for Laid-off Hotel and Tourism Industry Workers Councillor Nakagawa
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster affirms that people should not lose their livelihoods due to the pandemic; and
THAT the City of New Westminster write to the Ministers of Labour and Tourism expressing our support for the right for laid off workers to return to their jobs when the pandemic eases; and
THAT this letter be forwarded to all BC municipalities asking to write their support; and
THAT the City of New Westminster writes to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association and Union of BC Municipalities encouraging them to host future conferences and events in venues that respect worker rights and pay at least a living wage.