In 1890 David McLaughlin purchased some land in New Westminster near the newly-created Moody Park. It’s rumoured that he, being a ship’s carpenter and handy with building things out of wood, built the house that still stands on that property today at 1031 Sixth Avenue. The house is typical of those of the time, in a simplified Queen Anne style with ‘Victorian’ features such as an asymmetrical floorplan, bay windows with decorative cast iron cresting, and mansard roofs.

It’s also remained relatively untouched over its 125-year lifetime, with the only major renovation being the addition of a workshop by McLaughlin himself in 1915.

David McLaughlin House at 1031 Sixth Avenue, New Westminster
David McLaughlin House at 1031 Sixth Avenue, New Westminster

So when the current owner wanted to expand living space for his family, he applied for a demolition permit to build a larger house on the site. As the house is on the City of New Westminster’s Heritage Register the permit was immediately put on hold pending the issuance of a building permit that authorizes the construction of a building to replace the building that is being demolished (City of New Westminster Heritage Procedures Bylaw No. 7606, 2013). This brought the pending demolition to the city’s attention, and council directed city staff to determine how the heritage house could be saved.

The owner of the property then agreed to enter a Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA), and had plans developed that would move the heritage house to the rear of the lot and raise it by 11 inches to allow for a new foundation and crawl space, and adding a new house at the front of the lot. The new house would be approximately 2160 square feet (footprint of 887 square feet), with the heritage house being approximately 1500 square feet (footprint of 800 square feet). These plans are found in the March 14, 2016 Council meeting minutes.

These plans didn’t meet all of the criteria for a standard HRA, as the heritage house would become “subordinate” to the new house. Also, it’s roughly twice the size of what a standard laneway house would be and it wouldn’t visually address the lane behind the property. Despite these shortcomings, city staff recommended that the HRA continue through the process as it would protect the historically significant house.

The application was then reviewed by the Moody Park Residents’ Association at a meeting on March 31, 2016. At this meeting, and I quote from the New Westminster Council meeting agenda from April 18, 2016:

Concerns were expressed about the size (height and massing) of the historic house, its setback from the lane, the over view into the neighbours’ rear yards from the historic house, and allowing two houses on one property with its accompanying higher density. Many were concerned that this proposal would set a precedent for future laneway houses. Some expressed concern about the lack of off-street parking and others about the low visibility of the heritage house from the street if it were relocated to the rear of the lot.

The Moody Park Residents’ Association then voted against the application.

Because of this lack of support from the neighbourhood, the owner is withdrawing the HRA and is renewing his request for a demolition permit, which New Westminster Council granted.

New Westminster residents have been crying out about heritage houses being torn town in our city for years now. People always complain when an old house is torn down to have a larger house be built in its place. So when it comes time to preserve a historically significant house, one that was built before 1900, you would think that people would jump at the chance. Unfortunately the NIMBYs in Moody Park don’t seem to care about preserving the history in our city. They would rather complain that the house already on the property is too high and would overlook their back yards more than it already does, even though the house would be positioned such that walls with fewer windows would have faced the closest properties. They would rather complain about a lack of off-street parking because they might lose one or two on-street parking spots. They would rather complain about low visibility of the historic house, even though the alternative is demolishing the historic house.

I highly suspect that the major driver behind this is the ongoing Official Community Plan consultations. A few months ago the president of the MPRA got a bunch of Moody Park residents’ hackles up when he sent out an email and handed out pamphlets strongly implying that the city was planning to force laneway houses (or worse — QUADPLEXES AND TOWNHOUSES!) down their throats after the OCP had finished. This resulted in a huge amount of pushback from Moody Park residents against the entire densification story that’s hitting Metro Vancouver lately, and this is seen here as well. I quote again: “Many were concerned that this proposal would set a precedent for future laneway houses.” I would love to check the MPRA’s minutes for this meeting but unfortunately they’re stuck in 1991 and don’t have a website.

So instead of preserving a house that was built 125 years ago by moving it and adding a single house to the neighbourhood, Moody Park Residents’ Association members would rather see that historical house be demolished.

van-der-beek-slow-clap

Okay, this post is going to have a little bit of swearing in it, so if that offends you, fuck off.

What the fuck, BC Liberals? Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK. For the love of god what do you have against the children of New Westminster? Since fucking 2003 you’ve said that the 70-year old school is going to be replaced. It was a major part of your 2005 re-election campaign — a promise of $52 million to build a new school on the site. But then Liberal MLA Joyce Murray got defeated and I guess you said “fuck off” to New Westminster? Is that the type of government you are? Are you really that petty?

Seriously Christy Clark, you were the fucking Minister of Education in 2003. A shitty Minister of Education, but still Minister of Education. You fucking well know how long this has been going on for.

Since then we’ve had seven Ministers of Education. Three of them have visited NWSS. Three of them have seen the peeling lead-based paint. Three of them have seen signs of rot and decay. I’m sure none of them have seen the rats or asbestos, but those are in NWSS too.

And this has been going on for years. Hell, this news story came out in 2007, and it described NWSS as “rapidly decaying” and “languishing from benign neglect and getting worse every day”. This is how the reporter started the story:

It looks like an abandoned building – construction tape held up by an umbrella, flag tattered, paint peeling. The front sign is busted, but inside 2000 students are getting an education.

What the actual fuck. Almost a decade later and the “rapidly decaying” school isn’t magically better, you know. And now Mike Bernier has come out, toured the school, and sent a nice little letter saying that “the Ministry is optimistic this project will receive funding support….” And the School Board says that they are optimistic that a funding announcement by government will take place very soon.

FUCK THAT. We’ve heard that too many times in the past. We’ve had fucking funding lined up and then had it pulled. And now you’re “optimistic”. Listen, we heard that back in 2007 too, when the School Board said there were “positive talks with the provincial government” and “hope by early next month there will be good news on funding.” Pardon me if I’m pessimistic about this “optimism”.

Jesus Christ. There’s three and a half billion dollars to build a fucking bridge but not a hundred million (oh yes that’s gone up in the decade since you asshole Liberals made it a campaign promise) to build a school for our children?

Just fucking rebuild NWSS already!

If you’re as pissed off about this whole shitshow from the BC Liberals, attend the rally on Sunday, April 10 at noon, and sign Judy Darcy’s petition. Do it now.

If you remember back to October 2015 you’ll remember that TransLink proposed some changes to New Westminster’s community shuttle routes. I was largely in favour of the changes, and a couple of people suggested modifications to the C9 route so that the current C3 stop on Jameison Court wouldn’t be lost.

Good news! TransLink released the Transit Network Consultation report today, and the New Westminster community shuttle routes will be changed to match those modifications, and the C9 route will be re-routed to include the Jameison Court stop!

This is great news. Transit service to Victoria Hill will hopefully be more consistent and reliable. Transit service linking Royal Square Mall and Royal City Centre / Uptown is restored. Jameison Court’s stop isn’t removed, although it looks like the C9’s frequency of service isn’t being increased from it’s currently hourly service, so this is probably a net loss of service to that stop.

All told this looks like a pretty decent win for transit service in New Westminster.

My daughter has bronchitis. She has a prescription of Amoxicillin that she needs to take three times a day: morning, lunch time, and evening. She goes to school in New Westminster.

The requirement that she takes her medication while at school means that we, as parents, need to jump through all kinds of frustrating and punishing hoops.

First, there’s a policy that states that unless it’s an emergency (and antibiotics don’t count), designated staff can only administer medication to students if:

  1. The medication is required while the child is attending school.
  2. The parent has completed a Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  3. The physician who prescribed this medication signs the Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  4. The parent completes a Medical Alert Form that’s attached to the Pupil Record Card.
  5. The designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

Yes, seriously, the Student Heath & Safety Accident & Sickness Procedures, written to support Board Policy Number 504, states that the designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

That little bit of nonsense is beside the point, however. The chief problem is that these hoops are extremely onerous on parents. First, you have to know about this policy. The only way you can even hope to figure this out is by going to the School District 40 website, searching for “medication“, finding a single link to Lord Kelvin’s parent information page (really?), which then talks about the Request for Administration of Medication at School form, which is only available at the school office. Is that only for Lord Kelvin? Only for elementary schools? Who knows!

For some reason this search doesn’t tie into the actual Board Policies, because if you want to do a search of those you need to download a PDF of every policy and then search through that. Welcome to the 20th century. I’m shocked that we don’t need to fax the form in too.

So, here’s why these policies are overly onerous. About 15% of Canadians over 12 don’t have a family doctor. We don’t. We have to go to a drop-in clinic to see a doctor. A doctor at a drop-in clinic prescribed my daughter’s medications. If we had known about this Request for Administration of Medication in School form we might have stood a chance of getting it filled out at the time of prescription, but that would have entailed a) knowing about the form, and had we known about it, b) dragging a sick and infectious child to school that she’s too infectious to attend to pick up a form. Oh, never mind that she was sick last week, during spring break, and the school was closed so we couldn’t pick up the form in the first place.

Now to get the prescribing doctor to sign the form, one of us has to take time off work to go to the clinic (because this doctor only works mornings) and hope that when our name is called we can see that doctor. You see, at that clinic when a doctor is working drop-in hours you can’t make an appointment to see them, so you roll the dice and hopefully you get the specific doctor. If you don’t, I don’t know what happens, you wait even longer, taking even more time off work.

Okay, so suppose you just want to send your child with their medication and allow them to take the medication themselves? Not allowed. Medication isn’t allowed in the classroom, and it can’t be stored in the staff lounge either without this Request for Administration of Medication in School form.

But you know what you can do? Have a complete stranger come in and give your child their medication. Honest to god as long as you call the school and say “Joe Smith is going to give my daughter medication” that’s allowed. Of course, as a parent you can do that as well, but this unduly punishes the working parent who works in a different city, works at an inflexible job, or for any other reason they may be unable to get to the school to administer medication.

Even getting the form punishes working parents as well. We drop our daughter off at daycare around 7:30 am (before the school office is open) and pick her up after 5:15 pm (after the school office is closed) because we work. How are we supposed to get this important form without taking time off work? It’s punitive, it’s backwards, and it’s stupid. Join the 21st century and put the PDF on the SD40 website for crying out loud.

I know some of the School Board trustees for SD40. They’re great people, and they’re extremely focused on improving education for every child in New Westminster. But seriously, School District 40 is the single-most frustrating institution I’ve had to deal with in the past five years. Their policies are stupid and generally lack common sense (the first one I railed about was one that said that a drivers licence couldn’t be proof of residency, yet a vehicle insurance bill was), their website is outdated and difficult to navigate, and there seems to be this culture of doing everything to the letter of the policy. I don’t know if people at SD40 are generally concerned with covering their asses or getting sued or some other such nonsense, but as a parent it’s incredibly frustrating to deal with.

This medication situation is the latest hot mess, and I just know that it won’t be the last.

Oh, and if you’re a parent of a child in New Westminster School District 40 and you’ve come across this post and have some of the same frustrations we do, here’s the Request for Administration of Medication at School form (obtained 29 March 2016, may be out of date depending on when you’re reading this post).

The newest school in New Westminster is École Qayqayt Elementary School. Qayqayt refers to the Qayqayt First Nation, the only registered First Nation in Canada without a land base.

On February 23, 2016 the New Westminster School Board approved a policy to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Qayqayt First Nation, making this the typical first item on the agenda for School Board meetings:

The New Westminster School District recognizes and acknowledges the Qayqayt First Nation, as well as all Coast Salish peoples, on whose traditional and unceded territories we live, we learn, we play and we do our work.

That’s outstanding and commendable. It’s beyond time that we acknowledge that the lands we live and work and play on were not ceded to us by the First Nations people. It’s a time of newfound respect for those who lived and worked the land before Europeans initially settled our area.

So that’s why I really don’t like it when people shorten Qayqayt to QQ. Groups that should really know better, like the Qayqayt Parent Advisory Community, whose website is “qqpac.ca” and Twitter handle is @2QQPAC. Seriously, “qayqaytpac.ca” and “QayqaytPAC” are still available!

I’ve heard from one Qayqayt parent that they shorten it because Qayqayt is difficult to spell. Hey now, that’s a pile of hot mess. Take the five seconds to learn Q-A-Y-Q-A-Y-T. Seriously, it is the very least you could do.

It’s high time for everybody to show a little respect to the Qayqayt First Nation and stop shortening Qayqayt to QQ.

I like personal goals. I like targets. And, most importantly, I like them being public.

Last year I had a goal of running a total of 500 kilometers in the ten and a half months before I turned 40 in mid-November. On November 15, I crushed it.

For 2016 I didn’t want to have the same goal. I wanted something a little more ambitious, but still achievable. This year’s goal?

Finish in the top three in my age group in an 8 or 10 kilometer race.

Does that sound too ambitious? It probably does, but let me explain why it actually isn’t.

Last year I ran in three races: the Modo Spring Run-Off 8k, the Vancouver Sun Run 10k, and the BMO Vancouver Marathon 8k. I’m 40, so I’m in the Mens 40-44 age group. Here are the top three times for those races, along with their 1k pace:

modo 8k: 28:53 (3:36), 29:08 (3:38), 29:50 (3:44)

Sun Run 10k: 31:39 (3:10), 31:50 (3:11), 32:38 (3:16)

BMO 8k: 38:07 (4:46), 38:33 (4:49), 38:49 (4:51)

I haven’t run an 8k or 10k race in under a 5:00/km pace yet. I came close at last year’s BMO 8k (41:14 chip time, 5:09 pace), but close isn’t good enough.

But since then I’ve been running. My fastest pace has been 4:36, albeit over only 5k, but that run was flat and felt really good. I could have gone farther but needed to get home. And that pace would have crushed the M40-44 category in the BMO 8k with a chip time of about 36:48, over a minute faster than the top finisher. Running around New Westminster is great training too, as the vast majority of the routes I run have decent hills in them, and hill training is a great way to become a better runner. For once New West’s hills are actually a good thing!

I don’t stand a chance of getting in the top three in the other two races because they’re stand-alone races. But the BMO 8k isn’t stand-alone, it’s run at the same time as the marathon and the half-marathon, so it doesn’t attract the same calibre of long-distance runners (they’re more likely to go for the half). It’s a fairly flat circuit through Stanley Park, and flat means fast.

So can I do it?

That’s the goal!

Seventh Avenue in New Westminster makes up the bulk of the Crosstown Greenway, one of New Westminster’s cycling routes. It cuts straight across mainland New West, avoiding most of the major hills that make cycling in New West a little more difficult than in other areas. Nearly the entire route is marked with sharrows, with no separated bike lanes on it, other than one small part in Uptown.

Because most of Seventh Avenue has on-street parking on both sides, the central “lane” is often shared by bicycles and cars driving in both directions, which often leads to rather crappy results. There are a number of roundabouts along the route as well, which are good for calming traffic but are bad for cyclists as lanes get constricted and cyclists get pinched out by cars.

It’s time for New Westminster to revise Seventh Avenue and make it safer for cyclists of all ages. And here’s how.

First, let’s look at Seventh Avenue as it currently exists. I’m focusing on the stretch between Cumberland and Sixth, as this is used by children cycling to Glenbrook Middle School and the Canada Games Pool. This stretch is 8 metres wide with a 1.5 metre sidewalk on the north side only. It has two nominal lanes with sharrows. Street parking is allowed on both sides of the street.

This stretch is unique in New Westminster in that while it’s through a residential area, there is only one driveway on the south side of the street.Seventh Avenue, package view Every other home has a driveway with laneway access behind it. There are no streets crossing Seventh along this stretch, with only two streets intersecting with it on the north side. Also, if you look at the parcels map for the street you’ll see that there are wide grassy areas on either side of the street that are not part of the properties on either side. This is all city land, and can be used to expand the street.

So let’s expand it! We only need to increase the total width by 2.1 metres, just under seven feet. Then, we reduce the road lane widths to 3 metres, add a 0.6 metre divider (which could include flower planters or even a spot to plant trees), and add two 1.6 metre bike lanes. Allow street parking on the north side of the street, along the sidewalk, as is currently the case. Drop the speed limit on this stretch from 50 km/h to 30 km/h.

We can allow the driveway to remain by opening up the divider for the stretch right in front of it. Add a traffic bollard or two at either end of the opening to make the “car possibly crossing the bike path” location visible and obvious, while also protecting the ends of the divider.

This proposal fixes a lot of problems. First, by narrowing the travel lanes we make them safer. Second, by reducing the speed limit we make the streets safer for everybody — pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists. We can add additional traffic calming such as speed humps to keep cars slow while not needing additional police traffic enforcement. Third, by eliminating street parking beside the separated bike path, we eliminate dooring.

This proposal does come with a couple of minor challenges, mostly concerning what happens at either end of the separated bike lane. At the western end, Seventh Avenue crosses Cumberland Avenue and enters the parking lot for the Canada Games Pool. This isn’t much of an issue as the Crosstown Greenway continues behind the CGP, and can easily tie into the bike lane. Crosswalk call buttons are already installed on the north side of Seventh; they can easily be installed at the south side. At the eastern end, Seventh Avenue meets with Sixth Avenue. Judicious use of green road paint can denote bike paths to access and exit the separated bike paths.

I’m not saying this is a perfect solution. It doesn’t address the problem of pinch points at traffic circles, and the interface with either end of Seventh Avenue is a little difficult to engineer, but I think it’s the ideal location for New Westminster to install the Crosstown Greenway’s first proper separated bike path.

If there’s one thing that really makes my head spin, it’s street parking in New Westminster.

I’m really of two minds about street parking.

On one hand, I really hate it. I think New Westminster’s residental parking permits are way too cheap at $5 per vehicle per year (for renewals — the first year is $10). Compare that with Toronto’s, where it’s currently $14.71 (plus GST) per month for the first vehicle, or 37 times more expensive than New Westminster’s, and that’s only if you don’t have any on-site parking! If you do have a garage or driveway, a parking pass costs $51.54 (plus GST) per month, nearly 130 times as expensive as New West’s! Five dollars a year for a place to store your vehicle is a huge gift from the city that’s only available to car owners, and it’s about time we change that.

On the same hand, I really hate it. It makes cycling dangerous, particularly along streets that allow parking on both sides. The Crosstown Greenway along Seventh Avenue is particularly bad for this, as it has minimal traffic calming and turns into a shitshow during rush hour because there’s only one travel lane on a street that’s about 8 metres wide. Cyclists can either cycle on the sidewalks (which gets pedestrians pissed off at them) or on the street (which gets drivers pissed off at them), and in both locations they’re likely to win a door prize.

On the other hand, street parking does mean that in theory land need not be turned into a parking spot, which could help increase housing density. Instead of being forced to build a garage, a landowner could build a laneway house. New Westminster is currently updating its Official Community Plan with the aim of increasing density in the city, and eliminating (or drastically reducing) the “put in a parking spot” requirements will help do this, and street parking will help fill the void.

So here’s my two-pronged proposal for New Westminster:

  1. Increase the fees for parking permits, and peg them to inflation. I really like Toronto’s two-tier structure, where you get charged a lower rate if you don’t have on-site parking. I also like their structure where the second car costs much more. My proposal is this: $5 per month per vehicle for the first two cars, then $15 per month per vehicle for every car after that.
  2. Eliminate parking minimums for low-density residential, which I consider everything from single-family detached houses to quadplexes. For rowhouses and townhouses, cut the parking requirements in half. For everything larger, cut parking requirements by 25% and have massive incentives for developers to promote alternate modes of transportation. I would really love to see a parking-free condo building like Calgary recently approved, but I doubt that’ll ever happen in New West. But by making street parking cheaper for those houses with no on-site parking, we can promote moving away from land for cars to land for people.

These two changes will make a lot of single-family detached house owners lose their shit. And you know what? Too bad. The single-family detached house is doomed for extinction in New Westminster, and this should be the beginning of the end of catering to this housing option. We need to do more to reduce car use in our city, and single-family houses are the largest source of cars here. If we increase the friction for car ownership, we reduce the number of car owners. If we reduce the number of car owners, we can hopefully reduce the number of cars on our streets, making them more accommodating to other forms of transportation, and making our city a nicer place in which to live.

BC Education Minister Mike Bernier recently toured New Westminster Secondary School at the invitation of New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy. NWSS is scheduled to be replaced, and Darcy invited Bernier to show him the deplorable conditions in the school.

“NWSS is in bad shape,” Darcy said. “It’s really put New Westminster on the map, and we want to make sure that the new school reaches new heights in shoddiness to keep New Westminster in focus.”

NWSS principal Phil Cookson pointed out different areas of concern. “As you can see, we have droppings here,” he told Bernier near a crawl space under the Massey wing. “If we can get the Ministry to build the new school in such a way that we attract more rats to our school, we can turn NWSS into the ideal location to study hantavirus and other airborne diseases. Researchers from around the world will flock to NWSS, which will help inspire our children in the future.”

Cookson also highlighted the secondary benefits of the run-down school.

“Any time we have a leak in a pipe, we have to have a hazmat crew come in,” he said. “This helps keep high-paying jobs in the community, teaches our children about safety and disaster planning, and gives our children ideas about jobs in the future. We are also investigating internships with New Westminster Fire & Rescue Services and local water damage restoration and remediation companies.”

School board chair Jonina Campbell was cautiously optimistic.

“Getting the new high school has been a focus of the school board for a number of years. By upgrading NWSS’s dangerous and unteachable state, we hope to keep this issue in the community for years to come so we have something to talk about during the next election.”