We had a real pre-COVID feeling Council meeting on Monday. Not because COVID is over (I know a few people getting hit by the new variant right now), but because most of Council was back in chambers, and we had and audience and several public delegations in person and everything. This, of course, came with masks and social distancing and the other procedures our 2019 cohorts would not understand to make the room as safe as possible for everyone. If you love reading this stuff (Hi Mom!) you should join us some Monday night. Our Agenda on Monday was not long, and it started with a report I had to leave the room for:
Rezoning and Development Permit Applications for Market Rental Building Renovation: 222 Ash Street
This is a project I recused myself from discussing, because this building is less than 50m from my home. By a strict reading, regulations say that a member of Council must recuse from topics in which they have a direct fiduciary interest, but we have a practice in New West of interpreting this very broadly. If I owned property in this building, I would clearly be in conflict. If I owned a house right next door, it is probably safe to say my property value may be impacted by changes, so I would want to recuse. In this case, I am close enough that some may argue my fiduciary interest in my own property may be impacted by changes in this property due to proximity, so it is safer for everyone (the property owner, the City, and myself as a Councillor) if I recuse myself to avoid even the perception of undue influence.
So that aside, this is a project where an existing rental building wants to expand the number of units on site by building in top of the existing building. This is a preliminary application to gauge council opinion, so public consultation and other review yet to come. If you want to know what council discussed, watch the video!
We then moved the following items On Consent:
2022 Earth Day Programs
The City is doing three things to mark Earth Day this year. We are launching an Adopt-a-Tree program to let people take a more active part in our Urban Forest Management Program, and Adopt-a-Catch-Basin Program to get folks more linked to the exciting world of storm water drainage, and a Datathon program. More details to come!
Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: (81 Braid Street – Braid SkyTrain Station)
A water main upgrade project at Braid Station was delayed by some supply chain issues, so the noise bylaw exemption we previously gave them needs to be extended.
Housing Agreement Bylaw and Development Variance Permit to Vary Residential and Visitor Parking Requirements: 508 Eighth Street – Bylaw for Three Readings
This Rental apartment building in the Brow of the Hill wants to add a few studio suites at ground level, where there is currently parking spots. The existing parking on the site is underutilized (>60% unused), but this change requires a Development Variance Permit because the building will not, as envisioned, meet the existing parking guidelines for a building this size. So they are requesting a parking variance, in an exchange we will get a Housing Agreement securing rental tenure for the life of the building. And 4 new relatively affordable rental suites added ot the existing 32 in the building.
There is a bit more going on here around bicycle parking and housing agreements, but mostly we are letting the public know we are going to consider the DVP. If you have opinions, let us know!
Public Art Program Update
This report is an update on our Public Art program. But that’s right there in the title. There is some good stuff in here about our ongoing program – Public Art related to various City-owned construction projects (from təməsew̓txʷ to the Boundary Road pump station) and the Artist Roster program. This all great stuff, making our public spaces (or “Public Realm” as we like to say in Jargonworld) better!
Rezoning and Development Permit Applications for Secured Market Rental High-rise: 616-640 Sixth Street – Preliminary Report
This development project had a pretty high profile when approved by Council through a Public Hearing four years ago, and four years later there has been no breaking of ground on the project. It is now more than decade since we had a significant project adding to the tower-form housing in the Uptown area, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.
Perhaps not surprising, the economics of development changes over time, and through the City’s incentive programs, support from senior governments, and the desires of those who finance major projects, there seems to be a drift from Strata to Purpose Built Rental, which is probably a good thing as regional vacancy rates are still in the 1% range. So this project has shifted from part-Strata part-rental to 100% rental, and they are now requesting an increase in density and unit count to support a more efficient and viable all-rental building design.
This is a preliminary report, so the proposal will need to see some public consultation, and will likely have a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then. If you have feelings, let us know!
Update on Mayor’s 50 Ideas Parks & Recreation Initiatives #3 & #18
This is an update on a couple of public amenity programs. One was to increase the amount of public seating in the community (we have added chairs, benches and picnic tables all around the City –and they are getting used as fast as we can put them out) and a program to provide a low-cost “try it out” option for a variety of recreational programs (slightly set back by COVID, but back on).
The following items were Removed from Consent,/u> for discussion.
Council Resolution in Support of the City of New Westminster’s Application under the COVID-19 Restart Funding for Local Governments, Strengthening Communities’ Services Program
There is a UBCM program we are applying for to get some senior government money ($624K) to help finance some programs to help those impacted the most by COVID. This funding will be spread out across a variety of programs, including sanitation trailers for the proposed 24/7 shelter at the Army & Navy (the current building does not have adequate washroom/shower facilities to fulfill the need, trailers like at movie sets will allow the shelter to operate until the more permanent shelter options already approved are ready). Another is a freestanding public toilet downtown to replace the very-much-less-than-ideal port-a-potties. This funding will also help reinforce programs from the Maida Duncan drop-in to the I’s On the Street program. We are applying, cross your fingers!
Port Authority Referral: 820 Dock Road, City of Delta, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Solutions, Annacis Auto Terminal Optimization – Information Report
The east end of Annacis Island is the biggest parking lot in the Lower Mainland, and it is going to get bigger. This is because it is the location where most of the cars arriving in Canada from Asia are unloaded from those big blocky ships, and are (mostly) loaded on to rail cars for shipment across Canada. The owner wants to expand, and are applying to the Port for permission. This is Federal land, so the Port asks nearby Municipalities what they think, but they don’t necessarily need to ask us for permission.
This is a bit unusual, because the project isn’t in New West, but is in Delta. So they pay their PILT (“Payment in Lieu of Taxes”) to Delta, not to New West, and they get their utility servicing from Delta. But we in New West get a lot of the impact of the operations – the noise and light and emission impact our residents more than Delta residents. We also have the impacts of increase rail traffic through Q’boro and (potentially) the Quayside. But such is the inter-jurisdictional reality, and we can curse the civic leaders of decades ago who decided Anncis Island should be given to Delta instead of New West.
However, if we are going to raise issues to the Port, I am suggesting we ask about increased rail traffic, and the impacts on Queensborough and Quayside neighbourhoods. The cargo capacity of the port will increase about 40%, so we may infer this means 40% more trains through Q’Boro and over the rail bridge. It would be good to know the Port is aware of local concerns and efforts towards whistle cessation in at the key crossings on Port Royal. Similarly, many of the vehicles leave the Port on trucks, and It would be good to know if we expect increased truck traffic on Derwent Way. Finally, I don’t know if the ships they use for this type of cargo are the type where shore power can reduce impacts on our local air shed related to them running their boilers, but this is the time to ask. So we will send the Port these questions and let you know what they say.
The Poet Laureate Digital Poetry Project
We have a Poet Laureate, and he has found a creative way to connect poetry with our everyday lives during National Poetry Month. And while he was at Council to talk about it, he gave us a quick reading of some new words he put together about community. I feel really honoured to have him telling the stories of our community.
We then Adopted the following Bylaws
Heritage Designation Bylaw (1324 Nanaimo Street) No. 8291,2022
Council adopted this Bylaw that officially designates this house in the West End as a protected heritage property.
Heritage Designation (102 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No. 8313,2022
Council adopted this Bylaw that officially designates this house in Glenbrook North as a protected heritage property.
Water Shortage Response Amendment Bylaw No. 8314, 2022
Council adopted this Bylaw that updates our water shortage restrictions to bring them in alignment with Metro Vancouver’s new rules. Gold is the new green!
Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Parking Reductions for Patios) No.8317, 2022</>B
Council adopted this Bylaw that makes permanent the temporary changes we made to allow expanded patio options for restaurants and bars with parking lots.
And we had this Motion from Council:
Climate Crisis Readiness, Councillor Nakagawa
THAT staff report back to Council on city readiness for extreme climate related events this summer including, but not limited to heat waves and flooding; and
THAT this report includes communications and engagement considerations, including opportunities to facilitate dialogue and planning for a community-based response to climate emergencies; and
THAT staff report on opportunities to enhance Emergency Preparedness Week events with a specific focus on equity-based climate response measures.
It is 10 months since the Heat Dome event devastated this community. Staff have been working on how to better address the risk of this type of heat event and other imminent impacts of climate disruption, not just in New West but around the region. We have two panels at the upcoming Lower Mainland LGA conference talking about this topic, including the importance of community organizing when disasters are simply too big for local government to provide adequate response.
This reporting back will not only inform Council, it will give us another opportunity to inform the public and talk about the importance of community in addressing emergencies.
And on top of this, we had a couple of other public delegations, which are not normally things I report on here, but the range of topics were pretty interesting, so I will probably follow this up with a bit more detail about them. But that’s another blog post when I have time.