Council – October 18, 2021

Another Council Monday, another mid-day Workshop you might be interested in watching. I’ll talk about those later, as they are likely to be subjects of regional discussions for the next year or so, and we are here to talk about the Council Agenda, which started with those three little words everyone loves to hear: Development Variance Permit:

DVP00695 for 220 Carnarvon Street
A church in the east end of downtown has been working on an addition, and received a permit to do so a couple of years ago, but they have made a few changes to the design to make the addition function better, and these require some variances. Quite a few, actually, related to sideyard and overhangs and sit coverage, but all relatively minor in the context of the project and location. We received no public feedback in or request for comment, and Council voted to approve the DVP.


We then moved the following items On Consent:

Amendments to the Procedure Bylaw 2021: Bylaw for Adoption
We are making several changes to our Procedure Bylaw that manages how our Council meetings and committee meetings work. This was needed because the emergency authorization from the Province that allowed us to meet remotely during COVID has expired, and we need a way to make the preferred hybrid process (some people in person, some people virtually) functional and totally legal. We asked for public feedback, and got none.

Budget 2022: User Fees and Rates Review
Part of our budget work is to set any fee changes for next year. The City has three sources of income: Property taxes, grants or transfers from other governments, and fees. This third group is separated into utility fees (electric, water, and sewer service, which go into separate utility cost-recovery funds) and general fees, which cover everything from what it costs you to close a street for construction staging to what it costs you to take a spin class at the gym. Every year we adjust these fees through a set of bylaws.

The first principle behind all fees is cost recovery – the fee should generally represent what it costs to deliver the service. That is, for some things, a very difficult number to calculate because the cost to deliver some things is a complicated mix of staff time, equipment, supplies, management, etc. The second principle is (for lack of a better term) competitiveness. If we are charging much more or much less than adjacent communities, that may show a problem with how we are delivering a service. The third is principle is around service goals. We want to encourage some things (e.g. youth getting swimming lessons) so our fees are much lower than cost recovery for some things (i.e. swimming fees do not pay for the cost of operating pools). Some fees like parking are set to optimize the use of available parking resources (there is a dark hole of mathematics to fall down here) which in most commercial areas like New Westminster metered street parking, seems to be a price point where there is 15% empty spots most of the time – too cheap, and there is no parking available, too expensive, and people stop using the available resource.

After saying all that, we didn’t raise rates much last year because of COVID and the uncertainty around how people were going to use services. So there is a political aspect as well.

This is a preliminary report around engineering and planning fees. Most engineering and planning fees are going up with inflation (2.5%), parking is going up more, some are staying the same. Then there are details in here about some specific changes we are making. (example: we don’t current charge for a Construction Noise Exemption, but it costs us several hundred dollars to process each one, and most other cities charge, so we are going to start charging).

And good news for Garry: the hourly rates for EV charging stations are going down a little, based on industry trends and usage metrics.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Extension Request: Metro Vancouver Sewer Inspections
It’s that sewer inspection time of year! This work has to happen at night, because that’s when you folks flush less. This is generally not the type of work that creates a lot of complaints, but it nonetheless requires approval by Council (unlike in any other City in the Lower Mainland!)

Heritage Revitalization Agreement: 328 Second Street – Preliminary Report
This property owner in Queens Park wants to build an infill house on their property while restoring and permanently preserving the exiting heritage house, subdividing the largish lot into two smaller lots, with a bit of a complicated driveway arrangement due to the property not having a back alley. This is a preliminary report, and there will need to be some public consultation and review by the Heritage Commission, so I’ll hold any comments until then.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Designation: 515 St. George Street – bylaws for first and second readings
This property owner in Queens Park wants to build a laneway house on their property while permanently preserving the exiting heritage house. Most properties in the City are already zoned to permit a Laneway house of this size and form, but this one isn’t because it has a bit of a complex history, and they need a zoning relaxation for parking, so they are going through the Heritage Restoration Agreement process. This is First and Second reading, and will need to go to Public Hearing. If you have any opinions, be sure to let us know.

Indigenous Land Acknowledgement
The City has had a bit of an ad-hoc approach to land acknowledgement, and as our Reconciliation work progressed, we recognized this as a gap. However, we also recognized that our knowledge of the history of this land has been eroded by colonialism, and that a land acknowledgement that fails to address that uncertainty does less to respect the many peoples who lived on these lands before they were displaced. Even some of the common terms we use to describe Indigenous communities, like tribe, First Nation, or band, can be the result of Indian Act governance models, or other programs that worked to break the connection between Indigenous peoples and their lands. We don’t want to continue to mask the history of the peoples, the families, communities and other groupings that existed here.

As with much in our reconciliation file, this is a work in progress. The proposed land acknowledgement is intentionally incomplete, and meant to evolve as we continue to learn and build relationships. But not having any acknowledgement until the rest of that work was done also felt inconsistent with the principles of reconciliation we have adopted.

Parks and Recreation Access & Inclusion Policy
The City’s Recreation services have a discount program to improve accessibility for people living in lower income households. We are expanding that program slightly to include discounts on the Active 30 Pass.

Recruitment 2021: Social and Cultural Vibrancy Grant Committee Appointment
We have a committee of community volunteers that reviews grant applications for Council, and we make appointments to that committee!

Stage 2 – Part A Sustainable Transportation Zoning Bylaw Amendments for Two Readings – Bylaw 8231, 2021
We are adding red tape to the Zoning Bylaw. In this case, we need to update the requirements for end-of-trip cycling facilities for new buildings. We often think of cycling infrastructure as bike lanes, but people who use bikes recognize that having a safe secure place to store a bicycle when you are not using it is a big barrier to bicycle use. As e-assist bikes, cargo bikes, and other Active Transportation innovations are becoming more common, these challenges become more prevalent. The changes to the zoning bylaw will assure cycle storage spaces are more accessible, accommodate non-conventional bikes, that there is sufficient short-term storage (bike racks) and long term storage (secure bike rooms or cages).

In case you think we are going overboard here, our requirements for secure bikes storage (in a per-unit count for residential, a per-sq-foot count for commercial) will still be much, much less than the requirements for car parking.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Budget 2022: Public Engagement Community Survey Results
We asked the public to provide feedback on the budget process, and we got some. This report shows the feedback we got. People are concerned about housing, infrastructure, and climate. More people are happy with (or accepting of, I guess) modest tax increases that perhaps we would expect. The Survey had almost 600 completed responses, which is fewer than last year, but we are doing this earlier in the process this year, and we are asking that people register on the platform, so there is less chance of people responding multiple times. The number would be pretty representative, except it is a self-selected survey, not a random sample and not a true representation of New Westminster’s population. For example, 78% of respondents were homeowners, where only 20% were renters (where the census tells us the breakdown in the general population is 56% owner, 44% renter). This is all good data and feedback as we continue to work on our 2022 budget. Even if some of the detailed feedback demonstrates we have some work to do to increase public knowledge about how the City’s budgeting works.

Downtown Livability Initiatives
This report outlines some of the work staff is working on to address both resident concerns and recent motions at Council about livability in the downtown area, as COVID and other crises have been compounding the strain on existing social services. There are both short-term (happening right now) tactics and longer-term (will need to be included the 2022 budget deliberations) strategies, each looking at different aspects of overlapping issues.

There is work here addressing pretty core services like waste management and getting better access to toilets, and more complicated work improving outreach, seeking more funding for shelter and other services. Fundamentally, the important part here is that everyone is on board (Fire, Police, Fraser Health, Service Agencies, the City’s Bylaws and ED staff, the downtown business community, etc.) and are working to address the issues with compassion. Everyone recognizes that unhoused members of our community are members of our community who have every right to be present in our community, and to have dignified access to services.

Multifamily and Curbside Residential Glass Collection
We have a contamination problem in our recycling program, which started when we went from sorted recycling at the curbside to comingled recycling back in 2012. However, more recently, the business that accepts our comingled recycleables is getting persistent that we need to reduce that contamination, or face significant fines. The most common contaminant is glass, so we are going to spend a bunch of money to collect separate glass at the curbside and creating a separate glass stream for mutli-family.

I’ve got some complicated reasons for opposing this that may not come though as well in a short blog post. In short, I do not feel Recycle BC is taking enough responsibility for the Extended Producer Responsibility they are legally required to provide and you pay for every time you purchase a packaged product. They should be paying for this. I also do not see the environmental benefit of burning fuel and putting tonnes of GHG into the air to down-cycle a few tonnes of inert glass. I could probably be convinced I am wrong on both points, but have not yet heard anything that will change my mind.

Ultimately, this is a service people are calling for, and it will cost homeowners a small amount every year, so perhaps I’m tilting at windmills, but in the end Council voted to approve staff’s plan to put this program together. Let’s see how it goes.


We adopted the following Bylaws:

Council Procedure Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No. 8276, 2021
As mentioned above, this Bylaw that adapts our Procedures Bylaw was adopted by Council. We will hybrid meet for the foreseeable future.

Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw No. 8280, 2021
This Bylaw that gives permissive property tax exemptions to certain properties in New Westminster was Adopted by Council.


Finally, as has become our practice, we had some Motions form Council:

Enforcement Against Derelict Vehicles, Mayor Cote

Therefore be it resolved that Council direct staff to bring forward for Council’s consideration some potential amendments to the Unsightly Premises Bylaw No. 5969, 1991, with the purpose of creating a ban on the outdoor storage of derelict vehicles.

Funny we don’t have a Bylaw like this, and it seems to make us unique in the Lower Mainland. Let’s see what staff come back with.

Federal Government’s appeal of Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Rulings regarding Indigenous Children, Councillor Puchmayr

Therefore be it resolved that the City of New Westminster asks that the federal government abandon all future litigation, and immediately comply with the rulings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

I have no comment on this, we need to do better than fight Indigenous youth in court.


And that was a full agenda. See you again in two weeks, which will be November 1st, so have fun out there. And by the way, why doesn’t anyone ever say “New Westmonster” in a clever way wound Halloween? Feel free to take that and run with it.

Council – October 4, 2021

Back to back to back meetings and we are back in the Council Chambers and everything is back to normal, right? Ugh. For those who only tune in for evening meetings (Hey, Canspice) we had an afternoon workshop you might want to check out (the link is here, and there is a big spreadsheet you might enjoy!), as we started to talk about the Capital Budget for 2022. But I’m here to talk about our regular meeting agenda, which started with a Presentation:

Community Grants Highlights and Impacts 2021
This is a reporting out on our annual Grant program. The program has seen some changes in the last few years, and many of the organization that received grants in the last couple of years have had to pivot due to pandemic impacts, but we still granted almost $1 Million (between cash and in-kind assistance) to community groups through 93 Grants. You can review the report and see what community groups were given support, and even see highlights of some of the positive impacts of these grants on the community. Proving government work is never done, we have 91 applications for 2022, which staff and volunteers from the community are reviewing to make recommendations to Council about where next year’s funding goes. Stay tuned!


We then moved the following items On Consent:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 660 Quayside Drive (Bosa Development)
The Bosa Development on the waterfront is going to need a “monolithic concrete pour” – a big pour to set the foundation for the west tower. This will require working through the night, nonstop for 27 hours, as the 4,500 cubic metre pour has to happen in one big move to prevent seams in the foundation. They plan to do it October 22nd-23rd, but if the weather is crap that weekend, they will try the following weekend. There will be a day of traffic disruptions, but mostly they need the permit to allow them to work overnight. Yes, there will be noise, but this also means the pile driving is over!

Downtown New Westminster BIA Extension: 2022 – 2025
BIAs exist by Bylaw. They’re self-organized, but through the Community Charter, cities collect taxes from their members (usually based on a square footage or frontage rate) and turn that money back over to the BIA to do with what their members decide. The Bylaws are periodically updated, including changing the rate structure if the BIA members so decide. Our last update was in 2018 for a 4-year term, so we need to update again. Really, the city’s role here is to facilitate for the Members of the BIA the rate and process they democratically decide they want to see, and draft our Bylaw to suit.

Permissive Property Tax Exempt Properties for 2022 – Review of Application Result
There are some properties, like churches and private schools that don’t pay property taxes because the Provincial Government exempts them by provincial law. There are others that the City has the option to not charge property tax to because they provide a wider community service, like sports facilities or social service providers. Each year we need to update the bylaw that allows the permissive exemptions.

Release of Resolution from Closed meeting regarding 97 Braid Street (Sapperton Green)
“THAT Council direct staff to discontinue to advance processing of the Official Community Plan and Zoning Amendment applications for 97 Braid Street (Sapperton Green) until such a time as it is determined when the proposed community centre with child care will be delivered to the community, should the development applications be approved.”
This resolution is being released from a closed discussion that I can’t talk too much about, but you can read from it that the community amenity being promised as part of the Sapperton Green development proposal is important to the City and negotiations around how it will be delivered are ongoing.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Amendments to the Procedure Bylaw 2021: Bylaw for Three Readings 52
Need to change the Procedure Bylaws now that the Province has made clear we can continue to have “hybrid” participation in Council meetings. People will be able to participate in Person or Electronically. This included delegations to Council (which we will now just call “speakers”), though we are now going to ask that delegates register beforehand to make the hybrid model work. We are also, on Councillor Trentadue’s suggestion going to be having further discussions about the formal use of honorifics in Council meetings.

Massey Theatre and Complex Lease and Working Agreement
Now that the Massey Theatre has been officially transferred from the School District to the City, we need to create a working agreement with the Operator of the facility. There is a lot of background here that informed and was informed by the City decision to take over the Massey when the School District no longer wanted to hold responsibility for the facility. The MTS has been a great partner to the City in helping with the operation of the Anvil Theatre, and this transfer is going to represent a new era in that relationship.


We then Adopted the following Bylaws:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Miscellaneous Amendments) No.8225, 2020
This Amendment Bylaw that makes various minor revisions, edits and deletions to the Zoning Bylaw that needs to be done every once in a while and for which we waived Public Hearing back in November of last year, was finally given Adoption.


Finally, we had a motion coming out of Public Delegation

Move that Council stand in support of the Cities of Richmond and Vancouver in opposing the continued expansion of LNG at the Tilbury facility, and in opposition to the Phase 2 Expansion Project currently undergoing Provincial and Federal environmental assessment,

And further move that Mayor and Council send correspondence signifying this opposition to the City of Delta, to the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Action, BC Environmental Assessment Office and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

We had two delegates come and speak to Council about the Tilbury LNG expansion project, which represents a massive expansion in LNG production, storage, and export right in the heart of the Fraser River Estuary. The safety and security risks have been explored in depth by our cohort in the City in Richmond, and I empathize with their concerns. However, I am mostly concerned that it represents more than 250,000T of CO2e GHG annually into our local airshed, and potentially an order of magnitude more than that in upstream and downstream emissions. It goes without saying, this one project blows a hole in our local and regional GHG reduction goals.

We just got through a harrowing summer of wildfire, smoke, and hundreds of deaths from unprecedented heat waves. The Climate Emergency is here, and we need to act as Climate Leaders. As we here in New West are developing an updated Community Energy and Emissions reduction plan, this one facility will put out more GHG annually than all of the cars, trucks, houses, businesses and industries in New Westminster combined. I don’t think we can stay silent when these decisions are being made in our region, purportedly to help our regional economy, when the cost is so high. Climate leaders don’t invest in fossil fuels in 2021. Our powers are limited here, but our voices need to stand with our community and oppose this project.

And that was it for a relatively short evening agenda. Happy Thanksgiving!

Council – Sept 27, 2021

The Council meeting this week was a pretty quick one, but dealt with some difficult subjects, and had a lot of background reading behind it. The Agenda started with a formal Apology:

Apology from the City of New Westminster to the South Asian Community and descendants of the Komagata Maru
When Council asked staff to look back at the history of New Westminster’s connections to the Komagata Maru event, they turned up some pretty troubling history relating specifically to the City Council of New Westminster. No need to repeat it all here (it is there in the report if you want the details), but the Council of the time (led by A. Wells Gray) used the event to stir white supremacist feelings and actions here in New West, even inviting our Member of Parliament (J.D. Taylor) to rally a crowd at a meeting and promising to pass white supremacist laws. This at a time when there was already a sizeable Asian population living, working, farming, and running businesses here in New Westminster. The Council of today wants to acknowledge that this history happened and apologize to the South Asian community for the action of this previous Council, to make clear that the unwelcoming and divisive attitude of the time is not consistent with our current goals and vision for the community.


We then had a presentation from BC Housing and a Report for Action:

Crisis Response Bylaw Amendments: Bylaws for First Reading and Engagement Plan Approval
BC Housing staff gave us a presentation to update us on supportive housing options and the modular housing delivery option they are exploring for a lit in Downtown. It is very similar to a previous and very successful project in Queensborough, although a housing provider (the not-for-profit organization that actually runs the housing in the messed up neoliberal model we are stuck in) has not yet been found. Anyway, BC housing wants to build 52 units of affordable housing on this lot in Downtown that has been a vacant weed farm with a fence around it since the old paint store was knocked down more than a decade ago. It can be up and running in less than a year through the rapid housing initiative. There is also a block of City-owned lots in Queensborough where the Vancouver Native Housing Society would like to leverage senior government funding to build 58 truly affordable rental units. These applications require both OCP amendments and Rezonings, and as the City doesn’t want to be the hold up on either of these applications, so we are using some extraordinary powers recognizing the ongoing crisis that is homelessness in the region to fast track the applications through Crisis Response Bylaws. There will be directed public consultations on these projects coming in October, and we will consider Third reading hopefully before the year end.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Application for Grant Funding to the 2021 UBCM Asset Management Planning Program
The City has no less than 36 drainage and sanitary sewer pump stations that keep groundwater levels down in low-lying areas, keep storm waters from flooding out the same, and keep sewage moving along in areas where there isn’t enough slope to let gravity do the work. They are due for a comprehensive condition assessment, and we are applying for a UBCM grant to help pay for that.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: New Westminster Interceptor Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation
Sewer line work like what is going on at Columbia is complicated. There is a slip-lining process that they are doing that is going to require 24 hours work, because shutting down work at night runs the risk of there being a surcharge situation and the slip-line getting stuck, which would likely require more excavation and noise and ground disturbance and risk. This is going to hopefully start right after Thanksgiving weekend, but is a little weather dependent because lots of rain increases the risk of surcharge, so they need to find a window of weather to get the work done. It sucks, it’s disturbing, but this appears to be the best option for getting the work done. They are asking us for a noise exemption bylaw to allow that work to go through the night over a 4-day period in late October. Sorry folks, but the sewage has gotta keep flowing.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Four Task Forces
Another update on the work of the City’s COVID Task forces. Read the report for details.

Decommissioning Cosmic Maypole
There is a faux-totem pole between Tipperary Park and City Hall that has been there for about 40 years, and it has been slowly disintegrating for quite some time. At some point, it is going to become a hazard, so we need to remove it, lay it down, or otherwise address it. The Public Art Advisory committee recommends removal in a way that is respectful to First Nations traditions around totems (though this is not an indigenous art piece) and to the original artist, who is currently living in the States. We will need a little funding form the Public Art Reserve Fund to pay for this work.

Development Variance Permit: 220 Carnarvon Street – Permit to Vary Siting, Site Coverage, and Parking/Loading Requirements
This church on the east side of Downtown had an addition approved back in 2018 for a community room and caretaker suite, in exchange for some Heritage protection for the Church and formalization of that use of the site. Their development plan has adjusted a bit, mostly in adding a balcony and re-configuring external stairs, which doesn’t strictly meet the current approved plan. So we are entertaining a Variance Permit to allow these changes. If you have opinions, let us know before October 18.

New Departmental Name for Development Services Department
This is a motion to change the name of one of the departments of the City to better reflect its role, as the growing Climate Action team in the City is under the same umbrella as Planning and Development. Update your letterhead!

Rezoning Application for Child Care: 733 Thirteenth Street – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The operator of childcare facilities in the West End wants to move their operation to a new nearby location on 13th Street. The use of the new site for childcare meets the OCP, but we need tot rezone to approve the use. There was some consultation around this project in the spring (both positive and opposed), and we are giving the project two readings. It will come back for third Reading, so please let us know if you have opinions!


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Anvil Centre Default Lighting
The Restorative Justice Committee has suggested the LED lights on the Anvil Centre be lit up orange in a kind of permanent way to mark the residential school discoveries, and we are going to refer this to the Reconciliation, Social Inclusion and Engagement Task Force. We are also asking Staff to help us put together a policy for lighting up of city buildings as these types of requests are increasing. The only strange part to me is I am almost certain we asked staff to do this a few years ago. No harm in asking again.

Climate Emergency: Updated Green Buildings Policy & Energy Efficient Equipment Selection Policy
This report outlines two new policies the City is adopting to address energy efficiency and GHG impacts of buildings.

The first is a Green Buildings policy. The City currently requires (by policy) that all new City buildings we build meet at least LEED Gold status – this is the policy that informed the standards applied for the Anvil Centre and Sportsplex. We are updating this in light of our new Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy and the Seven Bold Steps, and due to learnings from design of the təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre (which will be the first zero carbon recreation facility of its type in Canada!). The plan is to make Zero Carbon Building Standard the new standard for all City buildings, and though we will continue to refer to the LEED standards in the design of new buildings, we will not specifically seek that certification.

The second is and Energy Efficient Equipment Selection Policy that will guide the purchase of new equipment for buildings – things like HVAC, back-up generators, appliances, pumps and motors, and any other powered equipment that we may have in a City building. This is not about the kind of outdoor equipment we use (leaf blowers and lawnmowers) as that is part of our fleet fuel efficiency program – and is on our radar, just not under this report.

Remedial Action Requirement: 509 Eleventh Street – Update
The City has had challenges dealing with the owner of a house in the Brow neighbourhood, where it has been in a significant state of disrepair for many, many years. It is a bit of an eyesore, but it is also a nuisance for the neighbours, is of questionable structural integrity, and creates a significant health and safety risk to occupants. We have tried for several years to get the building fixed or demolished, but the owner has demonstrated either an inability or a lack of intent to do the necessary work. In light of their continued failure to meet City requirements, we are taking the extraordinary measure of hiring contractors to do the work, and sending the owner the bill. It is unfortunate it has come to this, but after many years of neighbours complaints, after literally hundreds of hours of staff time, legal action, court orders, and with staff being much more patient and tentative than anyone would consider reasonable, it is time for the City to act. Under Section 17 of the Community Charter, we are taking that action.


We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (819 Milton St) No. 8266, 2021
The Bylaw that permits the construction of a duplex that is “suite ready” for future secondary suites in the Brow neighbourhood was adopted.

Zoning Amendment (823-841 Sixth St) Bylaw No. 8260, 2021
Official Community Plan Amendment (823-841 Sixth St) Bylaw No. 8261, 2021
These bylaws to permit an affordable rental housing development for Indigenous and Swahili speaking communities in Glenbrook North were adopted by Council.

It’s worth noting that these are two examples of approvals the City gave Third Reading (which is, effectively but not strictly “final Council approval”) some time ago, you might wonder why we are adopting now. In short, how rezoning works is that the entire plan is put together and Council provides approval as Third reading of the required bylaws (usually after a Public Hearing). However, that approval is contingent on a series of commitments on behalf of the applicant, such as providing a dedication to build a sidewalk out front, contributing money to pay for the required connection to the sewer, or getting necessary approvals from the province to address contamination on the site, or any of a dozen other things. Each of these are secured by a legal agreement that can only be framed once Third Reading is completed. The details of putting together that legal agreement, securing financing to pay for some of those commitments, etc. sometimes takes some time. The City holds up Adpotion until those commitments are secured to make sure the City gets what the applicant promised the community in exchange for rezoning. So when it comes for adoption that means all of the commitments are secured, and they can get their building permit. Now you know!


Finally, there was one Motion from Council:

Building an All Ages and Abilities “AAA” Network

Whereas the City of New Westminster’s Master Transportation Plan is six years old, and has seen significant improvements in accessibility and pedestrian safety, and progress is beginning to be seen in completion of the Cycling Network (better termed as an Active Transportation Network in light of advances in personal mobility technologies); and
Whereas the COVID-19 Pandemic has brought about a generational change in how people move around urban areas, with municipalities across North America and Europe that rapidly rolled out safe Active Transportation infrastructure seeing immediate take-up, and achieving mode shift similar to that envisioned in the Master Transportation Plan; and
Whereas New Westminster has adopted a bold vision for Climate Action, including transportation emission reduction, mode shift, and public realm changes that will only be achieved through equally bold transportation infrastructure changes, including a network that connects our key destinations and safe routes to school; and
Whereas the provincial Move.Commute.Connect program and federal Canada’s National Active Transportation Strategy represent new partnership opportunities to help finance transformational Active Transportation infrastructure programs for communities with shovel-ready projects that meet the goals of making Active Transportation safe, comfortable, and connected;

Therefore be it resolved that Council commit to the rapid completion of a safe, comfortable, and connected All Ages and Abilities (AAA) Active Transportation Network; and
Be it further resolved that Council request staff update the Long Term Bicycle Network in the Master Transportation Plan, with an emphasis on establishment of a core AAA Active Transportation Network to connect neighborhoods and schools across New Westminster; and
Be it further resolved that staff work with the Sustainable Transportation Task Force to develop preliminary AAA designs and standards, and report back to Council with an ambitious timeline for implementation of the core AAA network and phasing schedule that can be integrated into a 5-year capital plan for Council consideration.

I think the Wherases speak for themselves, but I’ll write a follow-up about what this means, as Council voted unanimously to support it and the path ahead.

And that was the week that was. Some heavy topics, but for the most part positive work. It was one of those Council meetings where I walked home after feeling pretty good about the work we are doing.

Council – Sept 13, 2021

We had a Council meeting on Monday, and I am a little later than I like reporting this for a bunch of reasons, not the least because I have been at UBCM meetings all week, and have been doing a bit of volunteering work for the Election.  Oh, and I took a bit of a vacation/staycation to recharge the batteries before the UBCM Conference, so I am really slow on updates here. Sorry, more frequent posts to come! In the meantime there was a lot of exciting stuff on our Agenda Monday, starting with no less than three (3!) presentations:

Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project Heritage Alteration Permit Application and Project Update
The concrete and wrought-iron Wall that faces Columbia Street in front of Victoria Hill is the old perimeter wall of the old Woodlands site, and is a designated Heritage Asset. It also creates a visual barrier to drivers and makes the intersection of McBride and Columbia less safe for vulnerable road users making use of the Central Valley Greenway. There is a long history of Active Transportation advocates (figuratively) banging their head against this wall. The plan now is to address this as part of the Pattullo Bridge replacement. No two ways around this, if we want safe pedestrian space here, either the cars or the wall has to go.

To relocate the wall and expand the plaza at the entrance requires a Heritage Alteration Permit. The City has worked with the Pattullo project team, and a design that improves sight lines, assures accessibility of the crosswalk, moves the wall while preserving its historic value, and expands the public plaza space while preserving the historic trees has been developed. Council agreed to this plan.

I’m still not happy about some of the impacts on the Central Valley Greenway resulting from the design choices at this project that prioritize speedy movements of cars over the needs of Active Transportation users and vulnerable road users, but that is something I’ll have to whine about in a follow-up. The treatment at this specific intersection looks like a really good approach to a challenging piece of geometry and geography.

Homelessness Action Strategy – Proposed Plan
The City’s existing homelessness strategy is a bit dated. Naturally, the 2006 plan has been updated and adapted to new realities since its initial adoptions, and has brought some real measurable successes. However, there has been significant change in the last year and a half, both in the form of homelessness and in the ability for response. There is also more senior government support now than there has been in decades, and we need to assure we are making the best use of those supports. So it is time for a renewal. Fortunately, the foundations set by our existing strategy means we have dedicated partners in the community to help us with this work, including the Homelessness Coalition and Community Action Network to provide the wisdom from real one-the-ground experience, and Planning and Policy support from engaged Academic partners. We have also hired up in our Social Planning staff to assure we can coordinate this work in-house, saving on consulting cost, and allowing us to instead direct that money towards including people with personal lived experience in homelessness as subject matter experts to guide our approach.

Crisis Response Bylaw Amendments
More on the topic of affordable housing, there are currently Federal and Provincial funds available to fast-track the building of affordable housing units, and there are City- and Provincially-owned properties in the City which may be appropriate for this housing. The steps between the idea being funded and having something built and operating are, perhaps infamously, challenging, and the timeliness of overcoming those challenges sometimes limits the ability to take advantage of those funds.

In light of the ongoing homelessness crisis, Cities need to find ways past these logjams. We are looking to amend some bylaws to allow us to be more nimble in response to these opportunities in light of the declared crises, and have identified two projects (one in Downtown with 52 units of modular housing, one in Queensborough with a similar number of more townhouse-style family housing) where this fast-tracked process can be tried out to address the homelessness crisis. This is going to make some people in the community uncomfortable, as some review steps for projects (or “Red Tape”, depending on your viewpoint) are going to be either bypassed or greatly accelerated in light of the clearly acknowledged social and public benefit of addressing the ongoing crisis – in this case more than 100 units of truly affordable supportive housing on our community.

We are also looking further afield with a special land use type: “Social Benefit Land Use”, where we can fast-track projects with measureable community good. This process will take a bit of time and consultation with the community (what type of use does the community consider a “social benefit”? What limits on what kind of land tenure would apply?) but this may be a really transformational how we address social support spaces in our community. More to come here.


We than moved the following items On Consent:

Broken Drug Policies: Inter-Municipal Strategic Action Committee
Speaking of crises, it has been 5 years since the poisoned drug supply situation was declared a state of emergency, and in 2021 alone more than two dozen New Westminster residents have died of overdose. We have an interdepartmental working group in the City to coordinate the City’s actions and to work with Fraser Health and outside agencies, but we need to do more. Previous success in addressing the problem in New West (like the rest of the region) has been set back by the Pandemic, which hampered support programming and disrupted established illegal drug supply chains, making the supply more risky, and more deadly.

Though the social and financial impacts of the opioid crisis are felt at the local government level, including its impact on first responders and social services in the community. But the policy decisions that will perpetuate or address this crisis are almost all provincial (health interventions, law enforcement choices) and Federal (legalizing and regulating the supply). Staff have recommended that we participate in a new inter-municipal Strategic Action Committee addressing the broken policy problem.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 680 Clarkson Street Roofing Project
This residential building in Downtown needs to fix its roof, and that means lifting heavy stuff up onto the roof, which requires a big crane, which disrupts traffic, making weekends better, but also means noise that means they need a construction noise bylaw exemption. Staff are recommending we approve this for the same time as the noise exemption for the Columbia Street sewer works, so the impact is less on the community.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: Metro Vancouver Sewer Inspections
Metro Vancouver need to do sewer inspection work along 8th Ave by Justice Institute, and this kind of work has to happen at night when there is less…uh… stuff in the sewer, which requires a construction noise Bylaw exemption. This work is not as noisy as jackhammers and pile drivers and drills, but does involve traffic disruption and running vehicles and generators, and they try to buffer as much has possible. All in the cost of keeping the poo flowing, folks.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: Metro Vancouver Sewer Upgrades
And, there will also be some sewer hatch maintenance work that requires noise bylaw exemptions. Looks like we are spending a lot of money on infrastructure these days, but at least this is along Front Street below the cliffs, so I suspect more people in Surrey will be disturbed than those in New West. Still, it’s our Bylaw that needs addressing….

Heritage Revitalization Agreement: 102 Seventh Avenue – Preliminary Report to Council
The owner of this house in Glenbrook north wants to build an infill house on the lot, and preserve the existing Heritage House. The wrinkle here is that the infill house will be a duplex, two-bedroom units of about 1,025sqft each (compared to the 2,500 sqft preserved house), which makes them similar to a townhouse in size and shape. There are some significant relaxations here to make it work, and this is a preliminary application, so I’ll hold my comments for after the Public consultations.

Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) – COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream (CVRIS) Grant Funding: Urban Reforestation and Biodiversity Enhancement Initiative
You might have noticed a bunch of new trees being planted around the City. As I remarked to a friend the other day – more this year than in the last 20 years combined. As part of our Urban Forest Management Plan, we are seeking to get to 27% canopy cover across the City by 2030 – that means all residential neighbourhoods having the same tree density as Queens Park. We applied for and was awarded a grant from the combined Federal/Provincial CVRIS program which will pay for the installation of 2,200 larger trees – moving us a big step towards that goal.

This is going to be a very different city in 20 years because of this goal – cooler, quieter, with fresher air, because of what we are doing today. I’m really proud of this work and thankful that senior governments are helping us do this.


The following item was Removed from Consent:

COVID-19 At-Risk and Vulnerable Populations Task Force Update and Next Steps
Since the Pandemic started, The City has a task force dedicated to addressing the impacts on At-risk and vulnerable residents of the City – the food-insecure, the unhoused, those living with addiction or mental health challenges. And though we would have hoped the Pandemic would be over by now, this is a reporting out on recent and ongoing work, and a reporting on two recent successful grant applications to outreach & referral services, and for food security coordination.

There is much too much here for me to summarize here, but the work of staff, the partnerships with senior government and with the many non-government service organizations, faith-based organizations and he wider non-profit sector in New Westminster, all adds up to an amazing body of work that has kept people supported and alive through this crisis. The City has an important role, but this is a community-wide effort that demonstrates New Westminster is a compassionate community like few others, and every citizen should have pride in that. The work isn’t over, but the result is a better community for all.


We then adopted the following Bylaws

Street and Traffic Amendment Bylaw No. 8275, 2021
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 8277, 2021
and
Municipal Ticket Information Amendment Bylaw No. 8278, 2021
These Bylaws that support changes to the Street and Traffic Bylaw, as discussed last meeting, were adopted by Council.


Finally, we had a Motion for Council

Downtown Recovery Strategy, Councillors Johnstone and Trentadue
Recommendation:

Whereas Downtown is the densest and most rapidly-growing residential neighbourhood of New Westminster, representing a commitment to regional Transit-Oriented Mixed-Use development goals concentrated in identified Regional City Centres; and

Whereas the initial revitalization since the 2010 Downtown Community Plan was developed has suffered a series of more recent setbacks, including the loss of several historic buildings to fires and the loss of a major anchor retailer, while a recent loss of park space and ongoing construction serve to challenge livability goals for the downtown community; and

Whereas despite robust growth, several properties in the key blocks of Columbia Street have been derelict or vacant for many years, impairing neighborhood revitalization efforts and challenging the impression of Columbia Street as a vibrant commercial district for both residents and existing businesses;

Therefore be it resolved:
That staff review strategies and regulatory tools available to Council to support the rapid revitalization of underperforming, derelict, and vacant properties on Columbia Street in the historic Downtown, including but not limited to powers under the New Westminster Redevelopment Act (1989), and

That Staff provide recommendations for rapid and medium-term actions to support the vibrancy of business, the activation of the streets, and improving the amenity value of the historic Downtown for all residents of New Westminster.

I think I need to write a separate blog post outlining my thinking here when I have a little more time, in case it’s not clear in the motion. I’ll just say for now that Downtown is on our radar, we recognize some of the unique challenges there, and are asking Staff to help guide us through some creative approaches to those challenges.


And that was it for the meeting. See you in the Fall!

Council – August 30, 2021

Well, that was a heck of a summer, eh? I know what you are saying – Labour Day, Autumnal equinox, lots of summer left! But we started our Council meetings again, so if I can’t have any fun neither can you. Here is what we had on our Agenda this week.

We started with a Development Variance Permit

DVP00690 for 601 Sixth Street
This Office building in Uptown wants to do some interior renovation to increase the useable space, but then runs afoul of the parking requirements (that have notable changed since the building we built decades ago). This requires a Development Variance to forgive some minimum parking requirements. There is one thing the Uptown neighbourhood is not lacking in it is off-street parking spaces. WE had a piece of correspondence concerned about intrusions of light into adjacent residential property, but approved the Development Variance.


The following Items were Moved on Consent:

2022 Budget Process Next Steps and Engagement Workshop Results
We have started the 2022 budget process, including preliminary stakeholder workshops with City Advisory Committees. Building upon the 2021 budget consultation program, there is much more to come, including on-line consultations and a webinar for people who want to learn more about hoe municipal budgeting actually works so they can engage more meaningfully. Check out details here and stay tuned!

Recruitment 2021: Multiculturalism Advisory Committee (MAC) Appointment
We are filling a seat on the MAC.

Update on Changes to the Procedure Bylaw
The way we have been running remote Council Meetings for the last 18 months has been under an emergency provincial Ministerial Order which overrides some of the other aspects of our Procedure Bylaw that keep us compliant with the Community Charter. That Ministerial Order has been replaced by changes to the Community Charter, so now we are going to change our Procedure Bylaw to be compliant. Is that all clear?

In short, all of our Closed meetings (which we typically hold in the afternoon of council Mondays) are going to stay as remote meetings, because that works and it gives staff more flexibility in how they participate while trying to get other work done, and as there is no public face to closed meetings, there is less concern about public access and participation opportunities. Our regular meetings will by a Hybrid model, with both a meatspace meeting in Council Chambers and the option for digital participation on the part of the public and Council. There are a few technical hurdles to cross (our regular council streaming process had a couple of seconds of delay, which was no problem if people were watching, but was a challenge for on-line participation) so I expect it will be a bit bumpy in the first meeting or two, but as we have all learned in the last year, the processes we have operated under are lagging a bit behind the technology on these things, so I generally am hopeful about this transition.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Refresh: Timeline and Work Plan
The City paused new HRA applications in the Queens Park HCA until the policy that informs these applications can be updated, citing community concerns about the existing process following the implementation of the HCA in 2017. This report outlines the work plan for that policy update. There are details in here, but in short, we hope to have a Policy Framework for Council Consideration by Spring 2022. Expect a robust community consultation through winter 2021-2022.

2021 Heritage Register Update: Addition of One Property and Removal of One Property
The City has a Heritage Register of properties that have specific legal protection (“Heritage Designation”) and those that have very high heritage value but may not specifically be designated. We are adding the 1939 Slovak Hall in Queensborough to Register (due to its recent HRA and upcoming restoration), and are removing the 1931 “Deane Block” in Downtown, which burned to the ground in May.

Metro Vancouver Sewer Inspections: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
MetroVan is doing video inspection of a major sewer interceptor, which has to happen at night when the weather is good because that’s when the levels of…uh… stuff in sewer is low enough to provide an adequate inspection. Construction at night needs a noise exemption, here it is. The directly impacted neighbourhood (small areas of Quayside and Q’Boro) will be notified, though the work schedule is a bit dependent on a short stretch of non-rainy weather.

TransLink Pavement Rehabilitation Project – Braid Station: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Translink is doing pavement rehabilitation at Braid Station, and some part of that work can’t happen while there are buses and transit passengers running all over the place, so they are asking for a construction noise exemption to allow that work to extend into night. It’s relatively far from any residential areas, but will likely have some transportation impacts.

Street and Traffic Bylaw Amendments for Three Readings – Bylaw 8275, 2021
We are making some relatively minor changes to this Bylaw partly to improve Active Transportation safety, and partly just as housekeeping. We are adding to the 30km/h zones to include those commercial areas where riding a bike or using a scooter on the sidewalk is strictly forbidden, but there is no safe alternative separated from traffic. We are adding regulations about how private driveways are permitted to this bylaw (taking it out of the zoning bylaw). We are updating rules around how Street Occupancy permits are permitted, and how boulevards are regulated to help with trash collections and improve pedestrian safety. This also requires updates to the Bylaw Enforcement Bylaw and the Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw, so that the new rules can be enforced.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
The City is going to mirror the Federal Government’s declaration of September 30th as a Statutory holiday, and follow the Province’s lead by instituting the stat holiday today, but put off until 2022 the significant work to determine how best to memorialize or mark the day, mostly because we just don’t have that much time to organize or consult in the next 3 weeks.

323 Regina Street Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Preliminary Report
This is, to me, a bit of a baffling application from a process viewpoint. A homeowner of a house deemed not worthy of heritage protection during the HCA process now wants to give it HRA protection in exchange for building a secondary house on the property. This is on the surface similar to an application across the street that was rejected by Council in November of last year before it even go to Public Hearing. This is a preliminary report, and the proposal will no doubt result in some interesting discussion in the community, and an interesting Public Hearing (if it goes that far). So I’ll hold on of further comment until then.

Reconciliation, Social Inclusion and Engagement Task Force: Final 2021- 2022 Equity Key Performance Indicator Framework
The City has a DIEAR Framework, and needs metrics to measure if we are being successful at our goals. This report outlines what those metrics (or “Key Performance Indicators” in the parlance of the times) will be.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

819 Milton Street: Rezoning and Development Permit for a Duplex – Bylaw for First and Second Reading
The owner of this vacant property in the Brow neighbourhood wants to build a duplex with potential for two lock-off suites – a total of 4 residential units on 9,000 square foot lot that meets the OCP land use, but not the zoning. There have been a couple of rounds of consultation with the neighbourhood, and a bit of a revision of the design based on that feedback. We had two public delegations about the project – the proponent explaining their rationale and a neighbour concerned about the impact on their property values if a non-heritage style building is permitted. Because of the public consultation process, the alignment with existing City policies, and the relatively minor changes here relative to the existing zoning entitlement, staff have recommended waiving the Public Hearing, and Council moved to give the application two readings.

404 Salter Street (Summit Earthworks): Proposed Soil Transfer Facility and Gravel Storage Facility – Update
Two adjacent industrial properties in Queensborough are being re-purposed for soil management. One (404 Salter) will be a stockpile and trans-shipment sit where waste soils from construction around the lower mainland will be trucked in and transferred to barges for eventual relocation to deposit sites up the Fraser River. The second (404a Salter) will be a site where construction gravel will be stockpiled and shipped to construction sites around the Lower Mainland.

These sites are Federally-regulated Port of Vancouver lands, so the projects went through the Port’s Environmental Review process, in which the City is little more than another stakeholder along with concerned residents. The City did raise some concerns through the review process, and some (impacts on the dike, environmental impact) were addressed to the City’s satisfaction, and some (transportation concerns) look to be covered by the conditions on the operating certificate. The one outstanding concern is that the permitted Saturday operating hours do not match with our own Noise Bylaw, and we will request that the Port and the operator meet our Bylaws.

Recruitment 2021: Community Heritage Commission and Economic Development Advisory Committee Appointments,
We appointed some representatives to these committees.


Then we Adopted the following Bylaws:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Secondary Suite Requirements) No. 8154, 202
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 8249, 2021 and
Municipal Ticket Information Amendment Bylaw No. 8251, 2021
This Bylaw that changes how we regulate and approve secondary suites (and the two Bylaws that make it enforceable) was given Public Hearing back on February 22nd, and are now adopted.

Delegation Amendment Bylaw No. 8270, 2021
This Bylaw that changes a few of the internal delegation authorities within City Hall, as discussed back on July 12th, has now been adopted.


Finally, we had one piece of New Business:

Urban Farming Councillor Nakagawa

WHEREAS the City of New Westminster declared a climate crisis in 2019; and
WHEREAS the climate crisis is impacting and will continue to further impact food security in our community; and
WHEREAS actions 19 and 20 of the Food Security Action Plan are aimed at encouraging community gardens on public and private lands; and
WHEREAS not all members of our community have access to space to grow their own foods, especially in higher density neighbourhoods; and
WHEREAS fostering community connections and resilience are crucial as impacts of the climate crisis continue to be felt;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
THAT the City of New Westminster create and implement policy to support and encourage the climate crisis equivalent of victory gardens; and
THAT these gardens be understood to include forest gardens and orchards, pollinator pastures/bee hotels, compost systems, foraging opportunities, and rainwater harvesting so that we are considering complete and interconnected systems; and
THAT this work creatively considers underutilized space such as boulevards, industrial rooftops, multi-family common areas, and conversion of street space;
THAT the City create policy on and explore ways to incentivize front yard and boulevard gardens, with special consideration for condo and apartment buildings in high density neighbourhoods, where appropriate and in consideration of other needs such as accessibility and tree planting; and
THAT the City explore ways to support and incentivize container gardening in areas where it is not possible to garden at street level such as offering a starter plant sale for multi-family housing similar to the tree sale; and
THAT the City engage the community and provide learning opportunities through new and existing programs such as the hanging basket classes and Queens Park petting farm transition; and
THAT these plans incorporate Indigenous plant knowledge and principles of Indigenous land stewardship; and
THAT these plans include an equity lens.

Not sure I have much to add to this, it is a great idea, and I am glad to support it, as the rest of Council seemed to be!

And that was it for the evening. Have a good Labour Day weekend, enjoy the election season, and we’ll see you all in September!

Council – July 12, 2021

Last Council meeting before we take a bit of a summer break, and the agenda was long. We started with a Presentation from staff:

City of New Westminster Sanctuary City Policy: Access to City Facilities, Programs and Services for All Community Members, Regardless of Immigration Status
The City, through a recommendation by our Multicultural Advisory Committee, is moving towards Sanctuary City status. That basically means we won’t limit people’s access to City services based on their immigration status. On one hand, not a big deal, because as a City we are not in the role of regulating immigration, so functionally, it doesn’t change how we operate. However this may make a huge difference to residents in precarious immigration situations who may live in our City, pay rent and taxes, and raise families here, in their being assured they have access to basic community services like the Library or recreation programming. This is, on the face of it, really simple: Where we have no legal, fiduciary, or due diligence reason to ask about immigration status, we are making it policy that we don’t ask about immigration status.

There are similar programs like this across Canada, and we are learning from their experience. There is a very small internal cost to this, mostly training for our own staff and a bit of communications materials to let the broader community and immigrant support agencies know what we are doing, which is covered by our existing DEIAR framework budget.


We then discussed Development Variance Permits:

DVP00687 for Modification to Alternative Parking Area for 230 Keary Street (Brewery District Building 8) The Brewery District wants to build a little less parking in their Building 8 by applying over-capacity parking from Building 7 and connecting the parkades. With about 2,500 underground parking spots on site (much more than the Bylaw requires), this is a reasonable request that will reduce construction cost, concrete, the depth they need to dig. They need a Variance to do that.

We sent out notice, and got correspondence from a neighbouring business who wants the tower built smaller. Council voted to approve the variance.

DVP00693 for Modification to Parking Requirements for 65 East Sixth Avenue (təməsewt̓xʷ Aquatic and Community Centre)
As we start building and honing the design of the new Recreation Centre, the site layout is being adjusted, and we will have slightly fewer parking spots than previously expected – which was already a variance, so we need to give another variance to reduce the number slightly more. We sent out notice on this, go three pieces of correspondence (one opposed, one asking questions, one in support), and moved to adopt the variance.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

Submission to the Department of Canadian Heritage Museum Assistance Program under the COVID-19 Reopening Fund
We were successful at getting some Federal emergency funding to support our Museum and Heritage program that was set back by COVID, and are applying for more in the second phase. Not as sexy as announcing SkyTrain funding, but a good thing for the Federal Government to support, and good news for our Museum and Archives.

Revised Attachment #7 for 2020 Statement of Financial Information
Attachment 7 of our SOFI released last meeting was wrong. A revised Attachment is attached. Please adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

Bylaw to Amend Delegation Bylaw No. 7176, 2015
A City can’t operate if Council and the CAO makes every decision – life comes at you fast in a $200Million operation. So there is a Bylaw that outlines the “Delegated Authority” in the City – who is allowed to make decisions on behalf Council and on behalf of Senior Management, and what type of decision can be delegated to what level. As roles in the City shift around through regular reorganization, we sometimes have to update this Bylaw. We are making three changes here. Now you know who to ask.

Recruitment 2021: Grant Committee Appointments
The City has three main Grant programs that give out a combined Million dollars every year. As we get many applications for these grants, we have committees of volunteers from the community sift through the applications and make recommendations to the Council about where the grant money should go. This report lists the volunteers who were selected from the public call for applicants to serve on those committees for 2021.

New Westminster Restart Plan – Council Meetings and Development Review Processes
The entire remote-via-Zoom-Council-Meeting thing has been under emergency orders from the Province, and in normal times we are supposed to meet in person both as Provincial guidance and due to our own Council Procedure Bylaw. As the State of Emergency has been lifted, we have 90 days to go back to the old ways. Except the Province has updated it regulations, and will provide the option for Council to meet in a virtual or hybrid manner at the end of that 90-day period. So we have to decide how we are going to meet, and update our Procedures Bylaw and our currently-Interim Development Application Review Process to be compliant.

We also reduced some review procedures during the Pandemic, having fewer applications go through LUPC and APC, which removed a step prior to them being publicly reviewed by Council. This meant 17 fewer Staff Report written, and weeks, or even months, of reduced review time for applicants.

For Council meetings, staff are recommending we move to a more Hybrid system that will have most (though not necessarily all) of Council present in the chambers, most staff present virtually, and allow the public to attend either in person or virtually. This is actually the most technically challenging approach, as “all virtual” or “all in person” are both easy, but technology challenges with the Hybrid system (including internet streaming lag issues and assuring we can all hear and see) will no doubt arise, but can be overcome.

We will also take this approach for Public Hearings, based on the success we had with virtual Public Hearings, but recognizing some Public want to attend in person, though we are going to keep a close eye on how crowd dynamics shake out in this model, and be willing to adapt as need be to assure Public Hearings remain respectful and inviting spaces.

It is interesting to think we should have been making these changes anyway, but the Pandemic response was the spark we needed to make the first rapid shift to virtual meeting, which opened staff and council up to considering why we have been doing things “the old way” for so long. We also needed the change in Provincial Regulation to allow it to happen. Thing is, we didn’t know we could do better and the regulations would not allow us to do better. There is a lesson in that.

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment Project): Request for Exemption to Construction Noise Bylaw
A big one-day concrete pour (4,000 cubic metres! That is equivalent to filing an entire Canadian football field to knee-depth) has to happen in August at RCH, and they may not get in under our Construction Noise Bylaw time limits, so are asking for a one-day exemption to start work at 7:00am and go as late as midnight.

22nd Street SkyTrain Station: Escalators Replacement Project – Request for Extension of the Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The previous noise exemption for escalator work at the 22nd Street SkyTrain Station didn’t get used, on account of delays, but they still have to do the work, so they are going to try again.

Columbia Street Project Metro Vancouver Sewer Interceptor Project): Request for Exemption to Construction Noise Bylaw
Video inspection of the sewer line under Columbia Street has to happen at night when it isn’t raining for reasons related to how much stuff is flowing through the sewer at the time. This work needs a noise exemption, though noise will be limited to a couple of idling trucks and a generator. Needs to be done of we want our poop to keep going away!

Provincial Housing Needs Report Program: Understanding Housing and Homelessness in New Westminster – A Housing Needs Report 2021 – 2031
As is a new Provincial Requirement, the City completed its prescribed Housing Needs Assessment (and in a refreshing change, the Provincial government actually provided funding for a local government to do something the province required a local government to do! More of this!). In summary, we (not surprisingly) need more non-market rental housing, and though we currently have sufficient market housing to meet demand, that is a result of a recent influx of new buildings, and we will again be short of demand by 2026 – even including the already-approved buildings under construction right now.

To put in perspective, the city recently approved a 95-unit affordable housing building on Sixth Street. To meet our current demand for this type of housing, we would need to immediately build 4 more similarly-sized buildings. To meet demand forecast for 2026, another 8 similar buildings. Market housing will have a new demand of almost 1,000 units by 2026. Lots more to say here, and how it relates to this Provincial report, but that will come later.

2035 London Street: Connaught Heights Small Sites Affordable Housing Project – Update
The City owns very few pieces of land appropriate for new housing, or that can be rapidly converted to new affordable housing through partnerships. We have a few recent successful projects in Queensborough and the Albert Crescent area, and have continued to identify opportunities. One potential project site in Connaught Heights was evaluated, and some preliminary design work was completed with a potential partner, but it simply didn’t math out. The space was not serviced, and is simply too small to economically develop with available funding supports, as completion for that funding has ramped up and building costs have skyrocketed.

There are a couple of other sites in the City currently being evaluated, but land is getting tight. That we cannot get anyone to build a 6-10 unit project on a piece of property the City is willing to give away puts into the context the challenge presented by the Housing Needs Report (above) that tells us we need other approached to find space for 1,500 units.

601 Sixth Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Off-Street Parking and Loading
The office building in the Uptown wants to do some internal renovations that results in an increase in commercial floorspace, which triggers a development variance, which triggers an evaluation of parking need. Last time it came to council some concerns were raised about the accessible parking requirement so the owner modified their proposal to reduce the number of parking spots but increase the number of accessible spots as best they fit within the limited underground parking space. We will review the Variance in our next meeting. Let us know if you have opinions.

Active Heritage Revitalization Agreement Applications in the Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area
As a follow-up to the decision by Council to freeze new HRAs in Queens Park neighbourhood, this report outlines the applications already in progress (there are 7). Next we get a timeline to when the HRA policy will be updated. Sometime a few years from now. Again, I refer you to the Housing Needs Report (above).

Queen’s Park – Proposed Bike Skills Park
This is a good news story, and a testament to the service level of staff in our Parks and Recreation Department – really striving to Leslie Knope levels of enthusiasm. Some youth (and parents!) have been building ramps and obstacles in the forested area of Queens Park to practice their mountain bike/BMX skills. This raised concern around the impact on sensitive soils, tree root areas, and ecological protection offered by restored groundcover and shrubberies in the “old forest” part of the Park.

Staff met with the users and asked them – what can we build to serve your needs, while still protecting this area? Working with this ad-hoc user group, staff identified an appropriate area and worked with the riders to develop a “bike skills area”. Staff even put on a design charrette with the users, using clay and popsicle sticks to design a model park. They found a little money in the capital budget, and are going to start work right now on getting the first phase of the bike skills park up and running.

Telus PureFibre MOU
At least one irreverent Fifth Street tweeter will be happy to know Telus is planning to roll out increased “PureFibre” service to New West. This report just updates Council on progress on a Municipal Access Agreement update (the agreement they need to put things like switching kiosks on City lands) and a Joint Pole Agreement (the agreed terms in which Telus and our Electrical Utility share space on each other’s poles to reduce the overall number of poles in the City and save everyone money and hassles).

COVID-19 At-Risk and Vulnerable Populations Task Force Budget Reallocation Request for the Seniors Integrated Support Pilot Project and Enhanced Personal Identification Services
These are requests to fund two a small programs that came out of the COVID task force (reported above).

The first is a pilot program to help Seniors living in independent living residences, in order to address an identified deficit in emergency planning, emergency support services and social connectivity for folks living in that style of housing. A seniors residence in Glenbrook North was identified as a pilot location.

The second is establishing a “personal information back” – a place where people who are unhoused or in precarious living conditions can store important personal information materials (BC Care Card, Social Insurance Card, Etc.) that they sometimes require to connect to community services, but are hard for them to securely store and protect from loss or theft.

These are both small-cost items, come with matching funds, and are within the exiting budgets of our At-Risk and Vulnerable Persons support task force, but may add to the quality of life of some of our most vulnerable neighbours.


The following items were Removed from consent for discussion:

Public Engagement Policy
The City is introducing a Policy to guide our Public Engagement. We have had a Public Engagement Strategy since 2016, and though it is massively improved in consistency and effectiveness in the last few years, it is still at times uneven and arbitrary, especially as it relates to third-party applications (like big rezonings) where some proponents just do a better job than others at connecting with the public. There is also the small problem of over-engagement: there is so much going on the City, from new property development to parks facilities planning and transportation changes – even the most engaged citizen may have a hard time keeping up. Do we really need to engage on a relatively small change, or do we just need to inform?

So this policy should help us bring some consistency to our ramped-up engagement across City departments, and provide better and more timely feedback from the public on important projects in the City.

An important aspect of this is the formalized “Reporting Back” process. People who take time to engage in City process should expect to be heard, and have a chance to understand how their input was considered. Even if that answer is “we heard you, but we aren’t doing what you asked, because…”

In the meantime… beheardnewwest.ca

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
This is our regular update on the COVID task forces, where you can see what the City is doing to support vulnerable populations and businesses though this crisis. As a community, we should be really proud of the work City staff and partner agencies are doing behind the scenes here to keep people our community alive and cared for through this. We don’t brag enough about this, but once again New West is punching way above it weight.

Extension of Temporary Patio Program to Support Business Recovery
The Patios you have seen popping up around New West are, in part, only available because the Province loosened up their regulations on licencing these spaces as part of their COVID supports to the hospitality industry. Again, I’m proud of our staff for being nimble as the rules were changing and businesses were looking for help interpreting how to make these things work. With the Province extending this “temporary” program until next spring, it gives Cities and businesses a chance to figure out how and if they will make these things permanent.

So we are going to review the program, and make some decisions in consultation with the business community.

Recommended Climate Key Performance Indicators for Annual Seven Bold Steps Report Card
The City committed to Climate Action last year, and have created a framework for that action around “Seven Bold Steps” – moves we will make to get to our 2050 zero carbon future. As an important part of that, we also created 2030 goals for each of the Steps, because we didn’t want to kick the responsibility down the road, but wanted action today concomitant with the actual crisis we see. 2030 goals mean we need to start putting things in our budget today, start changing how we operate today. No more futzing around.

This also means we need to have concrete measures of what we are doing, to hold ourselves and our community responsible for getting us to 2030. In the parlance of the day, that means “KPI”s – Key Performance Indicators. This report outlines the KPI data we will collect and publicly report on as we take climate action. Because measuring just our GHG output is important, but the complexity of shifting our corporate practice and how the community operates will take more than just that number – and we need to know where we are ahead and behind the curve to make the appropriate policy shifts along this route.

This is actually a bit of a complex piece of work, because some data that would be really useful to us (GHG from cars exhaust generated by residents of the City) is actually a hard thing to measure as a local government, though proxy estimates and senior government stats are available to us.

Waste Reduction and Recycling Community Engagement Results and Options for City Residential Recycling Collection Program

“The Provincial Recycling Regulation under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program assigns the fiscal responsibility associated with the collection and processing of residential recyclable materials back to producers and manufacturers of those products rather than to residents through local utility fees. Consumers pay for the collection and management of recyclable materials through the products they choose to purchase”

That is a funny paragraph to include in a report that is asking us to commit City money to the collection and processing of residential recyclable materials.

It’s possible we made a mistake a decade ago (who could have foreseen?) when we went to co-mingled recyclables at the curbside, because single family homeowners have lost the ability to sort their recyclables. We now have a situation where our contamination rate – mostly glass – is 3x what we anticipated when the program was rolled out. Staff are now suggesting a parallel glass recycling program at the curbside, because Recycle BC is going to fine us for our unacceptable contamination rate. And, no, that contamination rate did not spike when the Canada Games Pool recycling centre was closed.

In short, staff are going to scope out and price a curbside glass collection program, and bring a report to Council to consider in a future meeting. I also asked the staff concurrently assess the value of an education-and-enforcement approach to addressing the contamination issue.

219 Second Street: Demolition and Heritage Protection
There is a 1941 house in Queens Park that the owner wants to knock down and replace. It is not a Protected house in the Queens Park HRA (those are 1940 and older), but its Queens Park, and has some heritage value, so the demo permit has to come to Council to give the thumbs up or thumbs down. Staff explored several preservation options with the owner, who declined. The Community Heritage Commission wants the City to protect it through involuntary designation, which would require the City compensate the owner, and I’m afraid this is not a priority for the City right now.


We had four (4!) New Business late additions to the Agenda:

Tourism New West Office Space Lease
Tourism New West has leased a small office space in the Anvil Centre pretty much since the centre opened. It was time to update their lease, which requires Public Notice. Let us know if you have opinions, because it seems it has been a pretty positive relationship for everyone.

Chief ?Ahan Memorial Budget
There will be a small commemoration event on July 18 held in New Westminster that has a small cost, drawn from our reconciliation and Inclusion budget.

Councillor Nakagawa and FCM Committee
Councillor Nakagawa has been asked to serve on a Federation of Canadian Municipalities committee, and this requires a formal endorsement from Council. Done.

City’s Heat Plan
We are going to be having some pretty difficult discussions about our Heat Emergency plan and the Provincial approach to this “Heat Dome” phenomenon, because clearly neither were sufficient to keep our most vulnerable residents alive. I’ll have to write a follow-up on this, because it deserves more than passing mention in a Council report.


And with that we were done until August. Stay safe, take care of each other.

Council – June 28, 2021

Council met on Monday, with a few of us taking refuge in City Hall to escape the heat, which was a good feeling for the worst reasons. The pandemic is appearing more and more to be in our rear-view, but we were brutally reminded that the Climate Crisis is still here, and not going away in our lifetimes. And we have work to do.

The first item on our fairly short Agenda was a report from our CAO:

2020 Annual Report Presentation
Its annual report time! And 2020 was unlike any other year, as much work shifted to COVID-19 response, but we still moved forward on many of our Strategic Plan goals. This is a testament to the professionalism of our staff, as they were able to pivot in so many areas, keep the vital services in the City running, while discovering new ways to be responsive to emergent needs, and make more happen with less as revenue challenges mounted. Highlights for me: we approved affordable housing and purpose built rental, we got the ground broken on a keystone piece of community infrastructure, we planted 800 new trees, and we made significant moves on Climate Action.


We then had two Development Variance Permits for consideration:

DVP00689 to Vary Driveway Width at 230 Princess Street
The owner of this home wants to build a Carriage House, but the current driveway accessing their back yard is 8 inches narrower than permitted. Moving the existing house 8 inches to the left seems unreasonable, so they would require a variance. We received on piece of correspondence that is somewhat peripheral to the actual request, and Council moved to approve the DVP.

DVP00667 to Vary Side Yard Projection at 416 Tenth Street
This house in the Brow of the Hill has a covered deck that extends a few feet into the neighbouring property, and apparently everyone agreed to this encroachment a few decades ago. Now the deck needs to be repaired/replaced, which will slightly decrease the encroachment, but we still need to permit the variance for the new construction occurring in the encroachment space. We received correspondence form the neighbour who is encroached, expressing support. Council moved to approve the DVP.


We had a single item moved On Consent

Q to Q Ferry Operations – Update
This is an update on QtoQ operations as they adapt to the post-COVID world. I was at the recent Queensborough Residents Association meeting where transportation was a major topic. There is still a lot of interest in a fixed active transportation crossing and anxiety about the future of the QtoQ on the Q’boro community. Council voted to support its operation through the last year despite low ridership in part because there are still residents that rely on the service, and in part because we want to demonstrate that an active transportation link between Port Royal and Quay is viable and valuable. If you like the QtoQ, or even if you are just a supporter of Active Transportation, take the ferry ride. Let’s prove his service by using it.


We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Housing Agreement (100 Braid Street) Bylaw No. 8221, 2021
The housing agreement that secures the rental tenure of the building under construction at 100 Braid Street was adopted by Council. Remember when LandlordBC said no-one would agree to new rental in New West if we passed renter protection Bylaws? Bullshit.

Parks and Recreation Fees Amendment Bylaw No. 8267, 2021
This Bylaw sets Parks and Recreation fees for next year at the same rate as they were last year.


Finally, we had one piece of New Business

Motion in Support of Motion M-84 Anti-Hate Crimes and Incidents and Private Member’s Bill C-313 Banning Symbols of Hate Act
On behalf of 71,000 residents of the City of New Westminster, Council approves
the Mayor sending a letter of endorsement of MP Peter Julian’s private member’s
motion, Motion M-84 Anti-Hate Crimes and Incidents and his private member’s
bill, Bill C-313 Banning Symbols of Hate Act.


And that was it until next month. Take care of each other, folks, stay cool and connected.

Council – Solstice 2020

We had a pretty long agenda in the June 21st Council meeting, commensurate with the longest day of the year. After writing more than 250 of these damn reports, I’m running out of small talk to open with, so without any pleasantries, let’s get right to it.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

2020 Statement of Financial Information
This report is the final step in our budgeting process, when our audited financial statements and regulated reporting to the Province (and the public) are complete. The City is in good financial shape. Though we just went through a period of uncertainty, we are set up to deal with significant capital costs coming up in the next few years, mostly the new recreation complex which found a name this week.

A few highlights. We ended fiscal 2020 with about $258M in financial assets, but about $181M in liabilities, so a net of about $78M in the black. This is apart from the $721M in accumulated capital assets (buildings, trucks, pencils, pipes and traffic cones). We have about $137M in reserves, and our long-term debt level is $62M. It is worth noting the $6M we got from the Provincial Government as part of the “Safe Restart Grant” was meaningful in addressing our unexpected costs and revenue loss during COVID.

There is also a cool list of everyone from whom the City bought good and services (above $25K). The $100K we pay the New West Record for the City Pages, the $525K we pay Suncor for fuel, the $250K we pay Bill Gates for software and the $27K we pay a nursery for new tree stock. It’s all there, read into it what you will.

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Report for 2020
Every year we also report out on the FOIPPA files generated, and how they were replied to. We had about the same number of requests as the last year (just under 90) releasing 4,000+ pages of documents, and two of those requests were elevated to the provincial Privacy Commissioner. It is important to note that Council is not involved in this stuff at all (unless our correspondence is involved in a request, then our only role is to provide any such correspondence – we never know who the request came from and what information eventually goes to the requestor), we have professional staff who use guidance from the legislation to determine how to address requests. The only time I see this stuff is when we get the year-end report you are reading here.

Public Solicitation Request by HOPE International
I honestly had no idea the City has a permit process and policy (dated 1989, updated in 1994!) regulating door-to-door and other public charity canvassing. But I guess we do, and this Charity wants to knock on your door to ask for support. Weird how the United Way gets special oversight to this process…

230 Keary Street (Brewery District Building 8): Development Variance Permit for Modification to Alternative Parking Area – Consideration of Notification
The builders of the Brewery District want to build fewer than bylaw-required parking spaces in their proposed “Building 8” by instead allocating surplus parking spaces form the adjacent “Building 7” to Building 8 users, and connecting the two parkades. Frankly, we are building way too much parking in this project in the first place so I have no problem with not requiring they dig deeper for a 6th level of underground parking to add to that surplus. But this is just notice that we will consider a variance at a future meeting. If you have opinions (especially if they are different than mine) drop us a line and let us know.

65 East Sixth Avenue (New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre): Development Variance Permit for Modification to Parking Requirements – Consideration of Notification
The City generally has to follow its own bylaws. So we need a development permit for the Canada Games Pool replacement just like anyone else would in building on that site. We also have the ability to grant variances to ourselves, if we follow the same procedures as we would for other development. There is some adjustment of the site for the new complex, and it means we will build 27 fewer parking spaces than previously approved. Which means we need a variance. Which we will consider in a future meeting. If you have opinions, let us know.

9 East Columbia Street (Woodlands Wall/Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project): Heritage Alteration Permit – Preliminary Report
One of the benefits of the Pattullo Replacement project for New West will be the re-alignment of the Central Valley Greenway crossing at the foot of McBride, which has been a point of contention since long before I was elected. There is a fundamental geometry problem at this corner that is hard to solve in such a way that drivers will not stop illegally running the corner and endangering pedestrians and cyclists. Part of it (but only part – the persistent law-breaking by drivers in a way that endangers other road users is the real problem here) is a visibility issue with the Heritage Wall, and another part (also secondary to the point that drivers being relied on to follow simple rules of the road is ineffective as a way of preventing the death of vulnerable road users) is the grades of the site that make it really difficult to design a crosswalk and sidewalk that isn’t perilously steep while putting pedestrians, cyclists, and those with mobility aids in a place where inattentive drivers have better chance of seeing them before they plow them over.

So the Heritage Wall has to move. The project team working on re-alignment of the roads around the Pattullo Project have a proposal to relocate a portion of the wall to address the visibility and grade issues, and hopefully usher in a new era of motorist law abidance and safe active transportation. This will require a Heritage Alteration Permit, which requires a few consultation steps. This is a preliminary report, and we will consider the HAP after that consultation.

100 Braid Street (Market and Affordable Rental Housing) Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8221, 2021- Bylaw for Three Readings
The new apartment building approved for 100 Braid Street was approved understanding it would be Purpose Built Rental, and a portion of those rentals having rents designated as Affordable according to CMHC standards (rent fixed to 30% of median incomes) if CMHC support could be secured. It looks like that CMHC support was received, so we are putting together a Housing Agreement securing Affordable Housing for at least 16 years for 96 of the units, and market-priced rental tenure for the remaining 327 units. All 423 units will be secured as rental for 60 years or the life of the building – whichever is longer.

MOTION regarding Manufacturer Licence for 1319 Third Avenue
Last meeting, we approved zoning amendment to allow 100 seats at this local brewery. The province requires we pass a motion endorsing this with specific language so the provincial liquor license can be adapted to suit.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: that New Westminster City Council recommends the approval of the application by Steel & Oak Brewing Company Ltd. to operate a 100 person Manufacturer lounge, with indoor seating not exceeding 89, located at 1319 Third
Avenue with liquor service hours from 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM Monday through Sundays.

Environmental Strategy and Action Plan Progress (Update) Report
This is a report updating Council on progress of the Environmental Strategy adopted in 2018, and letting us know what’s been done, what is in progress, and what is yet to come. Lots of good stuff in here, but we are going to have a more detailed Council Workshop to make sure the work ahead is being prioritized in alignment with Council’s priorities, especially in relation to the Seven Bold Steps we have identified for Climate Action – not to say they aren’t aligned, but it’s always good to have a check-in and it is easier to do that in a workshop than a council meeting, like the workshop we had earlier today on Asset Management.

2021 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
Looks like the snow is melting at a moderate rate, and the snowmelt freshet flood risk for the Fraser has past, with a peak in early June, and flows not expected to peak again.

Albert Crescent Park Maintenance Update
A neighbourhood group raised some concerns about maintenance at Albert Crescent Park, and staff connected with them and took up some of their suggestions to improve the condition of the park. The area is seeing some transition as the Pattullo Bridge Project is going to result in tree removals, grade changes, and new pathways, but in the meantime it is still an important green space for many Downtown residents.

2022 Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw Amendment
Every year, we update our Parks and Recreation fees through Bylaw. For the most part this means doing a scan of fees being charged around the region to make sure we are not out of touch with industry standard (in reality, New West is often quite a bit more affordable than our comparator municipalities) and applying a ~2% or so inflationary increase. But this year, Staff are recommending we delay any increase in light of COVID limitations and to encourage folks to get back out to rec programs as they are starting to get rolled out.

Environment and Climate Advisory Committee: Improvements to Energy Save New West
The Committee also wants us to further promote ESNW, and we will refer this request to the 2022 budget process, because it would really mean hiring new resources or redirecting resources. In the meantime, here is their website where you can learn about their many programs to make your home more energy efficient.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Increasing Equity in Voting: Mail Ballot Voting for Local Government Elections
One idea that cropped up last Municipal Election was the lack of a mail-in-voting option. In general, it was previously seen as expensive, a bit of a hassle, and of questionable value considering fewer than 1% of ballots are typically mailed in where the option is introduced. But our post-election survey suggested there was high interest in the community to introduce this, and it so happens that the Provincial Legislation was changed just this month to remove some of the restrictions on local government mail-in voting.

Remember, local elections are run by City Staff, and paid for by local taxes while being strictly regulated by the province (all for good reasons!). And although we know they are coming years in advance, there is a lot that has to happen in a very tight timeline. For example, the time between when the City actually knows who the certified candidates are and voting day is only about two weeks, making the production and distribution of mail-in ballots a challenge when staff are already busy setting up voting booths and otherwise preparing for voting day counting and accountability procedures. Staff note that mail-in voting for the provincial election has fewer restrictions, has more time, and has more resources. All that to say, adding mail-in voting is not simple or inexpensive. There is also a risk that a large number of mail-in ballots means we don’t know the results of the election until after election day, as those ballots cannot be counted until after polls close.

So staff are going to give it a shot

Accessibility and Disability Justice in the Built Environment – Update
The City has prioritized accessibility in its transportation work in the last few years. Some of this is easy to see (we are the only City in the Lower Mainland to achieve 100% curb cuts) some less outwardly visible (Accessibility training for all transportation staff to better understand barriers we create and best practices to avoid them). This report gives a bit of an update on the work being done, and work yet to come.

We do this because it is the right thing to do, because truly accessible infrastructure works for everyone, not just people facing barriers, and because there is a significant justice and equity aspect to how we provide services in the City. We also have a few very vocal and passionate accessibility advocates in this City who keep Council and staff honest about doing this work. Thanks to their advocacy and the good work of staff, we are in perhaps a better situation than most Municipalities in meeting what are looking to be upcoming from the Provincial Government with the new Accessible British Columbia Act.

Canada Day 2021 Update
Canada Day is going to be different in 2021. For many people in the community, it will still be a day of celebration, and people will want to put on red and white and wave flags. Others are going to want to have a more reflective marking of 154 years since Confederation, especially in light of recent events that challenge some of the myths about Canada. Like many Canadians, I am both proud of where we are, and challenged by the work we have yet to do.

I don’t think there is a wrong way to mark this day (or not mark it). However, as a City we want to be sensitive to the differences in our community and try to accommodate and support those difference through our programs and events, and with the partners we work with to make events happen in the City. So with large public gatherings still under some restriction, we are fortunate to have partners across the community who have put together various programs from reflective to celebratory, and you and your family can make their choice. Check it out here.

Multiculturalism Advisory Committee: Black History Month Recognition and Promotion
The committee is recommending to Council that the City explore opportunities to better mark Black History Month in the City, as part of our larger Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism (DEIAR) Framework. This work will be referred through the Reconciliation, Social Inclusion and Engagement Task Force.

Environment and Climate Advisory Committee: Air Quality Monitoring in New Westminster
Air Quality is regulated by the Province under the Environmental Management Act. As a local government we cannot create regulations that limit or otherwise manage the creation of air pollution (outside of some limited nuisance bylaw power). However, in the GVRD, this power has been delegated to Metro Vancouver. Metro has staff that hand out air pollution permits to emitters like industries that might make smoke or smells (paper mills, breweries, compost facilities) and do some regional air quality tracking.

The Environment Advisory committee is asking that the City take a more proactive role at collecting air quality data collected by Metro Vancouver and disseminating that information. Staff is recommending instead we encourage a more citizen-activating program with the support of Metro Vancouver.

I am a little concerned, based on my professional experience in dealing with air quality aspects of the Environmental Management Act that air quality sampling and data reporting is way, way more complicated than most people think, and that decontextualized and unsystematic data collection actually creates more problems than it solves. If we want better reporting of air quality, we should be advocating to Metro Vancouver (and their empowering jurisdiction, the Ministry of Environment) to do that work, to assure it is done professionally and with the rigour required to give reliable data.


We then had a single Bylaw for adoption:

Housing Agreement (322 Seventh Street) Bylaw No. 8258, 2021
This Housing Agreement that secures rental tenure for his property in the Brow of the hill for the life of the building or 60 years was adopted.


Then the fun part of the meeting started as we dove in to some New Business:

Motion: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Applications in the Queen’s
Park Heritage Conservation Area

THAT Council support a temporary suspension in the processing of heritage revitalization agreement applications in the Queen’s Park heritage conservation area as of June 21, 2021 and until a revised HRA policy is in place, excepting those applications or pre-application reviews received prior to that date;
THAT Council direct staff to report back on the number and status of heritage revitalization agreement applications and pre-application reviews in the Queen’s Park heritage conservation area received on or before June 21, 2021, with the general expectation that they would continue to be processed;
THAT Council direct staff to finalize a work plan for an update to the 2011 policy for the use of heritage revitalization agreements, which would integrate the development of the 2017 Official Community Plan and the heritage conservation area.

This motion arose from some concern raised by advocates in the Queens Park neighbourhood that the Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) process within the Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) is not working as they would like. The HRA process is due for an update, and it is on staff workplans, but some heritage advocates do not like that HRAs are continuing to be evaluated without that update.

I could only support the third part of the resolution where a workplan for the update of the HRA policy is brought to Council. I cannot support a suspension of HRA applications in Queens Park, because I think that is at odds with the principles we negotiated with the community when we agreed to implement the HCA.

I was clear when I supported the HCS, and I will quote myself from the blog I wrote at the time: “the HCA policy cannot stop all development, infill density, or other ways of increasing housing choice in the Queens Park neighbourhood. We need to accelerate our work towards increasing laneway and carriage house infill, stratification of large houses if they wish to re-configure into multi-family buildings, and protecting the multi-family housing stock that already exists in Queens Park. The HCA as adopted will not prevent that progress”

Frankly, I am a little disappointed that four years later, we have people who have been actively engaged in this process for most of a decade still choosing to misinterpret or misunderstand what the HCA actually is, and that every project that comes up for consideration of an HRA, we have to once again address the same list of mischaracterizations about the processes and accusations of nefarious activity on the part of property owners, staff or council.

Support for the HCA was not unanimous, but was opposed by a number of residents of Queens Park, and it was through consultation and compromise that we got to a place where Council could support this HCA. The perception that the HCA will now include a freeze on all new changes in the neighbourhood for an indeterminate amount of time does not reflect the principles with which we negotiated the HCA with the community, is at odds with many of the City’s broader goals, from encouraging housing diversity and affordability to supporting equity and procedural fairness. Further, I just don’t see the current process as some sort of existential threat to the heritage homes or heritage character of the HCA, I am not sure what crisis exists that warrants this type of emergency measure to stop people applying for HRAs.

Council supported the motion in a split vote.

Motion: Pilot Project to Address the Mental Health Crisis and Issues Relating to Poverty and Homelessness

THAT the City of New Westminster convenes a time-limited task force to lead City efforts to build partnerships with senior levels of government and service providers in order to bring the pilot model to reality; and
THAT the City of New Westminster hires a consultant to lead community outreach to understand community needs and refine the specifics of the pilot model; and
THAT both the consultant and task force work with a focus on anti-racism, decolonization, anti-oppression, and non-carceral perspectives.

This motion is very consistent with the direction that New West presented in our submission to the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, reported on here.

Council unanimously supported it, and I just wanted to note that we should be seeking funding from the Provincial Government to fund this important development work, recognizing the important role this plays in achieving provincial goals in health care, homelessness, addiction, mental health, and police reform. I am happy we are doing this work (instead of making hollow gestures in calling for reform, as we are oft accused of doing), and hope others will partner with us.

Motion: Sex Worker Safety Workshop and Policies

THAT the City of New Westminster holds a workshop for city council and senior staff to learn about sex work and safety. The workshop should be provided by a peer-driven organization that works directly with sex workers; and
THAT staff are directed to report back to Council with sex worker safety policies, including staff training, from other municipalities including policies relating to bylaws and policing.

This is policy work consistent with the above, and though I have concerns we are running our staff a little thin in the social planning response to overlapping crises, Council voted to support this work getting done.

Motion: Support for Inclusion of Allied Health Workers in Public Health Care

THAT UBCM request that the Province expand access to and funding for allied health professionals, particularly mental health counselling specialties, and physical/ occupational therapy related specialties, through expansion of team based care through not-for-profit delivery including community health centres, available to all BC residents regardless of income, throughout the province; and
THAT the Province of BC increase supports and funding for Peer Navigators as part of the BC Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

This is a resolution to go to the UBCM conference in September that was unanimously supported by Council.

Council – June 7, 2021

Another Monday, another Council meeting. Topics went from heavy to whimsical with a lot on the Agenda. We started with a Development Variance Permit:

Housing Agreement Bylaw (322 Seventh Street) No. 8258, 2021: Bylaw for Three Readings and
Development Variance Permit DVP00688 to Vary Off-Street Parking at 322 Seventh Street
These two go together, because the first gives something to the City, the second is something the City gives.

This older apartment building in the Brow of the hill wants to build some new ground-level studio-style suites where there is currently covered parking. This requires that we vary the required off-street parking in the zoning. In exchange, we are getting a Housing Agreement that guarantees purpose-built rental for the life of the building or 60 years (i.e. that the property will not be converted to strata ownership). This assures they will fall under our Business Licensing provisions that further increase tenant protections.

After sending out notice to the neighbourhood, we got a few responses, mostly concerned that there is inadequate parking in the area. However, both informal and formal surveys of the area of the Brow show that off-street parking is underutilized, including in this building. Just as our parking minimums for new development are seemingly arbitrary and increase the cost of new housing, I think the balance between places-for-people and places-for-cars during our ongoing housing affordability and vacancy crises can afford to be adjusted a bit.

Council voted to grant the Variance and give the Housing Agreement Bylaw three readings.


The Following items were Moved on Consent:

Appointment – Poet Laureate 2021-2024
We have a new Poet Laureate! Alan Hill has done a great job telling the stories of our City for the last couple of years, but his term is up. The City had selection committee made up of members of the Arts Commission and subject matter experts, and they have made a recommendation to Council. Elliot Slinn is a poet, a musician, a philosopher, a Douglas College alumnus, and our new Poet Laureate. Welcome!

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Our regular update on COVID task forces. We are reaching the closing stages here, folks, get your vaccine, stay vigilant!

22nd Street SkyTrain Station: Escalators Replacement Project – request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
The escalators in the 22nd Street Station need to be replaced, and some of this work needs to happen when the station is not operational, which means at night, which means the contractor needs Construction Noise Bylaw exemption to do construction work at night. They will notify the neighbours.

Action Planning the Implementation of the Green Fleet Roadmap
The City’s fleet (engineering and parks trucks, police cars, fire trucks, etc.) make up about 40% of the city’s greenhouse Gas emissions. If we are going to meet out Climate Action goals, we have ~10 years to make a fundamental shift on how that fleet works. We have made some progress on this over the last few years, but have a big jump to make.

This will involve three actions. The most obvious is phasing out hydrocarbon-powered vehicles as they age out with EVs or other zero-emission vehicles (or low-emission ones where that is the best available tech). The second is making sure we have the infrastructure to support this shift – it’s not useful shifting to electric vehicles (or hydrogen, or whatever tech) if we don’t have somewhere to power/fuel them and the mechanical expertise to maintain and operate them. Finally, we can make some significant reduction by changing how we use fleet vehicles, such as reducing reliance on them or increasing the efficiency of their use.

This report mostly deals with the middle approach – the infrastructure investment we need to make right now to assure we are ready to switch to EVs as our gas fleet ages and new electric medium-duty vehicles enter the market. There is lots of detail in here (this is a great report for geeks like me!), but in short: we are on it!

416 Tenth Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Side Yard Projection
This house in the Brow neighbourhood has a covered deck that extends a few feet into the neighbouring property, and apparently everyone agreed to this encroachment a few decades ago. Now the deck needs to be repaired/replaced, which will slightly decrease the encroachment, but we still need to permit the variance for the new construction occurring in the encroachment space.

We will consider a DVP in a future meeting. If you have opinions, let us know!

230 Princess Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Driveway Width
The owner of this house in Glenbrook North wants to build a Carriage House, but the access room they have for a driveway is 8” narrower than required by the zoning Bylaw, so they are asking for a variance.

We will consider this DVP in a future meeting, if you have opinion, let us know!

618 Carnarvon Street: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw exemption
There is a complicated concrete pour happening near the Skytrain tracks in this project in a couple of weeks, and the proponent is being proactive in asking for a construction noise exemption to go a little past the permitted 7:00pm finish in case it is needed (they hope it won’t). They will let the neighbours know.

2020 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report
The City samples our water system every week at a variety of locations to make sure it is safe and potable. We sample for signs of bacteria, for chlorine lever (which you don’t want to be too low or too high) and for turbidity, and collect about 1,000 samples a year. This is the report. Tl;dnr: the water is good.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Engagement for the 2022 Budget Process
Last year was the most intense Budget engagement the City has ever done, and we are going to keep that momentum going in 2022. It will start in June and July with workshopping members of the City’s Advisory committees and Task Forces. Then as staff spend the summer putting their 2022 plans together based on that workshop info, we will re-launch BeHeardNewWest platform surveys in September, and another Budget 1010 Webinar with Q&A to help people understand the complexity of municipal finance.

This report also reports out on the 2021 engagement process, and what we heard from the public during that work – including the result of the survey that had more than 1,000 responses. Again, lots of good data in there if you are into that kind of thing.

601 Sixth Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Parking Requirements
The owner of this 4-storey office building in Uptown wants to do some internal and external renovations that increase its floorspace and make the commercial space more viable. This will result in an effective increase in FSR, but not the size or shape of the outside of the building. Though they currently meet the minimum parking space requirements, they will not meet that with the higher FSR and with the way our Parking Minimums have changed since the building was built, so they are asking for a variance to allow an FSR increase without an increase in parking spaces. Council had a bit of feedback, mostly concerns about not meeting the (updated) minimums for accessible parking, and asked staff to go back and have another look at the options.

We will consider this DVP in a future meeting, if you have opinion, let us know!

Cancellation of the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program
This is perhaps too “inside baseball”, but the Province surprised municipal governments by mentioning in passing that they were ending a funding program through which local governments get their Carbon Tax refunded to them if they demonstrate commitment and tracking of their GHG emissions. This was disappointing for a variety of reasons. The CARIP funding is not a lot of money (New West received about $115,000 per year in recent years of the program), but it was predictable base-line funding that local governments could use to leverage other funding sources for climate actions. It also created both an incentive for climate action for local governments (187 of 190 local governments have signed up) and a requirement for local government reporting of corporate GHG emissions, allowing us to track how we are doing as a province at addressing our goals.

The program is not perfect, and indeed as we work to reduce our emissions, it will become a less effective funding source (because our Carbon Taxes will go down), but unilaterally ending such a collaborative program without consulting local governments was not a great move – especially as we signed a Charter agreement to facilitate the program. But besides the bad form, we need to know if and how this program will be replaced. We are told it will be, but we need to know how and by what as we are busy doing the work of climate action, and were counting on this program to be there. So we are writing a letter to the relevant Ministers.

New Normal Staff Committee: COVID-19 Update: BC’s Restart Plan and New Westminster’s Restart Planning Matrix
The Province’s Restart Plan (v.2) is out, and that means new marching orders for everyone at the City. A slightly complex set of marching orders, though, as staff have to compare the stages of the restart plan to their operational areas and figure out how to maintain compliance, where our regulatory role is, and how to pay for any restarted programs in light of our budget and the anticipated restart schedule baked in to that budget. We also have to anticipate when the various steps will be met, and be prepared for a step backward in case. It’s a complicated piece of work. We can’t just flip a switch and start (for example) swim lessons again, we need to position staff, make sure facilities are ready, get the word out to residents, and pay for it all. This is probably no surprise to the many small businesses that have had to make similar adjustments, except that the scale of the City staff and breadth of programs is much more than any small business.

This report outlines timelines and plans for the various City departments. Some big-picture aspects: Expect more than 50% of staff back in offices (that is, still 50% remote working) by July when we hit step 3, and pretty much 100% back to traditional City Hall function by September (Step 4). Similarly, gradual increases in swim capacity and sport programming with pretty much back to normal in September, though there will be increased safety protocols for quite a while.

As this report is very in-ward-looking at City operations, we had a bit of a discussion after among Council about looking out at the community, and what we think the community is going to need to transition to a post-Pandemic world. We talked about how we can make that transition easier, what we can do (with our community partners) to bring some joy back to public spaces and create opportunities for us to get together and say hello to each other again. There will be more to come here, but if you have ideas, reach out to us and let us know!

In the meantime, let’s get our vaccines, folks, and be measured in keeping your vigilance up. Let’s work our way gradually into the return to normal human interaction, but know the worst is behind us.


Finally, we adopted these two Bylaws:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Cannabis Retail Location – 416 East Columbia Street) No. 8256, 2021
As discussed in a Public Hearing back in April, This Bylaw permits the fourth Cannabis Retail operation in the City, this one in the Sapperton neighbourhood.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (100 Braid Street) No. 8245, 2020
A discussed in Public Hearing back in December, this Zoning Bylaw that permits a Purpose Built Rental building at the foot of Braid was Adopted by Council.

Council – May 31, 2021

Our Council Meeting on Monday was limited to two Public Hearings, one relatively uncontroversial, one with a somewhat higher profile. The Agendas for both are long, but I’ll try to keep this short.

Zoning Amendment (1319 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8257, 2021
The owners of Steel & Oak have requested that their lounge endorsement be expanded from 50 patrons to 100. They are doing some internal renovation to expand to up to 89 seats indoors, and are including 11 outdoor seats in their slim patio area for a total of 100.

We have received a few pieces of correspondence on this, all in support, and had one person speak to the Public Hearing, also in support. Council voted unanimously to support giving the rezoning Bylaw Third Reading and Adoption.

Official Community Plan Amendment (823 – 841 Sixth Street) Bylaw No. 8261, 2021 and
Zoning Amendment (823 – 841 Sixth Street) Bylaw No. 8260, 2021
The longer discussion of the night was on an application from the Aboriginal Land Trust, Lu’ma Native Housing Society and the Swahili Vision International Association to build a 6-storey 96-unit residential building on Sixth Street directly across from the new high school.

The project would have 96 units, with a combination of one- two- and three-bedroom units that exceed the City’s Family Friendly Housing minimums. All of the units would be accessible or adaptable, and the building would be highly energy efficient by meeting or exceeding Step 4 in the BC Step Code. The building would be Purpose Built Rental for the design life of the building (60 years). The building would be truly affordable housing, with 20% of the units having a “deep subsidy”, meaning they would be within reach of people living on government shelter rates, 50% of the units would be “rent geared to income”, and 30% with moderate income affordable rates. That means rents for a one-bedroom unit would range from $375 to $1,195, depending on the residents ability to pay.

The Public Hearing is being held because we need an amendment to the Land Use Designation map in the OCP, and a rezoning to create a specific zone for this site (which allows us to specify things like unit mix, parking relaxation, and such to make the project work).

There was a lot of discussion in the community about the project, both in support and in opposition. We received something north of 350 pieces of correspondence from the public (by my rough count, about 75% in support), and both a petition and two organized letter writing campaigns were started. There were opinion pieces in the Record, lawn signs, small grassroots “rallies” on both sides of the issue, and a lot of social media chatter, not all of it friendly or community oriented. By my count (and my notes are messy) we had 74 people address Council with about 2/3 of those in support. In the end, Council voted to support the project.

The application before Council was for an OCP amendment and rezoning, and it is worth while talking about what an OCP Amendment is, as that seemed to be the focus of much of the discussion. Indeed, the density and building type does not fit the land use plan in the OCP, but as was covered in some detail in the Public Hearing, the application met a number of goals set out in the OCP around affordable housing, partnerships with not-for-profits & senior governments, and inclusionary housing.

This is not the first OCP amendment sought since the OCP was adopted in 2017. The Queens Park Heritage conservation Area, the preservation of the Slovak Hall, the addition of Childcare spaces to buildings in Moody park and Queensborough, the implementation of EV charging readiness for new multi-family housing, these all required OCP amendments in the last couple of years, and were approved because they met the larger goals of the OCP while not being complaint with specific land use plans or other portions of the OCP.

Respecting the OCP means understanding that it is a living document, and that some goals within can only be achieved by amendment. It means understanding that amending the OCP is an open, transparent, and public process, one where the Pros and Cons of amendment are discussed in the public record, and with public input. Ultimately, the job of Council is to weigh that input, the goals of the project, and the priorities of the City to determine if an amendment is appropriate.

There are always a few moments in a long public hearing like this that stand out to me. This meeting it was someone (sorry, I am paraphrasing and should give credit, but have I mentioned my messy notes?) asked to consider what an amendment of the OCP would say about our vision for the City. This led me to look up the vision statement in our OCP, which is long:

New Westminster is a healthy, inclusive and thriving community where people feel connected with each other. This sustainable city showcases a spectacular natural environment, public spaces and unique neighbourhoods that are well-integrated and accessible. Superior urban design integrates its distinctive character, heritage assets and cultural identity. Growth and development provide a variety of services and employment opportunities that contribute to a high quality of life for all.

I then looked up the Vision Statement that the current Council agreed to shortly after the last election, as we were preparing the Strategic Plan for the council term, which is shorter:

A vibrant, compassionate, sustainable city that includes everyone.

We also placed Affordable Housing at the top of our strategic goals. I look at those vision statements, and see this project as fitting well within them. Especially as we recognize the City has changed even since the development and adoption of the OCP. Affordable housing was certainly among the concerns in 2017, but it is now clearly the top local and regional concern for local governments. The $1M detached house price swept across new West in 2017, and the $500K apartment was soon to follow, and it wasn’t only New West. As prices continued to stretch out of reach, this term of Council (even before COVID) was being defined by actions to defend renters, a significant shift from condo development to purpose built rental, and now taking opportunities to leverage senior government funding to get non-market housing built.

But ultimately, this was a Land Use question, and I agreed that this was an appropriate land use for the site. The location near services, schools, and transit made sense. The building is situated on the available lots in a way that shifted the bulk of it away from back-alley neighbours. The low parking count is appropriate for the needs of the projected residents, and though the alley is limited, there is not anticipated to be a significant traffic impact (10 cars an hour for peak traffic addition will not meaningfully change how the laneway works). With the planned off-site and site works, this should be an attractive addition to the streetscape, both on the Sixth Street and laneway sides.

This was the right project at the right time. Council is committing to supporting some offsite-works as a financial contribution to the project, and we are hopeful that senior government funding will come through to get it built.