What’s Coming to New West Council on March 29, 2021

New Westminster City Council is holding a Regular Meeting on March 29, 2021, and here are a few highlights of what’s on the agenda. The full package is 463 pages long, so I’m not going to cover everything!

New Westminster Aquatic & Community Centre: Project Update & Next Steps

In case you haven’t heard, New Westminster is getting rid of the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre and replacing them with the New Westminster Aquatic & Community Centre. Staff is giving a report on what’s happened (not much thanks to COVID) and what’s going to happen (communication, construction, and a groundbreaking ceremony).

City-Wide Bold Steps Work Plan

The City came up with Seven Bold Steps to work towards a zero carbon future, and this is the work plan to implement some projects that’ll fulfil some of those bold steps over 2021. Here are some highlights:

  • pedestrian crossing improvements, sidewalk repair, and accessibility improvements
  • bus shelters and operational improvements
  • greenway projects including Agnes, Crosstown, and Riverfront
  • consideration for additional density and height for higher efficiency buildings
  • researching of new construction technologies such as encapsulated mass timber
  • advance adoption of electric vehicles, e-bikes, and other electric mobility options
  • advancement of the Advanced Metering Infrastructure
  • continue increasing the city’s urban forest canopy cover
  • native planting restoration natural areas
  • pollinator pasture installations
  • advancing streetscape and sidewalk café projects
Temporary Use Permit for 40 Begbie Street

This Temporary Use Permit will be issued for a Health Contact Centre in Downtown New West. It will provide a number of services, including witnessed consumption, drug checking, harm reduction supplies, peer employment opportunities, education on safer drug use, and regular needle sweeps of the surrounding area.

Some people in the community unfortunately don’t want to see services for helping people in need, even though the drug poisoning crisis killed over 1700 people in British Columbia in 2020, but luckily we have a compassionate and empathetic Council in New Westminster and this TUP will be granted.

Cancellation of the Section 57 Notices on 711 Walmsley Street and 1402 Seventh Avenue

A Section 57 notice allows the City to put a notice on title for a property that that property is violating building regulations. This is done so that if someone wishes to purchase that property, they are informed of this notice.

This was done on two properties in New Westminster, 711 Walmsley Street in 2010, and 1402 Seventh Avenue in 2020. The owners of both properties have fixed the issues that lead to the Section 57 notices, and now Council will decide whether or not to remove those notices.

Withdrawal of LMLGA Motion Concerning Local Government Candidates Access to Multifamily Dwellings During the Campaign Period

Wordy subject there, but on March 1, 2021 Council passed a motion that would be sent to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association to ask them to ask the Province to allow candidates in local government elections access to all types of multifamily dwellings.

It turns out that on March 3, 2021 the Provincial government announced they are going to put forward legislation that would allow candidates in local government elections access to all types of multifamily dwellings.

New Westminster City Council: getting shit done.

1319 Third Avenue (Steel and Oak): Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment

Steel and Oak is popular and they want to expand their seating area from 50 to 100 people. They propose doing this by expanding the interior space, which would allow up to 89 people, and making their temporary patio on the street more permanent.

Cannabis Retail Locations: Sapperton Area Application Update

Herb Co. Cannabis had a proposal to operate a cannabis retail store at 451 East Columbia Street. They’ve had their application for a licence terminated by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, and they’ve had two years to advance their application. Staff is recommending that council rescind the First and Second Readings for the Bylaw that would have allowed them to operate at that location, and that the application for 451 East Columbia Street be put on hold.

Staff is also recommending that the second highest scoring application (North Root Cannabis) be given consideration, and a new Bylaw be considered to allow them to operate at 416 East Columbia Street. The Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop is currently at this location, but they’re on a month to month lease and have been looking for a better location.

2021 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level

Snow pack levels for the Fraser River basin are at 115% of normal, and La Niña conditions through spring should bring higher than normal precipitation from March to May, with a likelihood of lower than normal temperatures. These combined means that there’s an elevated risk for freshet-related flooding. The City will continue to monitor the situation, and has started preparing for any potential flooding by inspecting dikes and placing orders for emergency supplies (the City currently has over 40,000 sandbags with 12,000 on standby order).

Hume Park Outdoor Pool – Summer 2021 Status

Staff is recommending that Hume Park Outdoor Pool remain closed through the summer of 2021.

Under the COVID-19 Public Health Orders, the capacity of the pool would be 15 participants (half of what Moody Park Outdoor Pool can handle), and there would be a limit of two persons in each changeroom. Lifeguard training was suspended for most of 2020, and there’s a limited supply of recertification clinics, which means that there won’t be enough certified lifeguards to be able to staff more than one outdoor pool in 2021. The City had already planned for Hume Park Outdoor Pool to be closed through the summer and has scheduled maintenance work on it, including work on the building roof, which is best done during the summer.

In short, Hume Park Outdoor Pool won’t be opening in the summer of 2021.

Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Implementation in New Westminster 2021

COVID-19 vaccinations are here, and cities are doing what they can to help vaccine clinics get up and running. New Westminster has set up a vaccination site at Century House and is in the process of setting up one at Anvil Centre. When the Anvil Centre site is open, the Century House one will close, but don’t worry, the capacity will be much greater. The Century House site only operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 6pm, but the Anvil Centre site will operate seven days a week from 7:30am to 9:30pm.

Barnburner at Queens Park Meat & Deli Public Hearing

One of the people who spoke out in support of the recent Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designation for Queens Park Meat & Deli spoke rather awesomely so I had to capture the transcript and share it. Enjoy!

This is the first public meeting we’ve ever taken part in, that’s probably how much we believe in Florin and this project. Florin did not ask us to do this, we offered to do this of our own volition. As [my partner] said we are fully supportive of this proposal, we support small business in New Westminster full stop, we don’t support small business in New Westminster but. All around New Westminster you see shuttered businesses because of COVID. While we want to hope otherwise the reality is that many of these small businesses will not reopen, they will be gone forever. Here we have a small business owner that no only wants to stay but wants to grow. How anybody cannot support such initiative is beyond us.

I’ve read through the public submissions and they generally can be divided into two camps: the residents from the neighbourhood who fully support the proposal, they can usually be identified by the brevity of their emails. In the other camp are the usual suspects that appear at most public hearings to oppose, you have the NIMBYs, the wanna-be planners who painstakingly explain why they should be the Director of Planning rather than the professionals you employ, next are the heritage buffs and finally the residents associations. All have one thing in common: they profess to speak on behalf of the community but in reality they speak on behalf of themselves.

You will notice that none of the supporters of the project spend a lot of time discussing the bylaws, the ins and outs. Why is that? A, we simply don’t have the time, and B, they understand that’s staff’s job actually, they believe that you have excellent professionals on staff whose job it is to protect the public interest.

We’re not experts in traffic patterns or parking spaces or FSR or massing or shadows dispersed. We don’t feel qualified to engage as to whether the building or the use has heritage value. We don’t presume to offer our thoughts on whether the facade should look like the 1950s, the 1920s, or the 1850s for that matter. We rely on professionals and your staff to determine what is appropriate. They’re the professionals, that’s their job, please let them do it. If staff didn’t think the project was appropriate they would not support it, but they do support it. I know the staff report says staff considers the project consistent with related policy and advises it will provide a balance of development benefits with community benefits, of heritage protection and exterior building renovation. If you believe the people telling you staff are wrong and this project doesn’t do that then I suggest you fire your staff and hire the letter writers.

It’s easy for people who sit in the cheap seats and oppose everything. They have nothing to lose and have no skin in the game. Here you have a small business owner who’s proposing to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve his business, this isn’t Walmart or Save-On Foods with deep pockets, this is just Florin, Camilla, and their daughter. He isn’t asking the city for money, he isn’t asking those who oppose this proposal for money. He may be wondering why he’s risking his family’s future when he sees some of the letters from the people that don’t want him to succeed. I only hope that Florin and Camilla are buoyed by the amount of support that they have in the neighbourhood and don’t simply give up and move to Burnaby or Coquitlam.

In summary [my partner] and I urge council to approve this application in its entirety. You have before you a small business owner that is saying I believe in New Westminster, I believe in my community, I want to grow, not contract, I want to prosper, not wither. We ask you to reciprocate that belief. Thank you very much.

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.