Another Monday, another Council meeting. Topics went from heavy to whimsical with a lot on the Agenda. We started with a Development Variance Permit:
Housing Agreement Bylaw (322 Seventh Street) No. 8258, 2021: Bylaw for Three Readings and
Development Variance Permit DVP00688 to Vary Off-Street Parking at 322 Seventh Street
These two go together, because the first gives something to the City, the second is something the City gives.
This older apartment building in the Brow of the hill wants to build some new ground-level studio-style suites where there is currently covered parking. This requires that we vary the required off-street parking in the zoning. In exchange, we are getting a Housing Agreement that guarantees purpose-built rental for the life of the building or 60 years (i.e. that the property will not be converted to strata ownership). This assures they will fall under our Business Licensing provisions that further increase tenant protections.
After sending out notice to the neighbourhood, we got a few responses, mostly concerned that there is inadequate parking in the area. However, both informal and formal surveys of the area of the Brow show that off-street parking is underutilized, including in this building. Just as our parking minimums for new development are seemingly arbitrary and increase the cost of new housing, I think the balance between places-for-people and places-for-cars during our ongoing housing affordability and vacancy crises can afford to be adjusted a bit.
Council voted to grant the Variance and give the Housing Agreement Bylaw three readings.
The Following items were Moved on Consent:
Appointment – Poet Laureate 2021-2024
We have a new Poet Laureate! Alan Hill has done a great job telling the stories of our City for the last couple of years, but his term is up. The City had selection committee made up of members of the Arts Commission and subject matter experts, and they have made a recommendation to Council. Elliot Slinn is a poet, a musician, a philosopher, a Douglas College alumnus, and our new Poet Laureate. Welcome!
COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Our regular update on COVID task forces. We are reaching the closing stages here, folks, get your vaccine, stay vigilant!
22nd Street SkyTrain Station: Escalators Replacement Project – request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The escalators in the 22nd Street Station need to be replaced, and some of this work needs to happen when the station is not operational, which means at night, which means the contractor needs Construction Noise Bylaw exemption to do construction work at night. They will notify the neighbours.
Action Planning the Implementation of the Green Fleet Roadmap
The City’s fleet (engineering and parks trucks, police cars, fire trucks, etc.) make up about 40% of the city’s greenhouse Gas emissions. If we are going to meet out Climate Action goals, we have ~10 years to make a fundamental shift on how that fleet works. We have made some progress on this over the last few years, but have a big jump to make.
This will involve three actions. The most obvious is phasing out hydrocarbon-powered vehicles as they age out with EVs or other zero-emission vehicles (or low-emission ones where that is the best available tech). The second is making sure we have the infrastructure to support this shift – it’s not useful shifting to electric vehicles (or hydrogen, or whatever tech) if we don’t have somewhere to power/fuel them and the mechanical expertise to maintain and operate them. Finally, we can make some significant reduction by changing how we use fleet vehicles, such as reducing reliance on them or increasing the efficiency of their use.
This report mostly deals with the middle approach – the infrastructure investment we need to make right now to assure we are ready to switch to EVs as our gas fleet ages and new electric medium-duty vehicles enter the market. There is lots of detail in here (this is a great report for geeks like me!), but in short: we are on it!
416 Tenth Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Side Yard Projection
This house in the Brow neighbourhood has a covered deck that extends a few feet into the neighbouring property, and apparently everyone agreed to this encroachment a few decades ago. Now the deck needs to be repaired/replaced, which will slightly decrease the encroachment, but we still need to permit the variance for the new construction occurring in the encroachment space.
We will consider a DVP in a future meeting. If you have opinions, let us know!
230 Princess Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Driveway Width
The owner of this house in Glenbrook North wants to build a Carriage House, but the access room they have for a driveway is 8” narrower than required by the zoning Bylaw, so they are asking for a variance.
We will consider this DVP in a future meeting, if you have opinion, let us know!
618 Carnarvon Street: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw exemption
There is a complicated concrete pour happening near the Skytrain tracks in this project in a couple of weeks, and the proponent is being proactive in asking for a construction noise exemption to go a little past the permitted 7:00pm finish in case it is needed (they hope it won’t). They will let the neighbours know.
2020 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report
The City samples our water system every week at a variety of locations to make sure it is safe and potable. We sample for signs of bacteria, for chlorine lever (which you don’t want to be too low or too high) and for turbidity, and collect about 1,000 samples a year. This is the report. Tl;dnr: the water is good.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
Engagement for the 2022 Budget Process
Last year was the most intense Budget engagement the City has ever done, and we are going to keep that momentum going in 2022. It will start in June and July with workshopping members of the City’s Advisory committees and Task Forces. Then as staff spend the summer putting their 2022 plans together based on that workshop info, we will re-launch BeHeardNewWest platform surveys in September, and another Budget 1010 Webinar with Q&A to help people understand the complexity of municipal finance.
This report also reports out on the 2021 engagement process, and what we heard from the public during that work – including the result of the survey that had more than 1,000 responses. Again, lots of good data in there if you are into that kind of thing.
601 Sixth Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Parking Requirements
The owner of this 4-storey office building in Uptown wants to do some internal and external renovations that increase its floorspace and make the commercial space more viable. This will result in an effective increase in FSR, but not the size or shape of the outside of the building. Though they currently meet the minimum parking space requirements, they will not meet that with the higher FSR and with the way our Parking Minimums have changed since the building was built, so they are asking for a variance to allow an FSR increase without an increase in parking spaces. Council had a bit of feedback, mostly concerns about not meeting the (updated) minimums for accessible parking, and asked staff to go back and have another look at the options.
We will consider this DVP in a future meeting, if you have opinion, let us know!
Cancellation of the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program
This is perhaps too “inside baseball”, but the Province surprised municipal governments by mentioning in passing that they were ending a funding program through which local governments get their Carbon Tax refunded to them if they demonstrate commitment and tracking of their GHG emissions. This was disappointing for a variety of reasons. The CARIP funding is not a lot of money (New West received about $115,000 per year in recent years of the program), but it was predictable base-line funding that local governments could use to leverage other funding sources for climate actions. It also created both an incentive for climate action for local governments (187 of 190 local governments have signed up) and a requirement for local government reporting of corporate GHG emissions, allowing us to track how we are doing as a province at addressing our goals.
The program is not perfect, and indeed as we work to reduce our emissions, it will become a less effective funding source (because our Carbon Taxes will go down), but unilaterally ending such a collaborative program without consulting local governments was not a great move – especially as we signed a Charter agreement to facilitate the program. But besides the bad form, we need to know if and how this program will be replaced. We are told it will be, but we need to know how and by what as we are busy doing the work of climate action, and were counting on this program to be there. So we are writing a letter to the relevant Ministers.
New Normal Staff Committee: COVID-19 Update: BC’s Restart Plan and New Westminster’s Restart Planning Matrix
The Province’s Restart Plan (v.2) is out, and that means new marching orders for everyone at the City. A slightly complex set of marching orders, though, as staff have to compare the stages of the restart plan to their operational areas and figure out how to maintain compliance, where our regulatory role is, and how to pay for any restarted programs in light of our budget and the anticipated restart schedule baked in to that budget. We also have to anticipate when the various steps will be met, and be prepared for a step backward in case. It’s a complicated piece of work. We can’t just flip a switch and start (for example) swim lessons again, we need to position staff, make sure facilities are ready, get the word out to residents, and pay for it all. This is probably no surprise to the many small businesses that have had to make similar adjustments, except that the scale of the City staff and breadth of programs is much more than any small business.
This report outlines timelines and plans for the various City departments. Some big-picture aspects: Expect more than 50% of staff back in offices (that is, still 50% remote working) by July when we hit step 3, and pretty much 100% back to traditional City Hall function by September (Step 4). Similarly, gradual increases in swim capacity and sport programming with pretty much back to normal in September, though there will be increased safety protocols for quite a while.
As this report is very in-ward-looking at City operations, we had a bit of a discussion after among Council about looking out at the community, and what we think the community is going to need to transition to a post-Pandemic world. We talked about how we can make that transition easier, what we can do (with our community partners) to bring some joy back to public spaces and create opportunities for us to get together and say hello to each other again. There will be more to come here, but if you have ideas, reach out to us and let us know!
In the meantime, let’s get our vaccines, folks, and be measured in keeping your vigilance up. Let’s work our way gradually into the return to normal human interaction, but know the worst is behind us.
Finally, we adopted these two Bylaws:
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Cannabis Retail Location – 416 East Columbia Street) No. 8256, 2021
As discussed in a Public Hearing back in April, This Bylaw permits the fourth Cannabis Retail operation in the City, this one in the Sapperton neighbourhood.
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (100 Braid Street) No. 8245, 2020
A discussed in Public Hearing back in December, this Zoning Bylaw that permits a Purpose Built Rental building at the foot of Braid was Adopted by Council.