Questions for New Westminster Mayoral and Council Candidates, 2022 Edition

There’s a municipal election coming up in New Westminster, and you know what that means! That’s right, stupid questions! This time around I was having a tough time thinking up good stupid questions, so I did what anybody would do when they’re looking for stupidity: I reached out to Reddit, specifically the /r/NewWest subreddit. And let me tell you, they didn’t disappoint with the stupid questions! Let’s go!

  1. Given the amount of press Vancouver’s Stanley Park received when it had a bunch of coyotes roaming around it, do you support introducing more coyotes into New Westminster’s parks, potentially entering a Tourism / Parks partnership for tourist-coyote meet-and-greet programs?
  2. Improving connections between Queensborough and mainland New Westminster is important. Will you commit to exploring new options such as draining the Fraser, installing catapults (free branding advice: name them “Qatapults”, you’re welcome), or advocating for a gondola like stupid Burnaby is getting?
  3. Speaking of stupid Burnaby, one of the darkest chapters in New Westminster’s history was when south Burnaby claimed independence and separated from New Westminster. As a result, New West lost nearly half of its land area and tax base. To what lengths are you willing to go to in order to take our land back and bring New Westminster back to its former glory?
  4. What is your favourite bubble tea shop and flavour?
  5. Do you support hosting a local version of Burning Man in New West, culminating in the burning of a derelict building?
  6. What is your favourite neighbourhood and why is it (still) Brow of the Hill?
  7. With New Westminster’s hills, and winters having longer cold spells, what is your position on improving transportation options between Downtown and Uptown by installing rope towlines on 6th, 8th, and 10th Streets between Carnarvon and 4th Ave during the winter months?
  8. When will you bring metal to the Anvil Centre theatre?

Stay tuned for the answers!

What’s Coming to New West Council on June 21, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Council Meeting on June 21, 2021, and here are some highlights on what they will be looking at.

Establishing the name for the future Aquatic & Community Centre

The Canada Games Pool is being replaced by what’s currently known as the New Westminster Aquatic & Community Centre. That won’t be its name though, the City is going through a process to come up with a different one.

Unfortunately for you, reader, the report for this item has not been attached to the council package so nobody yet knows what the name is going to be, or if they’re even saying what the name is yet!

2020 Statement of Financial Information

If you want to take a look at where the City spent its (your?) money in 2020, here’s your chance.

Some people in the community will undoubtedly see the “accumulated surplus” of nearly $800 million and then say NEW WESTMINSTER IS RICH WHY DO YOU KEEP RAISING PROPERTY TAXES without realizing that the overwhelming majority of that is locked up in what are called “tangible capital assets”, which are things like land, buildings, vehicles, sewer pipes, that sort of thing. So no, New West isn’t stinking rich.

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Report for 2020

In 2020 New Westminster received 88 freedom of information requests and received just over $3,000 in fees for those requests.

Public Solicitation Request by HOPE International

If you want to go door-knocking to ask people to donate to your non-profit, you need a permit. There are some guidelines around these permits, and sometimes a request comes through that doesn’t meet the guidelines and has to go through Council for approval.

In this case HOPE International, a New Westminster base charity that funds clean water, has submitted the permit application but because it hasn’t been brought within the timelines outlined in the policy, Council has to approve the permit.

Increasing Equity in Voting: Mail Ballot Voting for Local Government Elections

To make voting more equitable, City staff is recommending that council directs the City Clerk to bring forward amendments to the Election Procedures Bylaw to enable mail ballot voting in Local Government Elections, along with directing staff to implement a mail balloting system for the election coming up in 2022.

This has been recommended because mail-in ballots can reduce barriers to voting, increase voter turnout, and help seniors and persons with disabilities who cannot get out to vote.

65 East Sixth Avenue: Development Variance Permit for Modification to Parking Requirements

The Fire Hall at Sixth Avenue and McBride Boulevard has a storage structure that they’re not moving, so as part of the New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre parking lot was going to be there but now it won’t, the original Development Variance Permit needs to be thrown away and a new one needs to be put into place to say that the NWACC needs to have a minimum of 386 parking spaces instead of 413.

9 East Columbia Street: Heritage Alteration Permit

The Pattullo Bridge is being replaced, and as a part of that project Columbia Street is being realigned. The project wants to align it right overtop the heritage Woodlands Wall, which they’re proposing to bring down and rebuild north of where it is now.

The existing Woodlands Wall at Columbia & McBride
Proposed patio at Columbia & McBride in New Westminster
Detail of the proposed patio and multi-use path at the corner of Columbia & McBride

I’ve only been angry at this wall since at least 2014 so I’m sarcastically happy to see that it only took a billion dollar bridge replacement project to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety at this intersection. I’m actually happy that it didn’t take someone being seriously injured or killed to get change here — I’ve nearly been struck at least twice, and I know of a lot of other community members who have nearly been struck by inattentive or uncaring drivers.

I am annoyed that one of the two targeted consultation groups is focused on heritage, and there’s no targeted consultation with pedestrian and cycling advocates. Again, the bias of heritage trumping safety shines through.

100 Braid Street: Housing Agreement Bylaw

The new building going in at 100 Braid Street will be a combination of market and affordable rental, and this bylaw will be put into place to ensure that the units remain rental for 60 years or the life of the building, whichever is longer, and that the affordable units remain so for 16 years in accordance with CMHC’s affordability criteria and requirements.

Environmental Strategy and Action Plan Progress Report

The City is doing a bunch of work to make New Westminster one of the most sustainable cities in British Columbia. This report outlines progress to date, including:

  • implementation of Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code, which puts requirements on the environmental impacts of new construction
  • reducing water consumption in corporate irrigation systems
  • supporting activities that protect the natural environment, such as the Glenbrook Ravine Restoration project
2021 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level

The snowpack is still above normal levels, but the flood risk from snowmelt alone has dissipated. Heavy rainfall events can still trigger flooding, and the risk of significant rainfall in the Fraser River basin is still high.

Albert Crescent Park Maintenance Update
One of the Albert Crescent Park signs placed by Monkey Rebel

A few weeks ago some signs popped up in Albert Crescent Park that drew attention to the removal of a tree, overgrown vegetation, and litter and garbage in the park. Some other signs popped up that linked to Monkey Rebel, so the City contacted Monkey Rebel (I am not going to stop saying Monkey Rebel) and Monkey Rebel provided a list of changes they wanted to see to the park. City staff have done some of these!

Good job Monkey Rebel!

Canada Day 2021 Update

There will be some things going on in New Westminster for Canada Day while acknowledging and recognizing that the colonizing history of Canada resulted in people doing absolutely terrible things to the people who already lived on this land, and that Canada Day should be a day to reflect on the entire history of the country and the people who where here first instead of just being about waving flags and watching fireworks.

Motion: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Applications in the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area

The Queens Park Residents Association doesn’t like Heritage Revitalization Agreements because they’re used to very gently increase density in the Queens Park neighbourhood, so they wrote a letter to Council to ask them to stop HRAs. Mayor Cote took this letter and has presented a motion to Council to temporarily suspend HRAs in Queens Park, which effectively turns “very gently increase density” into “don’t increase density at all”.

This is a disappointing motion to see come forward, as HRAs have been used over the past few months to preserve the Queens Park Deli and allow a 1907 pre-fab home to be preserved at the cost of slightly more living and working space. They’re not being used to knock down houses to build towers, they’re not even being used to knock down houses to build townhomes, they’re being used to preserve existing homes and occasionally add a little bit more space to a laneway house that’s already allowed.

This, apparently, is even too much for the delicate sensibilities of Queens Park, where an HRA to allow a laneway house that’s 958 square feet instead of 475 square feet is an affront to heritage and will ruin the entire neighbourhood because god forbid a family would move into that laneway house.

The motion also says that this would be “temporary” but there is absolutely nothing in the motion putting an end to this suspension on gentle density other than “until a revised HRA policy is in place” which means that they can continue to kick that can down the road as higher priority items come up and knock this down the priority list.

What a terrible motion. I mean, I see “heritage” and I think “oh here we go the riches are getting riled up again” but Heritage Revitalization Agreements have been used in the past to allow more heritage to be protected while at the same time adding a little bit more housing in New Westminster, and now that little bit is being taken away?

Terrible.

What’s Coming to New West Council on June 7, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Meeting on June 7, 2021, and here’s what’s on the agenda.

Housing Agreement Bylaw & Development Variance Permit for 322 Seventh Street

This is a two-for-one for 322 Seventh Street, a rental apartment building in Brow of the Hill. The Housing Agreement Bylaw would require that all of the residential units would be secured as market rental for the next 60 years or the life of the building, whichever is longer. In exchange for this, the property owner wants to convert nine of the parking spaces in the underground parkade into five studio residential units between 352 and 388 square feet.

This proposal highlights an interesting dynamic between public and private parking. Parking stalls in this building are going for $50 per month, whereas to park on the street costs $28 per year. That’s one heck of a subsidy that the city is giving people for car storage, and it’s no wonder that half the parking spots in this building are being used. It’s also no wonder that the owner of the building wants to make more money, which they can do very easily by converting parking spots into tiny apartments. Nine parking spots would get them $450 a month, and five micro-studio apartments will get them much more than this.

I’m all for turning car storage into homes, but this particular proposal just rubs me the wrong way.

Appointment of Poet Laureate 2021-2024

New Westminster is appointing Elliott Slinn as the next Poet Laureate.

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

New Westminster’s Task Forces continue to do work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • work to improve conditions for people facing homelessness and other social issues
  • working with BC Housing to identify suitable locations for a new emergency response shelter
  • operating the Friendly Caller Program for seniors seeking social interaction
Engagement for the 2022 Budget Process

Staff is planning the public engagement process for the 2022 Budget, and they’re proposing holding workshop series with advisory committees and other established groups in Spring/Summer 2021, along with a community-wide check-in survey in Fall 2021. Watch for more information from the City on how you can give feedback on the proposed budget!

22nd Street SkyTrain Station – Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption

TransLink’s going to be replacing the escalator at 22nd Street SkyTrain Station, and they need to do it at night when the station is closed to passengers. They’re asking for an exemption to the Construction Noise Bylaw from June 11 to June 26 to allow this work to proceed.

Action Planning the Implementation of the Green Fleet Roadmap

One of New Westminster’s Seven Bold Steps for Climate Action is to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 (less than nine years away!) and one of the ways they’re going to do that is to switch vehicles from fossil fuel to zero emission vehicles. The City’s vehicle fleet makes up 41% of its total emissions, so this would make the biggest impact towards realizing that zero emission goal.

This report outlines the steps that the City will be taking in figuring out what the infrastructure requirements will be to be able to switch to an EV fleet.

416 Tenth Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Side Yard Projection

416 Tenth Street and 1002 St. Andrews Street are neighbouring properties. The house at 416 Tenth is right up against the property line, and there’s an easement on 1002 St. Andrews to allow driveway access. In 1992 the easement was amended to allow a deck to be built off of 416 Tenth, over the driveway and onto the property at 1002 St. Andrews.

416 Tenth is looking to rebuild the deck, which requires a development variance permit to be issued.

230 Princess Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Driveway Width

Driveways in New Westminster need to be 3.0 metres wide. The driveway at 230 Princess Street currently ranges from 2.81 to 3.12 metres wide. The owners want to construct a carriage house in their back yard, which requires parking, and that parking would require a driveway, which would need to be 3.0 metres wide. As such, the owners are looking to get a development variance permit to allow the 2.81 metre wide driveway that’s already there.

601 Sixth Street: Development Variance Permit to Vary Parking Requirements

The owner of 601 Sixth Street (the building that Westminster Savings is currently in) wants to add floor space by closing an existing two-storey atrium and extending the second floor. When floor space is proposed to be aded to a building, the City reviews the parking requirements against current Zoning Bylaw requirements. Adding this space would require the building supply 4 accessible parking spaces (up from the current 1), 23 short-term bicycle spaces (up from the current 0) and 2 loading spaces (up from 1). The proposal is asking to allow 2 accessible spaces (2 lower than required), 6 short-term bicycle spaces (17 lower than required) and 1 loading space (1 lower than required).

Cancellation of the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program

The Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP) was a grant program from the Provincial Government to essentially refund the carbon taxes a local government paid to support its operations. In exchange, the local government was required to report greenhouse gas emissions and were encouraged to invest the funding in climate action programs. 187 of the 190 local governments in BC had signed up for the program. Over the lifetime of the program, New Westminster had received over $1.2 million, which it used to pursue higher efficiency equipment and innovative technologies.

The program was unexpectedly cancelled on May 11, 2021 by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. There has been no mention of any sort of a replacement funding program.

New Westminster will be sending a letter to Premier John Horgan, the Minister of Municipal Affairs Josie Osborne, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman to essentially say “what the fuck”.

618 Carnarvon Street: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption

The building going in at 618 Carnarvon Street needs some concrete poured for the foundation, approximately 1,200 cubic metres in one day. To get it all done in one day, the construction company needs to start and end earlier than the allowed times. They’re asking for a variance to the Construction Noise Bylaw to allow them to operate from 7 AM to 9 PM on June 26, 2021.

2020 Annual Water Quality Monitoring Report

Drinking water in New West is compliant with the Canadian Drinking Water Regulations for E. coli levels and total coliform levels, and is also compliant with the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for chlorine residuals and turbidity.

Fraser Health Authority has requested that the City implement a City-wide cross-connection control program to mitigate the potential of backflow from private properties into the City water distribution system.

COVID-19 Update: BC’s Restart Plan and New Westminster’s Restart Planning Matrix

The Provincial government released BC’s Restart plan that outlines how BC will move through opening different sectors back up as COVID-19 levels drop thanks to vaccinations and other mitigation efforts.

New Westminster also has to plan how to restart operations in conjunction with the changing guidelines for safe practices, and this report lays out those plans for the different areas that the City is responsible for. There’s a lot to unpack here, so if you’re interested in how New Westminster will re-open, check out the report.

What’s Coming to New West Council on May 3, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Meeting on May 3, 2021, and here’s what they’ll be looking at.

Submission to the Provincial Special Committee on the Reform of the Police Act

The Province is reforming the Police Act. The City of New Westminster set up a working group to do research into what sort of reforms the City would like to see. The working group has prepared a report and video that will be submitted to the Province.

There are obviously a lot of details into what the working group would like to see changed, and I would encourage everybody to read the report.

2021 Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8259, 2021

Taxes are going up!

823 – 841 Sixth Street: Affordable Housing Project – Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw and Zoning Amendment Bylaw for First and Second Readings

The Aboriginal Land Trust Society wants to build 96 homes for members of the Indigenous and Swahili communities in New Westminster. These homes would be in a six-storey building, be permanent rental, and be affordable.

If you want to read some truly terrible statements from members of our community who put greater value on their back yards potentially getting a sliver of shadow thrown on it once or twice a year than providing stable housing for people, you can find them in this week’s Council package. Here’s one especially terrible one:

This development cannot be allowed to go ahead. It should be built in an area which would benefit from the development, such as where there are already used car lots, abandoned houses, or other blights in New West. Please don’t put a slum in the only moderately affordable single family house neighbourhood in New West, where young professionals with kids have a chance to own a house.

This development would be the Strathcona tent city permanently dropped 2 blocks from my house. How can I continue to live here if this is allowed to be built. It invalidates all the hardwork and sweat equity I put into living here and will put my family in danger.

Council will approve First and Second Readings and this project will soon be moving to a Public Hearing.

1319 Third Avenue (Steel and Oak): Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment and Manufacturing Facility Structural Change Applications – Bylaw for First and Second Readings

This one came to Council on March 28, and now it’s time to make it slightly more official. Council will approve First and Second Readings and this project will soon be moving to a Public Hearing.

Grant Application: Local Government Development Approvals

City Staff will be applying for a grant for $480,000 to transition the City’s development application and review process to be substantially online.

208 Fifth Avenue: Heritage Revitalization Agreement Application Process Update – For Information

208 Fifth Avenue wants to subdivide into two lots, move the existing heritage house onto one of those lots, and then build a new house on the second lot.

Expect Queens Park residents to lose their minds because the owners here are asking for a little more house than they’re permitted to have.

Consumption of Liquor in Public Spaces – Designated Park Zones

New West Parks and Recreation has set up maps showing where liquor may be lawfully consumed after the bylaw allowing it has passed. Not yet, but soon!

What’s Coming to New West Council on April 26, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Council Meeting on April 26, 2021, and here’s what they’ll be discussing!

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

There has been a lot of work done in New Westminster in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and here’s a little flavour of that work:

  • The City received a contract extension to support the continued operation of five food security and resource hubs which are feeding up to 750 residents on a weekly basis, laundry and shower programs for the homeless, and portable toilets.
  • The Health Contact Centre beside the Anvil Centre is now operational.
  • The City is talking with BC Housing to provide an additional 20 emergency shelter beds and up to 50 supportive housing units.
  • The Friendly Caller Program continues to reach out to seniors who are seeking social interaction.
Update to Interim COVID-19 Food Truck Policy

In October 2020, Council endorsed the extension of some temporary policy adjustments to tweak them to help brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks, and staff is asking Council to extend the adjustments to December 31, 2021.

320 Ewen Avenue: Cedar Island Remanufacturing Ltd.

Some residents of Queensborough delegated to Council in March 2021 to express concerns about Cedar Island Remanufacturing Ltd., specifically around noise, air pollution, rodents, workplace safety, and a lack of response from the property management.

City staff has found that Cedar Island Remanufacturing Ltd. is violating the noise bylaw, and the rest of the issues aren’t really in the City’s jurisdiction (air pollution is Metro Vancouver, rodents are Fraser Health, workplace safety is WorkSafe BC).

330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment): Request for Construction Noise Exemption

Wait, I already talked about this!

Metro Vancouver New Westminster Annacis Main No. 5 (North) Alignment

Metro Vancouver is putting in a big watermain that will supply potable water to Surrey and Delta and it’s going right through New Westminster. This report outlines four potential alignment options, with one coming down 13th Street being the preferred alignment. The watermain would run down 13th Street from 10th Avenue to 5th Avenue, then turn east on 5th Avenue to 11th Street, and then down 11th Street to the tunnel shaft at the corner of 11th Street and Auckland Street.

2021 Spring Freshet Council Report – April 1st Snowpack

There’s snow in them thar hills! And the snow’s going to melt and the water’s going to come down the Fraser River. How much water is anybody’s guess right now, but the snowpack in the Fraser River basin is at 116% of normal.

New Westminster Outdoor Swimming Pools – Summer 2021

As discussed on March 29, some residents of New Westminster wanted the City to keep Hume Park Outdoor Pool (HPOP) open during the summer. At that time City staff said it would cost too much and they’d have to shut down Moody Park Outdoor Pool (MPOP), but Council asked staff to be a little more detailed. This report contains that detail, highlights of which are:

  • HPOP has been closed for 20 months and would require commissioning and maintenance to get it into serviceable condition, which would likely delay opening of the pool by a month.
  • HPOP requires its drain to be retrofitted, and that would take 3-4 months to complete.
  • Opening only HPOP but not MPOP wasn’t considered, but if both were to open instead of just MPOP, it would result in a net loss of 531 reserved drop-in spots per week.
  • Opening both HPOP and MPOP would have a net negative environmental impact as HPOP has the city’s highest energy use intensity amongst 24 city buildings examined in 2019.
  • Opening both HPOP and MPOP would cost an extra $151,100 in operating expenses and $145,000 in capital expenses, neither of which were budgeted and would have to come from some other program or service.

City staff is recommending that Hume Park Outdoor Pool remain closed for the summer 2021 season.

Queen’s Park Farm – Pilot Project to Transition towards Local Sustainable Food Production

City staff has done preliminary work towards switching the Queen’s Park Farm (aka the petting zoo) away from livestock and towards a program that will support and promote sustainable local food production.

Staff is going to be providing alternative programming within the space for 2021, including exploring an outdoor art gallery, an outdoor museum, daycamps, and documentary film making.

In the fall, the City will be setting up a partnership with a non-profit group to start constructing Phase 1 of the farm transition, which will include repurposing two of the existing farm structures, one for a community oven and one for a small events stage.

Sketch Concept of Phase 1 Transition – Community Oven, Small Events Stage and Communal Table/Seating for Sharing Food