Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 25, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Part 3 of 3. Parks plans adopted, parking, and supporting an inclusive community

Over the past several days, I’ve posted about what happened at Monday night’s Council meeting including placing restrictions on new thrift stores and donation bins, plus development projects that were giving the green light.

Langley City Council adopted two park master plans at Monday’s meeting. The first plan adopted was for City Park.

One of the things that was heard loud and clear was that residents in the community didn’t want articificial turf fields, field lighting, and green space removed for extra parking. There was also a strong desire to see a covered lacrosse box.

This plan adopted covers off all these items. As you can see in the following pictures, one of the proposed parking areas has been removed from the 10-year funding window of this plan. The plan also states that “new parking areas are intended to be phased in overtime on an as needed basis and designed to minimize impact on the environment by utilizing features such as permeable paving, planting islands and bioswales.”

City Park Master Plan. Select image to enlarge.

Phasing and budget of City Park Master Plan. Select image to enlarge.

The second parks plan adopted was for Buckley and Penzer Parks.

The plan is very much focused on creating an older youth-oriented action park near 200th Street, a passive nature area, and upgraded sports fields at Buckely Park. The proposed multi-use path throughout the parks will connect 200th Street to Surrey’s Hi-Knoll Park.

Buckley and Penzer Parks Master Plan. Select image to enlarge.

Buckley and Penzer Parks Master Plan phasing and budget. Select image to enlarge.

One of the concerns expressed by members of council was how people will safely get across 200th Street into Penzer Parks. The parks plan does include a trail which will focus people down to the 48th Avenue intersection, but a plan will likely need to be developed around making 200th Street safer near Penzer Park.

Rear-in, angle-in parking hasn’t worked out very well in our downtown core as the majority of angled parking is front-in angle parking. Council approved making all parking front-in angle parking in the downtown with the changes shown in the following pictures. This will result in a net gain of three parking spots.

Changes to parking lot at Fraser Highway near Glover Road.

Changes to parking along Park Avenue.

City council also received a report on the results of the 2016 community survey. I’ll be posting about this report next week.

Discrimination and prejudice is still very much alive in our world. Langley City Council decided to take a stand, and say that we value all people in our community by passing the following motion.

WHEREAS The City of Langley is an inclusive and diverse community that acknowledges and respects all people regardless of their colour, race, region, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability; and

WHEREAS The Rainbow Flag is an international symbol of inclusiveness and diversity; and

WHEREAS The Rainbow Flag is general flown during summer months by municipalities throughout the region, the province, and our nation;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT City of Langley staff amend Council Policy CO-33 ‘Flag Raising Policy’ by no later May 31, 2017 to include adequate and appropriate guidelines and parameters which will result in the flying of a Rainbow Flag for a one week period annually anytime during the month of June or July as an expression of City Council’s sentiments.

The only person who didn’t vote in favour of the motion was Councillor Jack Arnold.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 25, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Part 2 of 3. New Development Projects, Business Retention & Recruitment Strategy, and Arts Project approved.

Yesterday, I posted about the changes Langley City Council approved to regulate thrift stores and donation drop off bins in the community. Today, I’ll be posting about two development permits, and committee reports that council adopted.

During the Committee of the Whole on Monday, the proponents who were seeking a development permit for 5967 206A Street gave a presentation about their proposed project. The permit was to allow the completion of the final phase of an industrial building complex. The first phase of this project was completed in 1994, and the second phase was completed in 2001. There was a previous development permit issued for the final phase, but it expired. This final phase includes a caretaker suite plus a warehouse.

The following drawing shows the final phase in relation to the rest of the project.

Approved final phase addition in hatched area for 5967 206A Street. Select image to enlarge.

There was no public comment on the project during the Committee of the Whole, and council approved the development permit during a later part of the meeting.

Council also gave final reading for a rezoning, and issued a development permit to allow the construction of a 21 unit townhouse project at 20721/20725 Fraser Highway. I posted about this project previously.

Council received an updated Business Retention and Recruitment Strategy. In order to attracted and keep businesses in our community, the strategy noted that the City should be working on the following broad themes:

  • Invest in Revitalization/Public Realm Improvements
  • Marketing as a Retail Centre
  • Target Specific Areas for Business Recruitment
  • Focus Recruitment Efforts on Independent Businesses
  • Enhance Clusters through Recruitment
  • Engage Social Media
  • Expand Business Walk Program
  • Attract Affluent Buyers

Based on these themes, the follow ten priorities were identified:

  • Approach hotels to promote tourism video
  • Proceed with downtown public realm improvements
  • Conduct survey of downtown property owners and businesses with Downtown Langley Merchants Association
  • Approach Willowbrook Mall to investigate a tenant referral program
  • Conduct ‘Competitive Study” to ensure that the City has the most effective zoning for the types of commercial and industrial development it is targeting
  • Develop “Direct Approach Kit” to encourage businesses to either relocate or to open an additional business in the City
  • Conduct Architectural Scheme for a unified building design of downtown buildings
  • Develop initiatives to attract more affluent residents to the City
  • Expand Special Event Programing to Innes Corners Plaza
  • Invest in Public Amenities

Ensuring that we are investing the public realm and amenities (streets, sidewalks, lighting, underground infrastructure), plus expanding events and festivals throughout Downtown Langley are my top two priorities.

The City’s Parks, Recreation and Environment Advisory Committee put forward a recommendation that the City participate in the Canada 150 Mural Mosaic project, and that the location of the mural be permanently placed in a visible location in the community.

As part of the Canada 150 Celebration, 150 communities will create 150 murals that represent each of the respective communities. These murals will be linked virtually to create an image of a train. The following is an example from Oakville, Ontario.

Example mural mosaic from Oakville, Ontario. Select image to enlarge.

The creation of the mural is a joint project between professional artists and community members. I believe it will be a great opportunity for people in Langley City to be involved in celebrating Canada's 150th. Council approved the recommendation from the Parks, Recreation and Environment Advisory Committee.

Council also heard a presentation from Cliff Steward who is the VP of Infrastructure at Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. He gave an update on the port and its values. You can read more about this on the port’s website.

While the Port is vital to the economy of our region and Canada, there are some negative impacts from its operation. In Langley City, the high volume of trains cause major delays on the Langley Bypass, Fraser Highway, and 200th Street. The overpasses built along the rail corridor in Langley City were meant to mitigate some of the impacts from increased rail traffic. The Port was a funding partner in the overpass project program.

During the presentation, Steward noted that 200th Street was a candidate for a future funding partnership to build an under or overpass. I asked him about Fraser Highway, and he said that it was not on the table.

There are some concerns about port activities that could be harming human health. Coal dust and diesel exhaust from locomotives are a few examples of concerns as it relates to the health of people who live in Langley City.

Others on council plus myself asked about the health impacts of port traffic, and if the port would do a human health assessment for the whole region. We were told this is something that is not currently being planned.

There was also some questions from members of council if GHG emissions from the Port’s activities would be factored into the environmental review of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project. Steward noted that with the change in federal government, GHG emissions were now part of the current environmental review for the project. He also noted that they are working to improve the standards required for trucks that are allowed to access the port to reduce the amount of trucks, and improve the environmental performance of trucks.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the administrative reports and council motions from Monday’s meeting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 25, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Part 1 of 3. Council supports regulation of thrift stores and donation bins.

Last night was the last City of Langley council meeting before the August summer break. As it was the last meeting, the agenda was dense.

Normally with these council meeting notes, I go in chronological order of the meeting. This week, the notes will be group in themes.

Around 50 people attended the public hearing for the proposed changes to our zoning bylaw. The changes included limiting new thrift stores from being located within 400 meters of an existing thrift store, and prohibiting new donation drop off bins from being located anywhere in the City.

The City received two letters in support of the proposed bylaw changes, and two letters from thrift store operators expressing concern that the bylaw was too heavy handed.

Before hearing from people in the council chamber, Gerald Minchuk who is the Director of Development Services & Economic Development provided an overview of the proposed changes, and noted that existing thrift store would still be allowed, as would current donation drop off bins.

There were four people that spoke at the public hearing. One person was the operator of Thrift for Kids, and wondered if they could move locations or expand into a new unit once the bylaw is passed. They also asked why the bylaw used 400 meters as the buffer. Mr. Minchuk noted that while current thrift stores would still be allowed to operate, they could not move or expand into a different unit unless they were 400 meters from another thrift store. Mr. Minchuk also said the 400 meter rule was based on the previous 400 meter restriction put in place for pharmacies.

The next speaker was Teri James who is the Executive Director of the Downtown Langley Merchants Association. She spoke in favor of the proposed changes. The third speaker was a board member of Hope for Children Thrift Store. He asked if council had any questions about the letter he sent which expressed some concerns about the proposed bylaw changes. There were no questions from council.

The final speaker was from the Langley Association for Community Living. He noted that some donation bins in our community are for local non-profits that help people directly in Langley. He wanted council to consider allowing bins from local non-profits while restricting other donation drop off bins.

After the public hearing, there was a Committee of the Whole to get public input on proposed changes to our Business Licensing and Regulation Bylaw which would require thrift stores to have an attendant present whenever items are being received, and to post signage at every entrance stating the hours during which items will be received. It would also require that areas around drop off bins be tidy by conducting daily inspections and clean up.

At the Committee of the Whole, Teri James spoke in favour of the proposed changes as a representative of the Downtown Langley Merchants Association.

After the public hearing and Committee of the Whole, council voted on the proposed bylaw changes to regulate new thrift stores from locating within 400 meters of another thrift store, and preventing new donation drop off bin from being placed in the City.

I was the first person to speak about the proposed changes. I was in full support of limiting donation drop off bin because I see the negative impacts they cause to our public realm. I also spoke about the need to ensure that there was a healthy business mix in our Downtown Core while understanding the value that thrift stores provide for people in our community. Because existing thrift stores will be allowed to remain, I noted that I would support the bylaw to ensure that we have a healthy mix of businesses in Langley. I also said that I’d be happy to revisit this bylaw in the future and remove the 400 meter restriction if need be.

Councillor Storteboom hesitantly supported the bylaw though he had personal concerns with the bylaw as he believed that it would limit competition and not be effective. He noted that the issue wasn’t about thrift stores, but how certainly retail stores present themselves. He said that he would be supportive of community standard bylaws to help ensure that retail businesses put their best face forward to their customers and the public realm.

Councillor Storteboom put forward a resolution to place a five year limit on the 400 meter rule which I seconded. City staff advised that this wasn’t required as Council can amend the zoning bylaw at any time. For example, if there was a new thrift store proposed, the proponent could always ask for a change to the bylaw. In the end, no one on council supported placing a limit on the 400 meter rule.

Councillor Albrecht was supportive of the proposed bylaw changes, but noted that council seems to be reactionary when it comes to our zoning bylaw, and said that he would like to see us become more proactive.

Councillor van den Broek also commented about the reactionary nature of this bylaw, and noted that both businesses and the City need to work together to ensure that all businesses put their best faces forward, so that council doesn’t have to make the bylaw changes that such as the ones being proposed.

Councillor Martin was supportive of the bylaw changes while Councillor Arnold was not.

The proposed bylaw changes were approved with only Councillor Arnold opposed. Council also approved the Business Licensing and Regulation Bylaw changes.

Finally, Council approved the updated fee schedule for current donation drop off bins. I wrote about the updated fees on a previous blog post.

The decision to limit new thrift stores in our community was a difficult decision for me. Based on the feedback I received from both the business community and people that call Langley home, I believe these bylaw changes will be good for our community. If we need to change these bylaws in the future, I have no problem with that.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the presentation we received from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority as well as about committee reports.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Improving sidewalk and transit stop safety with yellow tactile walking surfaces

One of the reasons why I ran for Langley City Council is to advocate for improving the sidewalks in our community. When I’m in other municipalities, I’m always on the look out to see how they are improving sidewalks in their communities.

The City of Abbotsford has been doing some impressive work over the last little bit planning for, and improving their public realm to support the creation of a walkable, livable community. Safe sidewalks are one of the indigents required to build a walkable community.

McCallum Road is one of the streets in Abbotsford that is in transition. Some sections of the street have super narrow sidewalks and strip malls, but as it redevelops, it is being transformed into a walkable corridor that could support frequent transit service.

Sidewalk safety is a big deal, and I was pleased to see that Abbotsford appears to be taking sidewalk safety seriously as it redevelops McCallum Road.

Yellow tactile walking surface installed at intersection on McCallum Road in Abbotsford. Select image to enlarge.

Yellow tactile walking surface indicates
the location of transit stops along McCallum Road in Abbotsford. Select image to enlarge.

As you can see in the preceding pictures, the City of Abbotsford has installed yellow tactile walking surfaces at bus stops and intersections. This strips let people who are visually impaired know when they are leaving the sidewalk and entering the street. There is a great post on the Civil PDX blog which provides a detailed overview of tactile walking strips, and how they help people.

These strips can also be used to provide directional guidance, and as in the case of Abbotsford, to indicate the location of transit stops.

These strips also provide visual cues to both people who are driving and have full visions, and can improve overall safety for everyone.

In Metro Vancouver, TransLink provides guidance on how to incorporate tactile surfaces at bus stops. Here is an example of a new transit stop at King George SkyTrain Station.

Transit stop at King George SkyTrain Station in Surrey. Select image to enlarge.

It would be great to see tactile walking surfaces installed at intersections and transit stops in Langley City as we rebuild our sidewalk network to improve safety for everyone.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The trouble with minimum parking requirements

When someone builds or significantly renovates housing, offices, or retail and commercial buildings, they are usually subject to minimum on-site parking requirements throughout municipalities in Canada.

Building parking spots is expensive, and building structured or underground parking is even more expensive. Minimum parking requirements add to the cost of business and make housing less affordable.

A surface parking space costs around $5,000-$10,000 to build. Structure parking costs around $15,000 to $25,000 and up per space to build. This does not included ongoing maintenance costs.

Minimum parking requirements significantly impact urban forum, and can take away from creating walkable, livable communities. The Langley Bypass is the perfect example of this.

So why were minimum on-site parking requirements put into zoning bylaws in the first place? To deal with people parking on the street, using all available curb spaces. The idea was that if you required enough on-site, off-street parking, people wouldn’t park on the street.

Unfortunately, people will park on the street (if it is free) no matter how much on-site parking is provided. There are some good examples of this in Langley City’s Downtown Core and in Willoughby.

Getting minimum parking requirements correct is near next to impossible. For example, a Starbucks and cheque cashing business were built on a former section of parking lot at Valley Centre Mall in Downtown Langley. Because of minimum parking requirements, they were required to build an additional parking lot adjacent to the mall. As you can see, this parking lot isn’t used.

A Starbucks and cheque cashing business were added to a former section of parking lot in Valley Centre Mall on Fraser Highway.

An empty surface parking lot built to meet Langley City minimum parking requirements is located behind the mall on Industrial Avenue.

Are their better ways to manage parking? There certainly are! The paper Smart Growth Alternatives to Minimum Parking Requirements by Christopher V. Forinash, Adam Millard-Ball, Charlotte Dougherty and Jeffrey Tumlin provides some great alternatives.

It is critically important that on-street parking is properly managed. In commercial areas, this generally means pricing parking to ensure there is always a few spaces available. In residential areas where there is an over-subscription to on-street parking, permitting generally should be considered.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Some more information on the 2016 Transit Report Card

Earlier this week, I released the 2nd Annual Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions. Over the last few days, I’ve had the opportunity to talk about the results of that report card. I thought I would share some of the interviews that I gave about it.

The first interview is from Global BC 1 where I provide some context around the report card, and what some of the metrics mean.

The second interview is from Roundhouse Radio. The interview starts at 33:20. Some of the things that we talked about were the differences between perception and reality when it comes to TransLink. We also talked about how TransLink’s service optimization has been effective in creating a transit system that, more so than other agencies in Canada, matches service with demand. I also noted that without any further investment in transit operations, we will see a degradation of transit service quality in Metro Vancouver.

Listen to the Roundhouse Radio Interview

Monday, July 18, 2016

2016 Transit Report Card Released: Montreal leads; Metro Vancouver maintains “A” grade

Public transit is a critical component of the transportation network of major Canadian urban regions. How, though, do our transit systems perform? While this information is available, it hasn’t been easily accessible to the average Canadian. This is why I, with the help of urban planner Paul Hillsdon, launched a Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions last year.

People are very passionate about transit and that leads to very strong opinions about transit service providers. Unfortunately, many of these opinions are based on purely anecdotal evidence. These transit reports card, however, provide an evidence-based evaluation of transit service.

New in this year’s report card is a section tracking national median metrics. The operating cost of providing transit service slightly increased between 2013 and 2014 due to inflationary pressures (2014 is the most recent year for which complete data is available.) Transit service hours also slightly decreased which resulted in a slight decrease in passenger trips per capita.

Passenger Trip Intensity slightly increased at a national level meaning that transit agencies in Canada’s major urban regions have become more efficient.

Investing in transit service is of critical importance. In 2014, investment in new transit service hours did not keep up with population growth. With a new federal government, there has been renewed interest in investing in public transit projects. Equally important is investment in on-going operations costs. This, of course, takes the leadership of provincial and local governments.

Montreal was the only region in Canada to see an increase in its grade as its operating cost per service hour came in line with other regions in Canada. The Montreal region is by far the best performing major region in Canada.

Metro Vancouver was the only other region to maintain its “A” grade. TransLink continues to provide the most efficient transit service of the regions evaluated. While TransLink has the highest operating cost per service hour, because it is also one of the most efficient agencies, it has a lower operating cost per trip compared to the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area.

Download the 2016 Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

July 11, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Part 3 of 3. Regulating thrift stores, 203rd Street project moving forward, showing we are an inclusive community

This will be the third and final post about Monday night’s City of Langley Council Meeting. For the full story, please read part one then part two.

City of Langley Council gave final reading to an updated Waterworks Regulation Bylaw. You can read more about this on a previous blog post. Council also gave final reading to amend our Officer Establishment Bylaw. This amended bylaw now allows the CAO, Director of Development Services and Economic Development, and the Director of Engineering, Parks and Environment to have signing authority for the City.

Over the last little while, there has been a large increase in the number of thrift stores in the community. This has caused some concern to people, and resulted in a letter from the Downtown Langley BIA requesting that council consider regulating the number of thrift stores in the community. There has also been concern about donation drop boxes as they can become unsightly with debris and items left around them.

To address these concerns, City of Langley staff developed three bylaw amendments for council to consider.

The first bylaw amendment would prevent new thrift stores from being opened with 400 meters of any other thrift store. All current thrift stores would be allowed to operate as per BC law. Council gave first and second reading to this bylaw amendment. The bylaw amendment would also prevent any new donation drop boxes from being placed in the City. Councillor van den Broek and Councillor Storteboom did not vote in favour of giving first and second reading. Some of their concerns were that businesses should be treated equally, and that council shouldn’t be getting so prescriptive with business regulations. I understanding their perspectives. For example, the City has a lot of sushi restaurants. Should we regulate the number of sushi restaurants too? I believe that Council needs to carefully consider all bylaws that place restrictions on what types of businesses we allow, or don't, in our community.

This proposed bylaw change will be heading to a public hearing to get input from the community.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to a proposed amendment to our Business License and Regulation Bylaw. This amendment would require thrift stores that receive goods to have a person attending the donation acceptance area at all time when donated items can be dropped off, place clear signs around the donation acceptance area noting when items can be dropped off, and require a daily cleanup of the area expect for Sundays and holidays.

Council gave first, second, and third reading to amend our Fees and Charges Bylaw for existing donation drop boxes in the community. The City would require a $173 fee, plus an additional $100 for each donation drop box that is on private property.

Council approved a staff recommendation to award the tender of the 203rd Street project to Eurovia.

Over the last year, there has been an increase in violence around the world towards people who are sexual and visual minorities. Talking with some other members of council, we wanted to find a way to show that Langley City acknowledges and respects all people in our community. On Monday, I put forward a notice of motion that the City of Langley fly a rainbow flag one week during the summer to show that we are a community that accepts people no matter their colour, race, region, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July 11, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Part 2 of 3. Engineering department busy, Fire Service resource challenged, community grants awarded

As I posted yesterday, Monday night’s City of Langley Council Meeting was packed with content as we had many quarterly updates from the RCMP and municipal departments. I covered off the first part of Monday’s meeting yesterday, and will be continuing with part 2 of 3 today.

Councillor Storteboom gave his update on Metro Vancouver as he is a director on the regional district’s board. The big news he highlighted was Metro Vancouver’s opposition to the Massey Tunnel replacement project as currently proposed by the province. You can read more information about this at Metro Vancouver’s website. Councillor Albrecht and myself both said that we supported Metro Vancouver’s opposition at Monday's meeting.

Councillor Storteboom also noted that all municipalities that signed onto the provincial government's Climate Action Charter are now “zero-emission” in their operations. I asked if this was because of carbon offsets, and was informed that this was the case. Carbon offsets allow a community to continue creating GHG emissions, but pay to support projects that reduce GHG emissions elsewhere.

Finally, Councillor Storteboom noted the opening of the new Metro Vancouver Barnston/Maple Ridge water pumping station which will supply Maple Ridge, the Township of Langley, the City of Langley, and Surrey.

Councillors Martin next gave a Tourism Langley update. She noted that hotel owners are in favour of maintaining the current 2% hotel tax. Council will be voting on this later in the fall. She also noted that overnight stays are up in Langley compared to the same period last year.

Next, council received an updated from Rick Bomhof who is the Director of Engineering, Parks and Environment. The City of Langley has been busy keeping our community functioning. Some of the major projects on the go include:

  • Ongoing boulevard maintenance, hydrant maintenance, and sewer line robot video inspections.
  • Nicomekl River Gabion Wall Replacement.
  • Traffic Signal Upgrade at 200 Street and Grade Crescent.
  • 51 Ave Waterman Replacement (East of 200 Street).
  • 200 Street Paving.
  • Brydon Lagoon Outlet Culvert Replacement.
  • Production Way, Fraser Hwy, 56 Ave Detail Design for Future Upgrade.
  • Traffic Calming along 48 Ave at Simonds Elementary School.
  • Water & Sewer Computer Model Updates to help find deficiencies in our systems.
  • Brydon Lagoon pathway upgrades to improve accessibility and address the stair issue that was recently featured in the news.

I asked if the City of Langley posts this information online, so people can see all the projects that the City is working on. I was told no, but that it could be looked into. Ideally, it would be nice to see this on a map where people can click to find out more information on the various projects.

Next Director of Recreation, Culture and Community Services Kim Hilton provided an update on events and recreational opportunities available in the City. She thanked everyone who helped out during the very wet Community Day. One of the things that I’m proud of is that we provide a lot of opportunities for people to engage in positive actives through our programs. I’m sure that many of the programs that the City offers ensures that people have positive outlets for their energy, reducing negative activity in the community.

We received an update on Langley City Fire-Rescue Service by Fire Chief Rory Thompson. Medical calls still make of 81% of calls that our first responders attend to. As noted earlier this year, Thompson said that drug overdose calls are still way up compared to last year. He noted that in one 24 hour period in January, our first responders attended to 11 drug overdoses.

The City of Langley also had significant fire losses on May 3rd when two house on 196A Street caught on fire. It was a loss of over $1 million.

Our Fire-Rescue Service is extremely busy. Besides responding to calls, the service also has a role in preventing fires by doing build inspections. We have around 3,000 inspectable properties in Langley City. I asked how we were doing with inspections. We aren’t keeping up. It is clear to me that we have some resourcing issues that need to be addressed.

Council also approved the following community grants from the second grant application intake period.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley: $3,656.00
Boys and Girls Club: $1,700.00
Healthier Community Partnership: $1,500.00
Langley Children’s Society (Child Development Centre): $1,400.00
Langley Senior Resources Society: $4,297.68
Parkinson Society BC: $158.60
Ron Dunkley Memorial Society: $1,500.00
Terry Fox Run: $800.00
Triple A Senior Housing (LACL): $1,800.00
Wagner Hill Farm Society: $1,000.00
You’ve Gotta Have Friends: $2,500.00

Tomorrow, I will conclude my notes about Monday night’s council meeting.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 11, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Part 1 of 3. Property crime up, creating an accessible province

Last night was a fairly packed Council Meeting as we had a series of quarterly updates from the RCMP and various municipal departments. Today’s post will cover the first third of the meeting, tomorrow’s post will cover the majority of the departmental reports, and Thursday’s post will cover the remainder of the meeting including bylaws that were voted on.

At the top of the meeting, an opportunity for public input was provided for people to comment on Bylaw 2993. This bylaw increases the budget of the 203rd Street project to cover additional items such as a seismic upgrade to the Nicomekl Bridge, LED street lights, and enhanced pedestrian safety features. There was no public input provided. Later in the meeting, Council gave final reading to this bylaw which passed.

Next, council heard a presentation from Reed Poynter from Barrier Free BC. This organization is advocating for a provincial British Columbians with Disabilities Act. According to Poynter, there are over 600,000 British Columbians with disabilities, but there is currently no comprehensive legislation to ensure that people will disabilities are able to fully participate in society.

For example, Poynter is blind. He noted that there is a lack of available drug information in a format he can use. He also noted the challenge he has with electronic payment machines. The information is only presented for people who are not visually impaired. As someone with limited vision, you have to trust that you aren’t getting ripped off. He said that if they can make GPS units talk, surely they can make talking payment machines.

The legislation that Barrier Free BC is advocating for would require that things such as debit machine be accessible for everyone. It would also ensure that businesses provide equal access to everyone, and that our built-form can accommodate most people.

The federal government is currently working on a Canadians with Disabilities Act, but this would only cover things that are within federal jurisdiction. This is why provincial acts are also needed. Barrier Free BC is hoping that local governments pass motions in support of a British Columbians with Disabilities Act.

I know that this is something that I support, as do others on council. At the upcoming UBCM convention, resolutions are put forward on behalf of all local governments in the province. City staff will be checking to see if there is a British Columbians with Disabilities Act support resolution.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a motion to support a British Columbians with Disabilities Act is put forward at a future council meeting as well.

Council heard from Emmy Skates who is the new Executive Director on the Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope. She provided a brief bio of herself, and noted that she lives in Langley.

After these presentations, we received the second quarter report from Superintendent Murray Power, Officer in Charge of the Langley detachment of the RCMP.

Power noted that property crime was up 28% percent over the same period last year. Theft from auto was were the largest increase occurred. Power said that they did a good job of cleaning up the streets. This caused a vacuum which has since been filled with a new collection of criminals. He said that the RCMP is working on identifying these people to get them off the streets. The property crime wave stretches along the whole 200th Street corridor from Highway 1 to Langley City.

Power stated that Langley is experiencing an upward trend in property crime while it is going down in the rest of the region. He noted that this is the reverse of the last few years where property crime was going down in Langley while it was going up in the rest of the region.

On a more positive note, crimes against people such as assaults as well as robberies are below the five-year average.

Power also presented stats about our road network. There have been no fatal collisions this year on roads in Langley City. He attributed this to the design of our road network in the City which encourages slower speeds.

I asked Power what we need to be thinking about to reduce the opportunities to commit crime in Langley City. He noted that people need to make sure they aren’t keeping thing in the open in their vehicles. He also noted that we need to have a community dialogue about the root causes of crime, and what can be done to address those root causes. I asked if this could be led by the RCMP. He stated that while the RCMP would like to be partners in the process, it would need to be led by someone else.

I also asked him about the increase in people who are homeless and any relationship it might have with increased property crime in Langley City. He said that people who are camping are less of a concern from a crime perspective than the people who loitering in areas such as by the Dollarama.

Tomorrow, I will continue with the next section of last night’s council meeting.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard draws questionable conclusions about transportation and land-use

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade recently released its Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard 2016. Their scorecard evaluates Metro Vancouver to other world-class regions based on various economic and social indicators. It is well worth exploring this scorecard as it provides some meaningful insights into the strengths of our region, and where we can improve.

Overall, our region was in the middle of the pack. The biggest takeaway from the scorecard was that there needs to be “greater regional co-ordination among the municipalities that make up Greater Vancouver.” I would tend to agree with that. The scorecard highlights some of the challenges currently facing our region, but some of the challenges as articulated in the scorecard have some questionable content.

The scorecard outlines seven challenges our region faces. The first three identified in the summary report of the scorecard are: lack of investment in public transit and roads, housing affordability, and land scarcity for enabling trade.

The authors of the scorecard suggest that our region build more transit and more roads. While I agree with building more transit, building things like the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge (which the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade supports) shouldn’t be a priority.

Singapore received the top overall score in the scorecard. The city-state also had a higher score than Metro Vancouver when it came to average travel time to work.

Singapore is currently investing in public transit to move from its current 63% peak-hour public transit mode share to 75% in 2030. At the same time, they are investing in active transportation like cycling. To drive in Singapore, you have to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement and are subject to road pricing.

Infographic about Singapore's Certificate of Entitlement. Select graphic to enlarge.

Another conclusion that the authors of the scorecard draw is that a “lack of available land for new residential development is another key factor behind rising home prices.” They further concluded that “vacant land suitable for trade and goods movement could be exhausted within 10 years.”

Land spectators, and even the provincial government, have been chipping away at the agricultural land reserve for years. Housing affordability, and to some extent the call for more industrial land, is now being used as a way to try and pave over even more farmland.

Map of protected land in Singapore. Select map to enlarge.

Again, let's look at top-rated Singapore in the scorecard. It is an island city-state that is 719 square kilometres. Metro Vancouver is 2877 square kilometres. Singapore significantly beats Metro Vancouver in the Economic Scorecard when it comes to affordable housing. Both our region and Singapore have large ports and protected areas. Paving over farmland is not the solution.

While the Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard 2016 is a great document, I have to question some of the conclusions it draws.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Coming Soon: The Illustrated Guide to Climate Change Fighting Housing

Through grants, the Metro Vancouver regional district has been providing funding to create tools to help local governments and residents reduce energy usage, thereby reducing GHG emissions. In Metro Vancouver, around 40% of GHG emissions are from buildings and the built-form of our communities. Designing more energy-efficient neighbourhoods and buildings is not only critical to combating climate change, but can save people money.

Metro Vancouver has provided $60,000 over two years to the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning at UBC. One of the projects that they completed previously was the Community Energy Explorer. This highly-graphical and easy to understand website, including maps and illustration, “provides a set of tools for exploring community energy.” It’s a very interesting site.

The Metro Vancouver funding, which is being combined with funding from other partner, will be used to make further enhancement to the Community Energy Explorer website. One of the other projects that is being funded will create a Neighbourhood Toolkit for Climate Action.

The following illustrations are a sneak peek of what they are working on.

An archetype small character home and accompanying resident narrative for the West Vancouver energy archetypes project. Source: Nicole Miller, CALP. Select image to enlarge.

Energy retrofit options for the small character home from the West Vancouver energy archetypes project. Source: Nicole Miller, CALP. Select image to enlarge.

Based on this West Vancouver archetype example for a small character home, it becomes clear that retrofitting a small home can be more energy efficient, thereby further reducing GHG emissions than building a new, larger house.

It will be exciting to see the full results once this project is completed. Presenting information in an accessible manner is critically important for reaching a wider amount of decision makers and residents in the region, and will hopefully result in more energy efficient neighbourhoods.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Compass Card Statistics: Revenue Up, Ridership Up

TransLink recently posted up the presentations from its most recent open board meeting on June 23, 2016. One of the more interesting sections is on the Compass Card. In the first three months of the year, TransLink has achieved 100% conversion of paper monthly passes to Compass passes. This is no surprise as paper monthly passes are no longer available. A very impressive statistic is that only 5% of all transit revenue is from cash fares now.

Cash revenue from bus fareboxes in 2015/16. Select chart to enlarge.

One of the other interesting statistics is the increase in revenue due to the Compass Card. TransLink discontinued paper FareSaver tickets in January. In that month, fare revenue was down. As people converted to Compass Card starting in February, there was an increase in revenue. This increase started even before the faregates were closed.

Fare revenue, first five months 2016 and 2015. Select chart to enlarge.

The next chart show the large uptick in Compass Card user ridership starting slowly in February, and ramping up during the month of March. Almost 2/3rds of passenger boardings are on buses.

Passenger boarding by mode, first five months 2016. Select chart to enlarge.

I’ve always been a supporter of the Compass Card (independent of the faregates.) It’s really good to see that the system is having a positive impact on revenue. It’s way more convenient to use for the majority of people who use transit than the old paper-based system. It will be interesting to see if the increase in revenue is sustained over the year.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Increased access to rental subsidies key to affordable housing

The topics of affordable housing and reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness in Langley City is definitely something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately since being elected to council. Last week, I posted about the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy.

One of the key initiative of that program is getting people into stable housing. There are two principles to the approach worth highlighting. The first approach is the support of rental subsidies; the idea being that 30% of any income would go towards rent, with the difference between the market rental rate and contribution being subsidized by the government.

The second approach is based on providing housing that is scattered throughout the community. This approach to housing “respond[s] to client choice, minimize[s] stigma and encourage[s] client social integration, more attention should be given to scattered-site housing in the public or private rental markets.” For more information on this approach, there is great information available from the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.

Community-based support is part of any housing first strategy. The challenge with purpose-built, 100% subsidized housing is that it can and does lead to ghettoization.

The provincial government provides rental subsidies for families and people over the age of 60 that make under $35,000 per year.

If the provincial and federal governments are really serious about affordable housing, these rental assistance programs need to be expanded. These program should be available for housing first programs; and for people who are working or seniors, and are below the Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut-off. Eligible people should only have to contribute 30% of their income to housing.

So what is the role of municipalities in providing affordable housing? For one, we need to ensure that our development policies encourage high quality, market-priced, purposed-built rental housing. This includes one, two, and three bedroom apartments as well as townhouses. New Westminster’s Secured Market Rental Housing Policy is a good example of this.

While municipalities can help ensure that affordable housing is available by promoting increased construction of purpose-built rental housing, it will take on-going provincial and federal financial support to ensure that people have access to affordable housing.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Metro Vancouver + Fraser Valley Regional District = Better Together

With the whole Brexit situation in Europe right now, I’ve been thinking about regional districts in the Lower Mainland. Regional districts in British Columbia are sort of like a mini version of the EU. A collection of autonomous governments come together in a federation to work for the mutual benefit of everyone in the regional district.

For example, the region pools its resources together to provide clean drinking water, 911 services, public housing, sewer treatment, solid waste management, air quality management, and large parks/conservation services. These are things that each municipality in regions couldn’t do efficiently on their own.

Langley City would certainly be in a pickle if we weren’t part of a regional district; we certainly wouldn’t be able to go it alone.

I’ve also been thinking a bit about what if the Lower Mainland was one regional district. This would include what is currently “Metro Vancouver” plus Abbotsford, Mission, and Chilliwack. We share the same watershed and air shed. Abbotsford is already a part of the Metro Vancouver parks system, and could likely benefit from Metro Vancouver's water services.

We are also are completely economically linked. For example, the West Coast Express already goes to Missions. There are also two transit routes that connect Abbotsford to Metro Vancouver, and one transit route that connects Chilliwack to Metro Vancouver.

Trips leaving the Abbotsford. Source: Fraser Valley Travel Patterns - Findings from the 2008 Trip Diary Survey

Trips leaving Chilliwack. Source: Fraser Valley Travel Patterns - Findings from the 2008 Trip Diary Survey

Trip leaving Mission. Source: Fraser Valley Travel Patterns - Findings from the 2008 Trip Diary Survey

More people from Abbotsford travel to Metro Vancouver than to Mission and Chilliwack combined on a daily bases. In Mission, about the same about of people travel to Metro Vancouver as to Abbotsford. There is a good amount of people that travel from Chilliwack to Metro Vancouver daily too.

Trips leaving the Northeast Sector. Source: 2011 Metro Vancouver Regional Trip Diary Survey

The same goes for Metro Vancouver. People that live in the Northeast Sector are just as likely to travel to Langley as to Mission, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack.

Of course, there are some negatives when you are part of a federation such as Metro Vancouver. You don’t always get exactly what you want, but the benefits of working together far outweigh the negatives.

Likely the biggest concern that most municipalities have about being in a regional district is regional land use planning. Regional land use planning is required by the province to prevent sprawl as historically municipalities haven't done a good job of limiting sprawl.

The Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy seems draconian to municipalities that have a significant amount of farmland and rural land. Having Mission, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack at the table would certainly give the more rural municipalities a stronger combined voice.

The Lower Mainland has a world-leading form of local government. Municipalities can be small enough to have a deep understanding of local issues, and a passion to implement solutions in their community. At the same time, regional districts take care of all the big things that should be addressed at a larger scale.