Council – June 26, 2023

We had long meeting Monday, over 5 hours not including our afternoon Workshop session or the closed portion. There was a fair amount on the agenda, but the bulk of the discussion was on only a few topics. We started with a presentation on the City’s Annual Report:

Presentation of the 2022 Annual Report
This is the Annual Report mandated by the Local Government Act. We talk about our successes over the last year, and provide financial and statistical data for the province. 2022 was indeed a strange year, with the transition between the former Council and this one right in the middle of it. There is much to be proud of, and I appreciate the extra effort Staff undertook to guide us through that transition and keep the City recovering from the Pandemic response to more of a normal operation through it all.

I also want to Once again thank Mayor Jonathan Cote and Councillors Mary Trentadue, Chinu Das, and Chuck Puchmayr. The bulk of the work of the last year was initiated under their watch. As we cut the ribbon on the Queensborough substation (last week), and on təməsew̓txʷ (early next year), this Council has the opportunity to do that only through the leadership of the previous Council.

The things I’m proudest about over the last year don’t show up in the big numbers section in the back of this report. They are the strides we have made in Reconciliation and in Climate Action. Those are not jobs done, they are jobs that people on Council will still be working on after I’m gone. However, the progress and commitments we made in 2022 have us on a path to success and moved us further along that path than any previous year.

You can read the Annual Report and see all the numbers here.

Council Code of Conduct
Codes of Conduct are a hot topic in Local Government right now. Over the last few years, there have been many regional examples of elected Councils that have gone off the rails because of the actions of one or more elected folks who don’t take their Oath of Office, fiduciary duty, or Duty of Care seriously in this role, either because they don’t know how or because disruption for the sake of disruption is the goal. The Provincial Government responded to some calls to step in in various cases by doing the quite literally least they could do: requiring Councils to consider whether they need a Code of Conduct.

The City of New West already had a Code of Conduct, but we responded to the “call to consider” with a decision to update it. Working with a subject matter expert (one of the few people in the region who has served in the role of Ethics Commissioner for a local government), Staff and Council worked to develop a model for review. There are four major components:

  • An external Ethics Commissioner that takes the complaint and investigation process out of the hands of elected officials;
  • A Code that allows complaints to be launched by City residents, volunteers, employees, and members of Council;
  • A Multi-phase investigation process with the EC doing an initial review of applicability, an informal resolution process, a formal resolution process with timelines; and
  • Transparency in the decision-making around contraventions, while assuring compliance with FIPPA.

This is first reading of the empowering Bylaw, and we made a few recommendations to inform a second and subsequent readings. More to come here, but we are on a good path.

We then moved the following On Consent:

2022 Statement of Financial Information
This is our annual report of financial information about the City, as required by the Financial Information Act. These included audited financial statements, Council expenses, staff salaries, and every supplier from whom we bought more than $25K worth of goods and services from. It’s all there, and part of Local Government being the most transparent order of Government.

Development Variance Permit (300 Duncan Street, 313 to 327 Blackley Street, and 326 to 340 Mercer Street): Permit to Vary Off-Street Visitor Parking and Permit Tandem Parking – Notice of Consideration of Issuance
A builder is bringing 146 townhouses and 14 commercial units to this property in the “Eastern Node” portion of Queensborough, and are requesting a Development Variance Permit to adjust the parking in two ways. First by allowing some “tandem” parking in the residential units and by reducing the number of visitor parking spots from 30 to 17 (there would still be 8 commercial parking spots). The project is complaint with the OCP and the existing zoning for the site, and would finally bring some small retail to the eastern end of Q’boro to service the Port Royal community. This is the issuance of notice about the DVP, which will be reviewed at a future Council Meeting. If you have opinions, let us know.

Official Community Plan Amendment, Rezoning and Development Permit Application: 805 Boyd Street – Preliminary Report
The owner of Queensborough Landing wants to build a 4-storey self-storage building on a part of their property that is not currently very active. This would require an OCP amendment (as this is not a land use envisioned in the OCP) and a rezoning. That means external consultation (including First Nations and the Province) and a Public Hearing. This is a preliminary report, if you have opinions, let us know.

Report Back on Safety Concerns at Eastbound Tenth Avenue Between First Street and McBride Boulevard
A scary incident occurred in the spring when a car left 10th avenue and ended up in someone’s front yard, via their front fence. We asked Engineering to review if there were engineering controls that could be reasonable installed here to improve safety in the area. Staff reviewed several years of crash data and found this was a one-off incident.

Cars leave roadways; that is only one of the ways they pose danger in urban areas. However, we cannot install jersey barriers on every road to prevent this, as it would cause significant knock-off effects for everyone from pedestrians to emergency responders. However, in this spot, it is likely that reflective posts could reduce the chances of drivers leaving the road by making the curb location more apparent and adding visual “friction” that makes drivers slow down and be more attentive. This seems to be an intervention concomitant with the risk posed by the curb geometry at the site.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Additional Public Consultation Events Summary Report: 422 Sixth Street
At the request of the majority of Council, there were public engagement sessions held on the proposed supportive affordable housing project at 422 Sixth Street, one on-line and one in-person. I attended both, as did several members of Council, and found the dialogue constructive and positive in both cases. It was clear some in the room were in favour and some opposed to the project, and there were clear learnings from both groups.

One idea that arose out of these conversations and on-line engagement through Be Heard New West was to include both a Good Neighbour Agreement and a Community Advisory Committee as part of any approvals for the site, reflecting a successful model used for the supportive housing project on Ewan Avenue in Queensborough. Staff are recommending that here. This led to a two-hour discussion at Council that I am going to have to write a follow-up blog about, but short version: the majority of Council supported this idea.

Response to Council Motion Re: Removal and replacement of dead and/or dying trees on City property
Management of dead trees is part of the Urban Forest Management Strategy for the City, but as we are currently in a very rapid tree-planting phase in public green spaces, the restoration of some street and boulevards has taken a temporary back seat as per the approved Tree Planting Master Plan.

There are plans to get caught up on the back-log of boulevard tree re & re, but there are aspects of replacement that makes it more complicated than just putting back a tree when one dies. In some places, there are plans to replace or refurbish the sidewalk in upcoming work plans, and no point doing the tree until that happens. Similarly, there are areas that will get torn up for utility work or development, so best replace the trees after that. Finally, many of our sidewalk and street trees were not planted in ways that meet modern standards, and do not support the long-term viability of the tree or sidewalk. These may require significant excavation, installation a soil cell of sufficient size to support the tree to maturity, and re-design of the sidewalk. Safe to say if you see a tree stump that has been standing there for a year or more, one of the above applies.

Just inventorying these challenges across the City where we have thousands of boulevard trees will take some time and money, never mind the cost of actual tree replacement and increased maintenance in the first three years. So an arbitrary deadline for replacement of all trees (as was offered in the April motion that launched this review) is not practical or a responsible way to manage public costs. Instead, Staff have offered us two options: one is to keep doing what we are doing, with planned and gradual replacement of street trees and opportunistic replacement of dead/dying street trees coordinated with routine scheduled block pruning regimes within a given neighbourhood, as it most efficiently fits into the program. The other option is to invest an extra $125K in doing that inventory in 2024, then bring future funding requests to accelerate re-planting based on that inventory (and presumably, at a faster rate than the existing practice, pending Council’s approving funding that accelerated pace to the scale of $1 Million or more over the next couple of years). I liked the first approach, but Council convinced me through discussion to support the latter (which was the staff recommendation), recognizing it will have 2024 budget implications but also increases our ability to get some of this covered by senior government grants. The majority of Council voted to take this second approach.

We then read several Bylaws, including the following Bylaws for Adoption

New Westminster Pesticide Use Amendment Bylaw No. 8403, 2023
This Bylaw that updates the language of our pesticide bylaw to reflect changes in provincial regulation was adopted by council.

Subdivision and Development Control Amendment Bylaw No. 8369, 2023
This Bylaw that updates our offsite works agreements and standards for new developments was adopted by Council.

We then had one piece of New Business that was a late addition to the agenda.

Heat Plan Response to Extreme Heat in New Westminster: Accelerated funding for Summer 2023
This arose from an earlier request at Council to hand out money in the form of rebates to thousands of households as response to the Heat Emergency we experienced two years ago. This request was referred to the Electrical Utility Commission (seeing as it appeared they would be the budget through which this program would operate, as it was tied to utility rates). The Utility Commission met last week and said, politely, no, this is not a good idea, as handing out money to people will do nothing to keep them cool in a disaster, but there are perhaps good ways (with the advice of the Emergency Management Office) we can augment the existing Heat Emergency plans that are targeting the most vulnerable in our community. They then sent it back to Council to say “you have to decide on the budget”.

Staff put together a report from all this that outlined the many things that the Emergency Management Office are already doing in response to the 2021 Heat Dome, including targeted intervention to identified high-risk buildings and working with Fraser Health and Senior Services to identify and connect with vulnerable individuals. EMO and our Climate Action Team are providing guidance and resources around establishing safe cool rooms in people’s buildings, and are partnering with Fraser Health to provide portable AC units to those who have mobility issues preventing their accessing safe cool rooms. There are further actions being detailed out in the shorter term (e.g. partnering with faith-based community organizations to distribute water and heat response info), medium-term (e.g. Heat pump retrofit programs, regulatory responses) and long-term (e.g. tree planting, building code changes) to build resiliency into our community so emergency response is less relied upon.

There were some suggestions on how we can resource up to accelerate this work, mostly staff time and to purchase more portable AC units for vulnerable people. The budget request is a one-time of something like $270K from the Climate Action Reserve Fund, and Council approved staff developing this model with more certain budgeting to be approved next meeting.

I’m really proud of the work that our Emergency Management Office and Climate Action Team have done to address the unprecedented disaster of 2021, and to reduce the likelihood of it happening again. New Westminster is again leading on this, because it is the right thing to do when you care about the most vulnerable in your community.

And that’s all I have to say this week about the council meeting. Until I write more in the next post about the less clear things this week in council.

Council – June 12, 2023 (part 2)

This is the second part of my report on the June 12th meeting, the first part is available here, and as there are were spicy conversations around some of these issues, I should probably add a bit of a caveat once again. This blog is written by me and me alone and not only does it not constitute official City communications, it also has inherent to it my biases. I make no claim to objectivity, even when I try my best to be objective. As always, you can watch the video here and see how the conversation itself went down, and can judge for yourself.

This Part 2 covers our various Motions from Council:

Supporting the victims of random and violent crimes in New Westminster
Councillor Minhas

BE IT RESOLVED that the Mayor, on behalf of Council, write to the Federal Minister of Justice, the Premier of British Columbia and the BC’s Solicitor General requesting that every effort be made to reform our ‘catch and release’ justice system which is facilitating repeat and prolific offenders being allowed to roam New Westminster’s streets; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Council endorse a request made in February 2023 by the Business Improvement Areas of BC to establish a new provincially funded program which supports initiatives aimed at curtailing the impacts of vandalism and property crime; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Council request an urgent meeting with the New Westminster Police Board to develop a joint strategy and determine what additional initiatives can be immediately implemented to ensure our streets remain safe from further violent crime.

This was an item delayed from the meeting two weeks ago when members of Council voted to not continue past 10:30, and this item got put aside halfway through. We already addressed the first Resolution (see link here), but had yet to address the last two.

On the second Resolution, it was amended to not just “endorse” the BIA of BC request, but to send letters to the appropriate members of the provincial government to add advocacy to the provincial government to our endorsement. All members of Council voted in favour of this advocacy to the provincial government make that endorsement clear.

On the third resolution, I was prepared to argue that this was inconsistent with the roles of Council and the Police Board. The Police Act makes very clear that there be a firewall between Police activities and City Council, to prevent exactly this kind of political interference in the operation of Police Forces. Indeed it was argued last meeting (incorrectly, in my opinion), including by council members advocating for this motion, that this firewall should prevent Council from being involved in discussions with the Police Board around budget matters, which is the one part of the Police Act where Council actually has a role. So the contradictions here are byzantine.

In my discussions with the Police Board, they appear very interested in meeting with Council to build a better budget consultation process, as police budgeting is meant to be a collaboration between the Police Board and Council, but when we start to veer into policy and operations, the Police Board will likely push back, as will the management of the police department as per the Police Act. That said, this request is to ask the Police Board for a meeting, and I have no problem with making that request to see where it goes. Council moved unanimously to move this.

Implementing initiatives to reduce catalytic converter thefts in New Westminster
Councillor Fontaine

BE IT RESOLVED that staff work with ICBC and the New Westminster Police Department to determine the feasibility of replicating Surrey’s “Etch It, We Catch It” campaign in our city; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff report back regarding the feasibility of implementing a by-law that would place a temporary ban on the resale of catalytic converters and impose serious fines to those individuals and/or businesses who knowingly sell stolen catalytic converters in our city.

Again, this is a matter (in my thinking) for the Police Board, not City Council, and would have benefitted from some communications with the Police Board or leadership in the police department before it came to Council. It is also problematic that the reselling of catalytic converters is not a currently licensed business in New Westminster, and the Surrey Bylaw (which you can read here) is part of its business regulation of scrap car recycling – a business type we don’t have in New Westminster. The suggestion here is to create a Bylaw to regulate a business type we don’t have. I’m not sure adding bureaucracy to regulate a business we don’t even have would be helpful, or aligned with our overall goal to simplify and streamline our business licensing.

I was also influenced here by a presentation at the Metro Vancouver Mayors Committee last week from the Chief Constable of the Delta Police Department (see meeting agenda and minutes here) on this very topic. It was very clear in his presentation – and I took the time to confirm this with him during our Q&A – that local government Bylaws are not a useful tool in addressing this issue. Instead, he emphasized in no uncertain terms that we are in a place where we need a change to provincial regulation, and was asking the Metro mayors to do that advocacy work. He indicated a patchwork of local bylaws can’t address the drivers of this crime, because they are impossible for police to administer, and would only catch people trying to sell a converter into legitimate recycling businesses, which is not the situation we are facing in BC. The vast majority of converters are stripped for precious metals and/or put into containers for overseas transport. This is an organized crime operation, not a petty crime operation, and petty crime approaches do not work.

So, although I fully recognize that catalytic converter theft is a real problem and cost in our region, and hear from people in the community concerned about it, I could not support this motion because it doesn’t meaningfully address the problem. That’s not me talking; that is the advice from regional law enforcement, the experts on the matter.

The majority of Council voted to not support the motion.

Enhancing Livability in New Westminster
Councillor Nakagawa

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council directs staff to report back on opportunities to bring a program similar to the Chinatown Stewards model to New Westminster.

The Chinatown Stewards are a model of community involvement in Vancouver where local residents with employment barriers are trained and employed to do a bunch of different things to make the urban space more friendly and attractive. This is similar to the I’s on the Street program we run in New West, but with an expended suite of services, which means more services for the commercial area and more diverse training for the staff.

This is a request for a report back to Council on opportunities (and, presumably, challenges), not a commitment to the model, so I was happy to support. The majority of Council voted to support this.

The Right Person, the Right Time, the Right Place Report
Councillor Campbell

BE IT RESOLVED That Staff provide a report back to Council on opportunities to action the local government recommendations presented in the Century House Association report The Right Person, the Right Time, the Right Place; and That City Staff work with Century House Association, Senior Services Society and other New Westminster senior support agencies to develop a senior government advocacy strategy to support the additional recommendations in the report.

Council had a presentation a few weeks ago from representatives from a group at Century House to speak to the report named here, which resulted from a webinar event at Century House supported by the United Way that discussed the state of long-term care in BC, the disaster that was long term care during COVID, and the work governments need to do to assure seniors in our community have affordable, safe, and dignified options for aging in our community.

The report came with recommendations for the Federal Government, Provincial Government, Health Authorities and Local Governments, developed by Gerontology experts from SFU, the Seniors’ Advocate for British Columbia, and other subject matter experts. There are four specific recommendations for local government, which this motion requests staff review for practicality. It also suggests senior government advocacy on the other recommendations, which is (much like the first motion we discussed this day) a pretty normal thing for motions from Council to ask for.

The majority of council voted to support the motion.

New Westminster: a 15-minute City
Councillors Henderson and Nakagawa

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster endorse the concept of becoming a 15-minute city and create a plan to implement the plan by 2030.

This was a motion brought to Councillors (and Council) by the community, and the community in question call themselves the Monkey Rebel Group – youth activists looking to (selfishly!) support building a better City for the future. We had a delegation of from the group present to Council, and have seen a bit of correspondence for and against since the motion was presented as a notice two weeks ago. In my 8+ years of this work, I cannot recall a motion where the vocal opposition was so detached from the actual thing being asked for in the motion, but that’s the post-information environment we are in.

The idea that we should be planning and building our cities so most of your daily needs can be met in a short walk or cycle is not a new one. Indeed, this was the model for almost all city building for thousands of years prior to Motordom. Preparing to discuss this motion took me down a deep rabbit hole of using an on-line tool to look at 15 minute walk-sheds and cycle-sheds in New Westminster. And fortunately, there are provincial support programs that speak directly to the first phase of work we would need to do here, which is essentially a mapping exercise to see where we fall short. Yes, we all know some areas we fall short (the High School is more than 15 minutes bike ride from Lower Sapperton and Queensborough), but there are also details beyond the obvious, and perhaps our planning can better address these. Let’s have the talk.

The majority of Council supported this motion.

Implementation of a temporary Low-Income Energy Assistance Program in 2023
Councillor Fontaine

BE IT RESOLVED that effective June 1st, 2023 the New West Electrical Utility be directed to provide a one-time reimbursement of up to $500 to low income residents to install a new or replace an older non-functioning air conditioning unit; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that New West Electrical Utility establish a low-income energy assistance program effective June 1st to provide up to $500 in credits for eligible residents who are facing markedly higher energy bills due to increased consumption during the summer season (June through September); and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the definition of low-income mirror that of the Province of BC which is defined as individuals with an income of $39,115 or less, and families with a household income of $50,170 or less in 2022; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that up to $500,000 be sourced from the Climate Action Reserve Fund to cover the cost of this temporary program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that on urgent basis the CAO be authorized, in consultation with the Mayor, to establish the streamlined program eligibility and temporarily reallocate the necessary internal resources to support the operations of this program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Mayor write a letter to the Premier of BC requesting the 14 recommendations contained in a June 7, 2022 BC Coroner’s Office report titled “Extreme Heat and Human Mortality: A Review of Heat-Related Deaths in B.C. in Summer 2021” be fully implemented in an expedited manner

On the face of it, support for air conditioners for low-income folks, and evaluating our opportunities to have means-tested reductions in utility rates for very low income households are things I can support. Unfortunately, the language in this motion make it seem both over prescriptive and underdeveloped.

As an example, using the $50,170 household income threshold to determine eligibility would make (based on 2021 Census data) more than 9,600 households eligible, meaning (even if we agreed that this is an appropriate use of Climate Action Reserve funds), the proposed $500,000 would represent a small proportion of the overall cost. This looks to be a plan sketched on a napkin without consultation with the Electrical Utility Commission or anyone in finance, and one that commits us to immediate spending of multiple millions of dollars.

This also (as was pointed out by other Councilors and the Renter Union) not addressing the core issue with rights for the most vulnerable in our community, many of whom are actually banned from installing an air conditioner. We need an approach here that is set in the realistic experience of people who are living in lower-cost rental or living in isolation (the identified factors in Heat Dome deaths).

The City and the Province are taking a number of proactive measures to prepare for the next Heat Dome and assure we don’t have the same disastrous impact on people’s health. We are working through Emergency Management, in partnership with the Health Authority, and are implementing many of the measures outlined in the Coroner’s Report following the Heat Dome event. These measures have been reported on openly by the City (see here, only a few meetings ago) and the Province. We are also exploring alternatives as direct action and senior government advocacy towards regulated cooling in buildings. There is a lot going on in this space right now, it is unfortunate that this motion was characterized as the one thing the City could and should do to make people safer, as that is simply not true.

Reflecting that most in Council think there is a nugget of a good idea in here, the majority of Council moved to refer this idea to the Electrical Utility Commission so they can address many of the questions raised: What would be the cost? How feasible is this? What is a practical timeline of taking this approach? Does the Utility even collect the data to go this direction? So more to talk about.

And that was the end of the excitement section of the evening’s meeting. Except for that motion to extend past 10:30, which council unanimously supported this time around.

Council – June 12, 2023 (part1)

We had a busy Council day on Monday, and a lot of great work got done, some of it even before it got too late. There was enough there that I will probably do two posts, the first half covering the part of the Agenda that is city business, and I’ll get to the Motions from Council in a follow up after I have time to write some more extended thoughts ab0ut them. First the scheduled business of the night that started with a couple of Reports:

Massey Theatre Renovation – Scope, Schedule and Budget
When the City agreed back in 2015 to take over the Massey Theatre from the School District and protect it from demolition, there was some recognition that there would be costs to bringing the old building up to acceptable standards for long-term use. This means addressing long-neglected maintenance (that’s not a criticism, the School District was not planning to keep the building so why spend money maintaining what you are about to tear down?) and necessary upgrades to the function of the building and seismic safety. By 2019, City staff had estimated the cost of needed repair at about $22M – this for a “Minimum Viable Option” – not a bunch of nice-to-haves, but basic required work to keep the building safe and operational for another 25 years.

That number has bounced around a bit over subsequent budgets, both as scope changes happen, and as the City finally took over the building in late 2021, and were able to start doing detailed analyses of the building systems (it didn’t help that the School District reneged on their promise to contribute $1.2M to the cost of demolition of the old gym side of the complex). The current capital budget (approved this spring) has $14.1M earmarked for Massey upgrades. Staff are now asking us to increase this amount to $20.1M, both to address the critical building systems that we already agreed were needed, but also to do more intensive roof and envelope work, and to make important accessibility upgrades so the full building will be (for the first time!) accessible to people with mobility barriers.

There are two strategies to fund this increase. We can take it from the $15.6M in Building Communities Fund money we received from the Province this year. Alternately we could defer some of the other items in our 5-year Capital budget and staff have provided us a list of things that might be deferred to make up all of part of the $6 Million (road works, street lights, etc.). We could then apply the BCF money to those things we deferred, I suppose, so this is all a bit academic, but the simplest and most predictable path is for us to use the BCF funds directly. Most importantly, we are making the commitment now so that Massey Theatre Society knows the timelines and path for our work to get done so they can proactively plan around the unfortunate but necessary disruptions to their programming while the work gets done.

This is a really good news story for Arts in the community.

2023 Capital and Operating Quarterly Performance Report
This is our new practice of Quarterly budget updates. The proposal is to add $6M to our Capital budget to reflect the Massey Theatre budget change. There are a few other adjustments of the Capital Budget, but the over-budget parts are offset by savings on other projects. On the operating side, we are a bit ahead of budget on revenues and a bit down on expenditures, putting us about $2M “in the black” above of our projected balance at this point in the budget year, but it is early in the year, and let’s not get too excited just yet!

We then moved the following items On Consent:

327 Louellen Street: Sale of Abutting City Property
Some home lots in New West have back alleys, some don’t. In some places the City owns portions of what could be an alley right-of-way, but either the City property is not contiguous to provide an alley, or the City has decided that an alley is not needed for any technical reason (sewer, water, waste management, etc). Quite often, residents have knowingly or unknowingly encroached on to adjacent City-owned land. We also have areas where City infrastructure (like sewer lines) are under private property with a “statutory right of way”, meaning the City has rights to have the infrastructure there and rights to do maintenance work on it if needed, though it isn’t actually on our land.

In this case, the property owner has encroached on City land that is not connected to any other City land, and has no purpose for the City to own, as long as we can secure a Statutory Right-of-Way for the sewer line under it. So the owner has asked the City to sell it to them at a fairly agreed-upon price, which this report asks Council for the authority to do. Which we gave.

Advisory Committee Engagement Results
We are looking to shake up advisory Committees to a new and innovative model that more closely achieves true demographic representation of the community. We took this idea out to existing Advisory Committee volunteers to gauge interest, get feedback, and point out issues. This report is them reporting back to us on these concerns or ideas for improvement.

New Westminster Pesticide Use Amendment Bylaw No. 8403, 2023
The City has a Bylaw regulating cosmetic pesticide use – a bylaw that was written in 2008. There has been significant change in Provincial regulations on pesticides since then, most recently with amendments to the Integrated Pest Management Regulation adopted on February 2023. These minor changes to our Bylaw align it with the most updated Provincial regulations.

Rezoning Application for Infill Townhouse: 1032 and 1036 St. Andrews Street – Comprehensive Report
The owner of these properties in the Brow of the Hill wants to replace the two single family homes with 12 townhouses, which is consistent with the OCP, but needs a rezoning. There was a public meeting with the neighborhood about the project, a City-led consultation through Be Heard New West, and the Design Panel made some suggestions which the builder has addressed.

This is a detailed report that requests staff to put together the empowering bylaws for consideration next meeting, and for Council to waive the Public Hearing because the project is consistent with the OCP and City policy, and public consultation has been satisfactory. Council unanimously agreed.

Rezoning, Development Variance Permit and Development Permit: 114 and 118 Sprice Street – Comprehensive Report
The owners of these lots in Queensborough where there are currently two single family homes on large lots want to build ten (10!) compact single family homes on small lots in the same space. These are similar to (but more compact than) the newer units across the street, but similar in overall size and layout as found across the very-popular-for-young-families Port Royal neighborhood.

This is the comprehensive report that would inform Bylaw development for Council’s consideration. There was a public consultation and departmental and committee review within the City. Council is being asked to waive Public Hearing as public consultation has been completed and concerns addressed to Council satisfaction, and the project is consistent with the OCP and overall City strategies.

Subdivision and Development Control Amendment Bylaw No. 8369, 2023
This Bylaw regulates subdivisions in the City and how the City services new developments. The Bylaw is continually updated to reflect changes in practice and standards as the City evolves and provincial regulations evolve. This update introduces updated standards for roadworks related to new development, from the shape of curb radii to curb ramp design and sidewalk widths. These updates are bit technical, based on provincial standards and best practices around the region, and Council needs to approve Bylaw changes to apply them, which we are doing now.

We then had the following items Removed from Consent for discussion:

2023 Council Remuneration
Our Remuneration Bylaw ties Council pay to the CPI and external review every few years. Last year’s CPI went up 6.8%, meaning the policy directs that our salary increase by 6.8%. That means $9,400 more for the Mayor and $3,600 for each Councilor. This is a report for information, not for approval, because the policy is meant to operate separately from Council, the very purpose of the policy was to get the politics out of this very sticky area, while maintaining transparency. Yet two people on Council voted to not receive the report, which is a bit baffling to me.

22nd Street Station Area Bold Vision Relaunch
The idea of a City-led Master Planning process for the 22nd Street Station area was part of the OCP approved in 2017. There was early development of the plan in 2019 that was set aside as Policy Planning staff were all-hands-on-deck with COVID response. With recent Policy Planning staff shortages and election timing, this was put back on the staff work plan for 2023, as was approved in our 2023 Budget discussions.

Changes to the Official Community Plan require consultation with First Nations, by regulation. This has traditionally meant First Nations are included with other “stakeholders” and are asked to opine on plans at different phases of development, which can make “engagement” feel very much like a box-checking exercise. Some nations have resources and interest in engaging, some don’t.

The scale and scope of the 22nd Street Station project, and the City’s renewed commitment to reconciliation, suggests this is an opportunity for us to do better. This report asks Council to approve such a better approach. As detailed in the report, this would be a master planning process that not only engages the community, it also focuses on Collaboration with First Nations and building climate resilience in to the plan. Council agreed on this path.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 660 Quayside Drive (Bosa Development)
Delivering crane sections to the Bosa development on the waterfront needs to happen when its impact on traffic is reduced, and subject to specific wind conditions, which means some construction work outside of regulated hours, for which the builder is requesting an exemption from Council.

Housing Need Report Update: 2021 & 2022
Like all municipalities in BC, New West is required to do a Housing Needs Assessment, and update it every 5 years. As housing is an identified priority of this Council, we update more often than that to annually track our progress towards meeting targets set out in the Regional Plan and addressing the need based on regional trends.

Good news is that we are meeting (and exceeding) our targets for market ownership housing and market rental housing. These is a bit of a complication here in measuring approvals as opposed to completions, as it doesn’t matter if the local government approves housing that never gets built, but much of that is out of our control, and should be leading us to a discussion about the Province giving us power to issue conditional permits we can withdraw if they do not result in building in a timely manner. But that’s another rabbit hole…

The bad news is we are not building enough affordable and supportive housing to meet demand, and that demand is going up with housing prices and rent. We have met our assessed need this year for shelter beds (though those are not permanent shelter beds, which will become a problem soon), but the supportive housing need is going up, and we need to adjust our targets to reflect that.

There are other details here on market ownership (new market ownership approvals are 78% apartments, 20% “missing middle”, and only 2% single detached) and Rental (75% purpose built and secured rental, 17% secondary suites, and 8% laneway/carriage house) worth digging into if you are a housing policy geek, and I know a few of them read this blog.

But this isn’t just an academic exercise. We have limited resources in the City to manage new approvals, and prioritizing by the most pressing needs is important. If it takes longer to get a market condo development through approvals because we are putting our resources into faster approval of supportive housing, that reflects a setting of staff priorities that had better be backed by an assessment like this. This also helps us make the case when we are talking to senior governments about the need for funding to support affordable and supportive housing in our community – the market is providing the market solution, but if we are ever going to meet our targets for non-market housing, the feds and province have to open up the purse strings and get projects in the city funded – including ones the City has already approved (I’m looking at you, 68 sixth Street).

Parks and Recreation 2024 Fees and Charges Bylaw Process
Setting Parks and Recreation fees is a complicated process. Really complicated. It requires balancing out factors such as recovering increasing cost of delivering the services, the amount the City is willing to subsidize services (they are almost all subsidized to some extent), discount formulas for minor sports and clubs, fairness to assure accessibility to all residents, using pricing signals to manage availability of resources vs. underutilized resources, and comparison to providers in adjacent municipalities and the private market. All this needs to be wrapped up in a Bylaw every year.

Our practice recently has been to fiddle with the current formula every year, adding between 0-5% to cost every year with a few bigger changes based on inflation, differential costs, and regional comparators. One of the results of this is that New West is actually quite a bit less expensive in many areas than regional comparators – meaning we subsidize our operations more than other cities. Especially as we bring in a brand spanking new pool and recreation centre, this may result in a major capacity problem as people for neighboring communities come to New West.

Staff are proposing a major streamlining of our fees system to coincide with the next Bylaw update, which must also be set up to accommodate the opening of təməsew̓txʷ. This is work that will be completed over the summer.

Potential process for updating the City’s corporate logo
The Branding of the City was adopted in 2008, and it replaced the old logo (which was based on our coat of Arms) that you still see around in a few places. It is time for an update, and this report provides an outline of a process to do that.

The City will engage a graphic design firm and a working group from the community as a first step before reaching out to the broader community, in a similar model that was used by the School District in recent school naming exercises. The entire process will take about a year, and cost something like $40,000.

Assuming we come to a satisfactory design, the City would then gradually begin introducing the new logo as older materials and equipment are phased out. The plan would not be to re-paint city vehicles or throw away current envelopes, but to use up the old resources and adopt the new logo as we bring in new resources, much like we did in 2008 (which is why you still see the old coat-of-arms logo about).

Rezoning and Development Permit (145 to 209 East Columbia Street) – Preliminary Report
The owner of several properties in Sapperton wants to build a 6-storey building with retail at grade, office on the second, and 92 secured market rental units above. This would be not-dissimilar in scale and use to the recently completed building further north on Columbia across form Knox Church. This is a preliminary report, and there will be departmental review and public consultation. If you have opinions, let us know.

Rezoning Application for Duplex: 926 First St – Preliminary Report
The owner of this house in Glenbrooke North would like to build a duplex, which is consistent with the OCP, but needs a rezoning. There are no variances from the interim infill density policy informing these types of applications. This is a preliminary report, and there will be departmental review and public consultation. If you have opinions, let us know.

We then read some Bylaws including the following Bylaw for Adoption:

Street and Traffic Miscellaneous Amendments Bylaw No. 8397, 2023
This Bylaw that updates the Street and Traffic Bylaw to change some definitions and clauses related to Cycle Network, Parking Regulations, Street Occupancy Permits and Use of Streets was adopted by Council.

And that is probably enough for now. The spicier Reports from Council will be in a follow-up blog post whenever I get time to write it.

This Happened (23.6)

The last two weekends have been action packed. Summer events season is upon us, and I can’t possibly blog all of the events happening in town, but here are some highlights from the last couple of weeks.

With the end of May comes the opening of the 2023 Salmonbellies season, with a convincing win by the home team, S&O beer for sale, and Chief Larabee performing the ceremonial faceoff, it was a fun night overall! (no, I wasn’t wearing a jersey, I wore that shirt to celebrate the colour of the legendary QPA wood floor)
The Hyack Parade was as well attended as I’ve seen in a decade, and more than 100 entries. Here I was chatting with one of the Filipino cultural groups in the parade, as we all staged for the walk ahead.
There was a great street fest following the Hyack Parade, with booths, music, food trucks, and the best imaginable weather.
There was a great street fest following the Hyack Parade, with booths, music, food trucks, and the best imaginable weather.
There are several other events that come along with the Hyack Parade, including the planting of a rose in front of City Hall by the Royal Rosarians of Portland to honour (or “honor” as they spell it) the President of Hyack.

The same day as the Hyack Parade and Festival, the May Day celebrations took place in Queens Park, featuring 2023 May Queen Alessia Preovolos (right).

The same weekend, the Greater Vancouver edition of the Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History started at Ryall Park. There was a great turnout, and inspirational words from people impacted by CF. You can learn more and help them with their fundraising goals here.
This weekend included the annual Newcomers Festival and Information Fair, organized at the Welcome Centre at NWSS, where Chinu Das (a force behind getting the Welcome Centre built) was the Master of Ceremonies.
The Newcomers Fair, I got to meet groups of youth (and their parents) recently arrived from Ukraine, Eritrea, Columbia, and other places. It was great to hear what they liked about New West/Canada and what they missed from home.
I was also able to drop by the Opening of the new show at the New Media Gallery- entitled “Dust”. The Anvil had youth performing in the theatre, a wedding on the main floor, and other events on a busy Saturday.
Arts New West was also holding their first Craft Market of the season at the boardwalk at the River Market.
The Quayside Boardwalk was also the location of the “5th annual” (after a bit of a Covid pause) River Walk for Hospice. It started brilliantly on a sunny Sunday morning with the Rainbow Chorus.

I love Summer time. Wait – its not summer yet?