What’s Coming to New West Council on March 1, 2021

New Westminster City Council is holding a Regular Meeting on March 1, 2021, and here’s some of what’s on the agenda. Be warned, it’s a long one!

Design Variance Permit for 34 South Dyke Road

This one came up on February 1, 2021, where the applicant wants to put tandem parking spaces into their development in Queensborough. This item is to have Council to approve the DVP.

Development Variance Permit for 805 Boyd Street

This one came up on February 1, 2021, where the applicant (Walmart) wants to put in some signs that are above the maximum number allowed so they can show people where to pick up their online purchases. This item is to have Council approve the DVP.

Police Reform Framework – Input from the Reconciliation, Inclusion and Engagement Task Force

New West has a task force that focuses on reconciliation, inclusion and engagement, and they’ve issued a report to Council that:

  1. asks Council to establish a new “Police Reform Working Group” that consists of a small group of Councillors, City staff, and industry experts,
  2. requests Council to provide direction on community representation on the proposed Police Reform Working Group, and
  3. include the research identified in their report to form part of the mandate of the proposed Police Reform Working Group.
Naming of City Asset in Commemoration of the Komagata Maru

In 1914 the Komagata Maru, a ship from Hong Kong carrying 376 passengers, all of whom were British subjects, was denied docking in Vancouver because they came from India. After two months the Komagata Maru was escorted out of the harbour by the Canadian military and forced to sail back to India. Upon disembarking, 19 of the passengers were killed by gunfire and many others were imprisoned.

New Westminster holds some dark ties to this terrible history. Council at the time passed this motion just after the Komagata Maru arrived:

That this Council go on record as being opposed to this immigration, and that the Clerk be instructed to urge upon the Premier and the Minister of the Interior at Ottawa to use every effort to prevent admission of these people into the Country.

The Mayor of New Westminster, A.W. Gray, presided over a community meeting assembled to organize against South Asian and Asian immigration.

That this mass meeting here do assembled do most heartily endorse the action of the immigration officials in preventing the landing of the Hindus from the Komagata Maru, and call on the Federal authorities at Ottawa to invoke the full power of the present statutes and, if necessary, enact new laws, to effectively deal with the total exclusion of Asiatics from this country.

The Premier of British Columbia at the time was Richard McBride, who Richard McBride Elementary School is (currently) named after, as well as McBride Boulevard. During his time as Premier he passed multiple immigration acts designed to keep Asian immigrants out of B.C.

To admit Orientals in large numbers would mean the end, the extinction of the white people. And we always have in mind the necessity of keeping this a white man’s country.

Richard McBride, May 23, 1914

City staff are recommending that Council consider naming the two QtoQ Ferry docks in Queensborough and Downtown in commemoration of the Komagata Maru incident.

Proposed Retail Strategy Workplan

City staff have been working to develop a retail strategy to help support a diverse retail sector. This report asks Council to direct staff to proceed with the proposed workplan.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces

City task forces are working on pandemic-related responses, which have included:

  • increasing the number of extreme weather response program mats during the recent cold weather
  • a shower program at the Canada Games Pool is being established
  • a health contact centre is being established downtown to include an overdose prevention site and other harm reduction services
  • calls to the COVID compliance hotline are down from January (2.2 calls per day down to 1.8 calls per day)
Local Government Election Candidates: Access to Multifamily Dwellings during the Campaign Period

Election candidates have no problems accessing single-family homes, as they can just knock on the front door, but they have issues accessing multifamily homes. City staff believe that this has caused people living in multifamily homes to be slightly less engaged in the election than those in single-family homes — turnout was roughly 4% lower in areas with predominantly multifamily housing types than in areas that are predominantly single family.

The only multifamily buildings election candidates are allowed access to are rental buildings, as access is allowed under the Residential Tenancy Act. All other types — co-operative housing, co-share housing, strata buildings — do not have legislation that allows reasonable access to election candidates.

Staff has looked at other jurisdictions and have three recommendations:

  1. Council direct staff to figure out how candidates and appointed agents can have identification forms so they can more easily access residential rental buildings as allowed by the Residential Tenancy Act,
  2. Council direct staff to draft a letter to send to landlords, property management companies, and LandlordBC reminding them that the Residential Tenancy Act exists and allows candidates and their agents reasonable access to multifamily residential buildings, and
  3. Council direct staff to send a resolution to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association and the Union of BC Municipalities to ask the Province to enact legislation that allows access to all multifamily buildings and not just multifamily rental buildings.
Preliminary Report for Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Special Development Permit Application for 108-118 Royal Avenue and 74-82 First Street

This one encompasses six properties between Qayqayt Elementary and First Street along Royal Avenue, proposing tearing four houses down, moving one to another location entirely, and moving one on the property, and building a six to eight storey building, widening the sidewalk along Royal Avenue, and adding a multi-use path next to the school grounds.

First and Second Readings for Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw for 221 Townsend Place

The home at 221 Townsend Place in Queens Park was built in 1907 and the owners are applying for an HRA to allow them to subdivide the lot and legally protect the existing 1907 house.

In this case this is the first time I’ve ever seen the heritage house as having “scientific value”, as it is one of seven (or eight) examples in New Westminster of a British Columbia Mills Timber and Trading Company Ready-Made house system. That’s right, this house was essentially an affordable pre-made house where the lumber was pre-cut, panels were labelled, insulated, and pre-painted, and everything was assembled on-site. Not only that, it’s likely the only surviving example of the “Design H” cottage in the Lower Mainland.

Historically speaking, this house is a legitimate rarity and should be protected.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption for 330 East Columbia Street

EllisDon Design Build is leading the charge on the Royal Columbian Hospital redevelopment, and under the existing Construction Noise Bylaw they are restricted from doing construction outside of the hours of 7AM to 8PM on weekdays, and 9AM to 6PM on Saturdays.

They’re requesting an exemption that would allow them to start construction at 7AM on Saturdays for the next four years. Reasons for this ask include:

  • concrete pours are challenging, and are often delayed by weather. Starting earlier allows workers to finish their work before the end of the permitted construction noise bylaw times,
  • dump sites often close as early as 3PM, so getting an early start on construction and excavation is important,
  • COVID-19 has created labour challenges, leading to difficulties in finding skilled workers. Allowing a couple of extra hours on Saturdays allows the contractor to make up schedule slippage that happened during the week, and
  • worker absenteeism is higher if the start time is 9AM rather than 7AM as construction workers want to get their work done and still have some time in the evening with their families.
Misleading Petition from Rich Landowners to Stop Affordable Housing

Oh, Fifth Street, when will you ever stop being stereotypical NIMBYs? Whenever that day is, today is not that day, as a small group of rich landowners with too much time on their hands has littered the city with a petition that’s full of misdirection, missing information, and misinformation and tricked over a thousand people to sign it, all in a bald-faced attempt to stop lower-income people from moving into their neighbourhood.

Motions from Councillors

Councillor Puchmayr put forth a motion in support for farmers in India, where the federal government has issued repressive laws against farmers there.

Councillor McEvoy and Councillor Nakagawa put forth a motion calling upon the Government of Canada to declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency and actually fund it appropriately to people can get the help they desperately need.

Councillor Johnstone put forth a motion calling upon the Government of British Columbia and the Public Health Officer to allow non-food vendors to sell at farmers markets in B.C.

Councillor Nakagawa put forth a motion in support of laid-off hotel and tourism industry workers.

What’s Coming to New West Council on February 22, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Special Regular Meeting followed by a Public Hearing on February 22, 2021, and here’s what’ll be happening.

Financial Plan, 2021 – 2025

The financial plan was discussed by Council at the February 8, 2021 meeting so I won’t revisit the details. In a split vote Council approved moving to third hearing and approval, which will be happening on the 22nd.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Secondary Suite Requirements) No. 8154, 2021

In a nutshell, the city wants to make it easier for people to put legal secondary suites into their residences. Council has received no correspondence on this issue, and it’s likely to just breeze right through.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (1135 Tanaka Court) No. 8250, 2021

A company wants to open up a manufacturing facility for “cannabis infused product” in Queensborough. There wouldn’t be any cultivation on-site, and they wouldn’t be doing sales through this location either. The only correspondence Council has received has been from the applicant, so this will breeze through as well.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw (404 Second Street) No. 8235, 2020 and Heritage Designation Bylaw (404 Second Street) No. 8236, 2020

These two bylaws are combined because they both cover the same property, 404 Second Street. It’s currently the location of Queens Park Meat & Deli and a residential unit, and they want to do a little bit of expansion in exchange for heritage designation.

The main sticking point with a small number of people is that the land use will be relaxed, opening it up to a slightly larger scope of commercial uses: businesses and professional offices, cafés and restaurants, personal service establishments (with some exclusions) and retail stores.

There is widespread support for the Queens Park Meat & Deli and the proposed changes, so it is unlikely that these specific bylaws would be voted down by Council. What could happen is that Council could ask city staff to restrict the land use to a very narrow scope of businesses.

I think that this would be a mistake, and I’ve written to Council saying so, and I’ll likely be speaking at the Public Hearing asking Council to keep the proposed land use as it is outlined in the proposal. I think that people like this type of business and that restricting its future to only being a butcher would not allow any business to pivot and adapt for changing business conditions (like, say, a global pandemic) and would cause the building to remain empty should the Queens Park Meat & Deli ever move on, which nobody wants to see.

What’s Coming to New West Council on February 8, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Meeting on February 8, 2021, and here are some highlights of what’s on the agenda.

Draft 2021 – 2025 Financial Plan

This is the big ticket item for this week’s meeting. The Financial Plan lays out the financial plan (obviously) for the next five years, something required by law of every municipality in British Columbia. The key takeaways the general public and press fixate on are:

  • 4.9% property tax increase for 2021
  • Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste rate increases of 7%, 7%, and 12%, respectively, for 2021

General Fund operating expenses (this is basically the cost of keeping the City running) are about $138 million, broken down to the nearest million dollars:

  • Police Services, $33 million
  • Engineering, $28 million
  • General Government, $25 million
  • Parks and Recreation, $22 million
  • Fire & Rescue, $18 million
  • Development Services, $7 million
  • Library, $5 million

General Fund capital expenses (this is basically the cost of building new things like the Canada Games Pool) are about $125 million for what are called “2021 project commitments”. They’ll spend about $66 million in 2021 and the remaining $59 million in 2021 (since, y’know, buildings like the new Canada Games Pool take longer than a year to build).

If you’ve got opinions on the Draft Financial Plan, there’s a handy form included in the Council Package, so fill it out and send it in to the Finance Department before February 22, 2021 and let them know what you think!

Design Variance Permit Application for 632 Carnarvon Street

The applicant wants to open a licensed child care facility for 3- to 5-year olds, and licensed child care facilities are required by Fraser Health to have a certain amount of outdoor play space. The applicant wants to convert part of the parking lot into this outdoor play space, which means that they’ll have fewer parking spaces than their zoning requires.

Play space for children instead of storage for vehicles? That sounds good to me. If you’ve got opinions you can send in an email to Council before the meeting.

Landscaping Guidelines for Laneway Houses in Queen’s Park

Also known as The Great Chain Link Fence Fiasco of 2021, if you’re building a new house in Queen’s Park you’re not allowed to just install whatever type of fence you want because the neighbours won’t like it because it doesn’t match their faux-heritage colonial styles.

In this report to Council city staff have said that the builder will be planting a hedge along the hideous chain link fence. The report does not outline what type of hedge will be planted and if the specific hedge meets with the entire neighbourhood’s approval for being “heritage enough”.

To tie this into the Draft Financial Plan, if you’re one of those people who think that the City is “wasting” money on staff salaries, consider that City staff had to spend time and money researching and writing this report about a chain link fence that is hardly visible from the street. But hey, the Heritage Conservation Area is super important and we need to ensure everything in Queen’s Park looks the same and projects the same British colonial feeling, right, no matter what the cost?

I look forward to a Queen’s Park resident petitioning Council because their neighbour bought a car that doesn’t match the neighbourhood heritage.

Westminster Pier Park – Fire Recovery Update

In September 2020 part of Westminster Pier Park burned down.

The City has insurance coverage, and has so far spent just under $3 million on cleanup, with another $1.7 million projected to be spent.

The part of the park that burned down had the only reliable emergency access to Pier Park. Before the remaining portion of Pier Park can be opened, this emergency access needs to be restored, and City staff have been working with CP Rail to establish this access. This emergency access is the primary blocker towards the park re-opening, and that is expected to happen sometime in April 2021.

Motion regarding Capital City Arcade

The Capital City Arcade on East Columbia Street is trying to get a Liquor Primary license, and the City has a motion on the table recommending the issuance of that Liquor Primary license.

What’s Coming to New West Council on February 1, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Meeting on February 1, 2021, and here are some highlights on what’s on the agenda.

Letter from New Westminster Police Board to New Westminster City Council

Backstory: in December New West City Council requested that the Police Board draft a 2021 budget with a 0% increase, in part to push forward calls for reforming police departments towards different models of providing services that better serve marginalized people in our society. Protests that have been occurring around the world, including those led by Black Lives Matter groups, have brought the inequities and injustices built into policing to the forefront, and this motion is a first step towards righting those wrongs.

The Police Board wrote back to Council, and they essentially said “sorry, but no” and they won’t be cutting their 2021 budget. I fully expect this to spur some lively and spirited discussion. I don’t know what Mayor Cote’s role will be in this discussion, and whether or not he’ll have to recuse himself because he is also the Chair of the Police Board.

There are two options for council to take in response to the letter:

  1. They can accept the letter and tell Finance to incorporate the Police Board’s recommended original budget into the 2021 Budget, or
  2. They can tell the Police Board to fuck off (rather, reject the recommendation) and tell City staff to figure out what the next steps are and what the tax rate implications will be for the 2021 Budget.

I suspect ultimately Council will go with option 1 but I highly doubt it’ll be a unanimous vote.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Task Force Updates

New West received “confirmation of approval of its application” for $101k from the federal government (I think that means the City will be receiving that money, or maybe the feds have confirmed they’ve received the application…? Tweet me to let me know!) to set up some food security hubs, along with planning and program coordination services, volunteer recruitment, and training towards improving food security in New West.

City staff are working with faith-based and non-profit organizations to put together a program where precariously housed or homeless individuals can have a shower at the Canada Games Pool, and they’re looking at providing individuals with a basic toiletries set as well, along with bus tickets and towels.

A “Rediscover New West” program will be launched on February 1 to support restaurant and entertainment venues.

The COVID compliance hotline is showing a decrease in calls per day, with 2.2 calls per day in January, mostly about businesses not following COVID-safe procedures.

Council will also be asked to support the New Westminster Digital Inclusion Project by donating 25 decommissioned iPhone 7s to allow at-risk and vulnerable people be able to access digital information more easily.

E-Comm Nominations for 2020-2021

Backstory: E-Comm 911 is the organization that handles 911 services across British Columbia. They have a Board of Directors. Various groups nominate representatives for the E-Comm Board, and New Westminster is part of a small group of municipalities (Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, Belcarra, Coquitlam, and Port Moody) that nominates two candidates. In 2019 Burnaby, PoCo, Belcarra, and Coquitlam all nominated Burnaby councillor Joe Keithley and Coquitlam councillor Brent Asmundson. Port Moody didn’t send in a nomination. New West objected, essentially saying “we don’t need two more white dudes, thanks”.

Through 2020, further motions and discussions happened, and at the end of the day for the 2020-2021 term only Joe Keithley was unanimously nominated, and the other seat will remain open (Coquitlam and Port Moody nominated Brent Asmundson again, Port Coquitlam and New Westminster nominated PoCo councillor Nancy McCurrach).

Development Stuff

A townhouse complex in Queensborough is applying to have half of their resident parking spots be tandem parking, where instead of having two parking spots side-by-side, they’ll be end-to-end so that you have to drive through one to get to the second.

Walmart’s asking for new signs so they can direct people to their online purchase pickup spots.

The City will be keeping Canada Post in business writing to nearly every First Nation in the Lower Mainland, along with the Board of School District 40 (that’s New West!), Burnaby, Coquitlam, TransLink, and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure about the Sapperton Green development at Braid and Brunette where the Amazon warehouse is.

And the Metro Hall at 759 Carnarvon (across from Ki Sushi) is looking to get a permanent liquor-primary license instead of obtaining a Special Event Permit for nearly every single event they hold there, and in getting the license they’d also require a Zoning Bylaw amendment.

2020 Filming Activity Overview

New Westminster received $730k in permit revenues from filming activity in 2020, even though filming could only happen during seven months due to COVID-19. In 2019 filming permits brought in $795k, so COVID-19 didn’t have a huge impact, but without the restrictions New West probably would have brought in quite a bit more. The City made some fat cash thanks to the Mighty Ducks.

Bill C-213, an Act to enact the Canada Pharmacare Act

“Hey, New Westminster isn’t the Federal government,” you say. You’d be right. But most New Westminster City Councillors have fairly strong relationships with their provincial and federal counterparts (especially now that New West is entirely NDP at those levels), and New Westminster’s Member of Parliament, Peter Julian, is the sponsor of Bill C-213 to allow all Canadians to access prescription drugs without financial or other barriers, in the same way that all Canadians have access to healthcare (but not dental care, which is another area the federal NDP is targeting).

Jaimie McEvoy brought forward a motion asking Council to officially support Bill C-213.

I suspect that there will be discussion by councillors falling over themselves to show how much they support universal pharmacare (Councillor McEvoy will obviously speak to the motion) and unanimous support.

New Westminster Election Prediction Results

The final results are in for the 2020 British Columbia Provincial Election, so let’s see how my predictions fared!

To recap, I made the following predictions:

  • Jennifer Whiteside, NDP: 62%
  • Cyrus Sy, Green: 23%
  • Lorraine Brett, BC Liberal: 13%
  • Everybody else: 2%

And here are the final results:

  • Jennifer Whiteside, NDP: 60.25%
  • Cyrus Sy, Green: 19.02%
  • Lorraine Brett, BC Liberal: 16.26%
  • Everybody else: 4.48%

I guess I didn’t do that badly!

But had I stuck with my original numbers (60 / 21 / 17) I would have been even closer. “Never second-guess yourself” is the lesson here!

As everybody expected, Jennifer Whiteside ran away with the election. As probably everybody expected, Cyrus Sy came second for the Green Party, and Lorraine Brett finished third again.

New Westminster: safe for the NDP and ultimately quite boring when it comes to elections.