Ask Pat: The Market

I got to set up the Ask Pat booth again! After a pandemically-induced 2 year hiatus, I pulled the dusty booth out of the basement, fixed a few nails that had worked their way proud by unknown forces of time, and gave it a bit of a wash down. The best thing about the booth being that it folds right up and straps to a dolly for instant portability, so I put on my questionable hat and wandered down to the New West Farmers Market to set up camp between the music booth and a craft beer stand.

I had many questions, so many that I missed most in my note-taking, but here is the speed-dating version of Ask Pat based on the notes I was able to make. If you want the longer answers, drop by the booth next time it pops up:

Dog Park at Simcoe is noisy: Hey, check out the People Parks and Pups strategy the City just completed, and provide feedback to parks on that!

Pickle Ball Courts aren’t regulation: I had no idea! Interesting to learn about the (subtle to non-players) differences in court dimensions. Good input for planning new multi-sport courts in Hume and the gymnasiums in təməsew̓txʷ.

Permit times are too long for small renos: Yep, I hear you. We are a little short-staffed in planning right now, and because every City in the Lower Mainland is in the same boat, we are all challenged filling those gaps, but we are working on it.

No SPARC parking on Market days: Already talked to the Market Manager and put her in touch with our Transportation folks about this.

My not-for-Profit could use a small grant for meeting space That should be easy, our next Community Grants application window opens next month.

Why is Agnes now one way?: Community was asked if one-way or stripping parking from one side was preferred with width constraint relating to new mobility lanes, and parking preservation was preferred in that stretch. Also, one-way reduces through-traffic bridge queue jumpers during critical school safety times.

What parks can we drink in? Pretty much any park that has a public bathroom in it, full guide here. And yeah, there were no problems with the pilot, so we are going to keep doing this.

Pineapple on Pizza? Why not?

How are we going to build 2,000 units of non-market housing in 10 years? This is the number our Housing Needs Report says we are short of current need. Alas, I also don’t think it is a number we can get built without some order-of-magnitude shift in how senior governments fund housing. As a City, we are approving every unit of affordable housing the City can get funded, have fast-tracked approval on affordable projects with senior gov’t funding, and have a new inclusionary housing policy to bring affordable units to new market projects, but 200 non-market units per year every year is a tall order.

When will 22nd Street Station area get redeveloped? Not soon. The City is getting into a “Master Planning” process to draw a comprehensive vision, and this alone may take two years. If all goes well, then maybe some developers will look at what was scoped out and decide they want to try to make it work. They would then need to buy land and design and build, project-by-project. So I would suppose we are still years away from significant changes.

Why is there no bathroom in Tipperary Park? We looked at this, and when the costs were worked out, it fell off the priority list for park upgrades. That said, public bathrooms are a pressing topic right now, but at upward toward $1Million each for capital cost (maybe half that if we take a modular approach) and likely $200K each in annual operating cost, we need to fit it in the budget priorities. That conversation is ongoing, though.

How can you justify the preservation of Colonial houses in the era of Reconciliation and an ongoing Housing Crisis? Owch. There are three overlapping questions there, but the overlap shows how we need to think deeper about systems in our planning and our response to issues. This was actually a great question, and lead to a great conversation, where I think we both walked away thinking a little differently. Yowza.

And finally, Thank you Leslie (sp?) for asking these two surprising questions:

What are you most proud of in your work on Council? My reflex answer was our housing policies – from preventing Renovictions to the amount of Purpose Built Rental we are getting built. But walking home from the market, I realized I should have said trees. The thousands of trees we are planting today will make this a much better City in the decades ahead, long after my time on Council (or on Earth) is over.

What is your biggest disappointment? The Heat Dome. We still have not, as a community, come to a reckoning with what that event meant, and what it means for our future. We were not ready (as a city, a region, or a province) for that event, and people died. Many more were traumatized, including first responders trying to deal with the failures in response. There is a lot going on locally and provincially to be more ready for a repeat of that event, but it really shook a lot of what we assumed we knew about climate disruption and about community preparedness.

So on that somber note, I want to thank the scores of people who came by and asked questions, and the wonderful Dani Black for the musical accompaniment to my day in the Market!

Yes, I’m running.

I really love New Westminster, and am really proud of the work that Council and staff have done in the (almost) 8 years since I was first elected. The last two have been especially challenging, but also the most important. We’ve weathered the worst of the pandemic, and it tested the resiliency of our community, residents and businesses alike. But it also showed us the strength of our community. We made it through together by learning new ways to support each other. Now that we are getting back to the momentum we had pre-pandemic, we need to be guided by the lessons we learned  – the importance of teamwork, the value of public services, and the need for listening and compassion.

I think the City is at a critical time, as is the region, and we need a positive, hopeful, vision for where we go as a community.

As a City, we are working through an aggressive capital plan, replacing aging infrastructure like never before. At the same time, we are leading the region on addressing the housing crises (plural) and are taking bold action on climate. We are supporting the arts and renewing our urban forest. We are opening a new page on reconciliation, and creating new forms of public engagement. I don’t want us to lose that momentum, we can’t afford to stop short or turn back.

With my experience on Council, my knowledge of the City, my commitment to listening and opening up government, and with the support of Council incumbents and so many people in the community, I think I am the right person to lead New Westminster during this time.

So I am seeking the Community First New West nomination for Mayor of New Westminster.

If you read this blog, you already know who I am, what I stand for, and how seriously I take this work. During my 8 years on Council, I put so much time and energy into being an accountable and transparent elected official – every vote, every decision, every challenge we faced on Council, I wrote about here, and spoke about publicly. And I have learned from hearing your feedback, from listening to the residents, business owners, service providers and volunteers of this great community. You never stop learning in this job, and you can never stop listening.

So, things may get a little weird around here in the next few weeks, but I am not going to be using this blog site as a campaign site – campaign comms need a copy editor. There will no doubt be some references to elections and platforms and events and such, but my plan is for this to remain my place for writing about the City and the work of Council, at least until the voters make a decision on October 15th. In the meantime, I will have a campaign website here: PJNewwest.ca (just getting started!) and there will be other social media handles and such, but that kind of work will appear after the nomination meeting later this month. And as always, you can e-mail me or hit the Ask Pat button above or stop me on the street and ask me questions. I’d love to chat.

I encourage you to support and follow the website of Community First New West. There looks to be a great slate of School Board and Council candidates seeking nomination with Community First – people with positive visions for New Westminster and track records of work building this community. But those are their stories to tell, not mine.

Off to the races.

Council – May 9 2022

There was an extra breath of New West normalcy in Council this week, as we had people in plaid jackets in the Chambers for the first time since the Pandemic lock-down started a little more than two years ago. This is because representatives of the Hyack Festival Association were there to talk about the return to the Hyack International Parade and Hyack Festival, May 28. It should be fun!

But it wasn’t all anticipatory celebration, we had business to do, and the first thing on the Agenda was moving the following items On Consent:

Downtown Livability Strategy Update
The Downtown has faced some challenges trough the Pandemic differently than other parts of the community at the same time as it is seeing significant residential growth. Last year, Council asked staff for some short- medium- and long-term tactics to address a suite of concerns raised by residents and the downtown business community. This report is only an update on some of those tactics – what is working and what is not.

Our Engineering “beat team” is working to address general cleanliness and litter, and some of the nuisance related to these. The Hyack Square portable toilet has been a target for vandalism, and this is an important learning point as we work towards a more permanent solution for public bathroom access downtown. The business support programs are going well, and are being well received, though we are all looking forward to the Metro Vancouver sewer project going away. The Downtown BIA, Pride, and Hyack Festival Association are planning a summer of events downtown (supported in part by City’s grant program), which is also a great piece of news.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (328 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8309, 2022 and Heritage Designation (328 Second Street) Bylaw No. 8310, 2022
The owner of this house in Queens Park wants to subdivide the lot and build and infill house, in exchange for restoration and permanent protection of the existing 1889 house. The City is working through new HRA policy guidance for the Queens Park HCA, but this application was in the queue before that policy review began, so this project is not subject to that pause.

A previous proposal for this lot to demolish the heritage house and build a larger home on the lot was “discouraged” by Council back in 2017, the proponent looked at carriage house model, but it was not economically viable. This is a third attempt at re-imagining the site, where the house has some historical significance but is in need of significant restoration.

This project will go to Public Hearing, so I’ll hold further comments until then. If you have opinions, let us know!

Memorandum: Release of Closed Resolution re Utility Commission Reappointments
The City has an Electrical Utility Commission to provide executive oversight of the operation of the Electric Utility. We are updating some appointments to the Commission.

Official Community Plan Amendment, Rezoning, Development Variance Permit, and Development Permit: 1135 Salter Street – Preliminary Report
This project would see 45 townhomes built on a large lot in Queensborough. This is an area in the Official Community Plan currently designated as residential low density (Essentially, single family detached homes, though there could be more than one living unit per home), and the townhouse form and density here (FSR 0.75) do not meet the OCP designation, so this will require an OCP amendment. This is a preliminary report, letting Council know about the application and proposal details that are going out to public consultation, internal committee review, and stakeholder consultation required for OCP amendment.

Period Promise Pilot Initiative
The City piloted this project last year to make menstrual products available in City washroom facilities. At the time, we asked for a report back after some time to see how it is working, as there were some concerns raised regarding excessive cost and potential for vandalism and theft. Short version of the report: no vandalism or theft problems, and the operational cost is well within existing operational budgets. So, success.

Phase One Infill Housing Program: Comprehensive Review Work Plan
When the City adopted its OCP in 2017, there was significant interesting the City opening up for more infill housing options like laneway and carriage houses to bring more “missing middle” options and ground-based rental options for families in the City. Some of the review work related to this got delayed by other priorities in the City (like many other things) in the last two years, but it is good to see the conversation re-started.

There is going to be quite a bit of public outreach and consultation on this, and I look forward to hearing from the community, but one thing I think a lot about is how the market for housing has shifted since we did the bulk of our OCP consultation in 2016. The million-dollar-line (for the “benchmark” single family house) swept east through New Westminster in 2016, and both land prices and construction cost make “missing middle” forms increasingly out of touch for many potential homebuyers. We are getting more applications now for townhouse and rowhouse forms, but laneways and coach houses are still a bit niche, and may only be serving to add value to the lowest density lands in the City, creating a barrier to more attainable densities. So it will be an interesting conversation in the community, and timely with our OCP reaching mid-life.

Rezoning Application for Duplex: 122 Eighth Avenue – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This homeowner in Glenbrook North hopes to build a duplex where there is currently a single family home. The proposal meets the OCP designation for the neighbourhood, is within the permitted density (0.61FSR), height, and site coverage, however as it is duplex with two front doors (and not a house with a basement suite which would be permitted automatically) it requires a rezoning. Due to the consistency with the OCP and other lack of variances, Council agreed to waive the Public Hearing, though we have received a few public comments through the applicant-led consultation, and will continue to do so before the Third Reading. If you have opinions, please let us know.

Rezoning Application for Infill Townhouse: 337 and 339 Keary Street –Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The owners of these properties in Sapperton are proposing to build two buildings totaling 9 townhouse-style family-friendly homes. This proposal meets the OCP designation for the location, but needs a rezoning. It is on a lot between some larger single family lots and some newer narrow-lot SFD houses, with an apartment building behind, and a pretty high walk-score part of Sapperton. Again, due to OCP compliance and density and mass generally consistent with the zoning, Council has agreed to waive the Public Hearing. We can still receive public feedback prior to Third Reading, so if you have opinions, let us know!

Rezoning Application for Triplex: 817 St. Andrews Street – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The owners of this property in the Brow of the Hill is proposing to build a triplex to Passive House standard (the highest energy efficiency rating known to Christendom), bringing three family-friendly ground-oriented homes. This again meets the OCP designation for the location, but needs a rezoning. It is located next to a three-story apartment building and across the street from a high rise, but is a transition area in the neighbourhood. Council agreed to waive the Public Hearing in light of the alignment with the OCP. We can still receive public feedback prior to Third Reading, so if you have opinions, let us know!


The following items were then Removed from Consent for discussion:

Development Cost Charges Bylaw No. 8327, 2022
We provided approval in principle for these changes last meeting, this is the drafted Bylaw to support the changes. Development Cost Charges are one of the ways that municipalities assure that development pays its way – that the cost of new development falls on the developer, not on residents already here (who, at least in theory, had similar costs applied to them when their home was built). DCCs are tightly regulated by the province, are typically charged based on unit count (number of new housing units) or square footage/meterage of new living space, and the money collected is directly applied to pre-approved projects (new sewer lines, new water lines, road improvements, parks improvements). The Bylaw sets the rates and formalizes the projects toward which the DCCs will be applied, giving us the power to collect these DCCs.

Because projects and growth rates change, our DCC Bylaw is periodically updated to reflect new costs. This update significantly increases our DCCs, as the last comprehensive update was more than a decade ago. The projected value of DCCs in the Bylaw is $87.7M for the mainland and $79.4M for Queensborough (who have a separate DCC calculation because of differing sewerage and drainage costs, and differing age of the existing infrastructure). This increase is significant, but New West is still moderate compared to our cohort communities, and a bit below average for commercial and industrial DCCs.

We had a bit of debate on Council about the application of DCCs to Institutional property, you can watch the video if you are intrigued by this debate. In the end, Council voted in a split vote to approve the new DCC rates and application to Institutional properties as recommended by staff.

Hume Park Master Plan: A 20-Year Vision
This is a project that has been delayed a bit as staff resources were re-directed to pandemic support and public consultation processes were re-designed to address health restrictions. We talked a bit about it in Workshop a couple of weeks ago, but this is the final “council approval”.

Hume Park serves multiple functions in Sapperton, and parts of the park clearly need some re-fresh. Many of the physical assets are past their useful service life, and there is a bunch of money in the Capital Budget for renewal (about $3Million in the current 5-year plan), so it is good to have this Master Plan process so we know works being done to update the assets meet bigger goals, instead of being ad-hoc. We heard *a lot* from the community about why and how they value Hume (there are 300 pages of public and stakeholder feedback – plus a detailed environmental assessment and independent transportation study), and I think the plan put together here by staff reflects very well the overall tone of those consultations.

The plan kind of envisions two Hume Parks: Upper Hume will continue (with new investment) to function much as it does, with programmed and active spaces to support organized sport (soccer, rugby, softball, lacrosse, pickleball, tennis) along with an aquatic area, spray park and picnic, playground, and dog run areas. At the same time, there is a desire to re-imagine Lower Hume as more of a passive use and ecological space. You can still picnic and touch nature, but it will connect better to the floodplain of the Brunette River, with restored forests of the bluffs, and a balance of accessibility through trails with preservation of high-quality habitat.

I was happy to move endorsement of the plan as it, but also moved that Council refer the plan to Social Inclusion, Engagement and Reconciliation Advisory Committee (SIERAC) to open up a discussion about Indigenous place-making opportunities along the Brunette River portions of the park, so we can better reflect the ecology and the pre-colonial history of the Brunette, and the importance of the floodplain of the River

Temporary Use Permit Extension: 30 Capilano Way (Amusement Arcade)
The operator of a video/pinball arcade in the Braid Industrial Area has been operating under a Temporary Use Permit for two years with no problems, and is asking for a two-year extension. I am happy to support this business operating in a way that works for them and their customers, and think they have demonstrated that this activity is appropriate for their land use. As such, I’d like us to explore how we can better support these types of “accessory uses” in Industrial land, and make things easier for flexible uses like this operator has made work.

This was also an interesting discussion at Council, because I can see both arguments. This might be an interesting part of the video to watch, because the answers are not cut-and dried. Industrial Land is at a premium, region-wide, with Industrial land increasingly encroaching on green spaces at the urban boundary. The Port and the Business Community love to remind us how Industrial land is rapidly running out. So, re-purposing Industrial land is a bad idea – commercial businesses should be encouraged to set up in appropriate commercial areas, not take up limited Industrial space. On the other side of the coin, there are many new business models that mix industrial activity with a commercial storefront. Breweries and distilleries are a good example, but there are crafters of all sorts, and even a unique business like this that does the industrial work of repairing and refurbishing amusement equipment at the same location where they make a customer experience of using the equipment. They don’t fit tightly in either commercial or industrial land use boxes, and zoning is really a process to assure things are in the right box. So we are asking staff to provide us a bit more guidance about how we can better support accessory uses while not threatening the valuable resource that is Industrial Land.


Finally, we read a few bylaws including the following Bylaw for Adoption:

Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8326, 2022
This Bylaw that established the 2022 Mill Rates for property taxes was adopted by Council. Budget 2022 done. Time to start budget 2023.

Council – April 25 2022

Our Council Monday this week included an afternoon workshop where Council and staff dug in to the details of the Retail Strategy and the Hume Park Master Plan. These are two projects that have been moving along slowly in the background, even if delayed somewhat due to COVID as both involved staff time that was re-allocated to pandemic response and public and stakeholder engagement that was challenged by pandemic restrictions. So watch the afternoon videos to see where those are at, and I’ll write more on them when the final products get to Council proper.

Our Agenda started with an issuance of a Development Variance Permit:

DVP-00692 for 508 Eighth Street
The owner of this older rental building in the Brow wants to add a few suites to the ground floor where there is currently underutilized surface parking. They need a variance, because this will mean they have less parking that required by the language of the zoning bylaw. In exchange for this variance, they will secure rental use for 60 years or the live of the building, whichever is longer, through a housing agreement. It’s a modest decrease in parking that they have already found to be more than they practically require, and this will provide a bit more lower-cost secure rental housing without displacing any current residents. We received two pieces of correspondence on this application, and Council moved to approve it.


We then had a Report for discussion:

Biodiversity and Natural Area Strategy
This is a strategy that arose out of our 2018 Environmental Action Plan. New West is a pretty built-out urban area, but we do have some interesting and potentially-productive ecological hubs, as human-impacted as they may be. Some very biologically active parts of the riverfront (especially in Queensborough), the Brunette River corridor, Glenbrook Ravine, and some of our more naturalized park areas. This provides habitat for native plants, species at risk (like the Nooksack Dace) and many bugs, birds, and the occasional bear. These habitat areas are loosely connected by tree canopies along some roads and urban back yards, all of wildly varying habitat quality. This strategy will help coordinate many things the City is doing to improve the ecological value of our greenspaces, from riparian area protection to invasive species removal, tree planting, and pollinator pastures, all in an effort to better connect and protect the value of the natural habitats in the community, so the birds and the bees can more successfully do the things they are noted for doing. 29 actions are outlined here, and some are within current budget, while others may result in future enhancement requests as we enter budget discussions in future years. But for now, Council endorsed the plan, because it is a good one!


We then moved the following items On Consent:

2022 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8326, 2022
Our annual budget work was completed last month, and a budget approved by Council. Now that we know the projected revenue need, and the Province has provided assessment information for the City, we can calculate the tax rates, or “Mill rates”, and approve a Bylaw that formalizes them. The residential Mill Rate (before homeowner grant or deferrals) will be 2.61084, which compares to last year’s rate of 2.82922. Yes, you read that right, the tax rate is going down 7%. Though the amount of property tax we plan to collect is set to up by 4.4%, the average value of residential property went up much more than that (about 13%). As long as housing inflation rises faster than property taxation, the rates will continue to go down. And if you need more of an explanation of this, read here, an oldy but a goody.

Committee Remuneration Policy – Indigenous Members
The City asks for members of the public to take part in advisory committees to Council. We have been looking at ways to make participation more equitable, as having a few hours mid-week to take off from work, school, and family responsibilities is a privilege that is not equitably distributed in the community. So we are seeking ways to remove that barrier, and one is to compensate people for that time, so they can take time off work, pay for childcare, and cover expenses related to participation.

This is the first of two initiatives towards that goal, as we are starting by assuring indigenous people asked to participate in these committees receive an honorarium, in recognition of the distinct relationship between rights and title holders and the municipal government. There are a few complications here that our staff have to work out (including Revenue Canada implications for the recipient), but this report asks Council to support the idea in principle, which Council did.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Extension Request: 330 East Columbia Street Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment Project)
The RCH renewal is the biggest construction project in the City, and a year ago we granted them a small variance in the construction Noise Bylaw so they could start work earlier on Saturdays. There have been a few complaints from the public about construction noise, but none of them appear to be directly related to this earlier-Saturday schedule, and Fraser Health has been responsive to complaints received. So we are going to extend this Exemption for the rest of the construction period to get the hospital up and built as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Task Forces: Update
This is our semi-regular report of the task forces set up to support vulnerable populations during the Pandemic. Most of these programs are into operations now, and there are not a lot of updates, but it is good to get caught up on where the programs are. As we emerge from health restrictions (we are certainly NOT out of the pandemic yet) expect less reporting here, and imminent disbanding of these task forces.

Municipal Security Issuing Resolutions
We are borrowing money as part of our 5-year capital plan. If you remember back when we talked about the Capital budget, I mentioned that part of it is paid out of reserves (our “savings account”), some of it from DCCs, Grants and Contributions (“other people’s money”), and some of it from long term Debt (“a “Mortgage”), and even put those on a pie chart. Well, this is the “Long Term Debt” part.

In order for the City to borrow for more than 5 years, we need permission from the taxpayer. We got permission to borrow up to $93.6M for the aquatic centre back in 2019, to borrow up to $30M for the Queensborough substation in 2018, and for up to $28M for various infrastructure upgrades in 2016. Note, this is borrowing already built into our 5-year financial plan, not new expenditure. What we are doing now is formally passing the resolution in Council required to meet MFA requirements to borrow from them.

Public Art Plan
The City has a budget for Public Art, raised largely from development contributions and things like the digital road signs. However, a robust policy to drive the public art program and assure it aligns with other City policies is an identified gap in our overall art strategy. The work to develop this strategy got started before the Pandemic, then stalled, and staff are now getting it back on their work plan. This lays out the timeline and budget for that planning work.

Rezoning Application for Infill Townhouse: 1032 and 1036 St. Andrews Street – Preliminary Report to Council
This is a preliminary report on a townhouse infill project in the Brow of the Hill. The proposal would see 12 family-friendly townhouses, and meets the OCP vision for the neighbourhood, but would need a rezoning. This is preliminary and will go to Public Consultation, and (possibly) a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments for now.

Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment and Event-Driven Liquor Primary Licence: 735 Eighth Avenue (Massey Theatre) – Preliminary Report
The Massey Theatre is quickly re-visioning its space and its role as a culture and arts hub in the City. The breadth of events they plan to hold is expanding, and this is a good thing. This means the current way of managing liquor licenses for events (apply for a special event license at each event) is getting cumbersome. So they would like to shift to a new format of licensing, where they hold a license all the time, and activate it based on event needs. This is not a building that lends itself well to provincial LCRB liquor license categories, what with different rooms, hallways, and mixed uses, but the MTS have worked out a license regime that works for them.

But liquor licensing is still not easy, even for a City-owned building. We need a zoning text amendment to assure the zoning language meets what the province LCRB wants, and staff are recommending the City bypass the public consultation part of the zoning language amendment, letting the LCRB public consultation process cover that for us, tough we will reach out to the School District, recognizing their proximity and some remaining SD use of the Massey Theatre space.

This is preliminary, but Bylaws will be brought to Council for readings. If you have opinions, let us know!


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2022 Heat Response Plans and Emergency Preparedness Week
After the Heat Dome event last year, the City is taking several measures to better prepare for this type of extreme heat event, and lessen its impact on vulnerable people in the community. One part of this is updating our Heat Emergency response plans. A major focus of this is to increase the outreach to people most likely to be impacted by a heat wave, and those who may be able to support them during the event. The City can (and does) provide cooling centers, but they do no good if people are not aware of them or unable to get to them. The outreach plan this spring will endeavor to bridge this gap during Emergency Preparedness Week (May 1-7) and over the entire month of May.

There is also a good report in there about the City’s Hey Neighbour Collective initiative piloted last year to better connect seniors and vulnerable people living in relatively disconnected apartment buildings, and the learnings that may inform our emergency preparedness in upcoming heat seasons. I encourage folks to tune into Emergency Preparedness Week programming both locally and provincially, and to meet your neighbours.

Development Cost Charge (DCC) Bylaw Major Update Project – Stakeholder Feedback.
Development Cost Charges are fees we charge to developments that increase the density of the City – and by “density”, we mean number of household units or residential square footage per lot. DCCs are tightly regulated by the Local Government Act, and must be set by Bylaw. The funds collected must be directly linked to specific projects required to support that increased density – like building larger water and sewer connections, expanding transportation infrastructure, or expanding or improving parks space. They can’t be spent on other things, like expanding schools (the School District has its own DCC) or operating funds. So projects must be identified based on OCP growth projections, their costs estimated, the proportion of the need related to growth (as opposed to existing homeowners) estimated, and a rate calculated based on the fair proportion of a (say) new sewer line is owed by the builder of a new (say) 3-bedroom townhouse.

Every once in a while the City need to update its DCC Bylaw, as growth patterns change and project costs change. Ideally, we do this every 5 years, but it is a bit of a complicated piece of work, and the last time we made a major amendment to out Bylaw was 2015. The new Bylaw has been developed by staff, and consultation with stakeholders occurred. The development community would like the increase delayed a bit, but there is no compelling case to do so, noting that projects “in stream” are already locked into the former rates, assuming they get their building permit within a year of the Bylaw change. We are also looking at implementing Institutional DCCs for the first time, and the School District is looking for some flexibility here.

There are some good comparison charts in this report to show that New Westminster’s DCC rates are low (on the mainland) to moderate (in Queensborough- where road, sewer, and drainage DCCs are higher because of the increased cost of providing those services there) compared to our cohort communities, even after these increases.

Official Community Plan Amendment and Heritage Revitalization Agreement: 501 Fourth Avenue and 408 Fifth Street (Holy Eucharist Cathedral) – Preliminary Report
The Holy Eucharist Cathedral has been working on a plan to build housing and a mixed use building with expanded childcare space on their lot next to the church Uptown, consolidating lots and purchasing a thin unused City laneway. This will require not just an HRA, but also an OCP Amendment. This is a preliminary report, and Council was asked to raise concerns and whether we were OK sending it to public and external consultation. If you have opinions, drop us a note and let us know! And because of that OCP amendment part, we are required to send the project out to external consultation with potentially impacted stakeholders outside of the community, from First Nations to various Metro Vancouver committees. This report lists who the project is being sent out to for this external review.


Finally, we adopted the following Bylaw:

Housing Agreement (508 Eighth Street) Bylaw No. 8279, 2022
This is the Housing Agreement that secures rental tenure for the Brow of the Hill building mentioned above that is adding 4 new suites. It was adopted by Council.


We also had some public delegations about the Day of Mourning (upcoming at Pier Park on April 28), about Youth Week (coming up next week at the Youth Centre) and the New West Farmers Market (every Thursday afternoon at City Hall/Tipperary Park). It is good to see people getting together in person again, but please exercise caution as the long tail of this COVID thing is still here. Vaccines and masks are still good bets to reduce transmission and severity, and best as you can please recognize other people’s anxiety and risk tolerances may be different than yours; be a good neighbour by giving folks space, and not begrudging them if they ask it. It was community that got us through this, it is community that will pull us back together as we transition out of the pandemic period.

Earth Day 2022

In the zeitgeist of these times, one’s opinion about a day celebrating the intrinsic value of the planet that sustains us is probably influenced by the flavour of political leadership you prefer. But one thing that seems to bridge all political divides is the idea that trees are good things. That having more trees is better than having fewer trees. That we want to live near them and have them live near us.

So I want to mark Earth Day 2022 talking about trees.

We had a little event in Queens Park today, where Acting Mayor Nakagawa, the federal Minister of Natural Resources and the provincial Minister of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation celebrated new trees in an established forest (more about why that is important below), and it gives me an excuse to talk about optimistic leadership.

The proverb is that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is today. There is nothing more hopeful and optimistic than planting a tree. We know the benefits of the tree will not be enjoyed today, that the shade of the tree will not be provided for a decade or more. It takes years for the full noise-abatement, flood-prevention, air-cleaning, habitat-restoring, fruit-providing, carbon-sequestering values of a tree to be realized. The planning here is well outside of any election cycle. So it is an expression of hope to commit to, to fund, to plant a tree you may never sit in the shade of.

In New Westminster, we are planting trees like never before. Literally thousands of them. Our Urban Forest Management Strategy is in the rapidly-getting-trees-planted stage. Concentrating first on currently under-shaded neighbourhoods like the Brow of the Hill and Queensborough, the City is protecting established trees on public and private property, requiring new plantings on development lands, and (most importantly) planting new trees on City-owned lands, including parks and boulevards.

The reason we had Ministers in Queen’s Park on Earth Day in 2022 was around two great programs happening right now. Both are supporting our Urban Forest Management Strategy, and both are supported by valuable external grants we were able to secure to make New Westminster (literally) greener specifically because we have these clear strategies and goals.

The first is our program to restore natural areas in our parks with native plantings, supported by the Tree Canada National Greening Program. Through that program, we got assistance to support the restoration of the ground level of some of our established forests, such as in Hume, Glenbrook Ravine, and Queens Park. These are areas where the tree canopy is well established, but old. These “single generation” forests are majestic, but when the trees are not diverse and are all the same age, they become susceptible to disease, and are not buffered for natural secession. By changing the ground-level conditions and introducing both young trees and other ground-cover, we build a more robust and healthy forest. This makes the big trees healthier, and assures that we will have younger established trees to fill gaps when older trees naturally age out of the forest. This program will see 25,000 saplings and plant plugs put in the soil in 2022!

You may have noted the signage around Queens Park where these areas are being restored. The signage is there to help people understand why we are asking people to not walk or ride their bikes through these area, and to keep your dogs out of there, so the new plants and restored soil can do its thing:

The second program is a more city-wide Urban Reforestation and Biodiversity Enhancement Initiative. This is the result of a $1.7 Million grant from the (federal) Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and (provincial) COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream (ICIP – CVRIS) grant programs. This is going to fund a huge amount of our target tree planting for 2022 and 2023, and allow us to establish a new 1-hectare pollinator pasture in the City.

We are on pace, thanks in part of these types of grants, to beat our target for 10,000 established new trees in the City by 2030. We know this is not the complete solution for climate disruption, but along with our ongoing efforts to reduce our corporate and community GHG emissions, we recognize that sequestration through trees will become an increasingly important part of reducing atmospheric GHG. At the same time, they make our community a more livable place. If we maintain the momentum of the last couple of years, we will exceed out Urban Forest Management Strategy target of 27% forest canopy cover by 2035, and this will be a completely transformed City by 2050.

There are ways you can help out! As important as they are to our long-term goals, new boulevard trees do not, unfortunately, have a 100% survival rate. The boulevard is a tough place to be a young tree. There often isn’t a lot of soil to hold water over dry summers, dogs pee on you, things bump into you, and there is little protection from wind, hard sun, and other indignities. We plan for some attrition with new plantings, but you can help reduce that rate and increase the chances that the lovely new tree near your home joins the ranks of the established. You can become a Tree Steward by signing up to Adopt a Street Tree! See the details here.

This can be your non-partisan Earth Day gift to the planet that sustains us, and to a generation you have not yet met who will enjoy the shade your tree provides in the decades ahead. Happy Earth Day.

3 delegations

As I mentioned last blog, we had a few public delegations at Council on Monday that were notable. I don’t often write about public delegations here unless they result in direct Council action, in which case they make it into my regular Council Reports. But anyone can delegate on any topic in New West, so we often don’t know what is coming, and are not prepared to directly address the issue raised in the council meeting. It is also a weirdly pre-election political time, and as such, more of these delegations will be seen in context of October 15th. So with the benefit of a few days of reflection, I might like to look at the points raised.

First, a candidate for Mayor made his first appearance in Council chambers to ask Council to put the 2030 Olympic bid to a referendum of New Westminster residents. I, frankly, did not know how to respond to this request.

For context, there are four First Nations (Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Líl̓wat) putting together a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics, relying heavily on existing infrastructure built for the 2010 games. They have invited the municipalities of Vancouver and Whistler to enter MOUs to define how they can work together to achieve the bid goals. New Westminster is not a party to those MOUs, we have not (yet) been invited by the host nations to enter those discussions, nor are the details of the bid established enough for us to have an informed conversation about its viability.

So when one suggests residents of New West be engaged in a referendum on this, I am not sure how we would even phrase a question without sounding profoundly colonial and setting back relationships we are respectfully trying to build with those indigenous communities on whose land we live and work, and whose land on which the broader “we” were very comfortable holding our own Olympics a decade ago without (to my knowledge) doing a referendum of Indigenous Peoples. Further, I don’t know how we would operationalize any answer (yes or no) without violating core principles of reconciliation at a time when we are building relationships. So the request was not timely, and was not something I can imagine us putting resources towards right now.


The second delegation was from a long-time Council Watcher reminding us that the Community Charter (Section 118) says a City over 50,000 people should have eight councilors, unless we have a Bylaw saying otherwise. Back in the early 2000’s New West made a decision when the population went over 50K to not add two new councilors. In 2005, the City Council of the time put a non-binding plebiscite question on the ballot, and 70% voted against an increase in council. We have not, in my time at least, had any conversation about revisiting that decision. That was 17 years ago, and now that we are over 80,000 residents, it seems reasonable for a resident to ask whether we should review that decision.

My reflex response is that I just don’t feel the public is in a place today where a strong majority sees “more elected people” as the solution to any problem. Maybe that is cynical, and I could hear an argument that more elected officials results in better and potentially more diverse representation. So am going to stay agnostic on this for now, and just look at the numbers.

There are 19 Municipalities in BC with population over 50,000. Of those, seven have 6 Councilors (37%), twelve have 8 Councilors (63%), and one has 10 Councilors (Vancouver, which has its own Charter, so it doesn’t count here). Here is how they plot in population vs. council count:

Of the seven municipalities in BC with a population larger than 50,000 and six Councilors, four have a larger population than New West (Delta, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, and the District of North Vancouver) and two are smaller than New West (Port Coquitlam and North Vancouver City). There is one municipality with population smaller than New West with eight Councilors, and that is Prince George (which despite a current spurt in growth, has effectively the same population as it did in the 1990s).

So what I take from this is that New West in not currently anomalous in its number of councilors, but would be one of the smallest municipalities with eight if we made the shift. This, of course, doesn’t mean that the number is perfect, or that the rules the way they are set up is optimal, only that New West seems to be within the category of nominal in regards to Council count. Let the conversation in he community ensue…


Finally, we had a presentation from a representative of the Uptown BIA expressing concern about the proposed Uptown Active Transportation improvements. This followed up on a letter sent to Council by the BIA.

The current plan is the result of lengthy public and user group consultation, and addresses the point that a new High School and major park destination is not well connected to our local or regional active transportation network. Direct-as-possible routes from the Crosstown Greenway on the west (through Moody Park, already built) and east (along 200m/2 blocks of 6th street) were identified as active transportation priorities.

There are some businesses on that block of 6th Street that are concerned about the change, because there will be a reduction in street parking. This is not surprising, as separated safe cycling infrastructure is often anticipated to bring a negative impact to retail areas. This despite there being extensive evidence from around North America and the rest of the world that merchants vastly overestimate the importance of cars as the mode their shoppers use, and that safe cycling infrastructure that displaces curbside parking does not hurt adjacent businesses, and may actually be a positive.*

That said, the updates on 6th Street are going to initially be installed using temporary hardware, similar to the Room to Move installations that occurred primarily Uptown during the Pandemic summers to test out where the balance between pedestrian and car space can be adjusted. Those informed some of the more permanent installations you see now on Sixth Ave where sidewalks are being expanded. The mobility lanes will be separated by more than paint (which is required to make them safe), but in a way that we can make inexpensive changes to iterate the design to make it work better. Part of that evaluation should include impacts on the local businesses, and I hope to continue that conversation with the BIA.

* References from:
New Zealand
Ireland
Toronto
Seattle
New York
Toronto, again
Portland
Los Angeles

Council – April 11 2022

We had a real pre-COVID feeling Council meeting on Monday. Not because COVID is over (I know a few people getting hit by the new variant right now), but because most of Council was back in chambers, and we had and audience and several public delegations in person and everything. This, of course, came with masks and social distancing and the other procedures our 2019 cohorts would not understand to make the room as safe as possible for everyone. If you love reading this stuff (Hi Mom!) you should join us some Monday night. Our Agenda on Monday was not long, and it started with a report I had to leave the room for:

Rezoning and Development Permit Applications for Market Rental Building Renovation: 222 Ash Street
This is a project I recused myself from discussing, because this building is less than 50m from my home. By a strict reading, regulations say that a member of Council must recuse from topics in which they have a direct fiduciary interest, but we have a practice in New West of interpreting this very broadly. If I owned property in this building, I would clearly be in conflict. If I owned a house right next door, it is probably safe to say my property value may be impacted by changes, so I would want to recuse. In this case, I am close enough that some may argue my fiduciary interest in my own property may be impacted by changes in this property due to proximity, so it is safer for everyone (the property owner, the City, and myself as a Councillor) if I recuse myself to avoid even the perception of undue influence.

So that aside, this is a project where an existing rental building wants to expand the number of units on site by building in top of the existing building. This is a preliminary application to gauge council opinion, so public consultation and other review yet to come. If you want to know what council discussed, watch the video!


We then moved the following items On Consent:

2022 Earth Day Programs
The City is doing three things to mark Earth Day this year. We are launching an Adopt-a-Tree program to let people take a more active part in our Urban Forest Management Program, and Adopt-a-Catch-Basin Program to get folks more linked to the exciting world of storm water drainage, and a Datathon program. More details to come!

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: (81 Braid Street – Braid SkyTrain Station)
A water main upgrade project at Braid Station was delayed by some supply chain issues, so the noise bylaw exemption we previously gave them needs to be extended.

Housing Agreement Bylaw and Development Variance Permit to Vary Residential and Visitor Parking Requirements: 508 Eighth Street – Bylaw for Three Readings
This Rental apartment building in the Brow of the Hill wants to add a few studio suites at ground level, where there is currently parking spots. The existing parking on the site is underutilized (>60% unused), but this change requires a Development Variance Permit because the building will not, as envisioned, meet the existing parking guidelines for a building this size. So they are requesting a parking variance, in an exchange we will get a Housing Agreement securing rental tenure for the life of the building. And 4 new relatively affordable rental suites added ot the existing 32 in the building.

There is a bit more going on here around bicycle parking and housing agreements, but mostly we are letting the public know we are going to consider the DVP. If you have opinions, let us know!

Public Art Program Update
This report is an update on our Public Art program. But that’s right there in the title. There is some good stuff in here about our ongoing program – Public Art related to various City-owned construction projects (from təməsew̓txʷ to the Boundary Road pump station) and the Artist Roster program. This all great stuff, making our public spaces (or “Public Realm” as we like to say in Jargonworld) better!

Rezoning and Development Permit Applications for Secured Market Rental High-rise: 616-640 Sixth Street – Preliminary Report
This development project had a pretty high profile when approved by Council through a Public Hearing four years ago, and four years later there has been no breaking of ground on the project. It is now more than decade since we had a significant project adding to the tower-form housing in the Uptown area, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Perhaps not surprising, the economics of development changes over time, and through the City’s incentive programs, support from senior governments, and the desires of those who finance major projects, there seems to be a drift from Strata to Purpose Built Rental, which is probably a good thing as regional vacancy rates are still in the 1% range. So this project has shifted from part-Strata part-rental to 100% rental, and they are now requesting an increase in density and unit count to support a more efficient and viable all-rental building design.

This is a preliminary report, so the proposal will need to see some public consultation, and will likely have a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then. If you have feelings, let us know!

Update on Mayor’s 50 Ideas Parks & Recreation Initiatives #3 & #18
This is an update on a couple of public amenity programs. One was to increase the amount of public seating in the community (we have added chairs, benches and picnic tables all around the City –and they are getting used as fast as we can put them out) and a program to provide a low-cost “try it out” option for a variety of recreational programs (slightly set back by COVID, but back on).


The following items were Removed from Consent,/u> for discussion.

Council Resolution in Support of the City of New Westminster’s Application under the COVID-19 Restart Funding for Local Governments, Strengthening Communities’ Services Program
There is a UBCM program we are applying for to get some senior government money ($624K) to help finance some programs to help those impacted the most by COVID. This funding will be spread out across a variety of programs, including sanitation trailers for the proposed 24/7 shelter at the Army & Navy (the current building does not have adequate washroom/shower facilities to fulfill the need, trailers like at movie sets will allow the shelter to operate until the more permanent shelter options already approved are ready). Another is a freestanding public toilet downtown to replace the very-much-less-than-ideal port-a-potties. This funding will also help reinforce programs from the Maida Duncan drop-in to the I’s On the Street program. We are applying, cross your fingers!

Port Authority Referral: 820 Dock Road, City of Delta, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Solutions, Annacis Auto Terminal Optimization – Information Report
The east end of Annacis Island is the biggest parking lot in the Lower Mainland, and it is going to get bigger. This is because it is the location where most of the cars arriving in Canada from Asia are unloaded from those big blocky ships, and are (mostly) loaded on to rail cars for shipment across Canada. The owner wants to expand, and are applying to the Port for permission. This is Federal land, so the Port asks nearby Municipalities what they think, but they don’t necessarily need to ask us for permission.

This is a bit unusual, because the project isn’t in New West, but is in Delta. So they pay their PILT (“Payment in Lieu of Taxes”) to Delta, not to New West, and they get their utility servicing from Delta. But we in New West get a lot of the impact of the operations – the noise and light and emission impact our residents more than Delta residents. We also have the impacts of increase rail traffic through Q’boro and (potentially) the Quayside. But such is the inter-jurisdictional reality, and we can curse the civic leaders of decades ago who decided Anncis Island should be given to Delta instead of New West.

However, if we are going to raise issues to the Port, I am suggesting we ask about increased rail traffic, and the impacts on Queensborough and Quayside neighbourhoods. The cargo capacity of the port will increase about 40%, so we may infer this means 40% more trains through Q’Boro and over the rail bridge. It would be good to know the Port is aware of local concerns and efforts towards whistle cessation in at the key crossings on Port Royal. Similarly, many of the vehicles leave the Port on trucks, and It would be good to know if we expect increased truck traffic on Derwent Way. Finally, I don’t know if the ships they use for this type of cargo are the type where shore power can reduce impacts on our local air shed related to them running their boilers, but this is the time to ask. So we will send the Port these questions and let you know what they say.

The Poet Laureate Digital Poetry Project
We have a Poet Laureate, and he has found a creative way to connect poetry with our everyday lives during National Poetry Month. And while he was at Council to talk about it, he gave us a quick reading of some new words he put together about community. I feel really honoured to have him telling the stories of our community.


We then Adopted the following Bylaws

Heritage Designation Bylaw (1324 Nanaimo Street) No. 8291,2022
Council adopted this Bylaw that officially designates this house in the West End as a protected heritage property.

Heritage Designation (102 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No. 8313,2022
Council adopted this Bylaw that officially designates this house in Glenbrook North as a protected heritage property.

Water Shortage Response Amendment Bylaw No. 8314, 2022
Council adopted this Bylaw that updates our water shortage restrictions to bring them in alignment with Metro Vancouver’s new rules. Gold is the new green!

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Parking Reductions for Patios) No.8317, 2022</>B
Council adopted this Bylaw that makes permanent the temporary changes we made to allow expanded patio options for restaurants and bars with parking lots.


And we had this Motion from Council:

Climate Crisis Readiness, Councillor Nakagawa

THAT staff report back to Council on city readiness for extreme climate related events this summer including, but not limited to heat waves and flooding; and
THAT this report includes communications and engagement considerations, including opportunities to facilitate dialogue and planning for a community-based response to climate emergencies; and
THAT staff report on opportunities to enhance Emergency Preparedness Week events with a specific focus on equity-based climate response measures.

It is 10 months since the Heat Dome event devastated this community. Staff have been working on how to better address the risk of this type of heat event and other imminent impacts of climate disruption, not just in New West but around the region. We have two panels at the upcoming Lower Mainland LGA conference talking about this topic, including the importance of community organizing when disasters are simply too big for local government to provide adequate response.

This reporting back will not only inform Council, it will give us another opportunity to inform the public and talk about the importance of community in addressing emergencies.


And on top of this, we had a couple of other public delegations, which are not normally things I report on here, but the range of topics were pretty interesting, so I will probably follow this up with a bit more detail about them. But that’s another blog post when I have time.

Council – March 28, 2022

The Mayor was not able to make our evening Council Meeting this week, and as I was the Acting Mayor for March, I got my first (only?) chance to sit in the Big Chair** for a Public Hearing. Much gratitude to my colleagues and the Clerk and the public delegates who attended for taking it easy on me, as there is a lot going on with a hybrid (Live!& on Zoom!) Public Hearing to pay attention to aside from the Agenda. But we got through. Let’s start with the Bylaws referred from Public Hearing:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1324 Nanaimo Street) Bylaw No. 8290, 2022 and
Heritage Designation (1324 Nanaimo Street) Bylaw No. 8291, 2022
This Resident wants to subdivide largish corner lot in West End, build an infill house on the subdivided lot, and permanently protect the existing 1944 house. Both houses would have a legal secondary suite (meaning 4 total units, 3 currently permitted on the lot). This application was approved by the Community Heritage Commission, is consistent with the Official Community Plan vision for the neighbourhood, but would require several zoning relaxations (Small lots, FSR exceedance, minor setbacks and a parking relaxation of one spot), which are being managed through the HRA process.

We received two written submissions on this, both in support. No-one came to address City Council in regards to this application. Council moved to give the HRA Bylaws Third Reading and Adoption, and Third Reading to the Designation Bylaw, approving the project.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (102 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No. 8312, 2022 and
Heritage Designation (102 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No. 8313, 2022
This Resident wants to subdivide a largish corner lot in Glenbrook North, build a duplex of two townhouse-style (~1,000sqft) homes on the subdivided lot, and permanently protect the existing 1941 house. The heritage house would have a legal secondary suite (meaning 4 total units, 3 currently permitted on the lot). This application was approved by the Community Heritage Commission, is consistent with the Official Community Plan vision for the neighbourhood, but would require several zoning relaxations (Small lots, FSR exceedance, minor setbacks, and the duplex form), which are being managed through the HRA process.

We received 18 written submissions (66% opposed) and we had 22 people come and present to Council (66% opposed), with significant overlap between those two media. With several second-time and a few three-time speakers, the Public hearing lasted aobut 3 hours, so you will forgive if I abbreviate a bit the concerns I heard.

Opponents felt the duplex was too much density on one lot, and concerns were raised regarding the impact on traffic safety, in the alley where the parking will be and on adjacent First Street, with specific concern was related to the many pedestrians and kids walking to the nearby school and parks. There were questions about the livability of the units for families, the loss of green space, and about the impact on adjacent homes. A few people raised questions regarding the HRA process and heritage value of the existing house.

I voted to support this project, because it provides, in my mind, an important form of “missing middle” housing that meets the stated goals of the Official Community Plan for this neighbourhood. This is exactly the kind of ground-oriented modestly sized housing that young families are asking me about when we talk about New Westminster’s housing mix and variety. It seems preferable to other infill options available to the owner. This is a unique lot, as the front garden (facing Seventh Ave) is integral to the heritage form of the original house, and moving the house is not possible, which results in setback variances being needed.

I do hear concerns about traffic safety near schools, but am not able to relate those concerns to having 4 living units on this lot instead of the three currently permitted. Indeed, more modestly-sized family-friendly housing near schools and parks and greenways that connect to other amenities is part of the mitigation of increasing traffic stress.

Council moved unanimously to give the HRA Bylaws Third Reading and Adoption, and Third Reading to the Designation Bylaw, approving the project.


We then moved the following items On Consent:

2022 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
We get these reports every month in the Spring to help assess the freshet flood risk, and put plans in place in the case of elevated risk. Looks like the snowpack is a little above average (105%) but nothing too worrisome yet.

Amendment to the Water Shortage Response Bylaw No. 6948, 2004 – Revision of Lawn Sprinkling Regulations
We are looking at adjusting our Bylaw that regulates water shortage measures, such as lawn watering regulations. In short, we are reducing the times when you can sprinkle your lawn to be in compliance with updated Metro Vancouver guidelines on this, as it is ultimately Metro Vancouver who provides the water and knows what is and is not sustainable use based on their system capacity.

Arts Council of New Westminster License Agreement Renewal
The Arts Council leases gallery space in Queens Park, and has an agreement with the City to program the adjacent lodge space when the City is not otherwise using it. This has been a good deal for the Arts Council (they get a stable home to do their work for a pretty nominal costs( and the for the City (we have an art gallery and Arts Council programming adding to the richness of Queens Park and the entire community). So the lease is being renewed.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 330 E. Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital Development)
The RCH project is moving along. As is becoming common in major construction, single large concrete pours are sometimes needed, and they cannot be completed in one pour within regular construction hours, so they ask for an exception to the Bylaw to allow those pours to happen. They are going to try to do this pour on April 22, and are reserving the week after just in case the weather does not agree on the 22nd. Residents in the neighbourhood will be informed.

Designation of an Acting Chief Licence Inspector
This is a regulatory role in the City – someone has to have the authority to sign off on business licenses. Our previous Manager of Integrated Services is retiring after a great career with the City, and until we can fill that important spot, we need to designate someone else to sign off on those licenses in the interim. We are designating the Manager of Economic Development, whose staff has a good relationship with the business community.

European Chafer Management Program Update
The City had a subsidized program to provide nematodes to residents to reduce the impact of European chafer beetles on their lawns. The last few years, alternate approaches have become more common, easy to access and often cheaper than the City’s nematode program. So we are suspending the program for 2022, and staff will track any impacts of that suspension.

Local Government Act Updates (Bill 26) and Proposed Delegation of Small Development Variance Permits
The Province has made changes to the Local Government Act (LGA), and Council can now delegate small development variance permits to staff, instead of them coming to Council. There does need to be a Bylaw that sets out criteria for what is a “minor” variance, and what criteria staff will apply to evaluate whether the variance should be considered.

We deal with about 4 DVPs per year on average, plus an additional 2 Sign Bylaw variances. Not bringing these to Council makes the process simpler and cheaper for the applicant, and saves a bunch of staff time in preparing a Council report that can be better used at moving other projects along. I guess this is where somebody other than me talks about “Red Tape Reduction”.

The report lists what types of variances we are going to delegate (siting/dimensions that don’t include density variances, parking for smaller projects, some landscaping) and some conditions staff will apply. It is worth noting, if your request for a variance is turned down by Staff, you will still have the opportunity to bring the request to Council. Staff will now draft a bylaw to make this happen.

Sex Worker Safety Proposed Work Plan
This report outlines a proposed work plan an information on an upcoming workshop with Council and senior staff related to sex worker safety and how we can integrate that knowledge into the work we do as a City, following the Councillor Nakagawa motion supported by Council last June.

Temporary Use Permit Renewal: 488 Furness Street – for Presentation Centre
This development project in Q’Boro uses one of its buildings as a sales centre, which is not compliant with the end use intended, so we grant Temporary Use Permits in this case. Temporary means they expire, and this developer wishes to extend their permit to keep the presentation centre going a bit longer. We can (and are) grant one TUP extension, to April 2024.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Rezoning and Development Permit Applications for a 15-unit Rental Project: 1321 Cariboo Street – For Information
This is a preliminary report on a plan to replace a derelict site on the edge of the Brow neighbourhood with a compact 5-storey building with 15 secured purpose-built rental suites. It needs a rezoning and Development Permit to deal with massing and reduced parking (both supported by the LUPC). It has shrunk a bit as it went through review from the originally-proposed 19 unit building, but still meets the Family-Friendly Housing requirements. It will go to Public Consultation and likely a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Rezoning and Special Development Permit (815 – 821 Victoria Street and 810 Agnes Street) – Project Update
This report updates us on another project that has seen some changes since the last time it was brought to Council. The new owner of the property has shifted the proposal from Strata to Purpose Built Rental. This would include an increase in height (by three stories), of FSR (7.2 to 8.8), and unit count (222 to 327). This is a pretty big change, mostly in the size of the tower floorplate. This was the project that was going to finance the development of a new downtown park space on the location of the historic Chinese Benevolent Association property, and that is still part of the plan.

This would go to Public Consultation, and likely a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Ukrainian Crisis – Government and Community Response
This is an update on many things happening locally to nationally in support of the Ukrainian community, including work being done to prepare for and support refugees escaping the violence. Much of this is concentrated on the Holy Eucharist Cathedral here in New West, and is being supported by the Welcoming and Inclusive New Westminster Local Immigration Partnership Council. More info here about how you can help, or connect people who need help to services.


We then finished up our night by adopting the following Bylaws:

Corporate Records Management Program Amendment Bylaw No. 8322, 2022
This Bylaw that changes which official signatures may be recorded digitally was adopted by Council. So, less Red Tape again?

Street and Sidewalk Patio Bylaw No. 8318 2022
This bylaw that responds to the expiration of the temporary provincial patio licensing rules by making the changes we adopted during COVID permanent was adopted by Council, just in time for the sun to come out.

** the chairs are all the same size.

Council – March 7, 2022

This is the part of my regular blogging out of what happened in Council this week where I apologize for not getting this out sooner. However, my actual-paid-work schedule was busy this week and I have a couple of other meetings related to another project in the evenings that made my week go away remarkable quickly, and I woke up Sunday  Morning after losing an hour of sleep realizing I haven’t done this yet. So here we go. The Agenda was not very long, but we had a lengthy discussion related to our guest:

Presentation: New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation UpdateConstruction Noise Bylaw Exemption Extension Request: New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation
The major sewer renewal project Metro Vancouver is running in Downtown has been going on longer than anyone wanted, and it is a disappointing situation. A representative from Metro Vancouver came to our meeting to outline some of the reasons why the project is still lagging on.

It is worth noting that this is a difficult piece of engineering. Slip-lining new pipes into a very old existing sewer that is in terrible condition is not without risk or challenge. However this option was chosen over a complete excavation over the entire project length, which would have been massively more disruptive to Columbia Street. The project ran into supply chain issues, Omicron apparently set them back a bit, and equipment got stuck in the Atmospheric River road closures last winter. Hopefully to worse is behind, but Council was able to express the frustration we have heard from the community, and the Downtown BIA were able to attend to express their own concerns directly to Metro.

As it stands, the strategy for the slip-lining is going to change, and instead of installing the bulk of new pipe at the current location near the foot of Eighth, they are going to move a bunch of it up to Blackwood and do a secondary install there. This means moving most of that pipe up there (which is a significantly disruptive activity, as heavy equipment is needed and traffic needs to be re-routed), waiting for an appropriate weather window, and getting the work done. Once the pipe is in the ground, there will be several weeks of follow-up work where new manhole and connections will be installed. If all goes well, they hope to be off the street completely by the May long weekend.

Hope. There is no certainty in this work, and little rending of garments will get accelerate it. Metro has added some senior oversight staff to assure the contractor is doing their upmost to get along with it, but uncertainty is the only certainty any time you dig a hole in a 150 year old city. Council granted another extension to the construction noise exemption so that they can (if needed) work through the night to get this done.

Metro also made some commitments to improved communications with the business community as the project proceeds. This is increasingly important as the Downtown BIA are already planning some summer events on Columbia Street, and Pride is starting to plan for a triumphant return to their street fest – and plans now cannot be subject to uncertain availability of space in June or July. Yelling at the pipe won’t make it install faster, but communication to stakeholders is becoming more vital as summer approaches.


We then moved the following items On Consent:

Amendment to the Corporate Records Management Program Bylaw 2022: Electronic Signature Policy
Last meeting we approved in principle these changes to allow digital signatures on some official city records. This is the Bylaw that empowers that. You can read through the report and see when a digital signature suffices, and when a wet signature (ew!) is required.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 81 Braid Street (Braid SkyTrain Station)
TransLink is updating the water line to the alleged Braid Station. Some of this work has to happen at night to not disrupt transit services, requiring a Construction Noise Bylaw exemption.

Covid-19 Task Forces: Update
These updates we have been getting through the pandemic response are getting shorter. There are still important supports being provided, but it is starting to look more and more like the pandemic-specific responses are morphing into the kind of supports vulnerable populations require regardless of pandemic state.

Fraser Health Authority Community Health Specialist: Proposed New Role
The City, School District and Fraser Health have a partnership through which we try to embed a “healthier community” lens into the work our planning department does. This has mostly been through a joint committee that met quarterly and brought a Fraser Health public health professional into our planning process for new policies and programs. This proposal is to take the next step and embed that Fraser Health employee into our planning department to serve as a resource for all City employees on the public health implications of policies and programs. We get a lot of examples of “downloading” public health costs to local governments, this is an example of Fraser Health investing in making the City more effective at improving Public health, which is a really positive thing to see.

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Report for 2021
The City is subject to the Provincial FOIPPA, and must adhere to the regulation in how we address FOI requests and protect the privacy of people whose information we may store or distribute. Provincial changes to the FOIPPA this year impact how we do our compliance.

The City generally gets about 80 FOI requests a year, mostly from insurance companies or lawyers doing their due diligence on various claims or cases that may or may not include the City. This is not a huge number, but does take quite a bit of staff time to be compliant. One change to the provincial FOIPPA this year was to allow us to charge for the request. We are not going to implement a fee, as the number of requests we get is small and manageable, and the perceived barrier of the non-refundable fee outweighs any benefit in the efficiency of running the system at the current rate of requests.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1324 Nanaimo Street) Bylaw No. 8290, 2022 and Heritage Designation (1324 Nanaimo Street) Bylaw No. 8291, 2022 for First and Second Readings
The owner of this house in the West End wants to subdivide and build a small infill house on the new lot created, in exchange for heritage protection of the existing 1944 house on the site. This proposal will got to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then,

Patio Program Update
New West, like some other cities, created more flexible programs to facilitate patios on public land (the sidewalk or parking lot in front of a business) and private land (private parking lots adjacent to existing restaurants) as the Pandemic hit the service industries, and as Provincial legislation around permitting liquor licenses was similarly relaxed. This was mostly well received by the public and businesses, partly because the City already had a pretty flexible and inviting program, the provincial relaxations just made it work easier. The Province has noe replaced their temporary changes with a clearer long-term licensing framework, and the city is adapting its program to align with that, and to assure longer-term concerns (building standards to assure spaces remain accessible and people don’t get hurt), while keeping fees really low and the process simple and familiar. Kudos to the Engineering, Economic Development, and Planning folks for making this happen quickly and smoothly. Summer is approaching…


The following item was Removed form Consent for discussion:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (102 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No.8312, 2022 and Heritage Designation (102 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No. 8313, 2022 Bylaws for First and Second Readings
The owner of this house in Glenbrook North wants to subdivide and build a small duplex on the new lot created, in exchange for heritage protection of the existing 1941 house on the site. This proposal will got to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then.


Then we had the following Bylaws for Adoption:

Local Government Elections Procedures Amendment Bylaw No. 8311, 2022
This bylaw to allow for mail ballot voting and elector registration by mail and to introduce changes to the definition of special voting, was Adopted by Council. I guess there is an election coming. Better start thinking about that…

Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8319, 2022
This Bylaw that makes minor changes to our 2022 Parks and Rec fees was Adopted by Council. Spring outdoor pool season is starting soon!

And that was the work for Early March. Sorry it took so long to get here. Have a good Spring Break!

Ask Pat: Sticks & Carrots

Allen asks—

What do you think of the news that B.C. prepares to remove some housing approval powers from local governments? There are no denying that getting permits from a city is slow and difficult. I’m not sure whether take powers away from local government is good or bad, but in your opinion, how New Westminster can do better on issuing new permits?

I have been thinking a lot about it, but I don’t yet have any answers. This is mostly because Minister Eby has been rather vague about what types of changes he is looking to implement, and the target needs to be well understood to avoid unintended effects. I’ll try to unpack what doesn’t fit in the headlines.

First, I need to note my comments are from the point of view of a member of a City Councils that is meeting our regionally-agreed-upon commitments to building new housing. We have leadership and staff that have weathered the challenges of meeting our Regional Growth Strategy obligations in approving new Purpose Built Rental, market housing, and family friendly housing, while we are finally cracking the nut on new “missing middle”. We have not just approved new non-market affordable housing, but have made City lands available and fast-tracked approvals to assure that when funding arrives for non-market housing, we are inviting it in, and we have made clear we want more funded in our own back yard. We did this without massive expansion into greenfield (because as a 150+ year old City, we don’t have much greenfield) and without massive displacement of vulnerable residents from the older, most affordable housing in the City.

That is not to say New Westminster doesn’t have more work to do, or that the crises are over, only to note that the work we have done in the last decade is region-leading (if the City of North Van will share the podium). This work has not been without push-back from some of the community. Every day we hear as much from people telling us we are going too far, too fast, as we do from people asking us what we are doing to address housing. Have you looked at Facebook recently?

At the same time, we are a City of just under 80,000 people in a region headed towards 3 Million. With only 3% of the region’s population, less than 3% of its tax revenue,  and much less than 1% of its land area, New Westminster is not going to fix the regional housing crisis.  The region is thousands of units a year short of approving what is needed to start to stabilize the market, and are thousands of non-market units short of what we need to provide stability to the most vulnerable populations. So when facing push back or predatory delay, I can see why the Minister responsible for Housing is getting hot under the collar, and is ready to start swinging a big stick to get municipalities to do their job.

Without the benefit of more detail about what that stick looks like, I am concerned that the perception being created (as it may not be what he intends, only the way he is being interpreted in the media) is that of threats, and I can only hope from the New West perspective that Minister Eby will find carrots to compliment that stick.

People in New West know what we need to help the new housing find broader public support in the community; we know what those carrots are. Clear financing for new school locations; support for transit and funding for active transportation to reduce the traffic loads new growth would bring without those investments; prioritizing existing infrastructure funds supporting everything from sewer upgrades to library expansions to new park space, so communities meeting their regional commitments have the upper hand in grant applications. And, yeah, legislative tools to give well-meaning Municipal Councils and staff the flexibility to approve good projects faster.

How can we do better on issuing new permits? The question is really wide-reaching, so the best answer is equally far-reaching. If the conceit of your question is that New West is not building fast enough (and I’m not convinced your entire community agrees with you there) then there is work we can do to accelerate the process. I have had long conversations with architects designing new apartment buildings to homeowners doing relatively small infill projects, and there is no doubt they feel there are approval steps or consultation standards that are not obvious in why they are needed. Developers will tell you this extra time costs them money and pushes up prices, but accelerating the process may cost the City money (as we would need more staff), or compromise important policy goals, so there is clearly a balance to be found. I think the best shorter-term improvement is in creating more certainty about the time for approvals. But again, Development is complex, and we have a culture of public engagement in New West that is difficult to rush.

The one assumption to put aside, however, is that the Province can meaningfully force an acceleration of these processes. Unless the province removes from Municipalities the one ultimate authority they hold – zoning – it will be wielded by different Municipalities to achieve the policy and political goals of the community. And, alas, constructive delay of change is a policy goal of some local governments. As a Lawyer, Minister Eby certainly understands that removing zoning power opens a Pandora’s Box of problems, because zoning authority is interwoven with local government and provincial government regulations. A single example I am professionally very familiar with: without local government zoning control, the entire provincial contaminated sites identification and management system will have to be redesigned. There are scores of other Provincial and Municipal regulatory systems that are similarly buttressed by zoning. Unpacking that would be a very difficult process.

That is not to say the Province is powerless, far from it. I think that Minister Eby will need to be surgical and strategic about the sticks he wields, though I would not begrudge him wielding it to get our region back on track to addressing our overlapping housing crises. I only hope he also brings those carrots, because local governments need community support to do good work, and long-term benefits of meeting our regional commitments to housing are becoming a harder sell to the comfortably housed who vote.