Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Major changes to the bus network with start of Evergreen Extension. More stops for the 595.

With December only a day away, it means some major changes are coming to our transit network. On Friday, December 2nd, the Evergreen Extension of the Millennium Line will open at noon. TransLink will be hosting events throughout the day at Coquitlam Central Station, and between 4:00pm and 7:30pm at the other new stations. “Festive cookies” will be provided at the new stations. For more information about Evergreen Extension events, visit TransLink’s Evergreen page.

The start of December also means changes to the bus network. On December 19th, there will be a series of changes to the bus network in the Tri-Cities area. The following map shows the new transit network of the Northeast Sector.

Maps of the new transit network in the Northeast Sector starting December 19th. Select map to enlarge.

TransLink is also discontinuing the 135 route, and replacing it with the 95 B-Line along Hastings Street. The 160 route will be shortened.

Map of the new 95 B-Line along Hastings, and changes to the 160 route. Select map to enlarge.

Other major changes include replacing the West Coast Express TrainBus with an extension of some trips of the 701 route to Mission. These trips will have the same arrival and departure times in Mission as the TrainBus. The 595 which serves the 208 Street corridor in Willoughby will be getting additional stops along that route.

For more information about all the route changes, please check out TransLink’s website.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Using your tax dollars wisely: How does Langley City stack up?

The BC Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development recently released a series of statistics about local governments for the year 2015. With this year coming to an end, local governments throughout the province are beginning the process of developing their 2017 budgets and financial plans.

One of the things that I find interesting is the different ways that local governments allocate the tax revenue that they receive to provide local services to their residents. I thought it would be informative to compare the City of Langley to other municipalities within Metro Vancouver.

It would be difficult to compare Langley City to other communities in other regional districts, as different regional districts provide different services to local governments. In our region, the big-ticket items that Metro Vancouver provides are water and sewer services. Also, labour costs for similar local government jobs in our region are fairly consistent.

For comparison, I used White Rock, Pitt Meadows, and Port Moody which have similar populations. All information is from 2015, and are operating costs. Operating costs do not include the cost of capital projects such as putting in a new playground, reconstructing a road, or building a new community centre as examples.

White Rock Population: 19,327
Pitt Meadows Population: 19,652
Langley City Population: 27,738
Port Moody Population: 34,554

2015 Select Municipal Expenses for White Rock, Pitt Meadows, Langley City, and Port Moody. Source: 2015 British Columbia Local Government Statistics Schedule 402. Select table to enlarge.

The general rule of thumb is that as a municipality's population grows, so does the level of services provided. I did want to point out some outliers though.

Pitt Meadows has lower policing costs. It is also a rural municipality with 86% of its land being agricultural. The other communities are urban centres.

Langley City doesn’t provide recycling services, it is provided by Multi-Material BC which is funded by the private sector.

White Rock had lower water services operating costs in 2015 because it had a private water utility at that time. White Rock has higher transportation costs, but it also has a significant parking revenue stream.

Port Moody invests significantly more in the operation of its parks and recreation facilities. Langley City invests less in its parks and recreation facilities operations compared to other municipalities given its population.

Looking at these numbers, Langley City is certainly not a spendthrift. In the case of recycling services, it is actually saving taxpayers a significant sum of money.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Massive gap between affordable housing supply and demand requires a regional response

The lack of affordable housing in Metro Vancouver is one of the most pressing challenges facing our region. It impacts everything from the increasing number of people who are experiencing homelessness in our communities, to the future economic prosperity of our region.

As an example, for households that made under $50,000 per year between 2011 and 2014, there was an unmet need for 9,000 long-term rental units that would be considered affordable. This number is only going to grow.

The follow chart is an estimate of the number of housing units that will be needed in the region over the next decade. Most of this need will not be able to be met by the market rental or ownership models.

Metro Vancouver housing demand by household income. Estimated net additional rental housing from 2016 to 2026.

Earlier this year, I posted about Metro Vancouver’s Regional Housing Strategy. Strategies are important to have, and having a path towards implementing strategies is critical. In order to implement its Regional Housing Strategy, Metro Vancouver has developed an implementation plan with the following key points:

  1. Undertake a strategic assessment of Metro Vancouver affordable housing role(s)
  2. Establish MVHC-specific and Metro Vancouver-supported affordable rental housing targets
  3. Review and update evaluation criteria for selecting sites for development/redevelopment of affordable rental housing
  4. Prepare a comprehensive asset management plan for MVHC housing complexes
  5. Identify and prepare MVHC Board policies related to affordable rental housing

The Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation (MVHC) is the regional-district owned housing provider. BC Housing provides funding for housing optioning including shelters, supportive housing, subsidized housing, and rental assistance. The federal government also provides funding for reducing homelessness and supporting affordable housing options. The feds are currently in the midst of creating a new National Housing Strategy.

Both the province and the feds look to partners to build and operate the housing options that they support. While municipalities do and can work directly with the province and federal government to get affordable housing options in their community, it results in an uneven distribution of affordable housing within our region.

MVHC may be in the best position to advocate for, building, and/or operate affordable housing options in our region. It has the scale and operationally history to support affordable housing options creation throughout Metro Vancouver. Homelessness and the lack of affordable housing is a regional issue, and it should be addressed at a regional level.

Our region is at its best when we work together to improve the lives of people within Metro Vancouver. I’m hopefully that our municipalities will come together to advocate for, and obtain funding to, build and operate affordable housing options regionally.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A recap of Metro Conversations #1: Short-term rentals, tourism, and what it means for long-term rental affordability

Experts from left to right: Tej Kainth, Lindsay Kaisaris, and Ian Marjoribanks. Select image to enlarge.

Last night was the very first Metro Conversations. Metro Conversations is based on the format of the SFU City Conversations where experts and other attendees engage in a conversation about an urban topic. The difference is that Metro Conversations starts where the City of Vancouver border ends.

Short-term rentals and their impact was the inaugural topic. We had Lindsay Kaisaris who is the owner of Re-up BBQ and an AirBnB Operator, Tej Kainth who is the Executive Director of Tourism New Westminster, and Ian Marjoribanks who is a UBC SCARP student and AirBnB researcher.

This conversation was recorded, and I will post it online once it is available, but I wanted to highlight some of the broad themes that emerged last night.

Marjoribanks noted that home ownership is heavily subsidized in Canada by way of CMHC-insured mortgages and primary residence property tax relief. He noted short-term rental operators are taking advantage of these subsidies for profit whereas other accommodation providers can not. He also noted that short-term rentals reduce long-term rental stock in the region.

Kaisaris noted that AirBnB has helped her family make ends meet even with the high-cost of housing because it has allowed them to monetize a spare room. Other attendees also shared anecdotes about friends who have used short-term rentals as a way to either help pay rent or a mortgage.

I think that everyone in the room recognized that short-term rentals need to have some form of regulatory framework and taxation. For example, Kainth noted that Tourism New Westminster not only markets that community to attract tourist dollars, but also provides marketing resources that are being used by short-term rental hosts. One of the ways that some organizations such as Tourism New Westminster are funded is by a hotel tax, in some municipalities. Should the hotel tax model be extended to short-term rentals? Likely.

Also, traditional accommodations need business licenses, and have a higher safety and accessibility standard that their buildings must meet. There was a general feeling that short-term hosts should also have to adhere to some minimal set of standards and licensing.

One of the more thought provoking parts of the conversation was around the impact of short-term rentals on the affordability of long-term rental units in Metro Vancouver. Marjoribanks stated that some of the wealth created from short-term rentals should be pumped into building purpose-built affordable rental units in the region.

What exactly affordability is was never defined, but I think affordable housing will need to extend to include some middle-class people that traditionally have never part of the affordable rental conversation.

Kaisaris stated that she and other short-term rental hosts would be good with paying a tax or fee which would be used to build more affordable long-term rental units in the region.

This blog post only highlighted a fraction of the hour-long conversation. The next conversation will be hosted in the City of Langley in February, and topic will be “Affordability: Knocking down old apartments without kicking people to the street; aka, How to build mixed-income communities outside of Vancouver.”

Councillor Patrick Johnstone from New Westminster hosted this conversation. Councillor Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver and Kiersten Duncan from Maple Ridge are also part of our Metro Conversations organizing committee.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November 21th, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: City's corporate GHG emissions down, Timms wins an award.

Yesterday, I posted about two development related items that were on the agenda at Monday night’s council meeting. Today, I’ll be posting about the other items that were on the agenda.

The City of Langley is a signatory of the BC Climate Action Charter, and as such participates in the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program. This program provides a 100% refund of the carbon tax paid by the City of Langley because it:

  • Is carbon natural.
  • Measures and reports on its community GHG emissions profile.
  • Creates complete, compact, and energy efficient urban communities.

As you can see from the following table, the City’s GHG emissions from its operations have been declining since 2008 which is good news. The City has been investing in reducing its GHG emissions by upgrading to more energy efficient lighting, heating/cooling systems, and vehicles. The City recently upgraded the boiler at Al Anderson Pool which was the largest single-source of GHG emissions within the City’s operations. The new boiler should reduce GHG emissions by about 30%.

City of Langley's direct GHG emissions from 2008 to 2015. Select table to enlarge.

The follow table shows which parts of the City’s operations create the most GHG, and consume the most energy.

City of Langley's Corporate Energy & Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, 2015. Select table to enlarge.

Nigel Thom from the Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation presented on their awareness walk for invisible illnesses. They started this walk in Langley on May 24th, and ended their journey on June 28th. They walked for 39 days and traveled 1100km. You can read more about this walk on their website. Thom also noted that they are working with BC Housing towards building and operating an affordable housing lodge for people with invisible illness.

Mayor Schaffer presented the award that the City of Langley won for the Timms Community Centre, received at the Fraser Valley Commercial Building Awards for best built community institutional building in 2015. You can find out more information about this in the Langley Times.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 21th, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Mini-apartment on 203rd Street approved, rezoning for townhouses on 198th Street.

I will be posting about last night’s City of Langley council meeting in two parts. Today, I’ll be focusing on a development permit and a rezoning application.

Several years ago, the City of Langley realigned 203rd Street at Douglas Crescent/56 Avenue. This created two odd-sized empty parcels of land. Tim Hortons is now on one of those parcels. The other parcel of land is located at 203rd Street and Michaud Crescent, and was the subject of a development permit last night.

The size of the parcel is around 6,000 square feet which is similar in size to many of our single-family lots in the City, and is odd-shaped. What was proposed last night, and ultimate approved by council, was what I would call a mini-apartment building. This seven-unit apartment has units which range in size from around 900 sq. ft. to 2,000 sq. ft.

Rendering of apartment at 203rd Street and Michaud Crescent that was approved by council. Select image to enlarge.

To make this all happen, the building is not setback from the sidewalk, but abuts it. This is a good thing because it helps create a street-wall which makes walking more pleasant, and creates a sense of place. As part of the development, the sidewalks around the building will be significantly widened, and will include on-street bike parking. One of the things that I noticed in the drawings is that it mentions concrete unit pavers for the sidewalk “to be specified by the City of Langley.” I’m hoping this means a solid concrete sidewalk as well as pavers like other newer sidewalks downtown.

One of the interesting things about this project is its ground-level parkade which you’d never be able to tell was there from 203rd Street as it includes large, one-way windows. One of the challenges with ground-level parking is that it usually results in the creation of an unpleasant streetscape which can include unappealing blank concrete walls or surface parking lots. This design is a marked improvement from other ground-level parking in the City’s downtown area.

While I’d have liked to have seen ground-level retail at this site as well, I don’t think it would have fit.

There were people at the council meeting, and who sent in letters to council, from the adjacent building. They were concerned about this project. Over the years, they have added two extra parking spaces to the back of their building, and moved their solid waste bins onto the property where the new apartment will be built. They were not happy that they must now go back to the original, city-approved design for their building.

The design of this apartment building is a good example of adding gentle-density on small lots.

Council also gave first and second reading for a rezoning to accommodate a 28-unit townhouse development at 198 Street and 55 Avenue as shown.

View of proposed townhouse development from 55th Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

View of proposed townhouse development from 198th Street. Select image to enlarge.

A public hearing will now be scheduled to get public feedback on this proposed rezoning and development.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Township of Langley's and Metro Vancouver's land-use plans coming back together

The Township of Langley and Metro Vancouver had a dispute around the Regional Growth Strategy that focused on the Trinity Western University District. Metro Vancouver ended up taking the Township to court. You can read the full details of this in previous posts on this blog. The short of it is that the courts agreed with the Township of Langley.

Currently, the Township of Langley is the last municipality in the region whose Official Community Plan’s Regional Context Statements haven’t been accepted by the Metro Vancouver Board. Regional Context Statements are what links a municipality’s Official Community Plan to the Regional Growth Strategy. At this Friday’s Metro Vancouver Board meeting, it is likely that the Township’s Regional Context Statements will be accepted.

This is very good news as it will mean that all municipalities in Metro Vancouver will be following the Regional Growth Strategy. Forcing a Regional Growth Strategy on a municipality is never a good idea, and this is essentially what the courts said a well. To have a region where 21 municipalities and one treaty First Nation can come to a consensus on a Regional Growth Strategy that: creates a compact urban area, supports a sustainable economy, protects the environment and responds to climate change impacts, develops complete communities, and supports sustainable transportation choices speaks to the success of BC’s regional district model.

The follow map shows the proposed regional land-use map for the Township of Langley.

New proposed regional land-use designations for the Township of Langley. Select map to enlarge.

This map was the regional land-use map which was the cause of the court case.

Originally proposed regional land-use designations for the Township of Langley. Select map to enlarge.

I look forward to the Metro Vancouver Board accepting the Township’s Regional Context Statements. One of the things to note is that the area marked “1” on the first map will only become general urban subject to the approval of the provincial Agricultural Land Commission. Right now that land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sign up for Metro Conversations 1: Does the rise of short-term rentals help or hurt our cities?

Metro Conversations 1 Poster. Select to download.

Earlier this week, I posted about a new series of urban-issues conversations that Councillor Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver, Kiersten Duncan from Maple Ridge, Patrick Johnstone from New Westminster, and I are hosting. These conversations are modeled after SFU City Conversations. Over the coming year, we hope to host conversations in the District of North Vancouver, Langley City, and Maple Ridge.

Today, I wanted to share some more information about the conversation that is taking place next Wednesday in New Westminster.

Topic:
Does the rise of short-term rentals help or hurt our cities?

Experts:
Lindsay Kaisaris, Owner Re-up BBQ and AirBnB Operator
Tej Kainth, Executive Director of Tourism New Westminster
Ian Marjoribanks, UBC SCARP student and researcher

Date and Time:
Wed, November 23, 2016
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM PST

Location:
The Network Hub @ The River Market
810 Quayside Drive
New Westminster, BC V3M 6B9

Seating is limited, so while attendance is free and open, we recommend that you reserve your seat.

Reserve you seat at Eventbrite

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Strong public support for TransLink’s 10-Year Vision

Map of improvements proposed in TransLink's 10-Year Vision.

Last month, TransLink engaged in a public consultation process to see what people thought about the agency's proposed 10-Year Vision for the region. I’ve posted a few times about what this would mean for the South of Fraser and the rest of the region if approved.

TransLink recently released the results of the public consultation which saw 5,000 questionnaires completed and 300 people attend public open houses throughout the region. So, what did people have to say about the plan?

It should come as no surprise, but there is broad regional support for expanded transit service throughout Metro Vancouver. Only about 4% of the comments received expressed concern with some, or opposition to all, of phase one of the plan. In fact, many people said that the plan didn’t go far enough. Given that this is only phase one of a three phase plan, more transit investment is coming when the funding becomes available.

While people are supportive of expanding transit, the real question is are they willing to pay for that expansion of service. 6% of the comments received were around concerns with the proposed fare increases and 4% around concerns with the proposed property tax increases. 15% of the comments received stated that TransLink should find other ways to pay for the expansion of service or find “internal savings.”

During the failed transportation plebiscite much was said about TransLink waste, but that turned out to be a red herring. In fact to pay for phase one of the 10-Year Vision, TransLink is using $100 million from the sale of property; selling assets.

It is very positive to see that around 70% of the comments received were generally supportive of plan's funding mix. I believe that people understand that if you want to expand service, taxation revenue is required. People in our region really want to see transit service expanded.

On November 23rd, this plan will be brought forward to the TransLink Board and Mayors’ Council at a joint meeting for potential approval.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Westminster’s approach to reducing homelessness relevant to Langley City

The increasing numbers of people who are experiencing homelessness isn’t just occurring in Langley, it is happening in communities throughout Metro Vancouver. New Westminster was a canary in the coal mine.

At the turn of the century, a combination of events led to increased crime, an economic downturn, and an increase in the number of people who were experiencing homelessness in their downtown. Between 2002 and 2008, there was a 118% increase in the number of people who were homeless from 33 to 72.

The City of New Westminster took an integrated approach to reduce the number of people who were homeless, reduce crime, and improve the economic prosperity of its downtown.

Yesterday, New Westminster invited councillors from the City of Langley and Maple Ridge to learn about their approach. I was able to attend.

Talking and learning about New Westminster's approach to reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness.

Throughout the morning, both councillors and municipal staff talked about the importance of taking an integrate approach to tackling the challenge of reducing the number of people who were homelessness in their community.

At a municipal level, it meant having the New Westminster Police, bylaw enforcement, bylaws, and business licensing working together. For example, the City of New Westminster was able to use this approach to target and eliminate businesses that generated unsavoury activity.

The City also helped create the New Westminster Homelessness Coalition which includes representation from the City, police, the school district, non-profits, faith organizations, the province, Fraser Health, academics, and the Downtown New Westminster BIA. Combined with the City’s full-time social planner, this enabled concrete action to be taken.

Working together, $24.5 million in provincial funding was used to build facilities such as the Russell Housing Centre and Rhoda Kaellis Residence which are operated by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society. We toured these facilities yesterday.

Rhoda Kaellis Residence roof-top garden.

Outside Russell Housing Centre.

Inside Russell Housing Centre which is an accessible facility.

One of the things that I noticed right away was that the housing facilities blend into the community. There weren’t people loitering around. The facilities themselves were also well kept. I know that some people are concerned that supportive housing facilities bring negative activity to an area, but the reality in New Westminster is that they help support bring positive activity to an area.

Today there are 54 shelter spaces, 36 extreme-weather shelter spaces, and 114 long-term transitional and supportive housing units in the City of New Westminster. Between 2008 and 2014, there was a 54% decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness to 34.

The number of people experiencing homelessness has increased in recent years as housing affordability has become a major challenge in the region. The City of New Westminster is looking for financial support from the provincial and federal governments to continue to invest in their community's supportive and transitional housing facilities.

One of the other innovative programs in New West is paying people who are transitioning out of homelessness to clean up, and kept an eye out, in their downtown core.

New Westminster and the City of Langley are very similar. We both have a small geographical footprint; New West is 15 sq. km, Langley City is 10 sq. km. We are also both communities that are redeveloping, and are urban cores.

Using New Westminster as a template for the City of Langley on how to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness is something that I fully support.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Conversation about urban issues extends beyond Boundary Road, Metro Vancouver Councillors say.

Metro Conversations

A group of City Councillors from around the Metro Vancouver region want to bring “urbanist” conversations to their communities. Their first event will be in New Westminster on November 23 with a conversation about AirBnB, and how it fits into the city-making context.

The idea started at a Vancouver urban planning event. A group of newly-elected City Councillors from “the suburbs” were invited to Downtown Vancouver to take part in the SFU City Conversation program, a regular meet-up series dedicated to talking about urban issues.

“We were all interested in continuing the conversation,” says Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver. “We recognized these issues are relevant to the entire region, not just Downtown Vancouver, and we wanted to bring the conversation out to our own communities.”

Bond, along with Nathan Pachal of the City of Langley, Kiersten Duncan of Maple Ridge, and Patrick Johnstone of New Westminster, are putting together a series of meet-up events visiting each of their communities, as part of a plan to create a larger conversation, in person and online. The City Conversation format is short on experts talking and longer on a facilitated discussion with the audience, perfect for sharing diverse ideas.

The first topic for discussion is the prickly issue of regulating Short Term Rentals.

“The topic of Short Term Rentals is being discussed around the region,” says Johnstone. “Lots of people see AirBnB and VRBO as a great boon for tourism, while others worry about what it means for their neighbourhoods and for our really tight rental stock. We can’t put our head in the sand, we need to understand the issues.”

“We have brought together a panel of people who understand the issue, including an AirBnB operator, a Tourism expert, a researcher who studies the impact on housing affordability. It won’t be boring lecture; we are going to make this a conversation between the panel and the audience.”

The first Metro Conversation will be on November 23rd at 6:30pm at the Network Hub in the River Market in New Westminster. It is free to everyone, but seating is limited, so the organizers ask that you register at their Eventbrite page to assure your seat.

Date and Time
Wed, November 23, 2016
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM PST

Location
The Network Hub @ The River Market
810 Quayside Drive
New Westminster, BC V3M 6B9

Register now at Eventbrite.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

November 7th, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Fentanyl Overdoses, Business Walk Program, and Motions Approved

Today is my last post about Monday night’s City of Langley council meeting. You can read Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s posts to learn about other items that were on the agenda.

We heard from Rory Thompson who is the Fire Chief. He presented the third quarter report for Langley City Fire-Rescue Service. Similar to last year, 78% of incidents that the Service responded to were medical-related or motor vehicle crashes.

As you can see, drug overdoses are significantly higher compared to last year due to fentanyl. There were 28 overdoses in October for example. Thompson noted that Naloxone is a critical live saving tool, and was happy that it is now available over-the-counter in BC.

Overdoses that Langley City Fire-Rescue Service responded to in 2015, and this year-to-date. Select image to enlarge.

The most significant fire loss in the third quarter was $40,000 from a garage fire. Our on-call firefighters also distributed 200 bags of goodies on October 31st which according to Thompson was a relatively quiet night compared to other years.

One of the roles of our Fire-Rescue Service is to do building inspections as a preventative measure to identify and reduce fire risks. I asked Thompson how many inspections have been done this year. He didn’t have the information on-hand, but said he would have this information available at a future date.

Thompson noted that there have been some people taking their 4-wheel power scooters into the floodplain onto submerged paths. Several people have had to be rescued. He is warning people not to drive these scooters on submerged paths.

Langley City Council has a Business Walk Program where certain members of council visit local businesses to “obtain a pulse” of that segment of our community. In October, businesses in both Downtown and along the Bypass were visited. The following common themes were noted:

  • Current state of businesses is very positive
  • “Location”, “Cost of Doing Business”, “Business friendly local government” and supportive “Downtown Langley Business Association”, were identified as what they liked most about doing business in the City of Langley
  • Most businesses identified they are experiencing recruitment challenges
  • Most businesses indicated that they are not considering future expansion at this time, primarily due to their recent expansion
  • Business Walk Businesses identified several issues leading to the following common themes: Increased business competition, Criminal activity increasing, Desire for freestanding reader-board signage, Union wages too high for small business to complete, Visible Homelessness, Improved Downtown sidewalk and lane maintenance, Negative impact on road construction, Cost of advertising, Desire to develop mentorship program for new businesses, Expand networking receptions and special events to enhance business awareness.

Later in the meeting, council approved a recommendation from the Parks, Recreation & Environment Advisory Committee to partner with Green Teams of Canada to run habitat restoration events in the City of Langley.

Finally, council approved a motion from Councillor Martin to wave the usage fee for McBurney Lane to support the Langley Soroptimist’s vigil calling for end to violence against women on November 25th.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 7th, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Engineering, Parks, Recreation Updates. Millions of dollars worth of projects on the go.

Today, I’m continuing my post about Monday night’s council meeting. After hearing about Tourism Langley, Rick Bomhof gave an update on Engineering in the City.

Bomhof noted that DreamRider Productions is currently presenting a live play at elementary schools within Langley City called H2Whoa! over the next month. This play is about water conservation, and you can find more information about it at the production's website.

The City’s engineering and parks departments have been extremely busy this year. One of the most visible projects is along the 203rd Street Corridor which will result in making walking and cycling safer, and calming traffic. Earlier this year, water and sewer mains were also upgraded along a section of that corridor.

New sidewalks and bike lanes along 203rd Street under construction. Select image to enlarge.

Sendall Gardens has also been significantly upgraded. If you’ve never been to the Secret Garden of Langley, or haven’t been there in awhile, I suggest that you check it out.

Last month, I posted about Laminated Root Rot in Hunter Park. To combat the disease, the City is currently in the process of removing all infected trees, and trees that could be infected from that park. Unfortunately, Laminated Root Rot has spread throughout the whole park. There are some trees, such a cedars, that the City is currently planning to retain. The City also plans to have a public consultation process to determine the next steps for the use and restoration of Hunter Park.

The City recently completed the upgrading of 51st Avenue east of 209th Street with new water mains, sidewalks, curbs, and paving. The City is also in the process of upgrading traffic signals throughout the community. Traffic calming is continuing throughout Langley.

There has also been improvements in the Nicomekl Floodplain including trail upgrades and culvert replacement along Baldi Creek.

Some future projects in the pipe include upgrading Production Way, the replacement of the 200th Street Bridge in the floodplain, and renewing 56th Avenue from Glover to the Bypass. I’m hopefully that these projects will result in improved walking and cycling infrastructure as they progress to being built.

The City is also studying what to do with the 200th Street/Grade Crescent/50 Avenue intersections. One of the options include extending Grade Crescent through to 50th Avenue. One of the other options is to look at traffic signal synchronization. One of the concern that I have is that 50th Avenue/Grade Crescent could become a short-cut route into Surrey. This is something that I don’t want to see as I know there are strong feelings in our community about traffic calming.

Later on in the meeting, council authorized staff to seek federal funding for the $3.7 million Douglas Crescent Utilities Project which would see water, sewer, and road renewal between 204th and 208th Street.

Our City’s engineering and parks departments are extremely busy, and with required infrastructure renewal, will only get busier. It may be time to look at increasing the amount of staffing resources available to that department.

Kim Hilton next gave a recreation and community events update. I suggest that you check out the City’s website for a full list of recreation options and upcoming events. I did want to highlight the upcoming Remembrance Day Ceremony in Douglas Park, and the Magic of Christmas on December 4th.

Hilton noted that the sound quality will be improved for the Remembrance Day Ceremony. There have been some challenges in the past with sound.

The Magic of Christmas will start with a craft fair and live entertainment in McBurney Plaza at 4pm. There will be a parade starting at 6pm, and it will finish with tree lighting and carolling in the Plaza around 7pm.

Hilton also noted that the Al Anderson Memorial Pool boiler system has been upgraded to be more energy efficient, and that a new flooring system has been installed in Douglas Recreation Centre.

There were many other items on the council agenda which I will cover tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November 7th, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Service Awards, McBurney Plaza Summer Series, and Tourism Langley

There were no development related items on last night’s City of Langley council meeting agenda, but it was still a full agenda due to the number of departmental updates heard and information items received.

The meeting started off with the presentation of long-service awards to City staff. Francis Cheung received a 10-year service award for being the City’s CAO for 10 years. Many other staff members also received service awards.

Jim Smith is retiring from Langley Youth and Family Services. He received recognition last night for his decades of service to the community.

Mayor Ted Schaffer recognizing Jim Smith for his decades of service.

Teri James who is the executive director of the Downtown Langley Business Association (DLBA) gave a presentation on this year’s McBurney Plaza Summer Series. The series programmed McBurney Plaza with family-friendly events for five Saturdays this summer from June to the beginning of September. Combined with other public events during that same time period, there was always something going on in Downtown Langley on Saturday this summer.

The City contributed $20,000 to the series, the DLBA contributed $23,000 plus $7,000 in in-kind donations. There is good value for the money that the City invested into these series of events. I would like to see more free, family-friendly public events in our Downtown, as do residents of Langley City.

The McBurney Plaza Summer Series brings positive active to our Downtown, reduces negative activity, supports local business, and creates a since of pride and ownership in our community.

James noted that planning for the 2017 Summer Series is already underway and some events could include: Sports in the Plaza, Jedi’s in the Plaza, Aquarium in the Plaza, Science in the Plaza, and World Music in the Plaza.

Councillor Storteboom gave an update on what’s happening at Metro Vancouver including the most recent Council of Councils meeting which I posted about earlier.

Councillor Martin provided an update on the situation with Tourism Langley. According to Martin, Tourism Langley has been successfully providing tourism market services to both the City and Township of Langley for close to a decade. The Township has never reported any issues with Tourism Langley up to this point, and it has strong support for the tourism industry. Their work has helped increase tourism in both communities.

The Township of Langley recently decided to explore leaving Tourism Langley, and create its own tourism market program. While the Township is certainly free to do whatever it chooses, leaving Tourism Langley, an independent destination marking organization, may not result in a net benefit to that community.

Regardless of the path that the Township chooses to take, City of Langley Council moved forward with giving first, second, and third reading to Bylaws 3004 which renews the 2% hotel tax within our municipality that currently goes to Tourism Langley for an additional five years starting August, 2017. This money currently supports Tourism Langley, but it could be used for other tourism marketing purposes.

Tomorrow, I will be posting about the city departmental updates and other information reports received.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Metro Vancouver's massive investment in water and sewer infrastructure to support our growing region

Because Metro Vancouver is a growing region, core infrastructure needs to be expanded to be able to accommodate that growth. While water and sewer services aren’t headline-grabbing, they are critical to keeping this region functioning, and they require a significant amount of investment.

For example, Metro Vancouver recently completed the $820 million Capilano-Seymour water project to meet our region's increased water demand.

The regional district is working with both the provincial and federal governments to get funding in place to build the $700 million Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant on the North Shore.

Closer to home, around $275 million is being invested in building a new water tunnel under the Fraser River near the Port Mann Bridge to ensure the delivery of safe drinking water to the rapidly growing South of Fraser.

In Langley, work is now beginning to plan for the expansion of the Northwest Langley Wastewater Treatment Plant. A $6.7 million contract will likely be award to CH2M Hill Canada as part of the treatment plant expansion. This also includes a new pump station in Maple Ridge. This is part of a larger $800 million dollar East Fraser Serving and Treatment project to support growth in Langley, Pitt Meadows, and Maple Ridge.

Components of the East Fraser Servicing and Treatment project. Select image to enlarge.

These few projects that I outlined total about $2.5 billion, and are only a sample of the many projects that the Metro Vancouver regional district is working on. While the provincial and federal governments do provide some capital funding for these project, the remainder is funded via property tax.

Water and sewer infrastructure is critical to our region’s livability, and will require a significant amount of investment over the next decade to ensure it can meet the needs of our growing region.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Survey says: Strong support for more free, family-friendly events in Downtown Langley, and a performing art centre in the community

Last week, I asked people to take some time out of their busy schedules to complete a quick survey about investing in the City of Langley and our Downtown Core.

On the ground examples in Langley City and other Canadian city's show that bringing positive activities to an area reduces or eliminates negative activity, uplifts a community, and is more cost effective than increasing policing headcount.

Over the last few days, I’ve compiled the information from the survey, cleaned up the data to make sure that the answers were from people who live in the City of Langley (sorry Brookswood folks.) There were 223 people that responded to the survey with good representation from every neighbourhood in the City.

The first two pie charts show the level of support for more free, family-friendly public events in Downtown Langley, and a performing art centre.

Would you support a performing art centre in Langley City? Select chart to view.

Would you support more free, family-friendly public events in Downtown Langley such a Arts Alive, the Food Truck Festival, Cruise-In, McBurney Summer Series, and a night market?

As you can see, there is virtually 100% support for more events in our Downtown Core, and very strong support for a performing art centre in the City of Langley.

Nothing comes without a cost, so I was also interested in seeing if there was support for the City of Langley to invest additional property tax revenue for these initiatives.

What additional property tax would you be willing to pay to support a performing art centre annually? Select chart to view.

What additional property tax would you be willing to pay to support having more free, family-friendly public events in Downtown Langley annually? Select chart to view.

Again, there is strong support for both investing in a performing art centre and for more events in our Downtown Core.

When I ran for council, two of the things that I committed to do was to advocate to make Downtown Langley a destination, and to work towards building a performing art centre. The results of this survey confirms that these are some of the priorities for people who live in the City as well. I will continue to work on council to do what I can to move forward on these items.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Feds continue support for public transit, and what this means for Metro Vancouver

In September, I posted about TransLink’s 10-year Transportation Vision - Phase 1, and what that meant for the South of Fraser. This is phase 1 of a 3 phase plan which is based on the Mayors’ Council Regional Transportation Investments Vision.

Map of TransLink's 10-Year Vision - Phase 1. Select map to enlarge.

Phase 1 of this plan is being funding in part by $370 million provided by the federal government. The following table shows the full breakdown of funding for Phase 1.

Funding and expenditures for TransLink's 10-Year Vision - Phase 1. Select tables to enlarge.

To implement the full Mayors’ Council Vision will require around $3.9 billion in capital funding over the next decade, and will require the support of all orders of government. The federal government recently announced more details on their 11-year infrastructure plan. In that plan, $25.3 billion is set aside for public transit nationally. If the funding formula is similar to how they allocated public transit funding during this budget cycle, this could mean around $2.7 billion in funding for our region.

The federal government funded 50% of public transit capital cost during the 2016/17 budget cycle, and I don’t expect this to change going forward. What this means is that the federal government is doing its part to funding public transit in our region.

The provincial government has in the past committed to funding 33% of public transit capital costs in the region, this support will need to continue. In addition, the province will need to approve additional on-going funding sources that will generate $100 million annually starting in 2021 to enable the full Mayors’ Council Transportation Investments Vision to come to fruition.

I’m pleased that the federal government is continuing with its plan to make significant investments over the next decade into public transit. With such a large amount of federal funds on the table, I’m hopeful that this will encourage that province and region to come up with a long-term plan for on-going funding to support the Mayors’ Council Vision.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Quantifying the link between transportation, land-use, and health costs

Dr. Larry Frank, who is the Bombardier Chairholder and Professor in Sustainable Transport and the Director of the Health and Community Design Lab at UBC, has been doing extensive research on the link between how we build our communities, and the health outcomes of people who live in those communities.

At a recently Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee meeting, Dr Jat Sandhu from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Mr. Rob Barrs from MODUS Consulting, and he presented on the Health and Economic Benefits of the Built Environment.

The following graphic shows the link between transportation investments, people’s health, and the cost of providing health services. Auto-oriented communities are more costly to human health than walkable, transit-friend communities.

How transportation and land-use impacts human health and healthcare costs. Select image to enlarge.

For example in San Diego, Dr. Frank found from a 2012 study of 18,000 people that there was a 10% reduction in Type II diabetes risk and 15% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk for people living in a more walkable and transit-friendly environment.

Study's conceptual framework. Select image to enlarge.

Within Metro Vancouver, they will now be looking at the data gathered from the BC Generations Project which includes information from 16,300 residents between the ages of 25-69 in the region to “apply longitudinal techniques to uncover causal relationships between the built environment, health behaviour, and health-related outcomes.”

Hopefully having more local data about the link between land-use and health outcomes will cause both local and provincial governments to plan for and build transportation systems and support land-uses patterns that make people healthier.