Council – June 7, 2021

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

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

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

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

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


The Following items were Moved on Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Finally, we adopted these two Bylaws:

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

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

Council – May 31, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A vibrant, compassionate, sustainable city that includes everyone.

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

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

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

Tired

It’s exhausting.

I just don’t know how to talk about this, especially in a family friendly way. Swears are all I got left. Not the kind you yell out, but the kind you just mumble. We are all waiting to get “around the corner”, the “light at the end of the tunnel”, or whatever metaphor you want for being done with the bad news. So we can start working on building things instead of rushing to fill newly dug holes, start getting healthier instead of staunching the flow of bad shit. But the bad shit keeps on coming. It can be crushing. Our tear supply runs low. Damn.

I don’t know if it is confirmation bias or something systemic, but fire seems to be a thing of modern New West, not just the legend of our past. Maybe it’s the cost of having so much 100-year old infrastructure that was preserved due mostly to decades of neglect, but still doesn’t quite have the value in it to fully modernize. Or the remnants of our pioneer spirit that emphasizes tacking on the new instead of maintaining the old. Or maybe it’s just a run of bad luck. Like the last one and the one before, this one hits hard, and will change us.

Like many people in New West, I have my personal stories about these spaces. The Pho place became our go-to for soup-like weather (like Monday was, strangely enough) when they replaced the reliable old-school pasta place that was there for so many years no-one remembers a time before. Watching the slow migration of the décor from Mediterranean to Vietnamese became part of the charm of the place, but the Hue-style spicy soup is what brought me in, and the staff are such nice people. We were rooting for them to survive the lockdowns.

I’m not a renowned denizen of night clubs, but even I had a couple of memorable nights at the serial-name-changed night club, some best-not-related (Happy Birthday, Jeremy!), but I think the night dancing with the Pattullo Bridge costume and losing a vote to a dead Kennedy will be one of the legends of my life.

And then there is the Heritage Grill, and yeah I am giving it the extra emphasis. So many plans were schemed in that back room with the sketchy AV system – more than a few of them implemented. So many New Westies met their cohort for the first time in that space, so much music (most of it good!). For all its quirks and foibles, that corner of Columbia and Church was a place where community was built. The owner, Paul, took a risk on opening a small live music spot 16 years ago when most thought Columbia Street wasn’t ready for this kind of thing. He then went about making New West ready for it, by making the space welcoming to artists, musicians, and any organization wanting to do something different in the community.This is how I will remember the Heritage. The backroom filled to capacity at a funraising (fundraising?) event for a political cause the folks in the room will remember fondly.

The Heritage Grill became a hub for the Pride community, for the environmental community, and a few political careers were launched there. The $10 Burger and Beer fundraiser was the easiest way for a small organization to raise a little seed funding, and start a movement. Paul was so generous in giving space to the community, I’m glad to see the community is finding a way to give back to him. Help if you can.

Addendum: Hey, I’m not a tattoo guy. I’m apparently the last person on earth to not have ink in their skin. But I recognize that a tattoo artist also creates a community around their work, and the loss of this business also impacts our residents, our downtown and the people who put their passion and skill into a business. It just wasn’t top of my mind while writing this up, as it was not a business I had a personal contact with. No slight intended. Also, two other Funding Campaigns have been set up to support the owners of Happy Buddha and Pho Pho You to help them get through this time. Thanks Rosie for pointing these out to me!  

We feel the loss, those of us who received so much from these community businesses over the years, but I can’t imagine the loss being felt by those whose dream was building that business. Now, of all times, after a year of holding on by their fingernails, the tree branch is taken away. Overnight. Right when re-opening was on the horizon. Shit.

It’s too early to suggest what this means for Downtown. The loss of a 100 year old building and vibrant community-supporting businesses is tough. Another gap in the streetscape scares me just as much. The prospect that this site may sit empty for a decade or more, like the last fire site downtown where the owners appear to have no motivation to bring the streetscape back into active use, or the empty lot at the corner of 8th and Columbia where the owners have apparently lost interest in activating their approved plans, or the decrepit and effectively abandoned property at 4th and Columbia… There is a momentum here we clearly need to shift, only I don’t know how we shift it. That is the conversation we need to have if we hope for Columbia Street to be the community-supporting street many of us want to see. Does this fire push is back another step, or is it motivation to push us forward?

I guess we’ll see.

But for now, there are people to thank. The fire department once again spent an exhausting weekend making the city safe, dealing with stresses and dangers the rest of us can’t know. As has become practice for major events, the fire services of our neighbouring communities came out to provide assistance, and we owe those communities our gratitude. The Police were there to support them, managing traffic, keeping the public safe, and no doubt had to deal with both the curious and the devastated, and as always did so with professionalism. City engineering crews had to deal with drainage not designed to deal with this level of water or debris, and set to work assuring utility services are still useable by neighbouring properties. Electrical crews have to find a work-around to the loss of distribution line and transformers, and hope to get the local neighbourhood back up and running before Tuesday when everyone expects their life back to normal. In an event like this, there are so many people who need to do unexpected work on a long weekend – stuff that is definitely not in their workplan, and certainly not something they booked off work Friday afternoon figuring they would be doing. The very least the rest of us can do is see that the work isn’t thankless. Thank you all.

And then it’s over to us. The community, the BIA, the businesses downtown, the owners of property, and us folks in City Hall. Today the Province announced the restart plan version 2, we need to get those vaccines in our arms and show a couple more weeks of diligence and that light at the end of the tunnel will be upon us. Maybe the restart is the good news we have been waiting for. I know we’ve all been working as much as we can – emotional labour especially – over the last year. Now we get to do the other stuff, and see what we can build. So take a deep breath, mutter out a few curses, take time to think about all we have lost, and get to work building something memorable.

Council – May 17, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Then the following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


And we had one Bylaw to Adopt:

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

Have a good long weekend, everyone.

Council – May 10, 2021

Folks. Things are busy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council – May 3, 2021

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

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

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


We then had a presentation and report:

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

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

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


The following items were Moved on Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Council – April 26, 2021

…and it goes on. Got my first shot in the arm, cancelled my (admittedly ambitious) bike ride travel plans for the May Long Weekend, attended another remote meeting and thought about how lucky I am that I have a roof, a job, and an ability to do my work from home, while cursing the fact that this is all getting really stale and I just want to be around people again, while we had another Council Meeting. But it as a mercifully short agenda.

The following items were Moved on Consent

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Here is our regular update on our Pandemic task forces. I think a year ago when they were put together, we had hoped they would be disbanded by now, but that’s not where we are. There are details in here about the ongoing work in the community to help vulnerable groups, including the support form senior governments we have managed to secure to fund some of these programs.

Update to Interim COVID-19 Food Truck Policy
Council decided last year to adjust how Food Trucks are regulated in light of the pandemic, and this resort is recommending we (for the most part) maintain those changes through 2021. I have a (I think pretty entertaining) rant about how irritated I am about our entire food truck program right now. My entire time on Council Food Trucks have been talking about food trucks, starting with two years of comprehensive public engagement to determine if and how we should allow this outrageous idea that is common around North America to operate in our City. Through that we created byzantine program that made it too difficult and costly for most operators to deal with, so very few took itup, yet still every time one did, we had push back from the same business community that guided us to the byzantine program we set up.

The first principle of the program we set up was, and I quote: “Encourage a variety of street food businesses to facilitate a vibrant and lively street, provide more local food choices in the community and promote social connectedness through the sharing of food.” And then everything we have done since has been opposite to this principle. Yet here we are, 6 years later, and our plan is to extend the current malaise to 2022, when I am sure we are going to spend much, much more time reviewing Food Truck policy than and Food Truck will spend operating in New Westminster. What a dismal failure.

320 Ewen Avenue: Cedar Island Remanufacturing Ltd.
There are people in Queensborough who live on the residential/industrial interface, and have some concerns about the impacts on livability from those industrial activities. On one hand, the industries were there long before the residential development encroached on their area, and there is a certain caveat emptor aspect to residents willing to deal with some impacts in exchange for reduced housing costs. However, we also expect all property owners to respect existing Bylaws which constitute the community standards we all agree upon (except railways, they get to do whatever the hell they want). In this case, the company is allowed to operate and do their work, but they are expected to adhere to City Bylaws (including noise Bylaws applicable to them). So there is some work to do here to assure they are compliant.

The Plywood plant was previously found to be exceeding noise levels permitted under the noise Bylaw, and are working to address those concerns though an acoustic consultant, and our Bylaws officers are on the case. Other concerns raised have been passed on to the appropriate regulatory agencies – Metro Vancouver for dust, Fraser Health for vector pests)

Metro Vancouver New Westminster Annacis Main No. 5 (North) Alignment
More big-time infrastructure work is coming New Westminster’s way, this time upsizing the water supply to areas South of the Fraser. This means a new line through the West End/Moody Park/Brow of the Hill, and after evaluating various routes, it looks like 13th Street is the best route. It is a quiet street with not much traffic, and has a really wide (30m!) right-of-way. This will no doubt be disruptive work for the residents, but Metro Van will keep access open and do their best to manage traffic impacts.

As the road is going to be dug up, the City is going to shift some of its sewer separation planning to this location, effectively doing this section of storm sewer installation and separation work before it was initially planned, so the road only needs be dug up once. There is also potential here for us to actually reduce the curb-to-curb width of 13th street, which is frankly too wide for such a low-traffic local-serving road. This gives us a chance to make it better for pedestrians and cyclists (it is a relatively low-grade hill through the West End), a chance to reduce the amount of the city covered with asphalt, and a chance to add more green space.

This is relatively preliminary (the actual construction will not likely start until 2022 or 2023) so there is engineering work to do, but we are on it!

2021 Spring Freshet Council Report – April 1st Snowpack
The Fraser River Basin snow pack is a little above normal, and the freshet flood risk is consequently a little higher than average, but nothing to panic about yet. The weather of the next few weeks will likely determine if we need to ramp up and kind of flood preparation. Nothing to panic about yet, but don’t pack the galoshes away just yet.

Queen’s Park Farm – Pilot Project to Transition towards Local Sustainable Food Production
Staff have been looking at transitioning the Queens Park Petting Farm to something a little more… uh… modern, which is always a scary term to use in the same sentence as Queens Park. The idea of a “petting farm” is a bit of a throw-back, and modern animal welfare practices and health standards have increasingly limited how such a facility can operate. That said, the idea of connecting people to the food systems that support us is part of the City’s larger food security vision, so there is a role here for some modified programming that is centered around food systems and education more than a petting zoo can provide. We have a bit of time to go through this, as the petting farm will not be opened in 2021 (due to COVID restrictions), but there are some great ideas in this report, which align well with some ideas I saw in Dartmouth, NS during an FCM trip a few years ago. Fun stuff coming!


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Appointment of Acting Director of Engineering
Our Director of Engineering is retiring after a distinguished career working for several Municipalities – 17 years with New West. We are looking for a replacement, but in the meantime, there are some regulated roles the Director Engineer plays in various Bylaws, so someone has to be delegated that authority in the meantime. We have a three senior Managers who are going to split those duties in an acting role until a new Director is hired.

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment): Request for Construction Noise Exemption
The Hospital Project is asking to start work earlier on Saturdays that strictly permitted in our construction Noise Bylaw. In reading the report, I’m willing to accept this as reasonable in the scope of the project, and its potential impact on accelerating the program completion for what is a regionally-important project.

Recognizing that we are still likely to hear neighbourhood concerns, we are going to give them a year and ask them to re-apply before year two, so they can demonstrate they were proactive in addressing community complaints, and acknowledge what kind of feedback they are receiving in receiving and how they addressed that feedback. So we are giving them some slack, and are asking for some assurance of accountability in return.

New Westminster Outdoor Swimming Pools – Summer 2021
This is a follow-up on our previous discussion (resulting from a community petition) about Hume Pool not being open in 2021, with a lot more detail from staff. The short version: it will be expensive from both and operational and capital budget sense, we do not anticipated it will be very useable for most of the year due to ongoing Third Wave restrictions, and we may be challenged to even find staffing for the pool if we did open. The operating subsidy for Hume would be twice that per swim of the Moody Park pool, and there would actually be limited use with some significant staffing constraints. At this point opening Hume in 2021 will harm our ability to do some of the capital maintenance work that will support it re-opening in 2022. The recommendation is to no open for 2021, and I support it.

Education and Enforcement Working Group COVID Compliance Hotline – One Year Review
During the early days of the Pandemic, information was hard to come by. Everyone was making things up as we went along, and rules were changing, and were not necessarily being communicated effectively. One of the truisms of government is that angry people don’t call Ottawa, they call City Hall. So we responded by setting up a response line where people could ask questions, submit complaints or concerns, or at least get pointed to the best resources. This report shows the impact of that phone line after a year of operation. Lots of data bout the types of calls we got here, but in short, calls were fast and furious at the start then tapered off, with a bit of a surge as we entered the Second Wave back in November, and are now just over one call a day.


And that was the full Council experience. See you again next week!

Public Hearing – Apr 19, 2021

Oh, boy I’m late getting this report out. There is a lot going on right now in the rest of my life, and I lost my notes in an age-related software-user interface problem, so here I am on an exciting Friday Night writing a shorter-than usual Council Report. We had a Public Hearing way back on Monday, and there was only one item on the agenda:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (416 East Columbia Street – Cannabis Retail Location) No. 8256, 2021

A couple of years ago, the retail sale of cannabis for recreational purposes was legalized in Canada. Like many other Cities, New West set up a process to filter through the many applications for new businesses that applied. It was uncharted territory for all of us, and the Province ultimately created the legislative framework the City needed to follow, but how we followed that framework was pretty much up to the local government. Which is why the roll-out of these stores is so spotty across the region.

In New West, we decided the best way to manage the potential Gold Rush type onslaught of applications (for the industry, for our residents, and for the work load of staff in City Hall) was to set up a pre-qualifying criteria and pre-approve one location in each major commercial district (which we modified by allowing a Government Store, which is on a different stream). Of those 5 initial “short listed” applicants, two are opened (Downtown and Q’Boro), one is all approved but have not yet got their doors opened (the West End), one had to withdraw and the “second place” applicant was permitted to take their spot (Uptown), and we now addressing Sapperton.

The pre-approved applicant in Sapperton apparently ran into some issues with getting their Provincial approvals. It may have been as simple as missing a deadline to file some paperwork, but the province has indicated a new application needed to be restarted, which means the City application process is suspended. So the City is giving the opportunity to the “second place” applicant, as they have apparently completed their Provincial Approvals.

We had a number of people correspond to us about this, the majority opposed. We also had several people come to the Public Hearing and speak in favour or opposed. Council moved, ultimately to approve the application (giving the Bylaw Third Reading in a split vote), but I do want to talk about some of the concerns I heard expressed through the Public Hearing.

Some people are not comfortable with cannabis being in their community, and have a fearful about a myriad of harms that normalizing cannabis will cause. I hear that. I am not convinced the worst fears are well founded, but there is a good reason why people carry these fears: the Government of Canada spent almost a century telling people that “Marijuana” was a deadly blight on our communities that would kill their children, or at least ruin their families. Canada fought a war against Cannabis for decades, and threw a lot of people in jail for buying, selling, or using it. It as a menace to be eradicated for the good of society. Then, one Wednesday in late 2018, they said: Just kidding! It’s fine now.

I do not blame the Government of Canada for making cannabis legal, for ending the prohibitionist approach to management or it. I blame them for not being honest in the decades before (indeed spending Billions of dollars being dishonest) and for not taking a more proactive educational approach during the years of transition to help people understand what has changed. Spreading fear for decades then saying “maybe not” is bad governance, sows distrust, and makes people uncertain. Oh, and while they are at it, they could maybe pardon those Canadians carrying criminal records because of that prohibition, but meh.

I also heard mixed messages from the Sapperton business community, where on one hand the message was that this was an acceptable business for Sapperton, but perhaps a location a block further north was better, but then I heard that open consumption of the products in the neighbourhood was the main concern, and I cannot quite figure why moving the location a block north would change that.

Finally, there were a few concerns that pointed back to the original criteria the City put together (and Council approved) a few years ago when we put the first Cannabis regulations together. For example, this site met the criteria from child-oriented locations and parks, and the location in no way precludes Council reviewing subsequent applications for Government-run cannabis stores, and Council has already decided to permit both public and private stores to operate in the City.

So the decision before us was whether to permit a location that met the criteria set out a little more than 2 years ago by Council, or to find a special reason to not permit this location. As I already mentioned, Council voted to support it.

Council – April 12, 2021

The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and the Council meetings are getting more frequent. We have a busy month ahead, starting with a pretty meaty agenda this week, that started with a presentation:

Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project – Multi-Use Pathways
This was a report from the project team delivering the Pattullo Bridge on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation. The major touch-point here is the active transportation integration of the project. Both the project team and Council have received correspondence from the local HUB chapter and the Walkers Caucus, and I understand their points of contention.

There is a much longer back-story here and probably deserving of a stand-alone blog post (or an entire chapter in my memoir “Bike Lanes vs Motordom; repaving the road to Post-NeoLiberalism”), but in short, the project has made some great improvements to the pedestrian and cycling connections to Royal Ave and Agnes, but the Central Valley Greenway part of the project needs more work.

Later in the meeting (after Public Delegations from HUB and the Walkers Caucus), we has some discussion about this, and Council voted to support my motion:

That staff continue to engage with TiCorp and the Active Transportation advocacy community to improve the usability of the Central Valley Greenway connections through the Pattullo Bridge replacement project area, and

That Council correspond with MLA Whiteside and the Minister of State for Infrastructure to express support for the concerns raised by HUB and the Walkers Caucus in hopes that more creative solutions can be found here.

More to come here.


The following items were Moved on Consent:

515 St. George Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Preliminary Report
The owner of a house in Queens Park wants to build a laneway house, and as the current zoning (RS-6, where most of Queens Park is RS-1 or RS-4) for this lot does not allow, they wish to use an HRA and permanent designation of the existing 1912 house as the tool to adjust their zoning. They need to remove one large tree and need a parking relaxation. This is a preliminary application, requiring some internal and community consultation, I’ll hold my comments until then.

97 Braid Street: Temporary Use Permit (TUP00012) Amendment for Food Truck Events
The parking lot by Braid Station has been approved for an off-site parking facility to support the RCH expansion project. There have been a number of “pop-up” drive-through food truck events held on this lot when it is not being used for the RCH workers (e.g. long weekends). Surprisingly, the previous events occurring here were in violation of the Zoning Bylaw. However, there were no real problems identified, so this will go to a request for public input and Council will consider the TUP in early May. Have an opinion? Let us know!

445 Brunette Avenue: Temporary Use Permit (TUP00024) for Off-Site Parking During Construction of 100 Braid Street
Similarly, the construction of the Purpose Built Rental building at 100 Braid will require a place where workers and staff for Urban Academy can park offsite. They would like a TUP for an… uh… currently vacant parking lot that used to be a car dealership band is zoned light industrial and therefore requires a TUP. Council will consider this one in May as well, if you have opinions, let us know.

New Westminster Arena Strategy
The City has two ice arenas, and have as part of our long-term infrastructure planning, had an external consultant do an evaluation of the community need. We are a growing City – when do we need to increase ice availability? Turns out, not as soon as we might have expected. The report is pretty detailed, and you can read it at length (attached to the agenda), but the short version is that per capita demand for ice is going down at about the same rate, or slightly faster than, population growth. The market for ice is regional (makes sense) and the need is essentially fulfilled, so there is no pressing need for us to add new sheets of ice in our current 5-year capital plan.

102/104 Eighth Avenue and 728 First Street: Official Community Plan Amendment and Rezoning for Infill Townhouses – Preliminary Report
This is a proposal to build 10 townhomes in Glenbrook North on two fairly large single family lots. It is an interesting proposal in that this was an area identified for this type of infill in an earlier draft of the OCP, but not ultimately included at this density in the final Land Use Designation, largely due to community push back from the Glenbrook North community. The City has been planning a review of the implementation of this type of infill density, but as with a few other planning projects involving our “missing middle”, they have been deprioritized to emphasize work on affordable housing and COVID response.

So the question whether we should go through this process now or wait until we do that policy review is tied up with this report. As one of a couple of members of Council who thought the more-infill model for the Land Use Plan map was a better idea in the first place (because it better matched what I heard through two years of conversations with the community during the Our City process), I am happy to have this project move forward and be developed further. It will be going to Public Consultation, etc.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Council Resolution in Support of the City of New Westminster’s Application under the COVID-19 Restart Funding for Local Governments, Strengthening Communities’ Services Program
The pandemic has resulted in disproportionate impacts on the unhoused and under-housed residents of New Westminster, with the number of people without secure housing going up. The good news is that there is increased senior government funding to help local governments and non-profits to bring resources to this challenge. City Staff have been reaching out to faith-based organizations and social service non-profits to identify resource needs, and are coordinating applications for about $400K in funding for 10 separate programs. The money is not for the City, but for those organizations with the identified need, the City’s role here is to coordinate and support the grant process, and help get the organizations some funding.

Riverside Adventure Park Playground Upgrade
After much consultation with committees and the community a preferred concept has been found for the replacement playground equipment at Riverside Adventure Park. The budget is $250K, and should be done this year!

808 Royal Avenue (Douglas College): Academic Building and Student Housing – Preliminary Report
Douglas College wants to build a new building, including for the first time, student housing! The plan is to build on land the College owns on the other side of Eighth Street (where the old firehall used to be). As proposed, it would be a smallish high-rise (18 storeys), made of a combination of concrete and Encapsulated Mass Timber, and include up to 244 student residential units.

This is a preliminary application, and there is work to do in design, details, and consultation, but the early notes are interesting. It will definitely be more of an “institutional” looking building than a typical tower-on-podium residential or mixed use look we are used to in the Vancouverism world. However, the impact of having dedicated student housing on the local rental vacancy situation is a positive. It will be interesting to see how this develops.


Finally, we had one piece of New Business:

MOTION: Designation of Alcohol -Permitted Spaces

WHEREAS recent changes to the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Act permit local governments to designate any public place where the local government has jurisdiction as a place where alcohol may be consumed; and

WHEREAS the Cities of North Vancouver and Port Coquitlam piloted successful trials in
2020 designating parts or all of designated City parks as places where alcohol can be consumed, and both have in 2021 moved to expand these areas and make the designations permanent due to positive public response; and

WHEREAS the six park areas listed below serve their respective neighbourhoods, have adequate space for varying users, feature safe and open spaces popular for picnics and family gathering, and have public restrooms available, therefore providing ideal conditions for initial designation as alcohol-permitted spaces;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to immediately draft the necessary Bylaws compliant with Section 73(2) of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act to designate areas in the following 6 parks where the responsible consumption of alcohol by adults will be permitted from 11:00 a.m. to dusk, seven days a week; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT Staff review the program after the 2021 picnic season and report back to Council in early 2022 on challenges, concerns, public feedback, and/or opportunities to adapt the program; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the 6 designated areas for 2021 be:
•Port Royal Park: Crescent field and picnic shelter north of the restrooms;
•Grimston Park: Open field and picnic area north of the Wading Pool;
•Moody Park: picnic area and grass field south of the Multi-use Path;
•Hume Park: Upper Hume Park south of the dog run and forested area;
•Sapperton Park: Open field portion of the park fronting on E. Columbia Street;
•Pier Park: the grass picnic field and adjacent grass knoll.

The first thing I want people to note here is that this is a motion to ask staff for draft the necessary Bylaws to satisfy the Provincial requirements to allow public alcohol consumption. So don’t pop your (outdoor) corks just yet, as the Bylaws will no doubt need to come back to Council in a couple of weeks for us to either pass them or not. The is just a first step, but the majority of Council voted to take this first step, so I hope it will all work out in the next couple of weeks.

Other than that, I will probably write a follow up blog post to address some of the questions that have already been raised (e.g. “why not Queens Park?”), unless you prefer to watch the Council meeting video and see the questions addressed there.

NWACC

We had a full agenda in Council last week, so we didn’t spend a lot of time going through the reports that arrived early in the meeting. There were two reports form staff that are pretty big deals for the City, so it is worth expanding a bit on them here. The first was a project update on the still-acronymically-named NWACC, but more commonly known as the Canada Games Pool replacement.

The big news, I guess, is that we have tendered the main construction works, which means we are really doing this thing. We put the tender process on hold a little less than a year ago as there was so much uncertainty in both municipal finances and the global economy during the unfolding of the pandemic. The regional construction market has adapted, and many projects are moving on across the region, and Council and our project team were confident that we could understand pricing and meet our objectives on budget, and at this point waiting further creates more uncertainty.

The report says we are within budget, though it’s not as simple as that it sounds. This is a big piece of infrastructure, and you can’t just go to Amazon and click on “new pool” and pop $106M on your credit card. The cost of construction materials is way up over the last two years since we began this procurement (lumber has almost doubled, steel up 50%), and trades are in major demand right now, which means some parts of the construction cost are also up. Our project team was able to “value engineer” some aspects of the project, which means going through design and assumptions and finding ways that less expensive techniques or materials can be creatively applied. We have also eaten a bit into our contingency budget that was included as part of the overall budget planning. So we are on budget, but pushing the top part of it, and need to be cognizant of that as the project moves along.

There are also parts of the project that we have not yet procured, like construction of the outdoor playscapes. Fortunately, there are aspects of those components that may still apply for senior government funding support, so we will continue to seek ICIP grants and funding support to reduce the overall finance load of the project.

The NWACC was designed over more than two years, and involved one of the most comprehensive public engagements the City has ever undertaken. There were a lot of ideas and desires for this facility, and it was a big challenge to prioritize and assemble a program that met most needs, fit on the footprint available, and was within the budget of a City of 80,000 people. I am really excited about the result.

The program includes a 50m pool with 8 full competition width lanes, two baffles and a partially mobile floor to provide greater flexibility of space for everything from competitive swimming to aquafit. There is also a second leisure pool that has shorter warm-up swim lanes to support competitions, and all of the leisure uses that people expect in a community pool. Having two pools also allows the cooler competition temperature in the big tank, which the leisure tank can be warmer and more comfortable for leisure users. There is also expanded hot tub and sauna options, greater accessibility to all tanks, much larger change room areas (with ample gender-neutral changing areas) and more deck space and storage areas.

The exercise space will be greater than the current CGP and Centennial Community Centre offer. Final details on equipment are to come, but the plan is for larger free weight space on the main deck floor (no more dropping barbells on wood floors!) and a large fitness equipment space overlooking to main pool. A dedicated spin class space, and rooms for dance, yoga, and other assorted uses. Add to this a full-sized multi-purpose gymnasium and a compact more versatile gymnasium space that opens to the outside. There will be a cafeteria, space for sports medicine practitioners, a significant childcare and childminding space, and multi-purpose rooms for community meeting and arts programming.

Perhaps informed by the Canada Games Pool experience, the new complex is going to emphasize natural light. The entire complex was designed to align better with the sun, there will be lots of window space between sections to let light pass through, and the main gym and pool will have saw-tooth roof designs with clerestory windows facing north to allow ample indirect sunlight to fill the rooms.

Finally, the NWACC is going to help the City meet its aggressive climate goals. The current pool is the City’s single largest GHG emitter, the new complex will not only use electricity for air and water heating, it will generate some power onsite, and is anticipated to be the first aquatic center in Canada to be certified as a Zero Carbon Building. The building systems for energy recovery, air management and pool filtration will be cutting edge, likely the most technologically advanced pool in Canada when it is done. We are building it right so it saves us money in the long run.

So, it is all exciting. But there will some hassles between then and now. As we committed early to have the existing pool and recreation centre operating during the 2+ year construction process, we are really tight on space over the existing lot.

This means inevitable parking hassles for the users and adjacent neighbourhoods, starting with official groundbreaking next week when the fences will go up and the site will start to look very different. I hope people will be patient and understand the long-term goal here (and, yah, I’m looking at you, my Royal City Curling Club cohort!). We should be doing a grand opening towards the end of 2023, which is about a year later than we probably hoped when we started this planning process back in 2016, but the end result is going to be great.