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.

Council – May 17, 2021

Our council day on Monday included an afternoon workshop where we talked about changes to our Agendas and how we communicate the work of Council to the public. It is very “inside baseball”, but we are trying to balance how we present agenda info to meet regulatory requirements and make them as easy to read and interpret as possible for people who don’t spend their entire life reading City Council Agendas (sit down, Canspice). It’s worth watching the video if you are interested in seeing what we are looking at, but I won’t go over it too much here.

Speaking of Agendas, our evening meeting started with us moving the following items on Consent:

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Once again, this report was just an update on the city’s task forces for Pandemic response. I think when this started, we did not imagine they would still be running today, 14 months later, but here we are. Get your shots, folks.

There is good work in here, including leveraging a Provincial Grant to help with outreach and advocacy services for the city’s homeless population, update on the health contact centre, discussion of (finally) addressing the public bathroom need in our commercial areas, continuing to engage with the local business community as operational constraints change with public health orders, and more.

Union of BC Municipalities 2021 Community Excellence Awards Submission
We are submitting applications for a couple of UBCM awards to recognize the great work staff did on our Climate Action and Pandemic Response. Cross some fingers.

Period Promise Initiative Launch
The City committed more than a year ago to pilot a program where menstrual products are made available in public bathrooms in the City, and the implementation of the program got delayed due to COVID and staff being moved on to COVID response work. It is finally up and running, and we got a little financial support from a federal government grant. Good news.

2021 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
Fraser snowpack remains slightly above average this year, but is melting off at a faster pace than expected in a La Nina phase, which reduces freshet-related flood risk. There is still some risk if we have anomalous weather, so we remain watchful, but not nervous.

Queen’s Park Preschool Society License Agreement Renewal
There is a preschool that leases space in a City-owned building in Queens Park whose lease has expired and a new lease needs to be signed. As it is a City asset being leased to a not-for profit, we need to be transparent about the terms, and Council needs to approve it. Done.


Then the following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

322 Seventh Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Off-Street Parking and Housing Agreement Bylaw for Three Readings
There is an older rental building in the Brow of the Hill that wishes to convert some of its (above ground) parking space to studio apartments. This would expand the number of units in the building from 55 to 60. The FSR increase does not take it past what is permitted in the current zoning, but a 60-unit rental building would normally require 60 parking spaces, but this proposal would take the current 51 spaces down to 42. Currently, the building only utilizes 27 of the current 51 parking spots, though the building is 96% occupied. In exchange, the building owner would enter into a housing agreement with the City to secure all 60 units as rental for the life of the building (or 60 years).

There would be small studio suites, and though this is not an affordable housing project, it would provide some relatively affordable housing in a place where there is currently empty parking spots.

If a housing agreement can be completed, then this will be reviewed through a Development Variance Permit, which Council will consider in a future meeting. If you have opinions, let us know!

FCM Grant Awarded for the “Pumping Up Savings in Heating” Pilot Program
I recused myself from the discussion here, as I volunteer as the Chair of the Board of a not-for-profit that would potentially partner with the City on this program. So I have no pecuniary interest, but to avoid the perception of conflict, I stepped out and didn’t vote on this item. Reading the report, the good news here is that the City was awarded a grant to develop a program to help homeowners convert to electric heat pump heating systems, which is one way to reduce the GHG emissions of our existing housing stock.

City of New Westminster Homelessness Response Strategy
COVID has been hard on the City’s homeless and under-housed, due to reduced capacity for support shelters and increased economic stress putting more people at risk of homelessness. This is certainly not an issue unique to New Westminster, and though there are certainly impacts on the comfortable housed, we cannot use a law-enforcement approach, but need to work with senior governments to address the causes and mitigate the harms of our neighbours being underhoused. This report outlines a strategy and some work the City is doing on that front.

There has been an ongoing effort to assure folks without a roof have access to basic sanitary needs, including a shower. Like most cities, we have a paucity of public washrooms, and this manifests in pretty unpleasant ways. We introduced some temporary measures at the beginning of the pandemic, but this only demonstrated that we need a more sustainable approach.

As always, funding is a challenge. Senior Governments are investing more now than in the last couple of decades, and we have been successful at some recent grant applications. But the there is a time gap between those grant awards and when we can see the results on the street, so catching up is going to take some time. We also recognize that ultimately, the solution is housing – government funded, truly affordable, and supportive housing.

Proposed 2021-2022 Equity Key Performance Indicator Framework
The City is committed to developing a DEIAR Framework, and as part of that work, we are identifying the “KPI” – or the measurable things that we can use to determine if we are meeting our strategic goals. This report outlines those metrics, as recommended by the Task Force, and asks Council for approval.


And we had one Bylaw to Adopt:

Consumption of Liquor in Public Spaces Bylaw No. 8264, 2021
It is now legal in designated areas of 7 parks in the City for adults to consume alcohol between 11:00am and the close of the park at dusk. I went on CKNW today (Wednesday) to talk about it, though I didn’t promote it too much because the host has me blocked on Twitter, and such is life.

Have a good long weekend, everyone.

Council – May 10, 2021

Folks. Things are busy.

I’ve said that before, and I am well past the time in my life when “I am really busy” is a brag. It is really a failure to plan. I just wish my busyness right now meant leaving my house more. Go get your shots.

I do have a job in real life, and it is eating up a bit of time these days. I also have a couple of completely volunteer Board gigs, and this week is the Lower Mainland Local Government Association annual conference and AGM, which requires a bit of planning, and as a VP, I have some duties to perform and prepare for – including one session where I have to interview someone who is rather intimidatingly smart. And then we have some resolutions to go through, which maybe I’ll get a chance to write a blog post about after, but if you want to know where Lower Mainland local government elected type’ minds are at these days, this package is a pretty good read. And i’m not one for clickbait, but Resolution #28 will Blow. Your. Mind. 

So the only reason I’m here is to tell you we had a very brief Council Meeting on Monday with one item on the agenda:

Consumption of Liquor in Public Spaces Bylaw No. 8264, 2021
This report gave us a first draft of the Bylaw that would meet the Provincial requirements to permit adults to responsibly drink alcohol in a few City parks on a trial basis in 2021. Due to some back-and-forth on Council and feedback from Staff, an area of Queens Park was added to the original proposal.

This coincides with recent Bylaws in the West Vancouver and Delta, existing bylaws in North Van City and PoCo, and pending motions in the District of North Vancouver and Vancouver Parks. This is a regional trend, and each City is approaching it slightly differently, I think New West is pretty “in the middle” in the range of options available to us. Let’s hope our community of park users can raise to the occasion, be respectful of other park users, act responsibly and make it easy for us to continue or expand the program in 2022.

Council, in a split vote agreed to give the Bylaw three readings, and will consider adoption on May 17th, which means the change should take place and signage installed by the May Long Weekend.

And that was the meeting. Hope you are all getting out there and getting your shots! Talk to you again when my head is back above water.

Council – May 3, 2021

They are coming out like super hero movies now, but with more interesting character arcs and less interesting costumes. Another Council meeting in the books, and this one with Public Delegations (that you have to watch if interested, because I don’t report on that kind of thing here. Strictly agenda business.) We started with two Temporary Use Permits:

TUP00012 Amendment for 97 Braid Street
The temporary parking lot by Braid Station has hosted a few drive-through food truck events, and have had no complaints. At some point we need to formalize this if they want to continue to do it, as it is not a permitted use of the lot under the current zoning. They have applied for a Temporary Use Permit, we put out notice about considering it, and received no feedback other than a supportive letter from RA that was attached to the application. So we are issuing the permit.

TUP00025 for 445 Brunette Avenue
The 100 Braid property is being redeveloped with a new Purpose Built Rental building, and the parking for the construction and adjacent school will be constrained, so they want to use an adjacent currently-empty parking lot. Again, a Temporary Use Permit is the best way to temporarily permit this use. We received a single piece of correspondence in support, and Council moved to approve it.


We then had a presentation and report:

Submission to the Provincial Special Committee on the Reform of the Police Act
The Province is looking at reform of the Police Act, and City Council was permitted to put in a submission to the Special Legislative Committee looking at this. We put together a Police Reform Working Group comprising a small number of staff and council members to develop this submission. This is what they came up with.

I was not part of the working group, but I am really proud of the work they did. As a City Council, we are in a somewhat unique situation taking part in a Police Act review. We do not direct the Police or have any real say over how they operate in our City (that is the job of the unelected Police Board) but we are expected every year to approve their budget, and the majority of the electorate have no idea that this separation of powers exist. If they are unhappy with the Police, we hear about it as City Hall. This relationship is suboptimal. For transparency, for public accountability, and for directing reform. So with that in mind, the working group decided to not simply look at our role under the Police Act, but instead to talk about what our vision for the community is as a Council (and by proxy, the vision of those who elected us), and what role policing plays in that vision. It then makes recommendations on how to achieve that vision, expanding the scope greatly out of the Police Act and Mental Health Act, to include the reform we need on how all government services are delivered to the most endangered people in our community.

Please read this report (It is here, starting page 82)  This is the kind of vision we need to be speaking to, and we need to be asking our Provincial Government to be brave enough, bold enough, and progressive enough to see that there is a better approach than the one that previous governments have relied on to get us to this point. And thank you to the Working Group for doing this work. It is really powerful.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

2021 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8259, 2021
Now that we have a budget approved for the next 5 years, and we have reporting from the Assessment Authority on assessed property values, our Finance Department is able to put together the tax rates math and present those rates as a Bylaw for 2021. For residential properties, that rate is 2.82922 permill (compared to last year’s rate of 2.73983)

Remember, these rates are prior to your (up to $845) Homeowner Grant if you are fortunate enough to be an owner and not a renter. And of course, if you are over 55 years of age and own your home, you should really be deferring your property taxes because there is no other program in the world where you can get a loan at interest rates way below inflation (0.45% annual interest, and it is simple interest on the original principle, not compounding) and not have to pay it back until you die or otherwise free up the accumulated value in the asset where you live. But, hey, don’t come here for financial advice.

Recruitment 2021: Advisory Committee Appointments
Some of our Council Advisory Committee folks have changed, mostly due to re-assignment by the organizations they are representing. These are volunteers helping the City be more accountable and better informed, and I think them for their service.

Release of Recommendations from Closed meeting regarding Business Licence Late Administration Fee and COVID-19 Relief Request
A few businesses in town may have been late at paying their business license fees due to COVID stresses and such, and we are waiving late fees again in 2021, recognizing that everyone needs a bit more room to make things work this year.

1319 Third Avenue (Steel and Oak): Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment and Manufacturing Facility Structural Change Applications – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This brewery in the North Arm North area (yes, that is an actual neighbourhood in the City, look it up!) wants to expand their lounge seating, which requires an amendment of the zoning language (to make the city and the Province both happy, because booze). We agreed to give the application First and Second reading, and it will go to a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my opinion until then. If you have feedback, let us know.

Grant Application: Local Government Development Approvals
We are applying for a UBCM grant to pay for a development approval process upgrade, which would take us digital. Wish us luck!


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

208 Fifth Avenue: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Application Progress Update – For Information
A property owner in Queens Park wants to subdivide and build a second home on their fairly large lot, and they want to do this through the HRA process. This is a preliminary report, and I am sure we will hear form the community on it, so let us know if you have an opinion.

Consumption of Liquor in Public Spaces Bylaw – Designated Park Zones
Staff have come back with some maps to inform the Bylaw to allow alcohol in some City parks as a trial for 2021. As this is a trial, I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds, but am happy to take Staff advice on what will work best operationally. When I initially proposed some spots, I anticipated that Staff would make some adjustments to this to address operational needs and their experience about how the parks actually work. Also, Council has asked that staff identify and appropriate area of Queens Park be added to the list, which I am happy to support.

If all goes well, we can have a bylaw read and adopted by the May long weekend.

823 – 841 Sixth Street: Affordable Housing Project – Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw and Zoning Amendment Bylaw for First and Second Readings
You may have read that there is an affordable housing project proposed by the Aboriginal Land Trust for an uptown location across 6th Street from the High School. The project would require an OCP amendment and a rezoning, but that is just the land use planning part of it. As this is a project that will go to a Public Hearing, the process requires that I keep an open mind about the merits or drawback of the aspects of the plan that will be tested at that Public Hearing. So not more about that now.

This is a non-profit affordable housing project, and as such the City has some potential to help with the financial aspects of the project. The City is NOT an affordable housing provider, and this project is not being led by the City. Paying for non-market housing is a provincial responsibility, and they have the budget to do so, the City simply cannot afford with our small tax base to pay for the social housing we need. In this case, the non-profit society and BC Housing will be paying for the project with (potentially) some support from the federal government. That said, we do have a role to play, both through our Affordable Housing Reserve Fund and overall through our Affordable Housing Strategy. A bit separate from paying for the capital cost or operational subsidy for the housing, we can remove some financial barriers to viable programs. For example, in the past we have allowed the use of leased City lands for supportive housing with several projects in Queensborough and Downtown, and we are able to waive some of the fees or offsite works requirements that would normally be charged to a for-profit development.

In the case of this proposal, they are requesting we not charge fees for some off-site works (the 6th Street streetscape and electrical connections) and we draw from the Affordable Housing Reserve to pay for some of the offsite servicing costs. This would result in about $631,000 in City contributions to help make the project viable.

Council agreed this was an appropriate level of support, in case the project is approved and funded in its entirety. We also moved to give the application First and Second readings, which means we are headed for a Public Hearing. If you have opinions, please let us know!


Finally, we read some Bylaws but only the following was Adopted:

2021 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8258, 2021
As mentioned above, the Bylaw that fixes our Property Tax rates for 2021 was adopted. The bill will soon be in the mail.