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.

Getting to AAA

Last month I put forward a motion (passed unanimously by Council) asking that we commit to planning and building a AAA Active Transportation Network in New West. I thought I would take a bit of time to outline what that means (from my point of view, anyway, because I am always cautious not to speak on behalf of all of Council) and talk about why I think it is important for us to do it now.

As I am often using terms more familiar to transportation advocates than your average person, maybe I could start by talking about the italicized-in-blue term I just used. Because this is not just about bike lanes. Though it may include bike lanes.

AAA” stands for All Ages and Abilities, to differentiate it from infrastructure built specifically for me – the “avid cyclist” stereotype. I’m a healthy middle-class middle-aged sorta-fit guy who has been riding bikes pretty consistently for more than 45 years. I have raced bicycles (mostly mountain bikes; remarkably unsuccessfully), I have commuted by bicycle in big cities and small towns, ridden next to highway traffic over mountain passes sometimes more than 100km in a day. I even spent some time as a bicycle courier in downtown Vancouver, back when that was something people did. Because of this history, I have a high tolerance for danger and an inflated sense of invincibility. I don’t need bicycle lanes or special infrastructure to get me riding my bike. I’ll ride anyway (and probably irritate a few drivers on the way, but we’ll get back to that). AAA bike infrastructure isn’t for me.

Transportation advocacy used to be about people like me – wanting to make trips safer for a American Wheelmen (yes, that was the name of an early cycling advocacy group, and by early, I mean until the 1990s). But there has been a shift in North America since then, following after a couple of decades of progress in Western Europe, to shift towards making cycling infrastructure work for more people. Ideally, everyone who chooses or might choose to ride a bike (or trike, or quadcycle, or handcycle, etc.), but may not be avid about it. Like the way many people drive cars or ride buses, but aren’t avid drivers or avid passengers.

There is also advocacy around “880 Cities”, the idea that if you build a City that is safe enough to make an 8 year old and/or an 80 year old comfortable and independent in public spaces, it is making the space safe and accessible for everyone. You can read into that that people should be able to ride their bikes to school, even in elementary school (like I did as an 8-year-old). An 80-year-old should be able to ride as safely as they can walk, to expand their reach and options in a community and make them less reliant on cars (like my Mom does, with the help of her E-bike). To build for these users, we need to build AAA.

This corresponds with talking about Active Transportation Routes instead of the more restrictive “bike lane”. This means infrastructure should accommodate adult trikes or recumbents for people who may rely on the extra stability they offer. It should also be comfortable to share with people who rely on scooters, electric wheelchairs, or similar lightweight controlled-speed rolling devices. Multi Use Paths (MUPs), where pedestrians are mixed with rolling users should be built in a way that accommodates both user groups and their distinctive needs. Moving bicycles off of busy roads and onto sidewalk-style MUPs makes the bicycle riders feel safer from the larger, faster vehicles, but it may do so by making bicycles the larger, faster vehicles making some pedestrians feel less safe, unless a MUP is built what that in mind.

Finally, we need a network. Bike lanes are like roads, sidewalks, and pipes: they don’t do as much good until they are connected to something. Some people note they don’t see a lot of people using the Agnes Street bike lanes, or the bike lanes in front of the new high school, but both of them represent an important first piece of infrastructure that isn’t yet connected to a network. For users like me, it’s great to have those sections of increased safety; for less confident users, 100m of missing safety between two great bike lanes can be the barrier stopping them from riding on either. This is the issue being addressed by current region-wide “Ungap the Map” campaigns.

So, where is New West now? We are six years into the current Master Transportation Plan, and have made serious progress in pedestrian safety and accessibility. Though it lags behind a bit, we are starting to see some key parts of our planned cycling network come into place. However, the planned bike network envisioned in the MTP is no longer, I would argue, the vision for a AAA Active Transportation Network we would choose to develop if we were starting today. We can, and should, do better.

By way of sketching on the back of an envelope, our current network of infrastructure that meets AAA standards looks something like this:This is a map I sketched up using MSPaint just for discussion purposes. This is NOT an official City of New Westminster map, and possibly not even accurate.

There is some good stuff there, but it is disconnected and incomplete. Of the AAA we have, it leans heavily on the MUP-in-the-Park bikes-are-for-recreation model of the 1990s.

In my mind, a complete AAA network built off of our existing system would look something like this:

Once again, not a map created or endorsed by the City of New Westminster or anyone else. I just sketched this up to facilitate a discussion. Actual plans will probably look different than this.

Note that there are two kinds of future AAA Active Transportation routes shown in my sketch. Those shown in Yellow would comprise separated and protected bike lanes and/or MUPs (like the Agnes Greenway or the CVG past Victoria Hill), where people rolling or riding are not expected to share space with cars. The other type is shown in blue, where bikes might continue to share road space with cars but only if there are specific structures to significantly calm the traffic and force cars on that route to move at bicycle speed. No cars passing bikes, no person on a bike placed between a moving car and a parked car, and intersections designed to be safe by people using all modes. There are several routes like this in Vancouver (I think sections of the Ontario Street or 10th Ave bikeways in Mount Pleasant qualify), and maybe London Street through the West End is the closest example in New West (though there could be some improved calming and signage there). There is some work for us to do to establish the standards we want to apply to safety/comfort of these routes to call them AAA, including the level of traffic calming we can achieve vs. the need to separate.

Finally, I want to emphasize that the time is now to do this work, for a variety of reasons.

One result of the pandemic is that it resulted in a generational shift in how people around North America move about their cities. Bicycle take up has happened at an unprecedented rate, such that stores across North America ran out of bikes and parts to maintain them. Add to this the battery and technology revolutions that have brought reliable e-assist bikes and other personal mobility devices that open up active transportation to many people who did not see that as a viable option previously.

Some communities have seen more rapid pick-up in this shift than others. And surprisingly (unless you have ever been the Madison Wisconsin or Boulder, Colorado), it is not warmer climate or flatter topography that correlates with this take-up, it is the availability of safe infrastructure. Like roads – build it and they will come.

Examples abound, but I’ll limit myself to two: In Paris, Mayor Hidalgo introduced Plan Velo, and committed to 1,000km of cycle paths, a key part of the 15-minute City vision, transforming her city into one that is now seeing close to a million bike trips a day. Recently, emboldened by a landslide re-election, she doubled down with another $300M investment in expanding bike lanes. The City of Lights is becoming a City of bikes.

Closer to home, the work Victoria has done since adopting a 5-year plan for a AAA bike network in 2016 has been equally transformative. With most of the network now installed, it is seeing incredible take-up, and Victoria has established itself in a few short years as one of the most bike-friendly cities in Canada.

At the same time, senior governments in Victoria and Ottawa are funding Active Transportation projects as never before, so we don’t have to pay for this alone. But right here in New West, we have introduced an ambitious climate action plan, framed around 7 Bold Steps. These goals will not be achieved unless we start shifting how we move around, and how we allocate road space in the City, and only a complete AAA Active Transportation network will get us there. The time is now to commit to this work, and to ask staff to give us the data we need to integrate that commitment in to our 5 year capital plans.

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!

Rental Astroturf

I’m going to get a little polemic here. A friend sent me a note asking about this Facebook post, and why New Westminster has such a low grade in supporting renters:

The post is actually a paid advertisement from a shadowy group calling themselves The Rental Project, and I’ve seen their work before. It’s not surprising that my friend saw this ad. He is a renter who spends some time online talking about the housing crisis, and The Rental Project spent more than $56,000 on Facebook ads in the last couple of years selling bunk like this in the Greater Vancouver area. $56K on Facebook will definitely get you some notice.

Perhaps it’s not really fair to call this group shadowy, because they don’t even come out into the shadows. At the surface, it looks like a grassroots group of people supporting renters and the needs of renters in Metro Vancouver. Indeed, looking at comments on any of their Facebook posts ads and you see responses from people concerned about affordable housing and policies to protect renters. But look at The Rental Project’s webpage. There are no authors, no links to members, no indication who is collecting their data, writing their reports, or paying their staff to design $56,000 in Facebook Ads. It’s not even clear who you are financing if you choose to click the prominent DONATE button.

This is Astroturf. A campaign made to look like a Grassroots effort, but clearly green-coloured plastic standing in place of grassroots. The reality of who is behind it is the story behind New Westminster’s “D” score.

If you look at the “report” being promoted in this ad, the first thing you may notice is that it is lacking in any cited sources or links for their information (though I have no reason to believe the numbers they report are untrue), and that the data and commentary that supports the letter grade headlines is inconsistent and incomplete. There is no mention of an author, and no way to connect to them to ask questions. The word shoddy is easily and fairly applied.

They award New Westminster  a grade of “D” – their lowest grade (though they failed to grade the Langleys, Delta or White Rock). I’ll come back to the rest of their comments in a bit, but I want to look closer at the only actual quantitative data they provide, a short table in the end of the report:

I need to emphasize again that there are no citations, no indication where the numbers here come from, but even if we take them at face value, it shows New Westminster (Grade D) is filling rental need at a rate compared to population growth (their measure, not mine) greater than almost any other community listed. We are more than twice as good at meeting the demand as North Vancouver City (Grade A-) and three times that of Burnaby (Grade B). The only graded Municipality with a better rate of new rental vs. growth is North Vancouver District (Grade C) who achieve that statistic by growing at less than a third of the rate of New West. Invite no-one in, and you don’t need to build new housing. I’m not sure how that serves renters during a housing crisis, though.

Keen observers may note the comparisons here are bereft of actual population numbers (it would make sense that municipalities with 700,000 people should be building more rental on raw numbers than municipalities with 70,000). There are also a few municipalities missing, so I expanded the table out a bit to give a little more context. What do we learn?

here is my population data source:

New Westminster is building more rental per capita than any municipality rated. Much more than most.

So why the D grade? Why are we graded lower than Richmond, whose numbers they don’t provide but they describe as “gain[ing] the  fewest number of rental homes in the entire Lower Mainland in 2020,” and West Vancouver, “did not increase the number of rental homes in the city in 2020. A divided council prevents the municipality from making the gains it needs”? Why the specific hate for New West?

Because we have protected the most affordable housing in the City.

This goes back to who is behind the well-financed Astroturf campaign . It is not organizations working to protect renters by supporting rental development in the community or preserving the affordability of rental across the region. It is an organization protecting the financial interest of Landlords, especially those using lower-cost rental as an investment vehicle, and those investing in REITs.

A few years ago, New West passed aggressive anti-demoviction and anti-renoviction Bylaws. The Landlord Lobby came after us hard. They bought advertising saying we were killing rentals, they came to Council and warned us of dire consequences for future rental development, they took us to court. And they launched Astroturf campaigns.

Their main argument was that these Bylaws were illegal, and that these types of policies would prevent any new rental being built. They were wrong. Not only are we still, three years later, leading the region in getting new Purpose Built Rental in the ground, we have had several major development projects shift from for-market-strata to Purpose Built Rental since these Bylaws passed, increasing by hundreds the number of PBR units in the pipeline, and being built as we speak.

These bylaw changes are so powerful that the Landlord Lobby has challenged them in court (and lost). Meanwhile, other cities from Port Coquitlam to Victoria are following suit and writing their own bylaws to provide the same protection in their communities. New West showed such leadership here that the provincial government changed the Residential Tenancy Act to provide some (but not all) of the protections we introduced in our Bylaw. At the same time, our Bylaw changes have literally prevented hundreds of lower income households in New Westminster from being demovicted or renovicted.

No wonder the big money REITs are scared and investing tens of thousands of dollars on political action. Their business model is based on finding “undervalued” rental properties – ones renting for less than the maximum market will bear – so they can jack rents and make a quick profit off putting lowest income people in the City out on the street. When that’s your business, it isn’t hard to find $50K to spend on Facebook ads that blame the unaffordability of rentals on the government. And to be clear, if that’s not the business model, if investors just want to invest in rental property, maintain it in good repair, and assure people have access to rentals at a variety of affordability levels, then they have nothing to fear from New Westminster’s Bylaw changes.

I’m damn proud of the staff of New Westminster for putting these Bylaws together, our legal advisors for assuring they are robust and defendable, and our Council for being bold enough to take these measures to protect some of the most vulnerable residents in our City when literally threatened by lobbyists for landlords and property speculators.

We can do more. Like every City in the region, we can and should be doing more to support affordability through this ongoing housing crisis. Self-evaluation is an important part of this – given funding constraints and limited land and conflicting priorities, it is important to track how we are doing compared to our cohort municipalities. As long as we are still building Purpose Built Rental at a region-leading rate, as long as we are also assuring affordable and supportive housing projects are coming to the City and are supported by our policy choices, and as long as we are preventing unnecessary renovictions and demovictions that turn homelessness into an investment vehicle, I will proudly wear the “D” grade from this deceitful Astroturf campaign as a badge of pride.

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.


I put forward a motion last Council Meeting regarding revitalization of Downtown, and I thought I would write a bit of a follow up about my thinking in working with Councillor Trentadue on this motion. The motion was seconded by Councillor Trentadue, and supported by all of Council, but it is always important for me to remind folks that what I write here on my blog reflects only my thoughts, not necessarily those of my colleagues on Council. Though my ideas on this have been informed by some really enlightening discussions with business owners downtown and members of the BIA.

It has obviously been a difficult last year and a half for many in our community. This in no way makes us unique in the Province or in Canada, but I want to recognize that the results of the Pandemic hit the historic Downtown of New Westminster at a time when there is already a lot going on, both good and bad. Perhaps that requires a bit of a step-back to look at Downtown New West as a Regional City Centre, and what makes it unique.

The City of New West has committed to the Regional Growth Strategy shares with the other 20 Municipalities that make up Metro Vancouver; a plan aligned with the TransLink Regional Transportation Strategy. A keystone to both of these plans is the increase in new density in identified Regional City Centres – with Downtown New Westminster being one of those identified centres. The vision for these centres is higher density mixed use (commercial, office, retail and residential) at high-service transit nodes to reduce reliance on cars. As a result of this plan and our exceptional Transit-centric location, Downtown New West is becoming one of the densest and most rapidly-growing residential neighbourhoods of the region. Being one of the few such centers with a strong historical walkable street scale, it is also one of the regions of the Lower Mainland most reliant on Transit, and least reliant on cars as a primary transportation mode.

Indeed, since the Downtown Community Plan was developed, we have seen significant residential growth, especially in the last few years, with some key developments coming on line. With more recent emphasis on Family Friendly suites, Purpose Built Rental, and Affordable Housing, there is a much richer and dynamic residential mix in the community as ever. This is even extending to there being more young families buying in the older and (slightly) more affordable units in Quayside. In short, population is booming Downtown, which should be good for local-serving retailers.

At the same time, we have had some significant setbacks. The loss of a portion of the Pier Park was probably the highest profile, and definitely reduced the public space amenity for Downtown residents, but the more recent loss of the building that housed 4 businesses on Church and Columbia was a real punch in the gut. This came after we lost an anchor retailer as the Army & Navy closed their last 5 locations. At the same time, the great work the BIA has done over the last decade to activate the street and draw people into Downtown through events and directed promotion has been hamstrung by Pandemic restrictions. And, though I am optimistic about the medium-term benefits of some of the larger developments currently under construction in the downtown, the ongoing impact of construction noise and disruption is further eroding livability at a time when these impacts pile up. And then there is the damn sewer work.

I would argue that the role of Downtown New West are a Regional City Centre makes it fundamentally different than our other (still important and valued!) commercial strips like historic Sapperton, Uptown, Ewen Ave or 12th Street. I would also argue that Downtown is facing a different set of challenges than the City’s other commercial areas, and needs a different and more proactive approach. And it needs it soon.

There are some interesting contrasts in Downtown. There is actually not an abundance of leasable retail space available right now for a new business to set up in. Indeed, there are a few businesses doing really well downtown, and at times the streetscape is really inviting. There is, perhaps surprisingly, a fair amount of office space in all three class levels yet office vacancy is under 5%, which is one of the lowest office vacancy rates in the Lower Mainland. At the same time, there are vacant storefronts in buildings that have been verging on decrepit for a long period of time, creating significant “gaps” in the retail environment. Finally there are sites like the Copps store site (still a hole 8 years after that devastating fire) and the Kyoto block empty lot right across from the Anvil Centre (empty 7 years after Council last saw a development proposal) that seem to need motivation to get activated.

The motion here is not to put pressure on existing business operators in the downtown – they are doing their best in tough times. Nor does the City have real power add specific retail businesses residents might like (be that a hardware store or a haberdashery). What we are asking is for staff to suggest tactics the City can apply to get these underperforming lots and derelict buildings activated. Though I (of course) have ideas, we really need Staff guidance to let us know what the suite of regulatory tools we have, as the relationship between a Municipality and any business is strictly defined in the Local Government Act and the Community Charter. We appear to have some special powers under the New Westminster Redevelopment Act that we have not yet exercised, and I would love to understand that fuller.

We also may need to have a conversation about street-level retail/commercial space having an amenity value we can apply in new development proposals. I would also love to see us evaluate radical parking relaxations for new buildings on Columbia, in light of the Transit-Oriented Development goals of the neighbourhood. The prohibitive cost and significant risk related to digging deep holes for parkades may be a barrier to innovative builders interested in making something cool happen on Columbia, and the value represented by that parking may be better applied at assuring buildings support other goals in the historic downtown.

These are my opening thoughts, I really hope in further conversation with the business owners, our City’s great Economic Development staff, and the wider community, we can bring some confidence back that Downtown New West will be a walkable, livable, full service community that supports its growing population.