Ask Pat: Renovation advice?

Darth asks—

If I wanted to add a second floor to my house where there is currently only an attic, what bylaws/restrictions/regulations/etc do I need to know about? Where is that information available?

This is one of those questions you probably shouldn’t ask a City Councillor, as there are better people to ask. Our work is to provide executive oversight of the City as a Corporation, and to set governance policy for the City as a Municipality. We approve changes to the Zoning Bylaw and make sure there is enough money to hire building inspectors, but the operational side of these things are managed by our professional staff. Though we interact with that every day, we are not (by sheer volume of the diverse things a City does) technical experts in every aspect of the City’s operations. But with that caveat, I’ll take a dive, because you asked.

The first thing you want to do is look up whatever info the City has on your house, and you might be surprised how much of it is publicly available on the City’s website. For example, you can go to the Property Information Inquiry page here:…enter your address and get a quick report on your house. It looks a little like this (note some redacted stuff because for some reason, it is de rigueur for folks to redact publicly available information like this to make it look like we are protecting our privacy):

From this you can learn some things, like your zoning designation (in this case, RS-1), your lot size (489 sq m), your floor space (220 sq m) and subsequently, your FSR (0.45). You can also determine whether that basement suite you have is legally registered (in this case it is, but it is not listed as a secondary living unit, meaning it is not being rented out), if that old shed out back is considered a “building” by the City (in this case, there is no secondary building on the site), or if there is specific Heritage Protection on your house (in this case, no).

You can also go to the City’s on-line Interactive Map called CityViews to do much the same by selecting “Run a report” on any property you select:

And you get some more info about the development of the property, including old building or development permits that may apply:

This is all interesting stuff, but how do you apply it? The thing for you to zoom into is your zoning entitlement. In other words, what does the zoning for your property say you are allowed to build as it currently stands, and how does that compare to what you have now? It really doesn’t matter if you are planning to renovate your existing house or build a new one, if you keep your plans within the zoning entitlement, your life is much easier.

In the case of the above house, the zoning is RS-1. To know what that means, you look at the zoning Bylaw which is available here. The RS-1 zoning Bylaw describes what you can do and build, but it is 7 pages long, and a bit complicated to read for someone new to this. For example, it is called Single Detached Residential, but you are typically allowed to have up to three living units on an RS-1 zoned property – A main house with a legal secondary suite and a laneway/carriage house – as long as they meet various size and design criteria.

One big criteria is FSR – the ratio of living space over the size of your lot. In the example above, the house has 220 sq m of living space on a 489 sq m lot, so 220/489 = FSR 0.45.  In RS-1 zones you are allowed an FSR of 0.5. Except you can increase this if you build a more energy efficient building (up to 0.55 for Passive House standard). This is assuming you can do so and meet the other criteria in zoning, like a maximum height (25 feet), minimum yard setbacks (distances between the building and the lot lines) and not exceed the maximum site coverage (35%). These numbers are all different for every zoning type, not all SFD in New West are RS-1.

So if you want to convert an attic to a living space, and if this attic space is not currently counted in your living floor space, turning it into living space may increase your FSR. If you already have 0.5 FSR, this may not be within your zoning entitlement. That is not to say you cannot do it – variances are requested and granted all of the time, and they are based on an assessment of the “reasonableness” of the variance. Yep, that sounds subjective, but it does relate to a bunch of policy the City already has in place, and you really need to sit down with a planner at the front desk at City Hall to find out what your options are. You can even set up an appointment to ask a planner this stuff. Don’t tell them I sent you, and as a tip, don’t say “Councillor Johnstone told me I can…”, because that is not something they want to hear. They don’t work for me, they work for the City, and are guided by policy and bylaws created by Council, not the whims of single council members.

All I’ve talked about up to here is zoning. There is also a bunch of Building Code stuff you may have to deal with, from assuring safe fire egress to assuring your site is prepped for sewer separation if your renovation exceeds a certain value. I can’t even get into that, except to say that the BC Building Code is enforced by the City, but not written by it. If it looks like staff are putting barriers in place to you getting the job done, they are more likely just pointing out the barriers that exist so you don’t trip over them. Neither you, your mortgage holder, your insurance company, or your neighbours wants you to be building something outside of building code.

If I was to give quick advice, it would be to hire a local Architect or Designer to guide you through this if the first chat with City Staff makes it look like your plan is viable. And architect’s job is to translate what you want (more square footage? a third bedroom? a brighter space?) into a set of plans that are compliant with the building code and the City’s zoning bylaws, or to help guide you through the process of seeking variances from either of those if needed or appropriate. They don’t just draw pretty pictures of buildings, they design functional and legally-conforming spaces, work with engineers and contractors to make sure they get built right, and act as liaison to the City to help interpret a pretty complicated set of zoning and building codes. They are worth the money for a project like this, and their advice is way more useful than that of a random City Councilor and his blog.

Council – June 13, 2022

The Council meeting on June 13th had something a little rare these days – a full Council chamber! We had some folks there to speak to resolutions, a few other delegations, and others just there to watch the excitement of representative democracy in Local Government, and it was nice to see people out and engaged. Our Agenda started with a couple of Reports to Council:

Development Variance Permit No. DVP00699 for 823-841 Sixth Street
As I mentioned last meeting, The Province of BC (whom we afford is not going to fold up shop in the next couple of years) is indemnifying this Affordable Housing project in Uptown so they don’t have to provide financial security for offsite works, saving everyone money and hassle, but requiring a DVP because it changes the language of the existing Development Permit. We received no correspondence after giving notice of the variance, and Council moved to grant the DVP.

Library Board Letter
We had a presentation from the Library Board about mice, stick insects, and libraries, requesting we take a resolution on increased Library funding to UBCM and back it up with correspondence to the Provincial Government. We will not be the only city calling on the Province to do this, and I could get into a long diatribe about the UBCM resolution process and how this is a repeated resolution that seems to go unheard, but maybe I’ll find a less busy time to push those particular buttons. I support the Call, as did Council.


We then moved the following items On Consent:

Bylaw Text Amendment for Secured Market Rental Housing: 616-640 Sixth Street – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
There are 4 things going on here, rescinding two Housing Agreements, amending a zoning, and waiving a Public Hearing, but the short version is that the owner of this property in Uptown is requesting a change in their development plan. As approved, it was a 29 storey building with 237 secured rental units. The request before us now is to boost the number of units to 338, and accommodate the extra density by adding a storey to the podium (without an overall increase in building height) and a 9% increase in tower floorplate. This will also allow a small number of developer-funded below-market rental apartments, and a below-market commercial space.

This being one of the few applications for new housing in the Uptown we have seen in my 8 years on Council (the other being the 6-storey building on Bent Court completed in 2020), and it being so well aligned with OCP goals, staff are recommending we waive the Public Hearing. This building has been through a Public Hearing regarding the DVP issued in 2020 when it went 100% rental, Design Panel supported the change, and the public engagement on this change has resulted in mostly neutral feedback and several supportive pieces of correspondence. My main interest right now is in getting the housing built. Council agreed to waive.

2021 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report
We get an annual reporting to Council (and the public) on our water sampling program to assure our potable water system is safe, high quality, ad within senior government health standards. We have 15 sampling stations in the City from which 1,215 individual samples were collected and analyzed for bacteria, but also for residual chlorine, turbidity, metals, and other parameters. Despite a couple of recent turbidity events related to Metro line breaks, the water is safe and meets all health standards.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement, Heritage Designation, Road Closure and Land Sale: 108 – 118 Royal Avenue and 74 – 82 First Street – Bylaws for Consideration of Readings
This is an interesting project to build 189 market strata units on Royal Ave, just east of Qayqayt School. It would preserve an historic house on the site, and would provide new active transportation links around the building where currently there are some sub-optimal pedestrian and bike routes. These connections would include us selling some land to the developer where there is currently a seldom-used laneway, and in exchange their dedication of some surrounding land for refreshed Active Transportation routes.

The request here is to support two readings and sending the project to Public Hearing, so I will hold comments on the overall merits of the project until then. However, this is an important location in regards to active transportation between downtown and uptown, and between the surrounding neighbourhood and Qayqayt, so the efforts to make the routes around the proposed housing accessible and safe, and as comfortable as possible, is a huge potential win for the City.

Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8316, 2022 for 823 – 841 Sixth Street (Affordable Rental Housing) – Bylaw for Three Readings
The City sometimes approve Affordable Housing projects, like this one in Glenbrooke North, and a “Housing Agreement” is the legal agreement between the owner of the property and the City to guarantee it will remain subsidized/affordable housing for the “life of the building”, which in this case is 60 years. The agreement is secured with a Section 219 Covenant, which is a reference to Section 219 of the Land Title Act – securing that this commitment not only legally binds the current owner. But all future owners of the property. As the details of the Housing Agreement have been worked out, and now needs to be read into a Bylaw.

Official Community Plan Amendment Application, Heritage Revitalization Agreement, Heritage Designation Bylaw, and Housing Agreement: 514 Carnarvon Street – Bylaws for Consideration of Readings
This project would see a 30-storey residential tower built downtown adjacent to the Holy Trinity Cathedral. It would mostly be a market strata building, but would also include 14 market rental units. The proponent was not able to secure BC Housing support to include an affordable housing component in the plan. The main amenities offered to the City are a new plaza to connect Church Street (and The Columbia SkyTrain Station) to Carnarvon though the site with a fully accessible (via public elevator) breezeway and some Indigenous-themed and sources Public Art. The significant investment here in the seismic and energy efficiency remediation of the historic Cathedral means there simply isn’t enough money on the table to leverage more community amenity out of this site. Arguably, the provision of 285 homes immediately adjacent to a Skytrain station is in itself an amenity to Transit-Oriented Development.

This is a significant change in land use for the site that will require an OCP amendment, and will go to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my further comments until then. If you have opinions, let us know!

Parks and Recreation 2023 Fees and Charges Bylaw Amendment
Annually we adjust our recreation fees for things like room or ice rentals. We have put off a few increases over the last few years due to COVID, but like everything else inflation is starting to be more noticeable, so fees are being adjusted in line with CPI, on average about 4% across the board. New West still has some of the lowest rental rates in the Lower Mainland, and waives or reduces many fees for youth and not-for-profit organizations.

Q1 2022 Capital Budget Adjustments
The City’s 2022 Capital Budget is $170Million. We are building a *lot* of stuff, from a big new pool and rec centre to a new electrical substation to sewers and water mains throughout the west end, active transportation improvements Uptown and improved greenspaces in Queensborough. In part because of the number of capital items we have going on, and in part because we often have capital projects the stretch beyond a single budget year (we had $56M in carry-over from 2021 as part of that $170M) the Finance Department is now giving us quarterly updates on progress with the plan, and we are going to start doing adjustments on a more frequent basis, as is better budgeting practice. We are also putting more budget room in the contingency for təməsew̓ txʷ and increasing the sewer separation budget, moving our 2022 Capital Budget to $189M.

Rezoning and Housing Agreement: 1321 Cariboo Street – Bylaws for Consideration of Readings
This proposal would see a 5-storey Purpose Built Rental apartment constructed on an abandoned lot on the western edge of the Brow of the Hill. 15 rental units, secured for the life of the building. This project will go to a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Road Closure and Disposition Bylaw and Zoning Bylaw Amendment: Surplus Road Allowances Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node – Bylaws for First and Second Readings
The oft-discussed but slow-to-develop Eastern Node in Queensborough would bring mixed use development, and (finally!) some local-serving commercial buildings, to the edge of the Port Royal neighbourhood. The redevelopment will also re-align the road and drainage of the triangle of land where the development occurs, and this means “closing” some City roads. The roads in this case were never really developed, but were pieces of land being held aside with the intent of putting roads on them. So “closing” means changing the lot designation from road allowance to fee simple, and selling them. The City needs to do a Public Hearing to dispose of surplus roads, if you have opinions, c’mon out and let us know.


The following item was Removed from Consent for discussion:

Council Resolution in Support of the City of New Westminster’s Application under the Age-Friendly Communities Grant Program
The BC Government has a new grant program to support “Age-Friendly Communities”, which sounds weird (we don’t have height-friendly or width-friendly grants) but relates to efforts to support older people aging in place and achieving better health outcomes. As the City already has an “Age Friendly Community Strategy”, this grant is designed to fund some of the efforts described in that, and we are paying for some money. The emphasis here is connecting seniors to make the community more resilient in the face of events like last year’s heat emergency.


We then had a grand total of 32 Readings of Bylaws, not including the following Adoptions of Bylaws:

Heritage Designation Bylaw (328 Second Street) No. 8310, 2022
To designate the 1889 house at 328 Second Street as a protected heritage property.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (122 Eighth Avenue) No. 8325, 2022
To enable construction of a duplex at 122 Eighth Avenue.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (817 St. Andrews Street) No. 8323, 2022
To enable construction of a triplex at 817 St. Andrews Street.


…and we closed with this Motion from Council:

Advocacy for Legislation to Protect Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Health, Councillor Nakagawa

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster calls on the Province of British Columbia, in partnership with Indigenous leadership, to develop and communicate in a timely way the process and timelines through which they will develop new legislation to protect and restore biological diversity and ecosystem health, in a manner consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and with the involvement of local governments, civil society groups, Indigenous and western scientific experts, and the concerned public.

We had a presentation from West Coast Environmental Law during Public Delegations to speak in favour of this resolution, and you should watch the video</>A, because they frame this much better than I can.

A year later

It’s been 11 months since the Heat Dome descended over the Lower Mainland. Despite the seemingly-endless spring we are having, thoughts are turning back to the ugly heat of last year because of the recent release of the Coroner’s report on heat related deaths from 2021.

I wrote some thoughts about the New West experience of the Heat Dome last summer while the information was still raw, and have not stopped talking about it since. At the Lower Mainland LGA and UBCM, to the media, and to a much-esteemed panel of subject matter experts:And we have been talking about it in the City as we review our Emergency Response programs and work with our First Responders to assure we are more prepared next time. I talked on CKNW this week about the Coroner’s report, and about what Municipalities are doing now.

New Westminster started to make changes right after the scale of the event became evident last year. As we learned our existing Heat Plan was effective for the type of heat events we expected and experienced in the past (a few days of 32 degree heat with significant cooling in the evening), we were like everyone else in being unprepared for 42 degree heat and nights staying in the high 20s. So as early as last July we ramped up the scale of our Heat Response to include 24-hour cooling centers including accommodation for pets and toward more proactive communications. We have also looked at Vancouver’s lead in public misting stations and strategies to make more open spaces more accessible refuges for people across the City.

This was only the beginning, though. The City has been completely re-vamping our Emergency Response Centre operations plan so we are more coordinated in the face of a regional challenge like this. Our goal is to be more nimble and more resilient in the event systemic shortcomings in Ambulance or E-Comm response re-occur. We are also looking at a different communications approach, though we still identify some potential barriers to reaching the most impacted – the elderly, the socially isolated, those with disabilities and people with language or cultural barriers.

The Report by the Death Review Panel is itself a good read (despite some shortcomings, discussed below). The actions coming out of it I lump into three themes (because I’m a lumper), and I in turn am thinking about the Municipal role in each of the themes.

Coordinated Response System. There are two pieces here, the setting up of a more functional and robust response program, and the execution of supports when the event occurs. Fortunately, the Province has rolled out (through the UBCM) a Community Emergency Preparedness Fund with $189 Million to help local governments do this prep work. There is also some active work both locally in our EOC review and in the Province to assure funds for immediate response are available and accounted for. 24hour cooling centers need staff, working in shifts, need to supply cots, food, water, pet supports – it is the management of these resources that requires the EOC function. We also need to fund transportation and outreach work, which again requires both staff and physical resources.

Identify and Support Vulnerable Populations: Again, the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund will help local governments in the  “Identify” stage here with specific funding for Heat Risk Mapping, but the lack of disaggregated data on who was impacted in the last event is harming our ability to identify needs next time around. Especially in New West, the experiences of people with precarious immigration status, of recent immigrants, or people with language and cultural barriers was missed in the Coroner’s report. We don’t know what we don’t know, but at least anecdotally this was a challenge in New West. We have some work to do as a local government in mapping out these communities and finding the community connections that support our response.

Prevention and Mitigation: Building Code changes are a long-term solution to this emergent problem, as is planting trees and expanding green spaces to reduce urban heat island effects – this is work we are doing, though it will take a decade or more for the results to emerge. The need to renovate our oldest, lowest cost, and most vulnerable housing stock is a more medium-term response, and the speed of getting that done is mostly dependent on the money made available to make it happen. We need rapid deployment of a massive amount of senior government funds if we want to save lives in the next event. The Coroner’s Report talks about this, the Provincial government in their response talked directly to this, but we will have to wait to see what the action plan is.

One of the big flaws in the Coroner’s Report is in the Mitigation theme, and between my being on CKNW and me hitting publish on this, I have spent a couple of days talking local government climate action at the CLI, so you know where I am going here. This was a 56 page report about 619 people dying as a direct result of the Climate Emergency, and there is no reference to the need to rapidly address the cause of the Climate Emergency. No reference to plans to accelerate our decarbonizing of the economy, our building stock, our transportation systems, or our industrial incentive programs. This is a stunning gap, and a demonstration of how many parts of government still don’t understand Climate Disruption. MOTI, Ministry of Health, the Coroner, they see climate as that other Ministry’s problem. I don’t know what it is going to take to shake this cognitive dissonance off.

In the end, this report is about government response to a tragedy, and the number 619 is used to indicate severity of the problem, But 619 people is an abstraction, it’s a number, just as 33 people in New Westminster is a number. It’s the job of the Coroner to provide the count, but it isn’t their job to tell the stories of the people who died, or of the thousands of people who were traumatized by their loss. I am glad a few news stories are putting faces and names to the victims, to our neighbours and friends, to the humans and members of our community we lost in this shocking mass death event. And I’m hoping that recognition will shock governments at every level to action, perhaps even eat away at that cognitive dissonance.

Council – May 30, 2022

The last Council meeting of the month is often a Public Hearing meeting, and May 30th was no exception. We had a single Public Hearing this month:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (328 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8309, 2022 and Heritage Designation (328 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8310, 2022
The owner of this 1889 house in Queens Park wants to extensively restore and permanently protect the house, subdivide the lot, and build a second infill house on the property. No secondary suites are being permitted meaning two housing units where three would ostensibly be allowed. Application is consistent with OCP, and was approved by the Community Heritage Commission. Relaxations being sought are mostly the lot size (both resultant lots will be smaller than 6,000 sqft), and the “panhandle” shape of the new lot that allows a narrow frontage to a front/back subdivision to allows the heritage house to stay where it is unmoved. The two properties would share a common driveway with an easement securing this.

There was a high response rate to the public consultation, weighed heavily in support. We also received 20 pieces of correspondence, mostly in support. The Public Hearing brought some concerns from neighbours about the density increase being too much, potential tree removal (turns out most will be protected), and some confusion about the easement for a shared driveway, which is not really that uncommon a process. I think, in hearing the arguments for and against, and reading the correspondence, this proposal balances well two differing opinions in the neighbourhood about preserving the heritage houses in the neighbourhood and the need for more housing options. The majority of council voted to support the project.


We also had three projects that went to third reading with a waiving of the need for a Public Hearing because they met the OCP and City policy:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8325, 2022 for 122 Eighth Avenue
This proposal is to build a duplex on a large lot on Eighth Ave in Glenbrook North where an older house current sits. Again, no secondary suites here, so two homes where three may be permitted. We received a couple of pieces of correspondence from neighbours concerned about the loss of a mature faux-cherry tree, but the tree was assessed by the City arborist as near-end-of-life, and replacements will be planted. Council voted later in the meeting to approve Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8324, 2022 for 337 and 339 Keary Street
This proposal would see nine ground oriented and family-friendly row-home style townhomes in Sapperton where there are currently two houses. It generally fits RT zoning, complies with the OCP for that block and design Panel approved it. Again, we received correspondence in favour and opposed. Council voted later in the meeting to give it Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8323, 2022 for 817 St. Andrews Street
This project would replace a pretty run-down 1926 house in the Brow of the hill with a Passive House standard (very high energy efficiency) triplex. The density (FSR 0.785) takes advantage of the bonus the City provides for building to Passive house. This fits well in to the slightly funny spot, nestled between other older SFD and a three-story apartment building with a taller tower right across the street. FSR 0.785 (includes allowance for Passive House). We received some correspondence, ranging support to calling this triplex a “monstrosity”. Nonetheless, Council voted later in the meeting to give it Third Reading.


Flipping over to the Regular Meeting Agenda, we started by moving the following item On Consent:

British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission Reform Submission – May 2022
The Provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission is looking at adding seats to the provincial legislature to keep up with population growth, potentially adding up to 6 new seats province wide. We are sending the commissioners a letter to make sure they are aware that New West is growing fast – much faster than the provincial average – and if we are looking at increased representation, we have a claim on some of that.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation
The ongoing and disruptive sewer rehab project has mostly left Columbia Street downtown, but the project is not done, and more work needs to happen both downtown (work that will be suspended until the fall) and in the more eastern parts of the project towards the Albert Crescent Park. This eastern part is where the current noise exemption is being requested as they may need to do some of this work at night a day or two a week to get the slip-lining done when the water level in the sewers is low enough.

Development Variance Permit for Works & Services Security (823-841Sixth Street Affordable Housing Project) – Notice of Consideration of Issuance
This might be a bit more of the detailed sausage-making of development governance than people want to read, but I’ll try to keep this short. When developers build new buildings, the City makes them do stuff on City land to support the integration of the development with the community – sewer tie-ins, road and sidewalk improvements, street trees, boulevard restoration, etc. To make sure this work gets done, the City asks for security – we ask the developer to give us money or a secured letter of credit for 120% of the estimated value of the work. We give that money back when the work is done, or (potentially) we use the money to do the thing the developer didn’t do if they fail to do it. It’s not that we don’t trust the developer, it’s just that the nature of development finance is that sometimes things go wrong, and if the developer goes broke or folds, we don’t want the taxpayers holding the bag, or wasting money in court trying to recover this money. So we get security.

This Affordable Housing project Uptown is backed by BC Housing (The Province of British Columbia) and they have provided us an Indemnification Agreement instead of security. Essentially, the Province agrees to cover the cost of this work if things go south. We are confident BC won’t go broke, so we don’t need extra security and there is no reason for the non-profit housing provide to tie up that capital, so Council is agreeing to waive the security based on this Agreement. Waiving that security changes the terms of the Development Permit, so we need this variance to get that done.

Downtown Livability Strategy – Update
This is an information report on the ongoing downtown support program. It outlines some of the challenges with making public toilet facilities more available, and some of the successes in improving street cleanliness and in securing senior government support for addressing homelessness, our ongoing on-staffing of more Bylaw officers and our participation in the provincial pilot PACT program.

Regional Growth Strategy Update: Metro 2050 Acceptance
The City is a “member jurisdiction” of Metro Vancouver, and are therefore party to the Regional Growth Strategy that defines the regional planning goals. The once-a-decade update in the RGS is called Metro 2050, as it looks forward to what the region will look like in three decades. This long-look is important, because multi-Billion-dollar infrastructure like sewer treatment plants and water reservoirs and the pipes that connect neighbourhoods to them, take decades to plan and finance. So we need to know about where the buildings are going to be, and how many of them there are going to be. The way the City’s planning intersects with the Regional Growth Strategy is through a “context statement” in our Official Community Plan, stating that our OCP is aligned with the RGS. This Context statement will now be prepared by staff.

We are also sending Metro Van a letter telling them we agree with the RGS, and reminding them that our Council would prefer that “projections” for new housing in a city-by-city basis be re-framed as “targets”, which puts a bit more onus on each member municipality to do their part to address the regional housing crises. Alas, it is going to look like the consensus of member municipalities is to be less accountable in the face of the crises, which is disappointing, but not surprising. I hope this is a conversation in every municipality during the fall elections.

Rezoning and Development Permit for Infill Townhouses: 102 – 128 East Eighth Avenue and 721 Cumberland Street – Preliminary Report
This is a preliminary report to Council to get a check-in before this project moves to committee and public consultation. The project would see 10 single family homes on East Eighth Ave replaced with a 55 townhouse-form homes. It’s an interesting location as it is on a significant slope, so the built form will be pretty unique. The block is designated for this type of building in the Official Community Plan, and the project does not exceed RT zoning for FSR, ground coverage, height, offsets, or parking, but this application will still require a rezoning. As this would likely end up at a Public Hearing, I’ll hold my comments until then.

Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment and Event-Driven Liquor Primary Licence: 735 Eighth Avenue (Massey Theatre) – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The new Arts Hub at Massey Theatre wants to change their liquor license to better suit their operations. This type of Liquor Primary license requires a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then. If you have opinions, let us know!


And the following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Budget 2023: Proposed Framework and Timelines 101
Just as 2022 Property tax bills are being delivered, we are already working on Budget 2023. A major focus of this council term has been to open up the budgeting process and engage the public early in our very open budget deliberations. That means starting the conversation earlier, but it also means running the conversation through an October election, so Staff are making some recommendations about the decisions that need to be made before the election period to give staff enough guidance about their budgets and ability to deliver their services, while also giving staff a chance to onboard the new Council so they can make informed decisions in early 2023 on approval of the final budget. The balance is between doing the work we need to do without unnecessarily tying the hands of the new Council.

The proposal staff put forward is to approve User Fee changes and the 2023 Capital Budget before the election, and defer the Utility Rates and Operation Budget (and therefore, any tax rate changes) until after the election.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 330 East Columbia Street
The company building the new RCH are asking for an exemption from the Construction Noise Bylaw for up to six nights a month to complete the refinishing of concrete floor pours. The concrete pour work will be done within permitted times, but the sometimes need to go past 8pm with those power-trowel things to assure a smooth concrete surface. This means a humming noise that may be heard by neighbours after 8pm.

We received correspondence from the Residents Association, and it appears the construction company has been responsive to the RA on ongoing construction impact concerns, so there were some more restrictions added to this Exemption based on the discussions with the RA.

Staffing Resource Challenges and Implications on Departments’ Service Delivery Work Plans
You no doubt have read about the labour shortage facing the region. I can go on at length about potential causes (the “great resignation”, local cost of living, shift in demographics), but you see the results all around: BC Ferries is cancelling sailings for lack of crews, restaurants are reducing hours, shortages in medical services, delays in construction projects, etc. Cities are not immune to this, and in some ways are on the leading edge, exacerbated by decades-long austerity-driven gaps in hiring and shifts in the labour market where “secure job with a good pension” is not the motivator it once was. This was one of the main side-bar conversations at the recent Lower Mainland Local Government Association conference – “How is your city dealing with the labour shortage?” Turns out the smaller the local government, the more critical the situation right now – we aren’t the worst off, but we are definitely feeling it.

Unlike a construction company or restaurant, a City can’t just reduce operating hours or bid on fewer jobs, but with short staff we need to re-set our priorities and choose what things don’t get done or are delayed because our staff simply don’t have capacity. The HR process in this super-tight market adds to the challenge of back-filling and training up new people, so the solutions are not quick.

So this is more of a for-information report about the issue, to let the public know what is going on, and to let staff know that Council is aware of the challenges staff are facing. There is some work going on in the background to address the shortage (some HR and staffing discussion happens in closed, because of Community Charter Section 90(1)(c)), but it is going to take a bit of time to get over this hump because there is a lot of it going around, and because even with on-boarding new staff, training is real thing in the City, so new folks will need a bit of time to get up to speed. Things you may notice: some lawns in parks are going to be mowed less often (good for the pollinators, I guess), permits for smaller building projects are going to take a bit longer, and some engineering projects will be delayed not for lack of capital funds committed, but for lack of project management staff to coordinate the work.


And on that note, and after reading a few Bylaws, Council adjourned while it was still a little sunny outside, which is a bonus.

Ask Pat: The Market

I got to set up the Ask Pat booth again! After a pandemically-induced 2 year hiatus, I pulled the dusty booth out of the basement, fixed a few nails that had worked their way proud by unknown forces of time, and gave it a bit of a wash down. The best thing about the booth being that it folds right up and straps to a dolly for instant portability, so I put on my questionable hat and wandered down to the New West Farmers Market to set up camp between the music booth and a craft beer stand.

I had many questions, so many that I missed most in my note-taking, but here is the speed-dating version of Ask Pat based on the notes I was able to make. If you want the longer answers, drop by the booth next time it pops up:

Dog Park at Simcoe is noisy: Hey, check out the People Parks and Pups strategy the City just completed, and provide feedback to parks on that!

Pickle Ball Courts aren’t regulation: I had no idea! Interesting to learn about the (subtle to non-players) differences in court dimensions. Good input for planning new multi-sport courts in Hume and the gymnasiums in təməsew̓txʷ.

Permit times are too long for small renos: Yep, I hear you. We are a little short-staffed in planning right now, and because every City in the Lower Mainland is in the same boat, we are all challenged filling those gaps, but we are working on it.

No SPARC parking on Market days: Already talked to the Market Manager and put her in touch with our Transportation folks about this.

My not-for-Profit could use a small grant for meeting space That should be easy, our next Community Grants application window opens next month.

Why is Agnes now one way?: Community was asked if one-way or stripping parking from one side was preferred with width constraint relating to new mobility lanes, and parking preservation was preferred in that stretch. Also, one-way reduces through-traffic bridge queue jumpers during critical school safety times.

What parks can we drink in? Pretty much any park that has a public bathroom in it, full guide here. And yeah, there were no problems with the pilot, so we are going to keep doing this.

Pineapple on Pizza? Why not?

How are we going to build 2,000 units of non-market housing in 10 years? This is the number our Housing Needs Report says we are short of current need. Alas, I also don’t think it is a number we can get built without some order-of-magnitude shift in how senior governments fund housing. As a City, we are approving every unit of affordable housing the City can get funded, have fast-tracked approval on affordable projects with senior gov’t funding, and have a new inclusionary housing policy to bring affordable units to new market projects, but 200 non-market units per year every year is a tall order.

When will 22nd Street Station area get redeveloped? Not soon. The City is getting into a “Master Planning” process to draw a comprehensive vision, and this alone may take two years. If all goes well, then maybe some developers will look at what was scoped out and decide they want to try to make it work. They would then need to buy land and design and build, project-by-project. So I would suppose we are still years away from significant changes.

Why is there no bathroom in Tipperary Park? We looked at this, and when the costs were worked out, it fell off the priority list for park upgrades. That said, public bathrooms are a pressing topic right now, but at upward toward $1Million each for capital cost (maybe half that if we take a modular approach) and likely $200K each in annual operating cost, we need to fit it in the budget priorities. That conversation is ongoing, though.

How can you justify the preservation of Colonial houses in the era of Reconciliation and an ongoing Housing Crisis? Owch. There are three overlapping questions there, but the overlap shows how we need to think deeper about systems in our planning and our response to issues. This was actually a great question, and lead to a great conversation, where I think we both walked away thinking a little differently. Yowza.

And finally, Thank you Leslie (sp?) for asking these two surprising questions:

What are you most proud of in your work on Council? My reflex answer was our housing policies – from preventing Renovictions to the amount of Purpose Built Rental we are getting built. But walking home from the market, I realized I should have said trees. The thousands of trees we are planting today will make this a much better City in the decades ahead, long after my time on Council (or on Earth) is over.

What is your biggest disappointment? The Heat Dome. We still have not, as a community, come to a reckoning with what that event meant, and what it means for our future. We were not ready (as a city, a region, or a province) for that event, and people died. Many more were traumatized, including first responders trying to deal with the failures in response. There is a lot going on locally and provincially to be more ready for a repeat of that event, but it really shook a lot of what we assumed we knew about climate disruption and about community preparedness.

So on that somber note, I want to thank the scores of people who came by and asked questions, and the wonderful Dani Black for the musical accompaniment to my day in the Market!

Ask Pat: Legal advice?

DM asked—

I got a bylaw offence notice on my car today. is it true that if it is just a notice, that I don’t have to pay it? I only HAVE to pay if its a violation ticket? and, if I do not pay it, will it affect my credit, or insurance premiums?

Sorry, Man. I cannot emphasize enough that you should NOT take legal advice from a City Councilor’s blog. But if you got a ticket on your car, my best advice is to pay it or challenge it; both options are available to you. The form prescribed by provincial law starts with “Notice of Bylaw Infraction”, but that isn’t just a warning, it is a ticket notifying you that you got busted, and you need to deal with it.

It is worth while mentioning that there are different types of tickets. I’ll put aside the Motor Vehicle Act ticketing (your typical speeding, distracted driving or failing to yield thing) which is a purview of the Province, and for which the City has very little role. We don’t even get the money for the fines collected, but those are mixed in with Provincial Revenue (some of which is re-directed back to Local Governments, but now I’m already down a rabbit hole.)

Then there is the Bylaw Enforcement Ticketing Regulations that are under Section 264-270 of the Community CharterThis is something that Municipal Bylaw officers can and do enforce through issuing a ticket. The applicable regulation says any peace officer (RCMP, Local Police, Bylaw officers, even building inspectors) can enforce these Bylaws, and the ticket can’t be more than $1,000. If you want to appeal the ticket, you have 14 days to let the City know, and the City refers it to the Provincial Court so you can have your day in court in front of a judge to appeal.

The City also has access to the Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act which limits fines to $500, and doesn’t bother the courts. Instead, this process relies on an independent adjudicator in the event you want to dispute the ticket. If you don’t pay this fine, the City can still issue a certificate to the Provincial Court to recover the money. If you refuse to pay after a Provincial Court Judge orders you to do so, you are getting into bad situation.

So, just to touch back to your first question, here is what Section 262 of the Community Charter says can happen if you don’t pay your fine:

So (*still*not*legal*advice*) I would suggest that ignoring the ticket and hoping it goes away is a really bad idea.

Yes, I’m running.

I really love New Westminster, and am really proud of the work that Council and staff have done in the (almost) 8 years since I was first elected. The last two have been especially challenging, but also the most important. We’ve weathered the worst of the pandemic, and it tested the resiliency of our community, residents and businesses alike. But it also showed us the strength of our community. We made it through together by learning new ways to support each other. Now that we are getting back to the momentum we had pre-pandemic, we need to be guided by the lessons we learned  – the importance of teamwork, the value of public services, and the need for listening and compassion.

I think the City is at a critical time, as is the region, and we need a positive, hopeful, vision for where we go as a community.

As a City, we are working through an aggressive capital plan, replacing aging infrastructure like never before. At the same time, we are leading the region on addressing the housing crises (plural) and are taking bold action on climate. We are supporting the arts and renewing our urban forest. We are opening a new page on reconciliation, and creating new forms of public engagement. I don’t want us to lose that momentum, we can’t afford to stop short or turn back.

With my experience on Council, my knowledge of the City, my commitment to listening and opening up government, and with the support of Council incumbents and so many people in the community, I think I am the right person to lead New Westminster during this time.

So I am seeking the Community First New West nomination for Mayor of New Westminster.

If you read this blog, you already know who I am, what I stand for, and how seriously I take this work. During my 8 years on Council, I put so much time and energy into being an accountable and transparent elected official – every vote, every decision, every challenge we faced on Council, I wrote about here, and spoke about publicly. And I have learned from hearing your feedback, from listening to the residents, business owners, service providers and volunteers of this great community. You never stop learning in this job, and you can never stop listening.

So, things may get a little weird around here in the next few weeks, but I am not going to be using this blog site as a campaign site – campaign comms need a copy editor. There will no doubt be some references to elections and platforms and events and such, but my plan is for this to remain my place for writing about the City and the work of Council, at least until the voters make a decision on October 15th. In the meantime, I will have a campaign website here: PJNewwest.ca (just getting started!) and there will be other social media handles and such, but that kind of work will appear after the nomination meeting later this month. And as always, you can e-mail me or hit the Ask Pat button above or stop me on the street and ask me questions. I’d love to chat.

I encourage you to support and follow the website of Community First New West. There looks to be a great slate of School Board and Council candidates seeking nomination with Community First – people with positive visions for New Westminster and track records of work building this community. But those are their stories to tell, not mine.

Off to the races.

Council – May 9 2022

There was an extra breath of New West normalcy in Council this week, as we had people in plaid jackets in the Chambers for the first time since the Pandemic lock-down started a little more than two years ago. This is because representatives of the Hyack Festival Association were there to talk about the return to the Hyack International Parade and Hyack Festival, May 28. It should be fun!

But it wasn’t all anticipatory celebration, we had business to do, and the first thing on the Agenda was moving the following items On Consent:

Downtown Livability Strategy Update
The Downtown has faced some challenges trough the Pandemic differently than other parts of the community at the same time as it is seeing significant residential growth. Last year, Council asked staff for some short- medium- and long-term tactics to address a suite of concerns raised by residents and the downtown business community. This report is only an update on some of those tactics – what is working and what is not.

Our Engineering “beat team” is working to address general cleanliness and litter, and some of the nuisance related to these. The Hyack Square portable toilet has been a target for vandalism, and this is an important learning point as we work towards a more permanent solution for public bathroom access downtown. The business support programs are going well, and are being well received, though we are all looking forward to the Metro Vancouver sewer project going away. The Downtown BIA, Pride, and Hyack Festival Association are planning a summer of events downtown (supported in part by City’s grant program), which is also a great piece of news.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (328 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8309, 2022 and Heritage Designation (328 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8310, 2022
The owner of this house in Queens Park wants to subdivide the lot and build and infill house, in exchange for restoration and permanent protection of the existing 1889 house. The City is working through new HRA policy guidance for the Queens Park HCA, but this application was in the queue before that policy review began, so this project is not subject to that pause.

A previous proposal for this lot to demolish the heritage house and build a larger home on the lot was “discouraged” by Council back in 2017, the proponent looked at carriage house model, but it was not economically viable. This is a third attempt at re-imagining the site, where the house has some historical significance but is in need of significant restoration.

This project will go to Public Hearing, so I’ll hold further comments until then. If you have opinions, let us know!

Memorandum: Release of Closed Resolution re Utility Commission Reappointments
The City has an Electrical Utility Commission to provide executive oversight of the operation of the Electric Utility. We are updating some appointments to the Commission.

Official Community Plan Amendment, Rezoning, Development Variance Permit, and Development Permit: 1135 Salter Street – Preliminary Report
This project would see 45 townhomes built on a large lot in Queensborough. This is an area in the Official Community Plan currently designated as residential low density (Essentially, single family detached homes, though there could be more than one living unit per home), and the townhouse form and density here (FSR 0.75) do not meet the OCP designation, so this will require an OCP amendment. This is a preliminary report, letting Council know about the application and proposal details that are going out to public consultation, internal committee review, and stakeholder consultation required for OCP amendment.

Period Promise Pilot Initiative
The City piloted this project last year to make menstrual products available in City washroom facilities. At the time, we asked for a report back after some time to see how it is working, as there were some concerns raised regarding excessive cost and potential for vandalism and theft. Short version of the report: no vandalism or theft problems, and the operational cost is well within existing operational budgets. So, success.

Phase One Infill Housing Program: Comprehensive Review Work Plan
When the City adopted its OCP in 2017, there was significant interesting the City opening up for more infill housing options like laneway and carriage houses to bring more “missing middle” options and ground-based rental options for families in the City. Some of the review work related to this got delayed by other priorities in the City (like many other things) in the last two years, but it is good to see the conversation re-started.

There is going to be quite a bit of public outreach and consultation on this, and I look forward to hearing from the community, but one thing I think a lot about is how the market for housing has shifted since we did the bulk of our OCP consultation in 2016. The million-dollar-line (for the “benchmark” single family house) swept east through New Westminster in 2016, and both land prices and construction cost make “missing middle” forms increasingly out of touch for many potential homebuyers. We are getting more applications now for townhouse and rowhouse forms, but laneways and coach houses are still a bit niche, and may only be serving to add value to the lowest density lands in the City, creating a barrier to more attainable densities. So it will be an interesting conversation in the community, and timely with our OCP reaching mid-life.

Rezoning Application for Duplex: 122 Eighth Avenue – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This homeowner in Glenbrook North hopes to build a duplex where there is currently a single family home. The proposal meets the OCP designation for the neighbourhood, is within the permitted density (0.61FSR), height, and site coverage, however as it is duplex with two front doors (and not a house with a basement suite which would be permitted automatically) it requires a rezoning. Due to the consistency with the OCP and other lack of variances, Council agreed to waive the Public Hearing, though we have received a few public comments through the applicant-led consultation, and will continue to do so before the Third Reading. If you have opinions, please let us know.

Rezoning Application for Infill Townhouse: 337 and 339 Keary Street –Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The owners of these properties in Sapperton are proposing to build two buildings totaling 9 townhouse-style family-friendly homes. This proposal meets the OCP designation for the location, but needs a rezoning. It is on a lot between some larger single family lots and some newer narrow-lot SFD houses, with an apartment building behind, and a pretty high walk-score part of Sapperton. Again, due to OCP compliance and density and mass generally consistent with the zoning, Council has agreed to waive the Public Hearing. We can still receive public feedback prior to Third Reading, so if you have opinions, let us know!

Rezoning Application for Triplex: 817 St. Andrews Street – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The owners of this property in the Brow of the Hill is proposing to build a triplex to Passive House standard (the highest energy efficiency rating known to Christendom), bringing three family-friendly ground-oriented homes. This again meets the OCP designation for the location, but needs a rezoning. It is located next to a three-story apartment building and across the street from a high rise, but is a transition area in the neighbourhood. Council agreed to waive the Public Hearing in light of the alignment with the OCP. We can still receive public feedback prior to Third Reading, so if you have opinions, let us know!


The following items were then Removed from Consent for discussion:

Development Cost Charges Bylaw No. 8327, 2022
We provided approval in principle for these changes last meeting, this is the drafted Bylaw to support the changes. Development Cost Charges are one of the ways that municipalities assure that development pays its way – that the cost of new development falls on the developer, not on residents already here (who, at least in theory, had similar costs applied to them when their home was built). DCCs are tightly regulated by the province, are typically charged based on unit count (number of new housing units) or square footage/meterage of new living space, and the money collected is directly applied to pre-approved projects (new sewer lines, new water lines, road improvements, parks improvements). The Bylaw sets the rates and formalizes the projects toward which the DCCs will be applied, giving us the power to collect these DCCs.

Because projects and growth rates change, our DCC Bylaw is periodically updated to reflect new costs. This update significantly increases our DCCs, as the last comprehensive update was more than a decade ago. The projected value of DCCs in the Bylaw is $87.7M for the mainland and $79.4M for Queensborough (who have a separate DCC calculation because of differing sewerage and drainage costs, and differing age of the existing infrastructure). This increase is significant, but New West is still moderate compared to our cohort communities, and a bit below average for commercial and industrial DCCs.

We had a bit of debate on Council about the application of DCCs to Institutional property, you can watch the video if you are intrigued by this debate. In the end, Council voted in a split vote to approve the new DCC rates and application to Institutional properties as recommended by staff.

Hume Park Master Plan: A 20-Year Vision
This is a project that has been delayed a bit as staff resources were re-directed to pandemic support and public consultation processes were re-designed to address health restrictions. We talked a bit about it in Workshop a couple of weeks ago, but this is the final “council approval”.

Hume Park serves multiple functions in Sapperton, and parts of the park clearly need some re-fresh. Many of the physical assets are past their useful service life, and there is a bunch of money in the Capital Budget for renewal (about $3Million in the current 5-year plan), so it is good to have this Master Plan process so we know works being done to update the assets meet bigger goals, instead of being ad-hoc. We heard *a lot* from the community about why and how they value Hume (there are 300 pages of public and stakeholder feedback – plus a detailed environmental assessment and independent transportation study), and I think the plan put together here by staff reflects very well the overall tone of those consultations.

The plan kind of envisions two Hume Parks: Upper Hume will continue (with new investment) to function much as it does, with programmed and active spaces to support organized sport (soccer, rugby, softball, lacrosse, pickleball, tennis) along with an aquatic area, spray park and picnic, playground, and dog run areas. At the same time, there is a desire to re-imagine Lower Hume as more of a passive use and ecological space. You can still picnic and touch nature, but it will connect better to the floodplain of the Brunette River, with restored forests of the bluffs, and a balance of accessibility through trails with preservation of high-quality habitat.

I was happy to move endorsement of the plan as it, but also moved that Council refer the plan to Social Inclusion, Engagement and Reconciliation Advisory Committee (SIERAC) to open up a discussion about Indigenous place-making opportunities along the Brunette River portions of the park, so we can better reflect the ecology and the pre-colonial history of the Brunette, and the importance of the floodplain of the River

Temporary Use Permit Extension: 30 Capilano Way (Amusement Arcade)
The operator of a video/pinball arcade in the Braid Industrial Area has been operating under a Temporary Use Permit for two years with no problems, and is asking for a two-year extension. I am happy to support this business operating in a way that works for them and their customers, and think they have demonstrated that this activity is appropriate for their land use. As such, I’d like us to explore how we can better support these types of “accessory uses” in Industrial land, and make things easier for flexible uses like this operator has made work.

This was also an interesting discussion at Council, because I can see both arguments. This might be an interesting part of the video to watch, because the answers are not cut-and dried. Industrial Land is at a premium, region-wide, with Industrial land increasingly encroaching on green spaces at the urban boundary. The Port and the Business Community love to remind us how Industrial land is rapidly running out. So, re-purposing Industrial land is a bad idea – commercial businesses should be encouraged to set up in appropriate commercial areas, not take up limited Industrial space. On the other side of the coin, there are many new business models that mix industrial activity with a commercial storefront. Breweries and distilleries are a good example, but there are crafters of all sorts, and even a unique business like this that does the industrial work of repairing and refurbishing amusement equipment at the same location where they make a customer experience of using the equipment. They don’t fit tightly in either commercial or industrial land use boxes, and zoning is really a process to assure things are in the right box. So we are asking staff to provide us a bit more guidance about how we can better support accessory uses while not threatening the valuable resource that is Industrial Land.


Finally, we read a few bylaws including the following Bylaw for Adoption:

Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8326, 2022
This Bylaw that established the 2022 Mill Rates for property taxes was adopted by Council. Budget 2022 done. Time to start budget 2023.

Ask Pat: E-bike share

neil asks—

Why doesn’t New West have e-bike share when North Van has had it so long? We’re both walkable hilly waterfront small cities in Metro Van, and frankly we’re better than them at urbanism in many other ways, but they totally left us in the dust on this one.

I would preface my response by saying North Van hasn’t had it that long, in the sense of how municipalities work. I’d also suggest, credit where it’s due, North Van City is one of the few municipalities in the region doing “urbanism” as well as (or better than?) New West, but with those points as a preamble, let’s dig into e-bike share.

The North Shore program rolled out about 9 months ago after at least two years of stop-and-start attempts by North Van City to get it going. Something like 200 dockless e-bikes operated by Lime are distributed around the three participating municipalities (West Van, North Van City and North Van District). Although still officially a “pilot” program, the preliminary reports from the District and City have been, as best I can tell, really positive after a few bumps got ironed out. The same company is now starting a roll-out of another “pilot” e-bike and e-scooter share program in Richmond, which looks more like a hybrid-docked system, in that the devices need to be returned to geo-fenced parking areas in the City.

The important part to recognize from both these systems, and to differentiate them from the City of Vancouver’s fully-docked Mobi bike share, is that these are being run by a private company (Lime). Though they need to come to an agreement with the local municipality over regulatory concerns and typically license public spaces to support their operations, there is no municipal money spent operating the system. In that sense, much like EVO car share, Lime decides where the market exists to support their business plan best.

As much as 4 years ago, New West started to look into these programs. I can’t talk too much about the negotiations until we launch a formal procurement process, or an agreement is far enough along that we need to commit some money or change a Bylaw, then it becomes public. Still, no surprise to anyone that New West has been working on attracting an e-bike share program. I don’t have anything to announce about where these negotiations may be, but I hope we have a program soon. Maybe reach out to your favourite e-bike share provider and tell then New West is a great place for them to set up shop. Also, with no harm to the participants, I can share these pictures to show we have been “working” on this file for a while:

To the bigger point you raise, I think we are an ideal jurisdiction for e-bike sharing. With higher population density, massive transit ridership, and significant hills, e-bikes really expand on zero-carbon mobility in the community. With four of our five Skytrain stations arrayed along the bottom of a big hill upon which many people live, and the fifth a short bridge crossing from the Q’boro shopping and residential neighbourhoods, you would think e-bike would be a valuable last-kilometer link to rapid transit. A semi-dockless system with recharging available at the destination stations may be an excellent model for a New West solution.

You will also be happy to know an e-bike share program is also a large part of the City’s Electric Mobility Strategy, because throwing a bunch of bikes out there is a positive idea, but recognizing how we can successfully support their integration into our transportation planning and their safe use in the community is a bigger challenge. We recently went through a phase of Public and Stakeholder Consultation on the draft strategy, and you can read oodles of details here. Yes, this is work that got slowed as we re-directed engineering and planning staff to COVID response (New West is still a small City with limited resources!) but it has been picked back up now, as we recognize the important role e-mobility has in supporting our 7 bold Steps for climate action. A shared e-bike project is a top priority in that plan, one I 100% support, and one I hope for the stars to align on soon.

Council – April 25 2022

Our Council Monday this week included an afternoon workshop where Council and staff dug in to the details of the Retail Strategy and the Hume Park Master Plan. These are two projects that have been moving along slowly in the background, even if delayed somewhat due to COVID as both involved staff time that was re-allocated to pandemic response and public and stakeholder engagement that was challenged by pandemic restrictions. So watch the afternoon videos to see where those are at, and I’ll write more on them when the final products get to Council proper.

Our Agenda started with an issuance of a Development Variance Permit:

DVP-00692 for 508 Eighth Street
The owner of this older rental building in the Brow wants to add a few suites to the ground floor where there is currently underutilized surface parking. They need a variance, because this will mean they have less parking that required by the language of the zoning bylaw. In exchange for this variance, they will secure rental use for 60 years or the live of the building, whichever is longer, through a housing agreement. It’s a modest decrease in parking that they have already found to be more than they practically require, and this will provide a bit more lower-cost secure rental housing without displacing any current residents. We received two pieces of correspondence on this application, and Council moved to approve it.


We then had a Report for discussion:

Biodiversity and Natural Area Strategy
This is a strategy that arose out of our 2018 Environmental Action Plan. New West is a pretty built-out urban area, but we do have some interesting and potentially-productive ecological hubs, as human-impacted as they may be. Some very biologically active parts of the riverfront (especially in Queensborough), the Brunette River corridor, Glenbrook Ravine, and some of our more naturalized park areas. This provides habitat for native plants, species at risk (like the Nooksack Dace) and many bugs, birds, and the occasional bear. These habitat areas are loosely connected by tree canopies along some roads and urban back yards, all of wildly varying habitat quality. This strategy will help coordinate many things the City is doing to improve the ecological value of our greenspaces, from riparian area protection to invasive species removal, tree planting, and pollinator pastures, all in an effort to better connect and protect the value of the natural habitats in the community, so the birds and the bees can more successfully do the things they are noted for doing. 29 actions are outlined here, and some are within current budget, while others may result in future enhancement requests as we enter budget discussions in future years. But for now, Council endorsed the plan, because it is a good one!


We then moved the following items On Consent:

2022 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8326, 2022
Our annual budget work was completed last month, and a budget approved by Council. Now that we know the projected revenue need, and the Province has provided assessment information for the City, we can calculate the tax rates, or “Mill rates”, and approve a Bylaw that formalizes them. The residential Mill Rate (before homeowner grant or deferrals) will be 2.61084, which compares to last year’s rate of 2.82922. Yes, you read that right, the tax rate is going down 7%. Though the amount of property tax we plan to collect is set to up by 4.4%, the average value of residential property went up much more than that (about 13%). As long as housing inflation rises faster than property taxation, the rates will continue to go down. And if you need more of an explanation of this, read here, an oldy but a goody.

Committee Remuneration Policy – Indigenous Members
The City asks for members of the public to take part in advisory committees to Council. We have been looking at ways to make participation more equitable, as having a few hours mid-week to take off from work, school, and family responsibilities is a privilege that is not equitably distributed in the community. So we are seeking ways to remove that barrier, and one is to compensate people for that time, so they can take time off work, pay for childcare, and cover expenses related to participation.

This is the first of two initiatives towards that goal, as we are starting by assuring indigenous people asked to participate in these committees receive an honorarium, in recognition of the distinct relationship between rights and title holders and the municipal government. There are a few complications here that our staff have to work out (including Revenue Canada implications for the recipient), but this report asks Council to support the idea in principle, which Council did.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Extension Request: 330 East Columbia Street Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment Project)
The RCH renewal is the biggest construction project in the City, and a year ago we granted them a small variance in the construction Noise Bylaw so they could start work earlier on Saturdays. There have been a few complaints from the public about construction noise, but none of them appear to be directly related to this earlier-Saturday schedule, and Fraser Health has been responsive to complaints received. So we are going to extend this Exemption for the rest of the construction period to get the hospital up and built as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Task Forces: Update
This is our semi-regular report of the task forces set up to support vulnerable populations during the Pandemic. Most of these programs are into operations now, and there are not a lot of updates, but it is good to get caught up on where the programs are. As we emerge from health restrictions (we are certainly NOT out of the pandemic yet) expect less reporting here, and imminent disbanding of these task forces.

Municipal Security Issuing Resolutions
We are borrowing money as part of our 5-year capital plan. If you remember back when we talked about the Capital budget, I mentioned that part of it is paid out of reserves (our “savings account”), some of it from DCCs, Grants and Contributions (“other people’s money”), and some of it from long term Debt (“a “Mortgage”), and even put those on a pie chart. Well, this is the “Long Term Debt” part.

In order for the City to borrow for more than 5 years, we need permission from the taxpayer. We got permission to borrow up to $93.6M for the aquatic centre back in 2019, to borrow up to $30M for the Queensborough substation in 2018, and for up to $28M for various infrastructure upgrades in 2016. Note, this is borrowing already built into our 5-year financial plan, not new expenditure. What we are doing now is formally passing the resolution in Council required to meet MFA requirements to borrow from them.

Public Art Plan
The City has a budget for Public Art, raised largely from development contributions and things like the digital road signs. However, a robust policy to drive the public art program and assure it aligns with other City policies is an identified gap in our overall art strategy. The work to develop this strategy got started before the Pandemic, then stalled, and staff are now getting it back on their work plan. This lays out the timeline and budget for that planning work.

Rezoning Application for Infill Townhouse: 1032 and 1036 St. Andrews Street – Preliminary Report to Council
This is a preliminary report on a townhouse infill project in the Brow of the Hill. The proposal would see 12 family-friendly townhouses, and meets the OCP vision for the neighbourhood, but would need a rezoning. This is preliminary and will go to Public Consultation, and (possibly) a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments for now.

Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment and Event-Driven Liquor Primary Licence: 735 Eighth Avenue (Massey Theatre) – Preliminary Report
The Massey Theatre is quickly re-visioning its space and its role as a culture and arts hub in the City. The breadth of events they plan to hold is expanding, and this is a good thing. This means the current way of managing liquor licenses for events (apply for a special event license at each event) is getting cumbersome. So they would like to shift to a new format of licensing, where they hold a license all the time, and activate it based on event needs. This is not a building that lends itself well to provincial LCRB liquor license categories, what with different rooms, hallways, and mixed uses, but the MTS have worked out a license regime that works for them.

But liquor licensing is still not easy, even for a City-owned building. We need a zoning text amendment to assure the zoning language meets what the province LCRB wants, and staff are recommending the City bypass the public consultation part of the zoning language amendment, letting the LCRB public consultation process cover that for us, tough we will reach out to the School District, recognizing their proximity and some remaining SD use of the Massey Theatre space.

This is preliminary, but Bylaws will be brought to Council for readings. If you have opinions, let us know!


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2022 Heat Response Plans and Emergency Preparedness Week
After the Heat Dome event last year, the City is taking several measures to better prepare for this type of extreme heat event, and lessen its impact on vulnerable people in the community. One part of this is updating our Heat Emergency response plans. A major focus of this is to increase the outreach to people most likely to be impacted by a heat wave, and those who may be able to support them during the event. The City can (and does) provide cooling centers, but they do no good if people are not aware of them or unable to get to them. The outreach plan this spring will endeavor to bridge this gap during Emergency Preparedness Week (May 1-7) and over the entire month of May.

There is also a good report in there about the City’s Hey Neighbour Collective initiative piloted last year to better connect seniors and vulnerable people living in relatively disconnected apartment buildings, and the learnings that may inform our emergency preparedness in upcoming heat seasons. I encourage folks to tune into Emergency Preparedness Week programming both locally and provincially, and to meet your neighbours.

Development Cost Charge (DCC) Bylaw Major Update Project – Stakeholder Feedback.
Development Cost Charges are fees we charge to developments that increase the density of the City – and by “density”, we mean number of household units or residential square footage per lot. DCCs are tightly regulated by the Local Government Act, and must be set by Bylaw. The funds collected must be directly linked to specific projects required to support that increased density – like building larger water and sewer connections, expanding transportation infrastructure, or expanding or improving parks space. They can’t be spent on other things, like expanding schools (the School District has its own DCC) or operating funds. So projects must be identified based on OCP growth projections, their costs estimated, the proportion of the need related to growth (as opposed to existing homeowners) estimated, and a rate calculated based on the fair proportion of a (say) new sewer line is owed by the builder of a new (say) 3-bedroom townhouse.

Every once in a while the City need to update its DCC Bylaw, as growth patterns change and project costs change. Ideally, we do this every 5 years, but it is a bit of a complicated piece of work, and the last time we made a major amendment to out Bylaw was 2015. The new Bylaw has been developed by staff, and consultation with stakeholders occurred. The development community would like the increase delayed a bit, but there is no compelling case to do so, noting that projects “in stream” are already locked into the former rates, assuming they get their building permit within a year of the Bylaw change. We are also looking at implementing Institutional DCCs for the first time, and the School District is looking for some flexibility here.

There are some good comparison charts in this report to show that New Westminster’s DCC rates are low (on the mainland) to moderate (in Queensborough- where road, sewer, and drainage DCCs are higher because of the increased cost of providing those services there) compared to our cohort communities, even after these increases.

Official Community Plan Amendment and Heritage Revitalization Agreement: 501 Fourth Avenue and 408 Fifth Street (Holy Eucharist Cathedral) – Preliminary Report
The Holy Eucharist Cathedral has been working on a plan to build housing and a mixed use building with expanded childcare space on their lot next to the church Uptown, consolidating lots and purchasing a thin unused City laneway. This will require not just an HRA, but also an OCP Amendment. This is a preliminary report, and Council was asked to raise concerns and whether we were OK sending it to public and external consultation. If you have opinions, drop us a note and let us know! And because of that OCP amendment part, we are required to send the project out to external consultation with potentially impacted stakeholders outside of the community, from First Nations to various Metro Vancouver committees. This report lists who the project is being sent out to for this external review.


Finally, we adopted the following Bylaw:

Housing Agreement (508 Eighth Street) Bylaw No. 8279, 2022
This is the Housing Agreement that secures rental tenure for the Brow of the Hill building mentioned above that is adding 4 new suites. It was adopted by Council.


We also had some public delegations about the Day of Mourning (upcoming at Pier Park on April 28), about Youth Week (coming up next week at the Youth Centre) and the New West Farmers Market (every Thursday afternoon at City Hall/Tipperary Park). It is good to see people getting together in person again, but please exercise caution as the long tail of this COVID thing is still here. Vaccines and masks are still good bets to reduce transmission and severity, and best as you can please recognize other people’s anxiety and risk tolerances may be different than yours; be a good neighbour by giving folks space, and not begrudging them if they ask it. It was community that got us through this, it is community that will pull us back together as we transition out of the pandemic period.