TOO MUCH HAPPENING! AAAAHHHH!!!
Ok, I’m over that. Here’s the report.
We had the last Council Meeting of the Term on Monday. It was a real roller coaster, because we covered some significant topics, putting a point on the road for some large topics in the hope the next Council will carry them forward – there are lots of “passing the baton” metaphors below. It was also the final council meeting for Mayor Cote and Councillor Trentadue, and at least one other member of Council. So there were emotions in the room. But for the purposes of this report I’m going to stick to the Agenda.
We started with a couple of Temporary Use Permits :
Temporary Use Permit No. TUP00028 for 97 Braid Street
The Construction of RCH has brought a lot of workers to Sapperton, and there has been a temporary parking lot installed by the Braid SkyTrain station with shuttles that run workers back and forth to the construction site. This is not a regular use of that property, so we issued a Temporary Use Permit to allow it. They are asking for a renewal, as construction is ongoing.
There was a call for public comment, sign on the site, and received no comments from the public. The operation has been largely without trouble and does actively relieve some of the parking stress Sapperton already y feels during the construction, so Council voted to support the TUP.
Temporary Use Permit No. TUP00029 for 311 Louellen Street
The owner of a large house on the Brow of the Hill Neighbourhood wants to provide a Group Living facility for people living in recovery from addiction (including alcohol, drugs, and gambling). This land use is consistent with the Official Community Plan for the neighbourhood, but would require a rezoning or a Temporary Use Permit for up to 3 years. Here were two separate public calls for comment on this, and a public Open House (with 33 neighbours attending), and we received more than 100 pieces of correspondence, mostly in favour of providing these types services in New Westminster, with some comments concerned about the specific location, operational details and effect on adjacent property values.
New Westminster has a good history with supporting these types of transitional housing operations, and they have without fail turned out to be good neighbours that do not cause conflict issues in residential neighbourhoods. That said, the regulation and oversight of an operation like this not as consistent as some in the community may like, although this is evolving. Staff have provided a list of conditions to help address some of the community anxiety around this change.
I voted in favour of this TUP with the conditions attached. I have personal experience with being a neighbours with a similar facility by a different operator that works on a very similar model, and recognize that many of the anxieties felt about these sites are just not born out in practice. They do not constitute a threat to vulnerable people in the community, nor do they correlate with nuisance behaviours or crime. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The TUP and conditions attached should provide some incentive to the operator to assure their commitment to being a good neighbours is met, and on balance having facilities in our community that help people get past the health impacts and stigma of addiction is an important step in building a strong community for all.
We then had two Reports to Council:
Peer Assisted Care Team (PACT) Pilot Project Update
The PACT model is an exciting and innovative way to deal with mental health crises in our community, being piloted here in BC in New West, Victoria, and North Van, but based on proven models from other jurisdictions around North America. It is in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Purpose Society. This came out of our earlier submissions to the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, and has taken a real drive be several members of Council and partnerships with the Provincial Government and other agencies to see the light of day. We are still working on the effort to properly integrate the PACT model with 911, which will lead to more consistent dispatch and better data gathering.
This does have the potential to be transformational in people’s lives, and an example of what a community can do when all members meet together with a common understanding of a problem, apply evidence-based policy and compassion, and are willing to find flexibility and innovation in finding solutions.
Council Update on Research into Actions taken by the City of New Westminster involving Indigenous Peoples from 1860-1999
Friday was National Truth and Reconciliation Day, and it was profound to see Pier Park as full as I have ever seen it, more than a thousand people, most in orange t-shirts, to witness and learn about residential schools and reconciliation. It is timely that the City provide an update on the work we have done towards Truth and Reconciliation, so we can hand over the baton to the next Council in the hopes they will continue to carry it on this long journey.
The first part of Truth and Reconciliation is Truth. It is about exposing and talking about the record of what occurred, and when it comes to the colonization and subjugation of Indigenous Peoples, a lot happened in New Westminster. As part of our work, the City went about combing the archives and records of the city to outline exactly what happened. Recognizing our records only tell the story from the colonizers’ point of view, and therefore our written record in incomplete, it is nonetheless important that we expose this history to the light, and find a respectful way to share this learning with the people who were impacted, and their descendants, in accordance with the TRC Calls to Action and the Articles of UNDRIP.
The City has begun engagement with many nations to whom these histories are relevant, and will be working through shared learnings with those nations, now that this report is available. For now, a summary report is available for the general public to review, with the more detailed and technical report being used as the foundation for deeper consultations.
At this point, we are receiving the report, and updates on progress the City has made in our Reconciliation Strategy. Much of it (training and learnings for staff, relationship building with Nations around the region, this research work) has been “behind the scenes” for good reasons, but it is outlined on the city website now to let those interested see where we are at. We also received in update on the next steps ahead in Reconciliation for the city. May the baton be passed on to the next Council, and may they run with it.
We then moved the following items On Consent:
Formal Recognition of National Aboriginal Veterans’ Day
The RSIE Task Force is recommending Council formally recognize National Aboriginal Veterans’ Day on November 8th. And we will do so.
Heritage Revitalization Agreement: 441 Fader Street – Preliminary Report to Council
The owner of this unique 1930s house in lower Sapperton want to build an infill house on the property with a secondary suite and preserve the existing house with Heritage Protection. The zoning allows three units on the property (a house with a suite and a laneway house), but this arrangement, where the existing “main” house is smaller and the infill house has the suite, and the proposal to stratify the property so it operates more like a duplex instead of subdividing or making them all single ownership is unusual. This is a preliminary application, and will go to public consultation and Public Hearing before Council makes any decisions, so let us know if you have opinions!
Uptown Business Association and Downtown New Westminster BIA – 2023 Business Promotion Scheme Budget Approvals
The City’s two BIAs operate by the City collecting a special tax on the member businesses, then turning that money over to the BIAs to do the work their board determines best serves their members. As their budgets (~$150K/year for Uptown, ~$300K/year for Downtown) mostly go through our budget, and their work plans mesh with work the City is doing, we have an opportunity to review and comment on their budgets.
This is more of a report for information than it is a request for approval, as the BIAs operate fairly autonomously.
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Carter Street Foreshore Lease Agreement Renewal
There is a part of the Queensborough waterfront by Carter Street where the City pays the Port about $600 a year to lease. This is to assure public access as a watery extension to the foreshore park where the City has park benches, trails, interpretive signage and such. We are renewing the lease we have carried since 1997 for another 10-year term.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
All Ages and Abilities Active Transportation Network Plan
A year ago, I brought a motion to Council asking that we establish a core mobility lane network and that we integrate the building of that network into the City’s 5 year Capital Plan. After a year of work, engineering, design, and public consultation, this is the draft network, and the price tag.
I wrote a lot about this last year, and I don’t want to repeat it all here, but I think this work is necessary, is “core work” for a 21st century urban city, and is timely. It will represent an increase in our 5-year Capital plan, but an increase of less than 10%, and with significant senior government support available through the National Active Transportation Strategy and the CleanBC Active Transportation Fund. It is still a significant amount of money, and will also require increased staff resources to roll out on the timeline suggested, but if we want to meet the goals set out in our 7 Bold Steps, if we want to achieve the safe roads and public spaces and prepare ourselves for the transportation revolution coming with new mobility devices, if we want to be a modern forward-looking city, this is work we need to commit to now. This will be transformational.
There is a lot in here about how we got from idea to a network map, and I will maybe write more about that in a follow-up post, I but I think this plan is good. To reach AAA (“All Ages and Abilities”), staff created a CCC framework (“Comfortable, Complete and Connected”) to make sure a bike route is near every home, connects to key destinations, and is not only safe for all users, but comfortable for all users. And connected means we are finally going to invest in getting rid of the persistent gaps in our mobility lane network that created comfort and safety barriers for so many users.
Community Energy and Emissions Plan 2050 – Adoption
Another big file I am glad to see advanced before the end of the term. The City has two Plans for reducing GHG emissions- the “Corporate” plan that covers everything the City itself does from running garbage trucks to heating City Hall, and the “Community” Plan, which is all the GHG emissions residents and businesses create by driving their vehicles or heating their buildings or generating waste. Our corporate plan was reported on last meeting (we are ahead of schedule getting to 2030), and this report is asking for adoption of a new Community Plan – one to set a new target to “near zero” emissions by 2050.
This is a big strategic plan with clear actions that are already starting, and creates a strong roadmap for the next 7 years. This means faster Step Code implementation to get new buildings more efficient faster; it means retrofit assist to get older buildings off fossil fuels and adapted to our new climate; it means a faster roll out of EV-support infrastructure and transportation infrastructure that reduces the reliance on cars. And it means adopting Just Transition and Climate Equity lenses in how we prioritize and fund this work.
With adoption of the CEEP, we have clearly set out the path ahead. Again, the baton is being passed to the next Council, and I hope we have a Council ready to run with it.
Development Permit Application: Brewery District Transit Plaza – For Information
The Brewery District is looking at how it will design the last pieces of the puzzle. There is one more building (which is proposed to be mixed use with lots of commercial space) to be built, and a completion of the groundworks around the entrance to the SkyTrain station. This report outlines the preliminary designs for the latter. This is a report for information, and a development permit to approve the design will be managed through staff without further Council input.
It looks pretty good. The route from SkyTrain to RCH and Sapperton will be universally accessible, where it is now a bit challenging with existing slopes and ramp designs, and an elevator on the RCH property that has not be functional for several years. I still chagrin that the RCH design does not address the SkyTrain station better, but Wesgroup is making up for it in this plaza design. They are still taking public input, so if you have opinions, let them know here.
Lighting Up City Hall in Celebration of Diwali
The RSIE Task Force is recommending we light up and decorate City Hall to mark Diwali, so we are going to do that. This is a change from our usual practice of mostly only decorating City Hall for Christian holidays (Christmas, Easter).
And finally, we adopted the following Bylaws:
Anvil Theatre Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8367, 2022; Climate Action Planning and Development Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8358, 2022; Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8359, 2022; Electrical Utility Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8368, 2022; and Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8360, 2022
As discussed over the last two meetings, these Bylaws that set our fees, fines, and user rates for various services in the City for the year ahead were all adopted unanimously by Council.
Whew! There were a few speeches made, and you can watch the video, but I am sure I will have more to say about this term and my colleagues on Council after October 15th. For now, I gotta go GOTV. Remember to vote!