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 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

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.

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.