Housing Book

Who else spent a rainy long-weekend day digging through regional housing stats?

Metro Vancouver tracks regional population and housing numbers in order to meet their mandate and track progress on the Regional Plan that the 21 member municipalities share. One of the public-facing parts of this tracking is the Housing Data Book they recently published, building on 2021 Census data and other data sources. There are graphs, maps and the tables of numbers to back them up. Its a great resource.  Following on Mayor Pachal’s lead, I thought I’d look at it from a New Westminster perspective.

Thing is, regional planning is not a competition. Though I have been oft quoted suggesting that New West is more than pulling it weight on the housing front, I look through these regional stats to help understand where we are doing well, and where we need to find better solutions. So here are some graphs and maps pulled right from the Metro report, with a few comments.

There is no secret New West is growing fast. At 11.2% growth between the last two censuses, we are one of the fastest growing communities in the Lower Mainland, and growing faster than the overall regional average of 7.3%:

One interesting point about our demographics is that New West is not young or an old city, but is a millennial city. The proportion of our population between 25 and 44 years old is second only to Vancouver proper:

And a you might expect for a City with lots of people in that parenting age, we are one of the fastest-growing communities for the 0-14 age range (and if you want to know how we differ from Port Moody – look at that number!):

New West continues to have a proportion of rental households (45%) well above the regional average:

And probably a combination of those last few data points results in New West having a median household income a little lower than the average for the region ($82,000 compared to $90,000, or 9% below):

but our median household income is growing faster than the regional average:

Now, that number is interesting. Between 2015 and 2020, median household income (inflation adjusted – using 2020 constant dollars) went up 17.1%. For the fun of it, I pulled up the data from the BC government on residential property tax burden (Schedule 707 available here) and found that per-capita property taxes over the same period rose about 13%. Using this calculator to adjust for inflation, per-capita property taxes only went up 8%. In short, incomes are rising much faster than property taxes.

Now on to this pretty cool bubble chart, that shows the correlation between population growth and growth in the number of dwellings, with the size of the bubble representing population in 2021. I added the red lines to show what parts of the region are growing in people faster than in homes (Surrey, Langley City, West Van, and yes, New Westminster ) vs the cities where homes are being built faster than population is growing (Richmond, Burnaby and Vancouver). Again, Port Moody’s quixotic lack of growth stands out.

I’ll jump ahead here to housing types, and one of the big headlines is that only 14% of New West households are in a single detached home, one of the lowest proportions in the region, Note that people living in secondary suites in those homes would be counted as “other” in this statistic. The 70% living in apartments is second only to Electoral Area A (which is predominantly UBC campus, so would include a lot of student housing):

And as you might expect, almost all new homes being built in the City are in the form of apartments and rowhomes (including attached and stacked townhouses) with no net increase in single family homes (but also no real decrease either, like we see in North Van District):

One place New West has been doing well is Purpose-Built Rental. We are getting more new rental built per capita than any other Municipality in the region, and more in raw numbers than any but Vancouver, while we are protecting the most affordable older PBR stock and are not letting it be replaced with condos (see the left part of the chart).

As a result, we now lead the region in Purpose Built Rental, with almost 26% of households in that housing type. This matters in a city where 45% of households are rental households, because PBR has one big difference over the “secondary” rental market (people renting out their condos or basement suites). That is in how they provide long-term housing security to renters. Any secondary market rental unit can leave the rental market at any time at the whim of the landlord, which is a precarious situation for the renting family. PBR brings increased housing security for the increasing number of working people in our community who cannot afford to buy.

This is especially important as the Vacancy Rate is still dire:

Which means upward pressure on rents is still a problem. Though, notably, New Westminster rents are not “in the top 10 in the country”, as they are not even the top ten in Metro Vancouver:

And here is why. New West cannot do it alone, our work to get us way over on the right side of those graphs above by building and protecting rental has not moved the regional needle, because we are only 3% of the population on half of 1% of the land area. When you look at rental inventory across the entire region this is the trend:

No meaningful change in raw numbers over 30 years. As the region’s population has gone from 1.5 Million people to 2.6 Million people, we have had no meaningful increase in the number of purpose-built rental homes. No wonder we are in a rental affordability crisis.

But cities don’t own all the blame here. This is largely a result of those destructive 1990’s Paul Martin budgets, when the Federal Liberal Government decided to get out of the business of housing, and of subsequent Provincial governments not stepping in to fill the gap. Without CMHC policy driving the building of new rental, with the province relying on the “the market” to fill rental need, with decades of being told home ownership is the path to financial success and tax structures that emphasize that, the market does what it does. The upward trend you see at the end is a result of the Province finally changing that two-decade practice, and (some) Local Governments shifting how we incentivize new building to make Rental viable again. But we have so much catching up to do.

Council – Feb 13, 2023

We had yet another marathon Council meeting this week. I wish the work we were getting done was proportional to the amount of time spent in rhetorical argument that changes no-ones mind, but that is not the path we are on. Regardless, we did get some work done, and for technical reasons started the Agenda with the adoption of a Bylaw:

Adoption of Heritage Designation (109 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8381, 2023
As discussed at the January Public Hearing, this Bylaw that designates a home in Queens Park was adopted by Council. Following this, we handed out the plaques for homes in the City that are designated as Heritage Assets, including this one and a large rental building downtown. We haven’t done this is a few years in part because of the weirdness of hybrid council meetings, so we had some catching up to do.

We than had two Presentations:

Proposed Airspace Modernization Changes at Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
The Federal Agency that oversees aircraft navigation in Canada wants to change the system that manages planes coming into YVR, which means changing some of the routes. This involves some public consultation (over the last three months, with on-line and open house formats across the lower mainland), and they came to present to Council. Though some other communities are unhappy because they foresee more overhead flights (Especially North Burnaby and Port Moody, where the tracks have shifted), it does not look to me like there will be increased flights over New West, or that the planes will be lower. There were quite a few questions asked by Council, and staff will follow up with an information report.

Air Quality Permit Application from Cedar Island Forest Products Ltd
There is a small wood products manufacturer operating on industrial land in Queensborough, operating for 30 years. They create sawdust as part of their operations, and have systems they call “cyclones” to trap this sawdust so it can be recycled. These cyclones do have some “emissions”, in that some dust gets through, and that means an air quality permit is required, and Metro Vancouver is the government that issues that permit by Provincial Law.

There are two issues here. The one up for discussion is the regulation of these dust emissions. Unfortunately, the notice provided by Metro Vancouver did not include many details about the actual application, only a link to the company website that has no details. It is even unclear if this application represents an increase in emissions, a reduction, or no change, or even if there will be any monitoring requirements, or evaluation of the impact of the emissions on adjacent properties. As such, I requested that Staff ask Metro Vancouver to delay issuing the permit until these details (the complete application) is made available for the City and public review.

The second issue is proximity issues between this long-established industrial use and the adjacent residential properties – a proximity apparently approved in the 1995 Queensborough Plan with development permits issued in 2011. I do not think we would permit this proximity if this application came before us today, but that is cold comfort to the folks living there today and feeling those proximity impacts.

We then moved the following item on On Consent:

Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption: 660 Quayside Drive (Bosa Development)
The Bosa site on the waterfront needs to move crane sections in, which has to happen outside of traffic hours because of the disruption caused. This means they need a Construction Noise Bylaw Variance.

We then had these items Removed from Consent for discussion:

A Year of Truth
The City is advancing along its reconciliation journey thoughtfully. This report outlines the actions the City and its various departments are planning to undertake in the year ahead, under the banner of “a Year of Truth”, in recognition that truth comes before reconciliation. There is a lot of education happening in house, and opportunities for the public to engage in learning, listening, and better understanding of our history, and why reconciliation is needed. This is hard and often uncomfortable work, but it is good work and will make us a stronger community for doing it.

Building Safer Communities Program from Public Safety Canada
The City received a $1.7M grant from Public Safety Canada under the Building Safer Communities program to deliver services to at-risk youth in the community. This report outlines how the City plans to deliver those programs. The Government of Canada approved this plan (it is their money, after all), and we have identified the many partners in the community who we will be bringing in to help support the programming, including local social service NFPs, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the School District. This is real, proactive crime prevention that centers vulnerable people before they get into trouble, and a great example of partnership in the community.

Council also moved to strike a Working Group to guide this work, in a format similar to what worked well to bring PACT to the City.

Housing Agreement Bylaw and Development Variance Permit to Vary Residential and Visitor Parking Requirements: 311 Ash Street – Bylaw for Three Readings
This older rental apartment building in the Brow of the Hill Neighbourhood wants to convert some unused parking space into rental homes, going from 29 units to 34, and reducing their parking from 35 to 21 spots. This requires a Development Variance Permit. In exchange, they will enter into a Housing Agreement guaranteeing that the building will remain Purpose Built Rental for 60 years or the life of the building, whichever is longer. This property is across the street from my home, so I am recusing myself to avoid conflict of interest.

Notice of Motion Process
There was a request in a previous meeting (ironically, by “Notice of Motion”) that we clarify the Procedure Bylaw on Notices of Motion. This is the report back from staff on the process as it was, as it is currently, and as they suggest it should be moving forward.

Every city does this a bit different, and staff reviewed some other cities to see what worked and what didn’t. Any of our cohort communities simply don’t do Notices of Motion except in exceptional circumstances, others require Councilors who want to bring a Motion must work with staff to write a report supporting the motion. There is no “common practice”, but in New West, we have a history of being a little loose in this area. This worked when we had the average of 5 or 6 NoMs per year (as we did consistently from 2010-2021), where we now have that many per meeting. This creates a legislative logjam that threatens to prevent us from getting any priority work done, and also prevents us from giving all Motions their due consideration.

Some changes are proposed. Part 1 codifies the structure of a NoM so they are easier to manage and review, and to protect us from liability resulting from poorly worded or inaccurate recitals. Part 2 clarifies the submittal process and limits the number of NoMs per meeting, Part 3 the staff review practices. Part 4 reinforces the purpose of NoMs. After a long discussion, Council decided to workshop an approach here instead of making changes now. and I’ll hold my longer form response to this until after that workshop.

Temporary Working Space Agreement (GVSD590) for 590 Blackberry Drive
There is a big sewer pipe under Glenbrook Ravine, within which resides a big valve. That valve is old and needs to be replaced. This is a big job, being done by Metro Vancouver this summer. This means they need to close the north access to Glenbrook Ravine to pedestrians during these works, potentially for 6 months. I’m not happy about this. Glenbrook Ravine is one of the most important green spaces in our community, there are many people in the community for whom the Ravine Trail is part of their daily life, a respite of cool space and nature that is fundamental to their wellbeing, especially in the heat of summer. However, I am satisfied that all due diligence was done and there was no alternative found that could reasonably allow the important sewer work to be done while maintaining access via Glenbrook Drive.

We then read some Bylaws including these for adoption:

Community Heritage Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 8384, 2023
This Bylaw that increased the number of members on the Community Heritage Commission from nine to ten was adopted by Council.

Development Cost Charge Reserve Funds Expenditure Bylaw No. 8371 2022
This Bylaw to allow us to spend DCC money on upcoming Queensborough drainage, sewer, and parkland improvements was Adopted by Council.

We then had some Motions From Council:

Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar Emergency Management Partnership Opportunities
BE IT RESOLVED that the City of New Westminster Fire Department explore Emergency Management partnership opportunities with The Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar to support the emergent needs in Queensborough

This is a good idea. The Gurdwara in Queensborough has been a great informal partner with the City when emergencies happen in Queensborough, and also show up across the region when people need support. Coming out of a couple of recent events, there were some conversations with our emergency services about how we could both support this work, and assure that we are not working at cross purposes with their massive volunteer force. A more formal relationship would open up some funding opportunities for supplies, training or other supports to help the Gurdwara help the community.

Increasing safe access to the Fraser River for residents and tourists
BE IT RESOLVED that staff report back to Council regarding opportunities to provide increased direct access and connectivity to the Fraser River for our citizens and tourists;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we identify opportunities and possible funding sources to plan and develop additional userpay pleasure craft moorage on our City’s waterfront; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff be asked to identify possible new access points for a user-pay pleasure craft launch facility; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff identify the costs, challenges and opportunities of establishing a walkable link along the waterfront between Sapperton and Pier Park; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff prepare a key stakeholder consultation strategy to be presented to Council as part of this review; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff report to Council regarding the necessary budget, possible sources of funding and resources required to undertake the work as noted above.

The City developed a Riverfront Vision strategy, adopted in 2016. There were some positive moves on aspects of the vision, including the QtoQ, Front Street Mews, and the development of the public space plans for the Bosa development on the Riverfront. There are other aspects of it that are works in progress, including the connection of Pier Park to Sapperton Landing (set back seriously by COVID and the Pier Park Fire), and finding opportunities to better connect people to the River.

There was a tonne of work done a decade ago regarding private moorage along the Quay, it was one of the visions related to the original development of Pier Park under Mayor Wright. The Port made clear (and continues to assert) that the riverfront along the Quay is a working riverfront, and not a place where they would support pleasurecraft moorage, for a raft of safety and practical reasons. There *is* public moorage in New West in Queensborough where the Port supports it, and there is some potential for “touching” the river in the North Arm as we develop Poplar Landing, but that is a few years off. In the end, Council did not think this was a motion that merited support, as work under the Riverfront Vision has already been appropriately prioritized.

We also had an afternoon workshop where we worked through aspects of the City’s Capital Plan, in preparation for further budget development. That will be the focus of the next meeting, though no doubt there will be lots of opportunities for us to drift away from that focus.

This Happened (23.2)

One thing I have discovered about myself is that I am not very good at the getting the photo. I am having meetings all of the time in this job, and am going to some fun events and many of both really should result in a photo. To prove I was there, to promote the event or person I was meeting with, to fill the space in these update blog posts I call “This Happened” about what I have been up to. I need to work on that.

A good example has been the meetings I have been having at various City facilities with City staff who work there. I have been trying to get out to various departments with coffee to just chat with the folks who are on the “front line” doing the often thankless public-facing work, and those in the offices who do the things that keep a complex organization running. They are really great learnings for me, and a chance to familiarize myself with the different complexities of the City. But I always forget to get a photo.

As a Council, we have been wrapping up our onboarding tours and meetings, which means we have seen the innards of the new təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre, and have seen the working parts of some of our older facilities. We were able to see the ice room for the Queens Park Arena, which is spic-and-span in its newness, as the old ice plant has been recently replaced with a much safer and more efficient plant that not only reduces the risk of ammonia spills, but also is way more energy efficient:

That’s a new ice plant, the compressor part.

I was able to attend the Hyack President’s Tea at Centennial Hall, where I shared tea with President Penny McIvor, met some of the new Executive Members and the 2023 Ambassadors. It was great to be back to meeting in person for these events, and I know the entire community is looking forward to the 2023 Hyack Parade and festival.

Tea with the Ambassadors and the President. I might be out of my element here, with all their poise and elegance. Yeah, that’s a cake in front of us.

I have continued to work with regional leaders on some common interests, including hosting a couple of members of Langley City Council at one of our City’s best meeting spaces:

At S&O with Nathan Pachal and Paul Albrecht from Langley City.

And had several Metro Vancouver meetings, which are generally held at their offices in Burnaby. As there are commonly two meetings a day, there is some lag time when Board Directors from around the regions can network, or just point the back of our laptops at each other.

Area A Director Jen McCutcheon, Bowen Island Mayor Andrew Leonard, and their laptops.

There was also a press event I attended with some members of the TransLink Mayors Council to announce the launch of the new battery electric buses. These Nova all-electric buses are going to be serving the 100 route from 22nd Street Station to Cambie. They have 100+km range, can be charged in 5 minutes with that overhead gantry thingy, and are made in Canada!

Mayor Brad west points to the Electric Bus, Senior government electeds look on with awe and inspiration.

Have I mentioned the meetings? I had a great sit-down with Jay Chalke, the Ombudsperson for the Province about their program and mandate, and their role in assuring citizens are treated fairly by Local Governments. He was also able to share some of the research the Ombudsperson office does to provide guidance to elected officials and others in the Public Service to assure the public interest is served.

I also had a chance to meet with Paul Horn who has the unique distinction of being a fellow Mayor (the District of Mission) and the President of the Senior Salmonbellies, which gave us the chance to talk about “mayor life”, and about how the City and the ‘Bellies can partner more closely.

I not only attended the 10th anniversary Pecha Kucha New West event, but I was invited to be one of the presenters. For those out of the loop – a Pecha Kucha night is when around 10 people give shot presentations on something they are passionate about. The presentation are kept short (Under 7 minutes) by the rule “20 slides, 20 seconds each”, and the slide change every 20 seconds automatically, so you need to keep up. There was a great turnout for the 10th event, some great speakers (my highlights by paraphrased title: “I tried Rugby at 35” and “Talking about shame”), and the MC of the night was a real ham:

Ria was the MC of the night, I was speaker #6. She was way more relaxed about this than I.

Finally, for reasons that were all over the news, Members of Council and some senior staff from the City did a tour of the Shipyards in North Vancouver to see what a transformation of public space can look like, and to hear a bit from the Mayor of North Van of the challenges and opportunities the pace presented:

Some of Council, lighting it up at Shipyards.

And a few of us may have popped into the Copperpenny after, but those memories are fuzzy.


Last week there were a few stories in the regional media (traditional and social) about CMHC’s recent release of housing data. One story that got my attention was this graph posted on Twitter by census data guru Jens von Bergmann (@vb_jens):

This appeared to show New West losing a large number of bachelor and one bedroom rental suites over the 2021-2022 survey period, while 2- and 3-bedroom numbers went up, resulting in a small net increase of units. A few people asked “what’s up with New West?”, and I honestly had no idea.

Not to bury the lede: there is no way New Westminster lost hundreds of rental units over this period of time. For this to happen, there would have to be either some massive conversion of rental units to condo (not something we permit in New Westminster) or major demo- or reno-victions (both of which are tightly regulated here, and we simply have not had any such applications).

So I had to look into this, and City staff looked into it as well, and conformed what I suspected. It seems like this was a data anomaly, thought it was not immediately clear what the source of the anomaly is. This did give an excuse to dig a bit into the data, which is available here.

I took the numbers for rental units for not just 2021 and 2022, but for the last 8 years, essentially since I was first elected to Council. Here are the raw numbers, and I highlighted the numbers that show a decrease in the last year that is reflected in the original post:

It appears that a couple of larger Purpose Built Rental buildings were misclassified in their unit counts when they were opened in 2019 and 2020, showing the significant jump in Bachelor and 1-bedrooms over those two years, and for some unknown reason, the more accurate data is being presented now. It’s a bit complicated how we can tell this, but the short version is that CMHC also provides unit counts by census tract and by construction period (e.g. “built in 2000 or later”). This allows us to look at how a couple of larger and recently completed PBR buildings were reported in the year they opened, and in there found an anomaly. It appears both 900 Carnarvon (Completed in 2020, 172 studio, 72 1-bed, 132 2-bed, and 22 3+bed) and 228 Nelson’s Crescent (Completed 2019, 0 studio, 85 1-bed, 77 2-bed and 24 3+bed) appear to not have been entered properly, as the number of new 2- and 3-bedroom suites added do not even add up to those provided by these two buildings (and they were not the only buildings to come on line during that period). This also explains some anomalous numbers reported last year about how New West was building way more bachelor and 1-bedroom rental units than our Family Friendly Housing Policy would allow – it is the same data error, now corrected.

As these numbers appear to have now been adjusted, it does show that looking at one year of unit completions from CMHC data may not be the best way to compare communities or track construction/approval trends, especially for smaller cities where one or two units opening (or being mis-reported) can skew annual numbers, and hide the deeper trend. To broaden the data a bit, I looked at the last 8 years (2014- 2022), non-coincidentally the time I have been on Council. I tried to re-create Jens’ chart with the unit count change over that 8 years, divided by 8 to give us an average annual unit change over that time:

And you can see why I have been saying no-one (except Vancouver) is building more PRB than New West. Of course not all of these communities are equal in size, or in population growth (see more on that here), and these net count numbers are not adjusted for those pressures.

If you want to look deeper at the numbers, they are here , and you can select by City. The numbers I have used are under the “Rental Universe” tab on the left. And just for fun, and if you want to check my math, here are the total numbers I found for over the 8 years (not the per year average presented above):

In summary, one part of the housing crises that New Westminster has been very effective at addressing is the paucity of Purpose Built Rental. There were a couple of decades there from the hollowing out of Federal Housing programs to the early 2000’s where almost no new PBR was being built, and indeed it was being lost. By policy and intention, New West has turned that tide and brought more rental to the market, while preserving the older more affordable rental, with visible results:

None of this changes that rents are going up at what looks like an unsustainable rate, and a rate disconnected from regional wages. Rental availability is fundamentally regional issue, not one New Westminster (with 3% of the regional population and 8% of the regional rental supply) can solve alone. Everyone needs to build more PBR, there is no new news there.

Council – Jan 30, 2023

Before our regular evening meeting on January 30th, we had a lengthy daytime workshop on the budget, which will be a topic of ongoing discussion and future blogs. In the evening meeting, we had the first Public Hearing of the new Council Term, and despite a pretty full Council chambers, it was a gentle introduction to Public Hearings for the folks new to the Council.

Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 8381, 2023 for 109 Third Avenue
The owner of this home on Queens Park volunteered to “designate” it, meaning it will have permanent protection as a heritage asset in the community beyond the protection provided by the Heritage Conservation Area. By Provincial Law, this designation requires a Bylaw change that actually requires a Public Hearing. We received no correspondence on this application, and we had one delegate come to express support.

In the subsequent Regular Meeting, Council approved giving this Bylaw third reading.

We then moved the following items On Consent:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment Project)
If you have noticed the new RCH Acute Care Tower going up in Sapperton, you might have noted that the floor plate size is really big. For structural reasons, these big floor slabs need to be poured all at once, which means pouring and finishing the floors before they set is technically very difficult within a 12-hour window allowed by our Construction Noise Bylaw. They are asking to exceed allowable construction hours three days a month to allow the floor finishing to be completed before the big pour sets. They will send notice to the neighborhood on timing, and do their best to limit noise leaving the site.

DCC Expenditure Bylaw No. 8371, 2023
The City collects Development Cost Charges from developments to pay for infrastructure to support that development and the growth that comes with it (water, sewer, drainage, parks, and transportation). This is a strictly managed process by Provincial law, as the DCCs must go into a specified Reserve, and must only be spent on a specified infrastructure project. One of the controls on that is that money can only be moved from these reserves to actually pay for the project by Bylaw approved by Council. This Bylaw approves the spending a little more than $1Million from those reserves for the projects they were designated.

Recruitment 2023: Appointments to Advisory Committees, Commissions, Boards, and Panels
We have appointed members of the community to various commissions and committees. We do this in Closed Meeting first as these appointments are recommended to Council by staff after extensive review of their applications, which includes personal information of volunteers and unsuccessful applicants, but the final appointments are brought to open meeting in this information report.

Rozzini’s Restaurant, 211 Ewen Avenue – Application for Patron Participation Endorsement
This popular family restaurant in Queensborough wants to have live music. Our Byzantine provincial liquor license laws require that they get a formal endorsement from City Council to allow this, and that they do a public consultation. A public consultation to decide whether a restaurant that has been operating for decades can have live music, eating up their time, City time, costing thousands of dollars. Anyway, that’s the law and here we are passing that resolution.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Changes to the Terms of Reference of the Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Community Heritage Commission Bylaw No. 6423
The City is striking a new Accessibility Advisory Committee, and we are adding representatives from the NW Police Department and the NW Library. At the same time, we are adding another seat on the Community Heritage Commission. Both of these are committees with Provincial Regulatory structures, with Bylaws behind them, so these changes need bylaw amendments.

Renewed Child Care Protocol between the City of New Westminster and New Westminster School District No.40
The issue of Childcare has been front of mind for Council and the community. Recent changes in school space needs along with the Provincial integration of Childcare into the Ministry of Education have made it clear that there is an advantage to both parties if Council and SD40 more closely coordinate their child care initiatives. Some austerity hawks will argue this is not a “core service” of the City, but we have an active role to play in finding and supporting the full spectrum of childcare needs in the community.

The City and the School District had a 2009 Childcare Protocol, but the massive changes in this landscape warrant an update to that protocol; indeed this is a task identified in our updated Child Care Strategy. Informally discussed with School Board members, we need a more formal correspondence, including endorsement for some terms of the Protocol and timing of the completion. This report is asking Council to endorse those.

Rezoning Application for Detached Accessory Building: 228 Seventh Street – Comprehensive Report
This supportive housing operator in the Brow of the Hill neighborhood wants to expand their existing garage into an accessory building that will house some administrative uses. This needs a rezoning. I am not going to say any more about it, or take part in the decision here because I am a direct neighbor and this arguably results in a pecuniary interest, so I am recusing myself to avoid perception of conflict.

We then spent some time going through another raft of Motions from Members of Council

Mitigating traffic and transportation issues and improving pedestrian safety on Ewen Avenue in Queensborough
BE IT RESOLVED that staff provide a memo to Council regarding the opportunity to modify the current “no right turn on red” policy at Ewen Avenue and Howes Street so it only applies during peak rush hour traffic; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that as part of the Queensborough Transportation Plan, staff seek feedback from local residents and business regarding their interest in the installation of a new pedestrian-activated crossing at the corner of Wood Street and Ewen Avenue

The First Phase of Consultation on the Queensborough Transportation Plan update was completed recently, and have are available on the City’s Be Heard New West website. There is a comprehensive survey in there, and some results from the stakeholder meetings, the Q’Boro Residents Association, and some pop up events in the community.

To be honest, this resolution could have been an email. I am not prepared to say whether these are good or bad ideas, though they are certainly more granular than we usually get here in Council when talking Transportation Plans. Looking at the relatively-recently completed Sapperton Transportation Plan, you can see these types of intersection improvements are evaluated and prioritized, but need to be done so in the context of their neighbourhood-wide effects, not as one-offs.

My reflex here is to support the Council proposal to refer these local ideas the Q’Boro Transportation Plan process that is ongoing, but as the second half refers already to the Plan, and the first half is a simple request Staff are willing to respond to without work plan changes, I was able to support the motion as it stands. Council moved to support this motion.

Increasing year-round usage of city park spaces through the installation of additional all-weather tracks as part of the capital plan
BE IT RESOLVED that staff prioritize the sourcing of funds required to install an increased number of all-weather fields in New Westminster over the next five years; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that as part of the 2023 Budget process staff identify the funds necessary to undertake a planning and community consultation process to determine the feasibility of prioritizing an all-weather field at Ryall Park in Queensborough.

A quick look at the City’s 5-year capital plan show there is $2 Million set aside in 2024 for another all-weather field, and during our tours of Queensborough, staff talked about the work they have done to evaluate potential options for Ryall Park. Notably, a full-sized 400-m track like at Mercer Stadium will not fit at that site, but there is potential for a smaller track, with consideration that building anything at Ryall is technically challenging (read: more expensive) for the very same soils conditions that make the current field wetter than some others.

Council is very aware of the calls for more sport and recreation facilities in Q’boro, though a lacrosse box / multi-use court was generally higher priority to folks I spoke with. That said, this all speaks to the need for a Comprehensive Parks Plan informed by full public consultation, which is in this year’s work plan. Council moved to refer these specific requests to that planning process so that conversation can take place before we commit those millions of dollars.

Requesting an update from local MLAs regarding a 2020 election commitment to provide a free bus service to Queensborough students
BE IT RESOLVED that Mayor Patrick Johnstone write to MLAs Aman Singh and Jennifer Whiteside to request a meeting be established with Councillors Tasha Henderson, Nadine
Nakagawa and Daniel Fontaine (School Board Liaisons) regarding the status of the provincial government’s 2020 campaign commitment to the parents and students of Queensborough for a free bus service to New West Secondary School.

There is some work going on in this space, though I have not heard of any public announcements yet. I’ve had a chance to have some informal meetings with MLA Singh at community events and check-in phone calls, and this is actually a topic he brought up in a recent chat. I have also been talking with TransLink colleagues about the Queensborough transportation plans, and they are evaluating the results of the recent additions to bus service levels related to schooltime queuing at 22nd Street station.

I am happy to write a note to MLA Singh, though Council also thought it appropriate to invite the School Board representatives to the Council/School Board joint working group to this meeting, as this seems like a conversation we should include them in.

Halting the City’s rebranding exercise as previously approved by Council in July 2022
BE IT RESOLVED that staff reduce the potential burden to residential and commercial taxpayers by ceasing work on any corporate-wide rebranding projects through to December 31st, 2024.

To be clear, and made clear numerous times by City staff, there is no burden to taxpayers related to the current work plan on rebranding, it is currently operating within the normal operational budget. There will not be any burden to taxpayers until a plan is returned to Council to seek guidance on next steps here whether this work occurs now or in 2025 (as the motion suggests) has no material effect to the budget. Putting aside the political hyperbole about the eventual cost of rebranding, Council will be able to opine on actual numbers once there are actual numbers. Council moved to defeat this motion.

Clarifying Matters Related to Notice of Motion in the Council Procedure Bylaw
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to report back on the apparent discrepancy between how the Council Procedure Bylaw No. 6910, 2004 was and is being interpreted and applied in the present, notably at the November 28, 2022 Council meeting with respect to Notice of Motion, and how the Bylaw was interpreted and applied by previous Councils in order to clarify the situation and determine what the correct procedure is, and
FURTHER THAT staff report back at the February 13th Council meeting with recommendations to improve Section 21 of the Council Procedures Bylaw 6910 to ensure it no longer lacks clarity and is less subject to interpretation.

This is both meta and Inside Baseball. The current practice at Council, as codified in the Procedures Bylaw, is for Notices of Motion from members to appear on an agenda then be debated and voted upon in the subsequent meeting. This was not the regular practice last term. Though this has been discussed in several meetings, there is a request here for clarity. The Procedures Bylaw can, of course, be amended by Council as suits their need, and staff have some ideas about how to improve the current Procedures Bylaw to make Council work better, and were planning to report back on this, so the request here is work already in progress. Council moved to approve this motion.

Investments in new pedestrian infrastructure to support the City’s active transportation network in Queensborough and reduce our carbon footprint
BE IT RESOLVED that staff incorporate into the 2023 Operating Budget a new two-year 50/50 matching grant Pedestrian Improvement Pilot Program that will support Queensborough residents who wish to accelerate the covering up of unsafe ditches with paved sidewalks that support non-fossil fuel based active transportation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that $300,000 from the Climate Action Reserve Fund be used to fund this pilot project over two years; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff seek out funds from the senior orders of government to offset or match the City’s contribution to the pilot program

This Motion is unfortunately timed, as it arrived for debate right after our lengthy daytime Operating Budget workshop where the mover of this motion suggested slashing millions of dollars from that budget (with no clarity to where those millions will come from) just before this request to commit to an unfunded and unaccounted program that could add millions to the operating budget. That said, it looks like a capital program, so the effect on the operational budget is unclear, especially as vague and unrealistic funding models are being proposed. I could add the concern that a partnership funding model similar to the one proposed already exists for the ditch infill program (though it cannot be applied property-by-property, because you can’t just do storm sewer upgrades property-by-property, they need to be performed on a block-by block basis for a variety of engineering and cost reasons); that the Federal Active Transportation Fund money cannot be applied to a resident opt-in program because there is no way for us to predict the amount of funds we would need in any single grant year; and that there has been no costing or impact modelling to justify pulling the seemingly random number of $300,000 out of the Climate Reserve Fund.

So, I may sound a little frustrated, but this proposal demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of how the city works, of how governance works. Not just in the little details I point out above, but in the bigger picture. It seems to be built on the assumption that long-standing concerns of the community (in this case, open ditches and associated pedestrian issues) have been completely ignored by the City, and all we need is one boutique program sketched on the back of a napkin to solve the problem. The reality is that these problems are long-standing because there are no simple solutions. We have applied decades of professional planning and engineering staff to find solutions (including the existing Local Area Service Plan program), and are making slow progress, but also need to apply them judiciously to manage costs, and to manage knock-off effects (e.g.: what happens during intense storms to the older homes in a neighbourhood if the road is raised to a flood level that is higher than the first floor of the homes?). As in most things in politics, if it was easy, it would already be done.

In light of this, Council decided that this proposal should be taken to a workshop with Council to go through those complications, the challenges, opportunities, and the practical costs, so Council has the information it needs to make a decision like this before we commit what would likely be millions of dollars.

Finally, we wrapped with one piece of New Business:

Nomination of Councillor Ruby Campbell to the Election to FCM Board of Directors
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities put out a call for nominees for Board Positions, as they had a couple of vacancies. Councillor Campbell expressed an interest and prepared and application, but needed our endorsement. This does not mean she will be appointed (that is up to the FCM Board), but Council unanimously supported her nomination.