CGP Meeting

We had an extraordinary Council meeting on Wednesday, because we had some tough decisions to make. Well, really one big decision, and some accessory decisions will fall out of that.

The headline is that we have decided to not pursue emergency repairs on the existing Canada Games Pool, and will instead begin work towards its demolition. This was not a decision made lightly, as it has significant impacts on residents, staff, and budgets. It also breaking a commitment we made to the community about maintaining continuity of programming between the CGP and the TACC (təməsew̓ txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre), and we need to see accountability for not being able to follow through.

There are reports provided as part of the Council meeting that you can read here. If you want the details to address some of the speculation in the community, the facts are in there. I will try to summarize here, and let you know where my head is in making this decision – reminding you as always that I only speak for myself and not for all of Council or for the City.

The problem began a few weeks ago when we had torrential rains that overwhelmed the drainage system bypass designed to take all of the storm and sewer flow from the existing pool. The water back-up flooded a mechanical vault and messed up the mechanical and electrical systems that heat, filter, and circulate water to the pool. It also made it impossible to heat water for showers or run sewage, meaning the gym and fitness areas needed closing as well. While repairs were being undertaken, it became apparent that the pool was leaking. This is a bigger problem.

To find the source of the leak was a bit of a complicated process. It’s not just the concrete tank, it is the fittings for the drains and water supply system, and the 50-year-old pipe network that is underneath a big concrete water filled tank, so not really available for visual inspection. It involved pressure tests, scuba divers in the tank, isolating different circulation systems, dye tests, and systemically eliminating potential causes. There turns out to be more than one cause, but the biggest issue is a crack along the width of the tank where it goes from the shallow end to the deep one.

Once it was conformed the crack was actually losing water, there was a rapid but extensive evaluation of repair options, including bringing in outside experts for second opinions. Everything from epoxy in the cracks to re-lining the pool was evaluated, but the work required means draining the pool, which for complicated hydrostatic pressure reasons, can’t be done without groundwater management, which means drilling wells, then excavating the pool floor. A similar exercise was undertaken about 30 years ago, and it was not quick or inexpensive, as you can tell from the photos appended to the report:

So the decision staff and Council had to make was whether to go down this road. To make that decision we need to know the cost, the timing, and the risk. It is a bit complicated (its set out pretty well in the report, if you want to read it) but based on initial estimates of repair cost, and assuming that the repair could be affected in 6-8 months, the difference to taxpayers of us doing or not doing the repair is about $3 Million. The 8 month timeline is also based on some assumptions that may prove incorrect once we start the work. There was also a risk not just that the timeline would be extended, but that structural damage was such that the repair strategy simply didn’t work.

I appreciate that staff and our consultants were straight-up about this. Everyone want the pool up and running – the staff who work there, Council, the community. So there is a temptation to be engineering-optimistic to the point of Pollyanna about the proposed repair. But the reality is that any repair approach was going to be expensive, and uncertain. I think if we had a $100K repair bill and could guarantee it would be done by March, we would have pulled the trigger and gone that path, but that’s not the reality.

With the TACC scheduled to open in later 2023, and a potential for extensive repair to take 8 months, it came down to justifying the significant cost for what looked to be a decreasing number of months of service. It’s disappointing, but it was increasingly looking like we were throwing good money after bad, and the sunk cost fallacy, as tempting as it is, is bad governance.

So with CGP out of commission, we are looking at ways to provide alternative services, from re-arranging some gym equipment space and programming in to other spaces in the City to expanding the season and hours of both Hume and Moody outdoor pools. We are also looking to re-scheduling demolition work at the CGP to coordinate better with TACC construction. No doubt, this increases the urgency and importance of getting the TACC completed on time.

It is natural for the community to want to know why this happened, and even to speculate on some causes. Up to this point, the priority of City staff and contractors has been to investigate what was happening and gathering information about potential repair strategies so Council could make an informed decision as soon as possible. Determining the cause is part of that work, but not the focus. Now that the decision has been made, we can turn more focus to cause and accountability.

This is something that is sometimes hard to talk about in local government. We have contract relationships with consultants that spell out who is responsible for what; we have legitimate insurance and liability concerns that have an effect on the business of the City. Some of this info is protected by Section 90 of the Community Charter. However, in my comments in Council, I tried to make clear that the public needs accountability here. Fiscal impacts aside, the community has lost something – access to an important amenity, as end-of-life as it may have been. And the community deserves to know why. If this was a predictable and avoidable, I think we need to be transparent about why it was not predicted or avoided. If it was a fluke of geotechnical bad luck, I’d like to know what measures were taken to anticipate and avoid this turn. The community is going to speculate (New West is pretty good at that – we are an engaged and chatty community!), but the only response to that speculation is to get the right information out there, The City has an FAQ up here, and we will update info when we have info to update.

So in summary, this sucks. We really hoped that there would be continuity between CGP closing and TACC opening, but I think Council made the prudent fiscal and responsible decision. Following up on that, we have more decisions about alternate programming and staffing that will unfold in the next little while.

Council – Nov 22, 2021

Our meeting this week included two relatively high-profile Public Hearings. Not because the change to the land use was large, but because the word Heritage was involved, and the properties were in Queens Park. Add those two together, and you get passionate community input. So we had four hours of discussion with the community about two projects:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (Bylaw No. 8262, 2021)
Heritage Designation (Bylaw No. 8263, 2021) for 515 St. George Street
This homeowner on the western edge of Queens Park wants to build a laneway house on the back of their property, which is one of the “lanes” that is actually a named street with other properties facing it. The laneway house would be a single-storey fully accessible 830 square foot home and meet the design guidelines for new construction in the Queens Park Heritage Conservation area.

The Community Heritage Commission supports the HRA, and the project meets the OCP. It is actually within the laneway house accommodation that would be permitted by right in Queens Park, except for the zoning designation of this lot. The total density proposed (FSR 0.515 for the existing house and 0.185 for the LWH) is the same as any heritage house in Queens Park is entitled to (0.7), so instead of building an addition to the house and a accessory/garage, they are taking this path to build a LWH.

We had 5 written submission and about a dozen people come to Council to speak to this project, the majority opposed. Opposition included that this was not a “real” HRA (yes it is, this is exactly what the HRA program is designed for), and that here is no “heritage win” (like every HRA in Queens Park, we need to remind folks that designation through HRA is a much higher level of protection than the HCA provides).

Council voted to give the HRA and Designation Bylaws Third Reading.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 8271, 2021
Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 8272, 2021 for 208 Fifth Avenue
This homeowner wants to subdivide their property into two lots (4,000 and 4,710 sqft), move the existing 1910 house forward on the northerly lot, and build a new house on the larger southerly lot facing Elgin Street. This project has been back and forth a few times, and the owner has made some pretty significant changes to the project over the last year. This project aligns with OCP goals and was approved by the Community Heritage Commission.

The resultant lots will be smaller than the zoning requires, but not out of scale with the 8 lots around them (two 4,356 sqft lots to the east, a 3,300 sqft lot to the south, several 4,356 sqft lots to the north). There was a lot of concern expressed about this being “extreme density”, but the two lots would have FSRs (0.7 and 0.64) within what is currently allowable for heritage properties, and lot coverages (31% and 29%) lower than what is allowed (35%). To put that in perspective the land owner is currently entitled to build 1,154 sqft more on the existing lot than the total that is proposed for the two lots. This is not only not “extreme density”, it isn’t even building to already approved density. If that isn’t gentle, I don’t know what would be.

We received 14 pieces of correspondence on this project, and had about 20 people come to speak to us about it; again more against than for. Opposition included that this was not a “real” HRA (yes it is, this is exactly what the HRA program is designed for), and that here is no “heritage win” (like every HRA in Queens Park, we need to remind folks that designation through HRA is a much higher level of protection than the HCA provides). There was also concern that this was “over density”, when by any measure it is under density already permitted for the site.

Council voted to give the HRA and Designation Bylaws Third Reading.

Council – Nov 15, 2021

Our Council meeting this week seemed like everything else this last month –  little glitchy. Staff at the City have done a phenomenal job rolling with the various changes in how we delivered Council meetings, with shifting Public Health Orders and legislative requirements around electronic meetings, which included a complete review of our digital environment. This week’s glitches were not their fault, but a failure in the phone system that was felt nationwide that just happened to occur during our meeting, and our meeting while the province was beginning to flood. I’m not sure the two were related, but if you were following in Zoom and didn’t hear everything, the streamed video of our meeting does have clear audio, so you don’t have to miss any of the exciting action on our agenda. We started with reviewing a Temporary Use Permit:

TUP00027: 502 Columbia Street (former Army and Navy Store) for Emergency Homeless Shelter
This permit would allow the Purpose Society to operate an emergency shelter in the lower floor (fronting Front Street, not Columbia) of the Army and Navy Building, in which Purpose has been providing other programming for several months. The TUP will be active for 3 years, though we hope it will not be required for this long a time. The last time we issued a TUP for an emergency shelter, it was active for about 6 months.

At this point, it is a little unclear which will be funded here. Purpose has adequate funding to open an “Emergency Weather Response” shelter, which would be made available for up to 50 persons with no other shelter overnight only during extreme weather events between November and March. The only other such service in New West was downsized to 30 beds due to COVID restrictions, and is now in the process of being repurposed to provide health services on a more permanent basis. If BC Housing comes through with additional funding, this could become an “Emergency Response Shelter”, which would provide a similar number of beds on a 24/7 basis with full supports for the residents that would fill the gap until more permanent Emergency Housing is available (which we hope to see opened within 18 months).

We has a significant amount of public feedback on this through various media. Written correspondence included 44 pieces, with concerns raised related to crime and the impact on businesses, but also a significant amount of support and recognition of the pressing need for shelter, and preferably housing.

Council moved to approve the TUP, and reinforced the message to BC Housing that true 27/7 shelter with supports is the preferred model here. We have more than 100 people living without shelter in New Westminster. We have a service provider willing to step up, BC funding willing to fund, and a building owner with vacant space willing to provide appropriate space for those residents that want to come indoors, get warm, get clean, get help, it would be unconscionable for us to say no.

Business Regulations and Licensing (Rental Units) Amendment Bylaw No. 8302, 2021
We are making changes to the business Bylaws we adapted to provide extended protection to renters from demo-viction and reno-viction in light of changes by the Provincial Government to the Residential Tenancy Act. We asked for public input, it got a little media attention, but we received no feedback, so Council moved to go ahead with the changes.

We then moved the following items on Consent:

Budget 2022: Engineering and Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw Report
As previously discussed, the Bylaws for Utility Fee changes was presented and moved by Council. Yep, utility rates are going up. Both Water and Sewer primarily because of Metro Vancouver costs going up, Electrical going up basically at the inflation rate as recommended by the Electrical Utility Commission, and Solid Waste going up because we have a couple of pressing capital costs.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Extension Request: 618 Carnarvon Street
The new building that will partly encapsulate the SkyTrain downtown (reducing its noise) has been planning to do that encapsulation work for a few months, but was delayed. So the noise variance they need to do some of this work at night (when SkyTrain is not operating, for obvious reason) needs to be extended, which we are doing except for the period through the Christmas Holidays.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation
That shitty sewer project on Columbia needs to work up to 4 nights in late November or early December in order to get done this year. The timing is critical because they cannot do this work when there is significant surcharge in the sewer –so they need drier weather for a short stretch. Like a root canal, it sucks, but we gotta get past this and get that sewer rehabbed.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: New Westminster Interceptor – Sapperton Connection along East Columbia Street
This is a different phase of the same work, in a different location. Two nights some time before Christmas, they are going to do sonar inspection of the sewer line. This should not make much noise other than the idling of a couple of vehicles, but night construction work requires an exemption.

Covid-19 Task Forces: Update
This is our regular (now about once a month) update on the Tasks Forces the City setup to address specific challenges related to the pandemic and related Public Health measures. If you are curious about what the City has been doing in support of vulnerable and at risk populations, seniors and persons living with disabilities, and business and the local economy, these are the updates you want to see. Putting hope into action, as we have been doing for 18 months now.

Crisis Response Bylaw Amendments: Consultation Summary and Second Reading of Bylaws
More of the Hope and Vision stuff, the City has bundled three projects together to accelerate the development of supportive and affordable housing in the City in response to the ongoing homelessness crisis. One is giving Council some power to fast-track response City-wide in the event of a BC State of Emergency declaration, one to accelerate approval for a supportive housing project in Queensborough, and another to fast track a supportive modular housing project downtown. We sent this out for Public Consultation, and this is the report back.

We had four virtual information sessions (totaling >50 people), A Be Heard New West page (>450 visits. >150 active participants). General support for the City-wide plan, and general support for doing “something” about providing shelter for unhoused people, but local concerns about the specific locations and problem behaviours. There are also a significant number of responses fully in favour of each project.

As this involves an OCP amendment, it will go to a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until them.

District Energy Bylaw No. 8269, 2021 for First Reading
The City and the Electrical Utility are continuing to work on a District Energy Utility (DEU) for Lower Sapperton to take advantage of a Metro Vancouver sanitary sewer main (as a carbon-free energy source), in a location that can provide base load carbon-free energy to the expanded RCH and upcoming developments in the area – predominantly Sapperton Green. This single project, if fully realized, would offset community GHG emissions equivalent to the entirety of New Westminster’s Corporate Emissions. To undertake the next stage business case development, a Bylaw is required to assure new development in the area hooks up to the DEU such that space heating, cooling and/or water heating in new developments will be provided by the DEU, and sets out conditions for the relationship between a developer and the Electrical utility to let this happen.

Anyway, this is first reading, so if you have input, let us know!

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Refresh: Principles and Community Consultation
This is a very preliminary report, asking that staff go out to do public consultation on this topic that eats up a completely disproportionate amount of our Council time and staff energy, considering the minuscule impact it has on the community at large. Ultimately, the process for approving HRAs (where the City gives rezoning-like benefits to property owners in exchange for them preserving a heritage asset) is cumbersome and has been the cause of much community conflict, so clarifying the process will benefit us in reducing the effort of staff needed to manage these, and potentially the conflict in the community related to their application. So off to Public Consultation it goes, and we will try to hammer out some principles to make the process work better, because the current process is clearly making no-one happy.

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 8300, 2021
Every year, we need to set up a borrowing Bylaw to give staff the ability to dip into a line of credit in case we run out of cash waiting for the annual tax and utility bills to get paid. We spend money year round, but mostly get paid in one month in the summer, this gives us the $3 Million buffer we need to make sure we don’t run into a shot-term cash crunch.

Schedule of Council Meetings for 2022
Mark your Calendars. Here is the schedule for 2022. 20 Council meetings, 10 Workshops, and 7 Public Hearings. One meeting in Queensborough (haven’t done that in a while!) and 3 of those meetings are actually after the 2022 election, so will be a new Council.

The following items were Removed from consent for discussion:

Climate Action: 2020 Corporate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Update
We annually report out our Corporate GHG emissions, and compare to the reduction goals set out in our Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy (CEERS). 2020 was the first year in included the emissions produced by contractors working for the City as part of our own emissions, but we are still almost on track to our CEERS targets. There have also been some changes to how the Province counts electricity emission factor (how much GHG emissions are related to BC Hydro supplied electricity) so our reporting numbers look a little different than previous numbers.

In short, our emissions are about 20% lower now than they were in our 2010 baseline year, where a “straight-line” reduction to our 2030 would have us at 22.5% below 2010 now. Not quite on track, but not far off. This is, however, good news. We know that the construction of the təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre will reduce our emissions by something like 15% when it replaces the Canada Games Pool, so that 15% is not yet counted, but is already in our budget and being built. We are certainly on track to get below our 2030 target by investing now, not by waiting or talking about targets, but by doing the work.

New Westminster School District’s 2021-2022 Eligible School Sites Proposal Report: City Response
The City is growing at the pace outlined in the City’s Official Community Plan and we are hitting the targets we committed to in the Regional Growth Strategy. More importantly, we are seeing that there is a demographic shift happening in the community, and (perhaps a reflection of the City’s Family Friendly Housing policies coming into effect) we are having an increased number of young families moving to the community, which means we need more schools.

Fortunately, the Provincial government has abandoned the absurd BC Liberal policy of only building schools for *current* need, and are giving School Districts more flexibility to apply for capital projects to meet projected capacity needs based on community OCPs and demographics, but we are already about 5 years behind (as schools under construction were mostly approved under that previous policy). So the City needs new school locations. Of course, it has been more than 100 years since New Westminster had any empty “greenfield” spaces for new schools. So we need to repurpose existing land use and build schools more appropriate for dense urban spaces.

The School District has been working on this, and we have had extensive discussions over the last little while at both a staff-to-staff level, and a Council-to-School-Board level, to see how we can help the School District achieve their goals. The Board has developed a needs assessment and an Eligible School Sites Proposal to take to the Provincial government, and have asked the City to provide support. Staff say their projections look spot on, so we are sending a note to that effect. More to come here!

Preliminary Application Review: OCP Amendment and Rezoning – 1084 Tanaka Court
A property owner in Queensborough previous approached the City about building a banquet hall on a piece of industrial-zoned property in Queensborough. They now want to build a residential (Purpose built Rental) on this property as part of a mixed-use development. This is an area (North of the freeway, near the Casino and Lowe’s) not previously envisioned for residential use, and is a pretty significant departure from our OCP. Not just an increase in density or built form, but a substantial shift in land use areas. Staff is recommending against this change, but the applicant has an opportunity to apply to Council.

This was an interesting discussion at Council, and I honestly think most of us are on the fence on this one – but I can only really speak for myself here. At first pass, this does not look like an appropriate change of land use. The property is in a light industrial area, though most of the surrounding use is more commercial. We have long supported a policy of protecting job-creation and industrial space in the City, as it is under threat form a variety of directions. Then you consider that adjacent properties and those across the street are zoned M-1 or M-2, and as such are currently permitted to be lumberyards, machine shops, or factories manufacturing anything from rubber tires to textiles. The pedestrian realm nearby is not designed for a family neighbourhood, and most services are not easily accessible. But the idea of saying no to daycare and housing when both are in such critical need in the community and the region right now puts us in a real conundrum.

Council, in a split vote, agree to allow staff to continue to work with the property owner to see if they can develop the project some more, but also expressed some concerns about it. If this proceeds, it will eventually end up in a Public Hearing, and it will no doubt be an interesting one that asks some difficult question of Council and the community.

We also had a Presentation:

We got a presentation from a person who lives in the Driftwood Village Cohousing Project in North Vancouver, and from a member of a burgeoning co-housing group in New West, to outline how co-housing might work in the City. A lot of this was very educational about what co-housing is and (more importantly) about what is isn’t. This is a different model than Co-op housing, and though it may include some affordability elements, it would generally not be considered an Affordable Housing model. It does however, fill as a bit of a “missing middle” niche for people who want to live in a more community-focused setting ,somewhere between a regular strata and a co-op (though they are usually structured as a Strata in the legal and financial sense. Our new OCP provides an opening to supporting Co-housing, and this presentation gave us an opportunity to learn what models might work in the Greater Vancouver context, and how we might support that model better. It also ended in Council asking staff to look deeper into how we might support such a model in the City if the opportunity arises.

Finally, we had a boatload of Bylaws, including the following for Adoption:

Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 8298, 2021
Municipal Ticket Information Amendment Bylaw No. 8299, 2021
These bylaw amendments support the change in the Business Licensing Bylaws around Tenant Protection, as discussed above, and were Adopted by Council.

Climate Action, Planning and Development User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8293, 2021
Cultural Services User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8294, 2021
Electric Utility Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8295, 2021
Engineering Services User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8292, 2021 and
Financial Services Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8296, 2021
These Bylaws amend the fees for 2022 for the various services provided by the City, mostly going up to match inflation. And they were all adopted by Council.

Council – Nov 1, 2021

Another Council meeting that followed another afternoon workshop on the budget. This one was our first look at the Operational budget, and you can see the video here and look at the agenda that has spreadsheets and numbers of such if that is your thing. More on that later, because we had an entire evening Agenda to go through. We started with a Presentation:

Peer Assisted Crisis Team Pilot Project
There is no questioning the mental health and addiction crises impacting our City. This doesn’t make us any different than any city in North America during the overlapping crises of opioid addiction and poisoned drug supply, housing affordability and homelessness, COVID-related strains on support services, ongoing austerity approaches to health care and neoliberal approaches to addressing poverty. In most jurisdictions, the biggest impacts of all of these are falling upon police to address, when policing usually isn’t what is lacking in these spaces, and when police interactions have a history of turning out poorly for some people in mental health distress, and for the police. We have committed in New Westminster to not put this burden on police, but to find alternative approaches.

This presentation outlines a pilot project that takes a different approach, working in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association, and three other municipalities, based on best practices applied in other jurisdictions around North America. We are also applying to a couple of Provincial funding programs to help support this approach. The goal (fully supported by New Westminster Police) is to shift from a criminal response to a health response for the calls that warrant that response.

We then moved the following items On Consent:

Canada Games Pool Unplanned Closure Update
The CGP has been closed for a couple of reasons, none of them good. An equipment vault under the pool building flooded during heavy rain damaging a bunch of water heating and recirculating equipment. With uncertain drainage capacity, and no hot water for operations, the entire pool building had to be shut down while the flooding problem was fixed and damaged equipment was repaired or replaced. Unfortunately, as these repairs were occurring, a leak in the main pool tank was detected, and that is going to take some time to diagnose and (hopefully) repair. In the meantime, we have to make some hard decisions about programming and staff as it looks like the facility will not be able to operate until at least early 2022.

One of the foundational ideas of the CGP replacement plan was that the existing pool was old and subject to significant maintenance and operational risk, but we needed to keep it running while the new pool was built so there was as little loss in continuity of programming as possible. That is still our principle, and our goal is still to get the exiting pool operating ASAP so we are no going without for the next three years. So we will hope the engineers can assess and provide a remediation plan in short order. Fingers crossed.

Electric Bikeshare Program – Motion from Sustainable Transportation Task Force
There is a new e-bike share program being piloted on the North Shore after a couple of false starts. We did some preliminary look at a similar program a couple of years ago, but the business case was not looking promising. There has been some learning in the North Shore program, some change in technology and we are moving from bleeding-edge to leading-edge on these types of programs, so we are asking Staff to take another stab at putting together a model that might work here. (That sentence was more Halloween-themed than I intended).

Miscellaneous Zoning Bylaw Amendments for First and Second Readings
Our Zoning Bylaw is a big, cumbersome document. Occasionally, staff do these omnibus updates to fix miscellaneous text, definitions, alignments with other city bylaws, or to simplify parts that are unnecessarily complicated or redundant. These don’t change how the zoning bylaw works, just how it reads. This is First and Second Reading, and we will waive Public Hearing for this update, but if you have opinions or feelings about the categorization of drive-in theatres or anything else, let us know.

Public Art Calls: Artist Roster and Artist-Initiated Projects
The Arts Commission recommends we put together an Artist Roster to reduce the amount of time and effort it takes ot engage an artist for smaller public art projects in the City. We will also open up opportunities for Artist-Led public art projects in the City, with some funding from the Public art Reserve Fund.

Temporary Use Permit: 502 Columbia Street (Former Army and Navy Department Store) – For Emergency Shelter
We have an emergency shelter crisis in the City – there are simply not enough emergency shelter beds for the unhoused population of the City. The Purpose Society has vacant space on the lower floor of the Army & Navy building they can convert to emergency shelter space for up to 50 adults. That doesn’t fit their current zoning, so we can issue a Temporary Use Permit for up to three years. This report outlines the plan and gives notice we will consider the TUP in a future meeting. If you have opinion, let us know.

But think of this: the City has no Weather Emergency Beds right now. Unhoused residents of New Westminster (of which there are more than 50) currently have no-where to seek emergency shelter as we are heading into winter. We can put in up to 50 beds for Weather Emergencies where unhoused residents can safely spend the night in the event a weather emergency is declared. If BC Housing comes through with Emergency Shelter funds, we can create up to 50 shelter beds that would be available 24/7 and come with full support for people needing support. All of this is for up to 18 months until Emergency Supportive shelter that is planned can come on line.

User Fees and Rates Review for 2022, Amendment Bylaws for Three Readings
As discussed last meeting, one of the early parts of our annual Budget process is to update our fees. We gave tacit approval last meeting, now the appropriate Bylaws have been sketched up and we are giving them three readings.

These items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Arts Advisory Committee
We are streamlining a couple of committees that provide subject matter expertise and community input to the City’s arts policies. This approves the committee Term of Reference to the new Arts Advisory Committee.

Business Regulations and Licensing (Rental Unit) Bylaw: Next Steps
This is a slightly complicated success story. A couple of years ago, as the City was facing a burgeoning reno-viction crisis, so we took a proactive approach to use our Business Licensing powers to fill what we identified as gaps in the tenant protection parts of the Residential Tenancy Act. Since then, three things happened: the Landlord Lobby challenged us in court (we won), other cities have followed our approach (yeah!), and the province update the Residential Tenancy Act to fill some of those gaps.

Those RTA changes made parts of our Bylaw inoperative, so staff is suggesting we repeal those parts of the Bylaw (and the parts of the ticketing Bylaw that support it) as is good practice (you don’t need inoperative bylaws kicking around), and as the new RTA changes are coming into operation, we will continue to keep an eye on how they work in practice, and will be ready to act if we feel the protections are not adequate to address the issue in our community.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (208 Fifth Avenue) Bylaw No. 8271, 2021 and Heritage Designation (208 Fifth Avenue) Bylaw No. 8272, 2021: Bylaws for First and Second Readings
The owner of this house in Queens Park wants to restore and permanently preserve the existing heritage house and move it forward on the lot while subdividing the lot and building an infill house facing Elgin Street. This project will go to a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then. If you have opinions, let us know!

HRA Refresh: Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area Post-Implementation Evaluation and Report Back on Final Incentives
When the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area was implemented 4 years ago, the plan included developing a series of immediate and longer-term incentives to encourage the conservation of heritage homes, and perhaps to compensate owners for perceived or actual loss of house value due to the HCA. All of the short-term incentives have been introduced, and this report talks about the medium-term incentives. The great part is we are 4 years out and can do the analysis to determine whether the knock-off effects some people feared with the HCA occurred.

There was fear that the extra “red tape” would reduce the amount of renovation activity. Turns out permits are slightly up. There were fears that housing values would be impacted, and it turns out that during the HCA debates price increases went up 5% -7% slower than the rest of the region, but two years after implementation this had rebounded with values going up 10% faster than the regional average. Overall, there has been no significant impact on housing process relative to larger regional trends.

With a couple of medium-term incentives already introduced, and a couple more already in the pipeline, we are not going to explore the housing-price-driven incentives of multi-unit conversions and stratification. These will not be introduced as an as-right benefit of owning a home in the HCA, but will still be possible on a project-by-project basis under the Heritage Restoration Agreement process, much like in the rest of the City. More will come on that as we are working on a refreshing of the HRA program.

Regional Growth Strategy Update: Metro 2050 Comment Period
As we saw in the workshop presentations last time Council met, Metro Vancouver is working to update the Regional Growth Strategy, adopted 10 years ago, and look forward to 2050.

The existing plan was ratified in 2011 by the 20 Municipalities in Greater Vancouver, the sole Treaty First Nation with Municipal powers (Tsawwassen) and the neighboring Regional Districts. It projected the expected growth in the region (pretty accurately, it turns out) and set targets for each of the 22 jurisdictions within the region to fulfill the need to accommodate this growth (which were perhaps less accurate). The updated RGS puts more of an emphasis on climate, equity, reconciliation, and housing affordability, but will work in pretty much the same way. There are other changes, and I will write about this in a follow-up.

New West, like all other municipalities, was asked to provide formal feedback through both staff and council. Our Staff have already helped assure that more analysis is done on the current impacts of climate disruption (e.g. heat waves and air quality related to fires) and how we plan to address the horrific health impacts of these. They also introduced the need for more ecologically-focused set of policies around conservation lands and a more equity-focused set of strategies around tree canopy enhancement. We now have a few more suggestion to include in out input. The target of 15% of new units in transit-dense areas of the region being Affordable Rental Housing is consistent with New Westminster’s own goals, but we cannot limit ourselves to transit-dense areas where land prices are highest to fill this need, and need to find the incentives to leverage affordable housing development in these areas. We also need to have stronger renter protection regionally, so new affordable housing is not displacing the already-most-affordable stock in the region. The one part I added was a concern that jurisdictional targets are being replaced by sub-regional targets. I’m not sure I like this, because it seems to make local governments less accountable. We need more accountability for inequity across the region, not less, and we need elected officials to be accountable for decisions that impact the whole region. A sub-regional approach may remove that.

We then moved a bunch of Bylaws, including Adopting the following:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (733 Thirteenth Street) No. 8266, 2021
This Bylaw that enables the conversion of a existing single detached dwelling in the West End for use as a licensed group child care facility was Adopted by Council.

And we had one Motion from Council
Creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment outside Council Chamber, Councillor Trentadue

Whereas the City of New Westminster’s vision is “A vibrant, compassionate, sustainable city that includes everyone”; and
Whereas Reconciliation, Inclusion and Engagement is a high priority for the City as we work towards “creating a welcoming, inclusive and accepting community that promotes a deep understanding and respect for all cultures”; and
Whereas our 2019 Arts Strategy outlines goals and a vision that encompasses “Communicate, Nurture, Include, Generate and Innovate” while expanding opportunities for the Arts in our community; and Whereas a motion approved in January 2020 called for ways in which the City can be more welcoming and inclusive, specifically related to Civic facilities, City Hall and Council Meetings;
Therefore be it resolved that Arts Services report back to Council and the PAAC with options to reimagine the space and walls outside Council Chamber to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment.

With all the renovations of City Hall, the foyer in front of Council Chambers has been largely ignored, and is really not a very inclusive or particularly attractive place. Giving the Public Art Advisory Committee a chance to dream up something better and more fitting is a great idea.

Council – October 18, 2021

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

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

We then moved the following items On Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

We adopted the following Bylaws:

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

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

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

Enforcement Against Derelict Vehicles, Mayor Cote

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council – October 4, 2021

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

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

We then moved the following items On Consent:

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

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

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

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

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

We then Adopted the following Bylaws:

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

Finally, we had a motion coming out of Public Delegation

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

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

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

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

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

Council – Sept 27, 2021

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

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

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

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

The following items were Moved on Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

We then adopted the following Bylaws:

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

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

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

Finally, there was one Motion from Council:

Building an All Ages and Abilities “AAA” Network

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

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

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

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

Council – Sept 13, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We than moved the following items On Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following item was Removed from Consent:

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

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

We then adopted the following Bylaws

Street and Traffic Amendment Bylaw No. 8275, 2021
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw No. 8277, 2021
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

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;
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…

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.