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What’s Coming to New West Council on April 12, 2021

Here’s what’s coming to New West Council on April 12, 2021: Pattullo Bridge multi-use paths, arenas, a NIMBY councillor, and alcohol in parks!

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Meeting on April 12, 2021, and here’s some of what’s on the agenda.

Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project – Multi-Use Pathways

The Pattullo Bridge is being replaced. Originally the replacement project was being done by TransLink, and the design they had included multi-use paths that weren’t a complete spaghetti circuit, as if they actually cared about providing half-way decent cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

Then the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure took over the project, and since the provincial government sees cycling as a complete afterthought, they redesigned the multi-use paths to have them wind all over God’s green earth (or at least the part around the Pattullo Bridge).

Especially stupid was the decision to leave the corner of Columbia Street and McBride Boulevard alone, when that’s the absolute shittiest corner in New Westminster for people who aren’t riding around in armoured couches.

Needless to say this wasn’t well-received.

User groups, City staff, and the Sustainable Transportation Task Force expressed significant concerns about the circuitous nature of the MUP network, which included a number of switchbacks to achieve accessible grades on the approaches to grade-separated crossings.

Well, changes have been made and they’re really underwhelming. There’s an added stairway (people with mobility challenges are obviously being told to fuck off and take the long route), a direct connection from the Agnes Greenway to the bridge (okay, that’s good), and a better connection from the Agnes Greenway to Royal Avenue to connect through to Victoria Hill. Columbia and McBride is unchanged for some reason.

But hey, motordom has to take priority over the losers riding bicycles, right?

515 St. George Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Preliminary Report

This is basically serving notice to the Queens Park neighbourhood that they’d better start getting their knickers in a knot because someone wants to build a laneway house that’s HOLY JESUS TWICE AS BIG AS CURRENTLY ALLOWED oh wait it’ll still only be 958 square feet, which is smaller than the townhouse I live in. But knowing Queens Park, this will undoubtedly cause the complete decay of the neighbourhood.

To which I say bring it on!

Council Resolution in Support of the City of New Westminster’s Application under the COVID-19 Restart Funding for Local Governments, Strengthening Communities’ Services Program

The number of homeless people living in New Westminster has risen since the March 2020 Homeless Count, undoubtedly exacerbated by reduced shelter capacity due to physical distancing requirements. The City is working with faith-based and non-profit groups to apply for a $390,000 grant from the federal government for ten projects that will try and help in a few ways:

  • to improve the health and safety of persons who are experiencing homelessness
  • to reduce community concerns about public health and safety in neighbourhoods related to homelessness,
  • to improve coordination related to health and service provision related to homelessness
  • to increase capacity to work with persons who are experiencing homelessness and Indigenous organizations towards culturally-safe and trauma-informed responses.

Let’s all hope the federal government approves this grant application and these groups can get some help to people who desperately need it.

97 Braid Street: Temporary Use Permit Amendment for Food Truck Events

There’s a big parking lot at 97 Braid Street that’s normally used for Royal Columbian Hospital staff and construction workers. During weekends it’s underused, and a Temporary Use Permit was granted in 2020 to allow food trucks to set up shop. The applicant wants to have their TUP amended to allow food trucks to set up shop until the middle of September 2022.

445 Brunette Avenue: Temporary Use Permit for Off-Site Parking During Construction of 100 Braid Street

100 Braid Street is getting a big building built on it and there’s nowhere for construction crews to park. The applicant wants to use a property just down the street for parking.

New Westminster Arena Strategy

New Westminster has two arenas: Queen’s Park Arena and Moody Park Arena. In 2017 some people in the community felt this wasn’t enough and circulated a petition to build a third arena. In 2018 Council directed staff to do a study. In 2021 that study is being presented to Council.

And what does that study say?

  1. Add no new arena capacity during the next five to ten years.
  2. Explore ways to accommodate spring lacrosse in new City sports facilities.
  3. Plan for a new full sized arena sheet to be added to Queen’s Park Arena.
  4. Plan for the future longer term replacement of Moody Park Arena.

The study has a few interesting take-aways:

The long term trends in arena use are all downward in New Westminster, the Metro Vancouver region and the province. The proportion of residents that used ice peaked sometime before 2000 and has declined since then.

The annual tax supported subsidy for both arenas (net of skate shop and concessions) is about $1.7 million. That equates to an hourly subsidy of about $270 for each of the 6300 hours of use. As an example, that means that minor hockey’s 1500 hours of use triggers a subsidy of over $400,000, or a subsidy of almost $1200 for each of its 340 registered players.

If you look into the details around #3 and #4, they are not recommending a third sheet be added to New Westminster’s supply. What they’re actually suggesting is replacing Moody Park Arena with the second sheet at Queen’s Park Arena, because the single dual-sheet facility at Queen’s Park would cost less to operate than the two single-sheet facilities at QPA and MPA. Only after that should the City consider looking to add a third venue back into the Moody Park Arena site.

808 Royal Avenue: Academic Building and Student Housing – Preliminary Report

Douglas College wants to turn two parking lots at the corner of Eighth Street and Royal Avenue into a 16 to 18 storey building to provide academic floor space and student housing.

They’re proposing using Encapsulated Mass Timber Construction for the top 12 storeys, which is not only awesome but also not contemplated by the BC Building Code. But don’t worry! They can use a Building Code Alternative Solution to submit a design that doesn’t meet the prescriptive requirements of the Code, provided that the design meets the minimum level of performance of the Building Code. This has been done in the past, and in New Westminster no less!

I can’t wait to see these parking lots replaced.

102/104 Eighth Avenue and 728 First Street: Official Community Plan Amendment and Rezoning for Infill Townhouses – Preliminary Report

An application has been received that would replace two single-family houses with ten townhouses. The property is kitty-corner to a four-storey mixed-use building, a block away from a shopping mall, and on two bus routes. It’s also small-scale infill to provide slightly less expensive housing for more people; it’s the missing middle that some fantastic people have been saying New Westminster has needed for years now.

I would like to call out one statement by a member of the Land Use and Planning Committee, which reviewed the application before sending it along to Council for consideration:

A member noted that this would put increased development pressure on similar properties in the city.

HOLY BOUNCING JESUS yes we want this to happen to MAKE THINGS MORE AFFORDABLE pay attention here now

What’s more affordable, two houses that are $1.5 million each or ten townhouses that are $800,000?

Why don’t we want more housing that would be less expensive?

This member, whoever they are (my money is on Chuck Puchmayer, he’s said other stupid things like this in the past), needs to not be on the Land Use and Planning Committee.

Motion: Designation of Alcohol-Permitted Spaces

Councillor Patrick Johnstone put forth a motion that would allow adults to responsibly consume alcohol in areas of six neighbourhood parks in New Westminster: Port Royal Park, Grimston Park, Moody Park, Hume Park, Sapperton Park, and Pier Park.

The New Westminster Police Department kind of turns a blind eye to alcohol consumption in parks already, as long as adults are doing so responsibly (and it’s not during a big event, as if those are ever going to happen again THANKS COVID). This motion could potentially make things a little more equitable, as the NWPD would be less inclined to enforce the existing law in a biased way, potentially targeting BIPOC people drinking in parks over white people. I’m not saying that they do, but I’m not saying that they don’t either, and I’m also saying that these sorts of biases exist and allowing for people to make judgement calls like this can lead to biased outcomes, whether or not those people actually believe they’re being biased in the first place.

And letting adults enjoy a beverage responsibly in a park? Sounds like a pretty decent idea. I’m glad that Councillor Johnstone is following in Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West’s footsteps here.