Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Future of South of Fraser Rapid Transit on the Table Thursday

Thursday morning will be the first meeting of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation since the local government elections. Normally, inaugural meetings including items like appointing chairs, allowing people to get up to speed on the details of the current work plan, and developing a work plan for the coming year. With 75% of the mayors serving their first term, this would be a significant meeting with just those items.

With the new mandate in Surrey to halt development of light rail along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue, and build SkyTrain along Fraser Highway instead, this meeting will also lay the groundwork for the future of transit for the over 800,000 people that call the South of Fraser home.

A typical cross section of SkyTrain as proposed for Fraser Highway. Select image to enlarge.

Mayors’ Council staff is asking mayors to approve the following recommendation:

  1. Endorse TransLink’s decision to suspend the Surrey-Newton-Guildford Project, stopping all expenditures of money and resources on the project, based on the request from the City of Surrey;
  2. Use the 10-Year Vision as the basis for South of Fraser rapid transit planning, recognizing the City of Surrey request to change the technology and timing of the Fraser Highway project from LRT to SkyTrain, and draw only on the available funding currently allocated for South of Fraser rapid transit in the Phase Two Plan, and the financial framework for the Phase Three Plan.
  3. Request the additional analysis and a work plan on “Option 2” in this report, for consideration at the December 13, 2018 meeting of the Mayors’ Council to:
    1. Start immediately with planning, consultation, design and procurement readiness works for the SkyTrain on Fraser Highway project, building on the 2017 SkyTrain design study; and concurrently to,
    2. Initiate a planning process to refresh the South of Fraser transit strategy.

What this means is that if the resolution is approved, Mayors’ Council staff would start the process of implementing SkyTrain along Fraser Highway in two phases. There is currently $1.6 billion available to build SkyTrain along Fraser Highway. The total cost to build SkyTrain is around $2.9 billion.

As noted in the report, “given the funding available in Phase Two [today], management advises that is likely that SkyTrain from Surrey to Langley would have to be constructed in two phases, the first using available Phase Two funding, and the second phase to complete the line to Langley, commencing once the Phase Three Plan is funded and approved.” Planning for SkyTrain along the whole corridor would start right away if the resolution is approved.

Additionally, there could be impacts to the timing of the Fraser Highway B-Line which was scheduled to start service in 2019.

In order for SkyTrain to make its way to Langley, new funding will need to be approved. Ideally, the federal and provincial governments would commit to an accelerated funding program. The Mayors’ Council would also have to approve a regional funding component which has historical been sourced by increasing property tax and gas tax.

Building SkyTrain to UBC has been expressed as a priority for the City of Vancouver. The Mayors’ Council will also need to figure out the priority of this project, how much it will cost, and how it will be funded. There is also the question of the future of rapid transit along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue in Surrey that will need to be answered.

The new Mayors’ Council will have a full plate over the next few years. If all the pieces fall into place, SkyTrain along Fraser Highway could start construction in 2021/22.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Battery-electric and double decker buses coming to a transit route near you

Every year, the federal government distributes around 2 billion dollars to municipalities throughout Canada. This program is called the Federal Gas Tax Fund, and can be used for a broad range of infrastructure projects. In Metro Vancouver, municipalities decided that 95% of the fund be dedicated for public transit projects. This funding is used almost exclusively to purchase new buses for TransLink.

Every year, TransLink submits a list of projects to the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board for approval. This year TransLink is looking to purchase the following:

Project Vehicles Cost (Millions)
2020 Conventional (Double Decker) Bus Purchases for Modernization 25 double decker diesel buses $32.32
2020 Conventional 60’ Hybrid and 40’ Battery Electric Bus Purchases for Expansion 62 60‐ft hybrid buses, 6 40‐ft battery electric buses $109
2020 HandyDART Vehicle Purchases for Modernization 42 gasoline vehicles $6.45
2020 HandyDART Vehicle Purchases for Expansion 10 gasoline vehicles $1.6
2020 Community Shuttle Purchases 9 gasoline vehicles $2.22

One of the interesting purchases is for 25 double decker diesel buses which will replace the current yellow highway coaches that run on routes such as the 555 between Carvolth Exchange and Lougheed Town Centre.

TransLink is also proposing to buy 6 40-ft battery electric buses. These buses are proposed to run on the 100 between 22nd Street Station and Marpole Loop. These battery buses could use rapid-charging stations on-route. You can read more about this in a previous post that I wrote.

Map of bus route 100, Marpole Loop/22nd Street Station. Select map to enlarge.

In total, 87 vehicles will be used to expand transit service in our region, and 67 vehicles will be used to replace end-of-life buses.

Transit expansion is dependent on the region still proceeding with the Mayors’ Council 10-Year Vision. We will know more in the coming months about any modifications that will be made to the vision per the wishes of the new Mayors’ Council.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Property Tax, TransLink, and funding the major road network in the South of Fraser

When most people think of TransLink, it’s buses and trains that come to mind. What many people don’t know is that TransLink is also responsible for enhancing and maintaining the major road network, and funding projects that support improving cycling and walking in the region.

Map of the Major Road Network in the South of Fraser. TransLink funded roads are in blue. Select map to enlarge. Source: TransLink

In Langley City, TransLink helps fund the maintenance of 200th Street, and sections of the Langley Bypass and Fraser Highway. TransLink is also responsible for the 204th Street Overpass. In addition, our community has received funding for projects such as for the 203rd Street corridor enhancements.

TransLink has three major sources of revenue: fares, fuel tax, and property tax. The following chart shows the amount of property tax that the agency received from municipalities in the South of Fraser in 2017.

Property Tax 2017
Delta $14,131,700
Langley City $2,699,413
Langley Township $12,801,000
Surrey $43,692,000
White Rock $2,210,261

The following table shows the funding that TransLink provided in 2017 to South of Fraser municipalities to fund the major road network, and other cycling and walking projects.

Road Network, Cycling, and Walking Funding 2017
Delta $2,834,243
Langley City $871,865
Langley Township $5,235,952
Surrey $10,000,757
White Rock $69,000

This final table shows the percentage of property tax directly collected in each municipality that is used for road, cycling, and walking projects in that community.

Percentage Returned to Communities 2017
Delta 20%
Langley City 32%
Langley Township 41%
Surrey 23%
White Rock 3%

Around a quarter of property tax revenue is invested directly into non-transit projects by TransLink in the South of Fraser.

The majority of funding does go into transit service. In Langley, we get more transit service than we fund via property tax and gas tax. For more information, please look at an infographic I created a few years back.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Transit on-time performance for first half of this year mostly favourable

TransLink recently released its on-time performance metrics for the first half of this year.

On-time performance of SkyTrian and West Coast Express. Select chart to enlarge. Source: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

Compared to previous years, on-time performance for rail service has remained consistent. This is mostly due to the fact that rail transit runs in its own right-of-way and is not subject to general traffic congestion.

Bus on-time performance is trickery to maintain as most buses in our region run in mixed traffic. This means that they are subject to the same delays that people driving single occupancy vehicles experience and cause. Even with that in mind, TransLink has been trying to improve the on-time performance of the bus system.

In the first six-months of this year, 76% of frequent transit routes and 81% of all other routes where on-time. It was 76% and 79% respectively during the first six-months of 2017.

One of the best ways to improve on-time performance of bus services is to have them operate in their own bus lanes with traffic signal prioritization. A good example will be the pending Fraser Highway B-Line. One of TransLink’s asks is that both Surrey and Langley City implement bus priority measures which include some dedicated bus lanes. This is something that I will support wholeheartedly.

TransLink defines on-time for SkyTrain as staying within 3 minutes of schedule, and staying within 5 minutes of schedule for West Coast Express. Bus service must not leave at scheduled stops earlier than 1 minute or arrive later than 3 minutes for it to be considered on-time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

November 5, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: The Inaugural Meeting

Like most municipalities in Metro Vancouver, last night was the inaugural council meeting for Langley City. The meeting started with a welcome and honour song from Kwantlen First Nation Chief Marilyn Gabriel, her husband Kevin Kelly, and her son Michael Kelly Gabriel.

The inaugural council meeting is a celebratory event, but it also contains a key regulatory component in which the mayor and rest of council take the oath of office. The oath of office affirms that:

  • No member of council knowingly took part in vote buying or intimidation in relation to their election to the office.
  • Council members will faithfully perform the duties of their office, and will not allow any private interest to influence their conduct in public matters.
  • Council members will disclose any direct or indirect pecuniary interest they have in a matter and will not participate in the discussion of the matter and will not vote in respect of the matter.

A pecuniary interest means a matter that is tied to a monetary gain or loss. In local government, this generally relates to property where a decision of council could favor members of council, but not a neighbourhood as a whole. A good example would be if a member of council was selling a piece of property to the City.

The following pictures are from last night’s inaugural meeting.

Mayor Val van den Broek receiving the Chain of Office from former Mayor Ted Schaffer. Select image to enlarge.

Council taking the Oath of Office. From left-to-right, Rudy Storteboom, Rosemary Wallace, Gayle Martin, Teri James, Nathan Pachal, Paul Albrecht. Select image to enlarge.

Signing my oath of office. Select image to enlarge.

After the meeting, a reception was held outside of the council chamber.

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Primer to Governance at the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board

One of the things that I noticed when talking with people at the door during the recent election campaign was that most folks had limited knowledge about how the Metro Vancouver Regional District functions, especially the governance structure. This makes sense as the regional district, with the exception of regional parks, doesn’t directly provide services to people in our region.

Unlike counties in the US, regional districts are not another level of government. Regional districts only have as much power as member municipalities give them. One of the more controversial services that a regional district provides, as per provincial law, is a regional growth strategy that dictates land-use at a macroscale. Even this requires the consensus of all member municipalities.

For historical reasons, the Metro Vancouver Regional District consists of the regional district itself, the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District, the Greater Vancouver Water District, and the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation. While they are different legal entities, they function like one unit.

Each municipal council in our regional appoints one or more of its council members to the Metro Vancouver board. It is based on a weighted voting system. For every 20,000 people in a municipality, the board member gets one vote. One board member can have a total of five votes. For every five votes, a new board member is appointed by their municipal council to the board. The following table shows the current number of votes and board members for each municipality in our region.

Community Total Board Members Total Votes
Vancouver 7 32
Surrey 6 26
Burnaby 3 12
Richmond 2 10
Coquitlam 2 7
Delta 2 6
Langley Township 2 6
Maple Ridge 1 5
North Vancouver District 1 5
New Westminster 1 4
North Vancouver City 1 3
Port Coquitlam 1 3
West Vancouver 1 3
Langley City 1 2
Port Moody 1 2
Anmore 1 1
Belcarra 1 1
Bowen Island 1 1
Electoral Area A 1 1
Lions Bay 1 1
Pitt Meadows 1 1
Tsawwassen First Nation 1 1
White Rock 1 1

Based on this weighted vote system, regional district board members appoint a chair and co-chair of the regional district. All matters at the board can be subject to this weighted voting system.

One of the unique features of regional districts is that they act as de facto municipalities outside of municipal borders. People outside of municipalities elect directors to regional district boards. In our region this includes people who live at UBC, the University Endowment Lands, Barnston Island, and sections of Howe Sound and up Indian Arm.

The regional district system in BC gives a forum for municipalities to come together for the mutual benefit of each other. Because regional district boards are not another level of government, the amount of finger pointing that stands in the way of getting things done is limited.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Regional water and sewer utilities: big dollar, critical services for Metro Vancouver

Unless you’ve visited a regional park, there is a good chance that you’ve never directly interacted with the Metro Vancouver Regional District. Besides regional parks, two of the services that people benefit from directly each and every day are water and sewer services. Water services have been provided regionally since 1926 and sewer services since 1956.

Municipalities are responsible for the pipes and local reservoirs that are between the property lines of businesses and residences to Metro Vancouver mains. The following maps show where these water and sewer mains are for Langley City.

Map of Metro Vancouver Sewer Mains in Langley City. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver GIS.

Map of Metro Vancouver Water Main that serves Langley City. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver GIS.

With the possible exception of the North Shore, the rest of the region would be in a pickle if water and sewer services were not regionalized.

Water and sewer services are capital intensive; it takes a lot of money to build and renew these services. Recently, the regional district presented its financial plan for 2019. 37% or $308.6 million of the regional district’s budget is planned to go towards sewer services operations, and 35% or $289.1 million towards water services operations.

$231.4 million in project expenditures are planned for 2019 to maintain the regional water system and to accommodate growth. Many of the projects support the growth occurring in the South of Fraser.

$564.9 million in project expenditures are planned in 2019 for the regional sewer system. Two major multi-year projects that directly support the South of Fraser are the expansion of both the Annacis Island and Northwest Langley wastewater treatment plants.

These projects are paid for with funding from regional district operations, other orders of government, and debt financing. Over the next decade, the amount of money annually required to maintain and growth both water and sewer services is projected to increase.

While little attention is paid to water and sewer services, some of the most critical and expensive projects in our region are to ensure that taps work and toilets flush.

For more information, please check out the Metro Vancouver 2019-2023 Financial Plan Presentation Slides.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

First Look at Proposed Enhancements for Brydon Park

One of the keys to creating a happy, healthy, and safe community is by having great public spaces. Having great public spaces is critical in higher density neighbourhoods where people have limited or no private green space.

The Brydon area in the Nicomekl neighbourhood west of 200th Street is undergoing a transformation from an area with primarily single-family housing, into an area that is mostly townhouses and apartments. The neighbourhood’s Brydon Park is in the planning stages for its transformation from a mostly passive park, into a park with high-quality amenities to serve this growing area.

Langley City is hosting an open house to get feedback on the proposed design. The park will be built-out in two phases. Phase one will be built, pending budget approval, within the next few years. Phase two will be built in the next three to five years. The following images show the proposed design for the park.

Proposed design for Brydon Park in phase one. Select image to enlarge.

Phase one is proposed to include a:

  • Water play area
  • Sand volleyball court
  • Group picnic area with picnic shelters
  • Community table
  • New washroom building
  • Outdoor fitness equipment area
  • Dog off-leash area
  • Perimeter trail lined with trees

Proposed design for Brydon Park in phase two (option one.) Select image to enlarge.

Proposed design for Brydon Park in phase two (option two.) Select image to enlarge.

Phase two is proposed to include an additional:

  • Youth activity and social area
  • Sports court
  • Enhanced play area for children with social area for parents (option two only)

The enhanced play area in option two would be accommodated by relocating the existing playground equipment.

The open house is scheduled for:
Date: November 14, 2018
Time: 5:00pm - 7:00pm
Location: CKF Room, Langley City Hall, 20399 Douglas Crescent

If you are unable to attend the open housing, please visit the City’s website after November 14th for other ways to submit your feedback.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

October 29, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Final meeting for Mayor Schaffer and Councillor Arnold. Craft Brewery Approved.

Last night was the final meeting of the current Langley City council. The inaugural meeting of the new council will be held at 7pm on Monday, November 5th. This was the last meeting for Mayor Ted Schaffer and Councillor Jack Arnold who were first elected to council in 1990, along with Councillor Gayle Martin.

Councillor Paul Albrecht presented Mayor Schaffer with the UBCM Long Service Awards. Mayor Schaffer and Councillor Arnold gave some words about their years on council. All of council gave both Mayor Schaffer and Councillor Arnold a standing ovation to thank them for their dedication to our community.

Council gave final reading and approved issuing development permits for the following projects. I’ve provided links to the original posts where these projects were discussed.

Council also received the results of the Langley City local election. You can view the official results on the City’s website. Councillor Martin presented a motion that staff investigate mail-in ballots for the next local government election. This motion passed with universal support.

Monday, October 29, 2018

New Mayors, SkyTrain, and transit’s future in Metro Vancouver. What does it mean for the South of Fraser and Langley?

In preparation for the transit plebiscite in 2015, the region’s mayors got together and agreed on a transit vision for our region. It was a herculean effort to get a vision that all parts of the region could get behind.

The original vision was to be funded by a 0.5% increase in sales tax, but this was rejected by voters. To move forward, the plan was split into three phases. Phase one was approved in mid-2016, when the federal government, provincial government, and region came to a funding agreement. This took a lot of negotiation.

Funding for phase two of the vision, which included the Broadway SkyTrain extension and Surrey Light Rail along 104th Avenue and King George Boulevard, was approved this spring.

Phase three would have seen light rail built along Fraser Highway between Downtown Surrey and Downtown Langley. Phase three is currently not funded.

It was a difficult 4-year journey to get to where the vision stands today.

With the recent election of the Doug McCallum slate in Surrey, it appears that Surrey Light Rail is off the table. While he alone doesn’t have the power to cancel a project, I can’t see the region forcing a project into a community that doesn’t want it. What does this mean for the future of rapid transit for Langley, the South of Fraser, and the region as a whole?

In one scenario, Surrey Council could look at the numbers and realize that the cost of cancelling Surrey Light Rail would be too much. They would continue with the current vision. This is unlikely.

In another scenario, the majority of the region’s mayors could decide to re-open the transit vision. In this case, most transit expansion stops including the Broadway SkyTrain extension and B-Line service expansion like what is proposed along Fraser Highway.

Another four years is spent coming to a new agreement on what the future of transit should look like in our region. At risk is both federal and provincial money, and delaying much needed transit service as more people get stuck in congestion.

A likely scenario is that the current Surrey Light Rail project will be cancelled with the remaining funding used to build an expansion of the Expo Line along Fraser Highway. The rest of the vision would remain as-is; there would be no rapid transit along King George Boulevard or 104th Avenue for the next 15+ years.

The total budget for the current Surrey Light Rail project is $1.65 billion. The cost to build SkyTrain is estimated at $2.9 billion from Surrey to Langley.

Given the difference in costs, the SkyTrain extension would have to be built in two phases as the federal and provincial government aren’t committing new money to build SkyTrain. The first phase of the SkyTrain extension would likely terminate in Fleetwood. This would be similar to the original 2008 Provincial Transit Plan for Metro Vancouver.

Map of rapid transit expansion as envisioned in the 2008 Provincial Transit Plan select map to enlarge.

Phase three of the ten-year transit vision earmarks around $1.95 billion to build light rail to Downtown Langley. If the rest of the region’s mayors confirm the 10-Year Vision and are able to plug the current funding gap for phase three, there would be enough money to extend SkyTrain to Downtown Langley.

With so many new mayors in our region, I am not confident that phase three will go ahead as currently planned. Over the next year, it will become clear what the future of transit will look like in our region. My hope is that Langley City doesn’t get left behind.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The ideal areas to build affordable housing for families and seniors in Langley City

When people talk about creating affordable communities, housing is generally what comes to people’s minds. While providing affordable housing is a critical component of the affordability equation, so is providing affordable transportation options.

Affordable transportation options include walking, cycling, and public transit.

Based on this fact, Metro Vancouver created a housing and transportation cost burden map. The map shows that people who live near public transit can have a lower cost of living. The provincial government also has a handy calculator which shows how various housing and transportation combination can impact affordability.

A map of transportation costs in Metro Vancouver by census area. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

Given the critical link between transportation and affordability, I created a rough map that shows where in Langley City is within a 10-minute walk of frequent transit. It is these areas where the City needs to focus on encouraging affordable housing options.

The map includes some areas that are industrial lands, which are protected from general urban development, but it should give a rough idea of the area within a 10-minute walk of higher-quality transit.

Affordable housing can mean many different things to people. There are three areas that Langley City could focus on when it comes to affordability: working with nonprofits and BC Housing to provide subsidized housing for low-income seniors, working with the Metro Vancouver Regional District to support subsidized housing for families, and zoning certain areas for rental-only. These should all be within the 10-minute walking zone.

Over the next year or so, council will be working on updating our official community plan and zoning. This map will be on my mind when it comes to conversations around affordability.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The new Langley City Solutions Tracker is online. Keeping track of promises made during the campaign.

Over the election campaign, I promised to work towards solutions for a better Langley City. Just like my first term on council, I’ve compiled these solutions into an updated Langley City Solutions Tracker. I’ve also carried over some of the in-progress solutions from my first term.

The Solutions Tracker is important because it will help keep me on track while providing transparency around my actions to people in our community.

Some solutions will be quicker to implement than others. Some solutions might stall while being implemented. Whatever the case, I will be updating the tracker over the next four years to outline the progress that is made on implementing these solutions.

View the Langley City Solutions Tracker 2.0

Monday, October 22, 2018

Langley City Election Results: Higher Voter Turnout, Better Gender Parity

Langley City has historical had lower voter turnout for municipal elections than the provincial average. The municipal information site CivicInfo BC keeps track of current and historic election results of local governments in our province. The following chart shows voter turnout in Langley City over the last decade.

Voter turnout at Langley City municipal elections from 2008 to 2018. Select chart to enlarge.

It is encouraging to see that voter turnout is increasing in Langley City, and this weekend’s election had the highest voter turnout in recent memory. Unfortunately, our community’s voter turnout is still below the provincial average. I hope that the trend of higher voter turnout continues in Langley City as more people get engaged with their local government.

I’m a bit biased, but I believe that local government has the most direct impact on the lives of people. Because of that, we need to do more to get people engaged with local matters.

One of the major policy discussions at local government conventions provincially and federally is around ensuring that we give opportunity for all people to run for office. This is important because we should have governments that reflect our local populations.

Typically, men have had higher representation on councils than women. Langley City was no exception even though most of Langley City’s population is female. This weekend’s local election saw a majority-female council elected. This is good news as we have achieved gender equality.

Percentage of women on council in Langley City from 2008 to 2018. Select chart to enlarge.

To see the full results of this weekend’s election, please visit the Langley City election webpage.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

October 15, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Crime Prevention Task Group recommendations approved

Over the past two years, I have chaired Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group. The task group’s mandate is wrapping up next month. Based on the work we have done over the past year, we presented a series of motions for council to consider to ensure that the City continues to support programs that help reduce crime.

One of the best ways to help reduce the types of crime that we see in Langley City is to build strong neighbourhood identities which fosters people to get to know each other. This creates a sense of ownership. This ownership supports people taking more active roles in helping to prevent and reduce crime in their neighbourhoods by reporting suspicious activities to the RCMP, and by forming Block Watch groups.

This summer, we piloted a “Know Your Neighbor Campaign.” This awareness campaign was a success which is why the task group recommended:

THAT Council consider striking a task group to plan an annual “Know Your Neighbour” campaign.

During this year’s campaign, we received information from people who were interested in the Block Watch program. A motion was required to be approved by council to pass this information along to the RCMP, so the task group recommended:

THAT Council direct staff to forward the contact information collected from residents interested in becoming part of a Block Watch Program to Superintendent Murray Power, OIC of the Langley RCMP detachment, and that the OIC request the Block Watch Program staff to contact the interested residents in order to potentially increase the number of Block Watch neighbourhood programs in Langley City.

One of the things that the people who volunteered heard at the door was that people where uncomfortable calling the RCMP Non-Emergency Number, or didn’t know the number, to report suspicious activities. The task group recommended:

THAT the Crime Prevention Task Group request that Council write a letter to the Langley RCMP Officer in Charge and to E-Comm asking that they work to better promote, and encourage the public to call, the RCMP Non-Emergency number to report all suspicious activity.

In order to support continued public engagement around crime prevention, the task group also recommended:

THAT the Crime Prevention Task Group request that Council direct the City’s Communication Officer to continue, on an annual basis, to fan out public safety awareness information on social media during Public Safety Week in November each year.

All the recommendations were approved by council on Monday night. To learn more about the work that the task group has done over the last few years, please read a series of my previous posts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

October 15, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Redevelopment, street, and park projects on-the-go.

Yesterday, I posted about the public hearing and related bylaws which were on the agenda for Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. Today, I will be posting about some of the other items that were on the agenda.

Council gave first and second reading to a bylaw to accommodate at 4-storey, 40-unit apartment building at 5398, 5410, and 5448 208th Street. This will allow a public hearing to be scheduled in the future.

Rendering of proposed apartment at 5398, 5410, and 5448 208th Street. Select image to enlarge.

Site plan for proposed apartment at 5398, 5410, and 5448 208th Street. Select image to enlarge.

Third reading was also given to a bylaw which will allow for a 4-storey, 127-unit apartment building located at 5423, 5433, 19900, 19910, 19920, and 19930 Brydon Crescent. You can read more about this in a previous post, but one of the key features is that there will be a pedestrian/cycling right-of-way provided to connect Brydon Crescent and the trail along the old Interurban right-of-way that connects between Brydon Lagoon and Michaud Crescent. $254,000 in Community Amenity Charges will be received for this project from the developer, with a significant portion dedicated to building a trail bridge across Baldi Creek.

Final reading was given, and development permits issued, for the following:

Final reading was also given for our annual tax exemption bylaw. You can read more about the properties that were exempt in a previous post.

Council heard from Ginger Sherlock who is the Emergency Program Coordinator for the Langley Emergency Program. She wanted to remind council about the Great British Columbia Shake Out which takes place on October 18th.

Council also received an update about various projects in our community. Of note, because of the natural gas pipeline explosion in northern BC, asphalt plants have been shut down in the Lower Mainland. This means that many paving projects have been delayed in the City. Some of the projects on-the-go include the:

  • Repair and reopening of the Brydon Park Zip Line.
  • Installation of new trail markers along the power line right-of-way.
  • Reopening of a trail that connects streets to the south side of Condor Park.
  • Installation of a new sidewalk along 46A Avenue.
  • Completion of the new sidewalk along Duncan Way, connecting to the 204th Street overpass.
  • Completion of the installation of a new culvert at 48th Avenue.
  • Installation of a new traffic signal at 50th Avenue and 200th Street.
  • Continued work along Douglas Crescent to replace underground utilities between 206th Street and 208th Street.

Tomorrow will be my last post about council before the election.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

October 15, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Old Yale Road Seniors District

Last night was the last council meeting before the general election. The final meeting of the current council will be on October 29th, with the new council’s first meeting being on November 5th. There were several bylaws and development applications that were adopted on Monday which I will cover over the remainder of the week. Today, I will focus on the public hearing and its related matters.

A motion was put forward at the beginning of the public hearing to move it to a date after the election. The motion did not pass, and the public hearing commenced.

Model of proposed development along Old Yale Road. Select image to enlarge.

As I posted about earlier, council gave first and second reading on September 17th for an “Old Yale Road Seniors District” Official Community Plan amendment, and a rezoning bylaw to accommodate two buildings. One building is proposed to contain 28 long-term care units and 169 assisted living units. The other building will contain 95 independent living, seniors-oriented housing units.

At the public hearing, there were several concerns expressed by the public around the protection of the riparian area around Murray Creek. Riparian areas are critical for preserving fish and other wildlife, and both Langley City’s Official Community Plan and provincial government regulations do not permit development within 30 metres of the high-water level of a class “A” watercourse unless a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) determines overwise based on provincial laws and regulations. In the case of Murray Creek, the QEP determined that development could occur within 15.8 metres of the high-water level of Murray Creek.

Langley City also has designated environment sensitive areas where development is not permitted to occur. The proposed development is not within any environmentally sensitive area.

Map of Environmentally Sensitive Areas in Langley City. Select map to enlarge.

Development cannot occur in the red area due to it being an Environmentally Sensitive Area and riparian areas. Select map to enlarge.

There were also members of the public who were concerned that the proposed building would get flooded or would cause flooding in other areas of the City. As the proposed development is within the 1 in 200-year floodplain boundary, it will need to comply with the City’s Floodplain Elevation Bylaw. I asked if the proposed project would increase the flooding risk due to its proximity to the floodplain, and was told no.

Light blue is the 1 in 200 year flood area. Select map to enlarge.

Two residents were concerned about privacy as the proposed buildings are near existing single-family housing. Based on feedback from earlier developer-led open houses, units were removed from areas where they might overlook neighbouring houses.

Triple A Seniors Housing requested that 19 independent living units be subsidized for low-income seniors. It is my understanding that there will be no subsidized independent living units as part of this project. I asked earlier in the public hearing about how this project fits in with our recently adopted “Nexus of Community” strategy which calls for policies to be developed to support affordable housing. I was told that it didn’t as this OCP update started before the adoption of the strategy.

The proponent noted that Fraser Health will be subsidizing some of the long-term care and assisted living units though I did not get a number.

As part of the Official Community Plan amendment, feedback was requested from the Township of Langley, Agricultural Land Commission, Metro Vancouver, Kwantlen First Nation, the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure, TransLink, and Newlands Golf & Country Club. We received feedback from the Township of Langley, Agricultural Land Commission, and TransLink.

As the proposed project is within the region’s urban containment boundary, it does not require the approval of the regional district.

The Agricultural Land Commission did recommend that the proposed buildings be setback 30 metres from the ALR boundary as outlined in the Ministry of Agriculture’s Guide to Edge Planning. The yet to be adopted amendment to the Official Community Plan for the “Old Yale Road Seniors District” requires a development permit to be approved by council before any construction can start. One of the development permit requirements is to “respect existing agricultural land uses to the east.” I stated at the meeting that I would not support issuing a development permit unless the 30-metre setback recommendation is followed.

As part of the development, the proponent will also have to upgrade Old Yale Road to a local road standard, complete with curbs, gutters, drainage, sidewalks, and street lights.

Both the third reading of the Official Community Plan update and the Zoning Bylaw passed narrowly. I voted in favour of both. As is normal, a development permit was not issued last night.

Whether to give final reading of the Official Community Plan update and Zoning Bylaw, and issue a development permit, will be handled by the new council. Due to the many requirements of the projects, it could be several months before final reading as there are many requirements that the proponent must address.

On an aside, Langley City’s current Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw are essentially silent when it comes to affordability policies. This is why it is critical to get to work on completely updating these two key documents as noted in “Nexus of Community.” It is extremely difficult to address affordable housing and transportation on a site-specific bases.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Protecting green space from urban development in Metro Vancouver

Earlier this month, I posted about the changes in regional land-use designations and the impact of development on green space. Municipalities in Metro Vancouver must ensure that local land-use designations (zoning) are in line with regional land-use designations.

Changes in Regional Land-Use Designations, 2011-2018. Select charts to enlarge.

The data shows that over the last 7 years, the region has essentially preserved green space in Metro Vancouver. Green space includes agricultural, rural, and conversation & recreation land-uses.

One of the primary features of our regional growth strategy is the urban containment boundary. Almost all urban development is supposed to occur within that boundary. The following map shows the remaining “greenfield” land within the urban containment boundary that is open for development, plus how much of this “greenfield” land has been developed over the last five year.

Map of remaining “General Urban” land in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

In Metro Vancouver’s case, most of the “greenfield” land is former suburban land. Between this “greenfield” land, and redevelopment within regional town centres and transit corridors, there is a generation of land available for urban development that will not require us to give up our food lands and conservation areas.

Our region is not perfect. For example, within the urban containment boundary there are sensitive ecosystems that are at risk. An example of a sensitive ecosystem would be the Nicomekl Floodplain. There is still work that needs to be done at the regional and municipal levels to better manage these ecosystems from the externalities of urban development.

A local Langley City example would be our new rules around development near environmentally sensitive areas that was adopted last year.

While Metro Vancouver and its municipalities have done a relatively good job of containing urban development, there is still some development that occurs in agricultural areas. The provincial government is reviewing the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) with the goal of strengthening the preservation of food land. I am looking forward to seeing the recommendations and an implementation plan from this review.

With our regional growth strategy and ALR strengthened, I am confident that we can protect our green space for generations to come.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Langley City Council Candidate Videos

One of the questions that I’ve been getting regularly over the last few weeks from people is where can they find information about who is running in the Langley City civic election. With general voting day on October 20th, many people are making their final decisions about who they will support.

Langley City itself has posted candidate profiles. The Langley Times and Langley Advance newspapers also have information about candidates available online. The Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce recently posted videos where they asked candidates about affordable housing, transportation, and business.

You can find a link to all other candidate videos on the Chamber’s website.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

This year 681 young people experienced homelessness in Metro Vancouver, 16 in Langley.

In Canada, there are many individual factors and societal factors that lead people to experiencing homelessness. Federal, provincial, and local governments need to work together to reduce the pathways that lead to homelessness, and increase the pathways out of homelessness. While this should be done for people of all ages, I believe that extra attention should be given to reducing the number of young people (up to age 24) who experience homelessness.

Regional Homelessness Conceptual Framework: A Mental Model. Select chart to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

Education is key to providing opportunity for people. If you do not have stable housing or food, your ability to learn in significantly diminished. This could lead to a lifetime of experiencing homelessness.

The Metro Vancouver Community Entity, a partnership between Metro Vancouver and the federal government, recently released the 2018 Youth Homeless Count. 681 people up to the age of 24 were identified as being homeless. In Langley City and Township, 16 young people were identified as experiencing homelessness. The report authors note that this is an underestimation as there are many people who are “couch-surfing”, staying with friends or strangers, that are not connected with youth support service agencies, and therefore cannot be counted.

Unaccompanied Youth and Accompanied Children by Municipal Sub-Region. Select map to enlarge.

There are certain people groups that are over-represented in the youth homelessness population. 42% of people identified themselves as Indigenous. 26% of people identified themselves as LGBTQ2S. Extra attention is needed to reduce the number of Indigenous and LGBTQ2S youth from experiencing homelessness.

More than half of young people experienced homelessness for the first time because of a family conflict. I’ve personally heard too many stories about a young person being kicked out of their house because they came out to their parents.

Mental health and substance addiction were also leading causes for young people to become homeless for the first time. There are gaps in the healthcare system that need to be closed to help young people and their family get support and treatment services.

Ending youth homelessness should be a priority for all governments. In Langley, Encompass Support Services Society recently opened the Youth Hub. One of the services of that facility is to provide housing for young people. While this is a good start, I believe that more beds and support services will be required throughout Langley.

Providing stable housing, meals, and support is not only the morally right thing to do, it is the fiscally prudent thing to do. When someone is homelessness, it costs society at least $66,000 per year. Providing housing and supportive services costs up to $18,000 per year. Providing affordable housing cost up to $8,000 year. Preventing a lifetime of homelessness for a young person means giving them a lifetime of opportunity. It also saves millions of dollars per person in societal costs.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Election Update #7 - Investing in Basic Infrastructure and Upkeep

Providing water, sewer, street lighting and general infrastructure maintenance are just some of the fundamental services that municipalities provide, but these generally receive little attention during election campaigns.

One of the reasons why I ran for council was to ensure that our critical services remain in a state of good repair. Most of Langley City’s infrastructure was put in during the 1950s thru 1970s, and is reaching its end of life. This means that over the next 10 years, we will need to double down on infrastructure renewal in our community.

If re-elected, I will continue to advocate for our City to expand its asset management program which helps us plan for infrastructure renewal in the most efficient ways possible. I will also advocate to other levels of government for infrastructure funding to help keep property taxes reasonable.

I will continue to support budget measures to ensure that taps work, toilets flush, energy-efficient street lights are installed throughout our community, and streets are kept clean and maintained.

While these initiatives are not headline-grabbing, maintaining our basic infrastructure is critical to ensuring that Langley City remains healthy, safe, and prosperous.

With your support, we can continue the positive momentum, bringing solutions forward for a better Langley.

If you are able to volunteer your time to help out on the campaign in these final crucial weeks, please visit https://help.nathanpachal.com/.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

TransLink’s Universal Fare Gate Access Program to provide fare relief

When it comes to the delivery of public services, the goal should always be to improve access for people no matter their colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability. Creating new barriers to access services is not acceptable.

When TransLink rolled out fare gates at all SkyTrain and SeaBus stations, the organization created a physical barrier that removed the ability for some people, who couldn’t tap a Compass Card due to physical disability, from independently using the system.

To TransLink’s credit, they recognized that this was entirely unacceptable, and developed a system that restored independent access to these stations for all previous customers. The system uses an RFID card similar to what some people use for accessing their apartment underground parking. When a person approaches a universal access fare gate, there are sensors above the gate that when they detect the card, will open the gate.

Fare gates with RFID card sensors. Select image to enlarge.

In order to be eligible to received a universal access card, people must be able to “travel independently and due to a disability, confirmed by a medical practitioner, are physically not able to tap fare media, without assistance, at a Compass Fare Gate.”

About 11 people in the Metro Vancouver have been issued this card to date.

The universal access card is not tied into the fare payment system. Due to the limited number of people who use the universal access card, and the high cost of integrating it into the fare payment system, TransLink is looking to let people who are members of the universal access card program to have zero cost access to the SkyTrain and SeaBus network.

In my opinion, this is the right move. The application process to get a universal access card is rigorous, so it is unlikely that people will be able to take advantage of this program.

By restoring independent access for people, TransLink restored people’s quality of life. The universal access card program shows that it is always possible to accommodate people no matter their ability.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

An affordable housing toolkit, and how it could apply in Langley City

This summer, Langley City council approved our new community vision called “Langley City: Nexus of Community.” Our new community vision calls for an update to both our Official Community Plan and our Zoning Bylaw. The vision notes that there are current deficiencies with our land-use bylaws such as a lack of tools to support affordable housing options that spans the spectrum for people who are just starting off, need a helping hand, just started a family, or are in their retirement years.

Affordable housing in Langley City. Select image to enlarge.

The BC Non-Profit Housing Association recently released a document which outlines some of the tools that are available for municipalities in BC. There are two types of policy tools that municipalities can utilize: ones which can be legally enforced, and ones that can be voluntarily followed by developers. For policies that are voluntary, municipalities can offer incentives like the ability to fast track an application. Time is money, so this can be an effective incentive.

This first list of policy tools only requires the action of a municipality

OFFICIAL PLANS/BYLAWS: Official Community Plans and Zoning Bylaws outline the vision and goals for development in municipal land use and housing needs. Policies can include the protection of existing affordable housing and support for construction of new homes.

PROPERTY TAX: Municipal governments have powers over property taxes. Local governments can waive or reduce property taxes for co-op and non-profit housing providers in order to incentivize construction of new housing, or re-development of existing housing.

LAND CONTRIBUTIONS: Municipalities can sell or lease their land (with a long-term tenure) to co-op and non-profit housing providers at a reduced rate, or contribute the land at no cost, in order to facilitate the construction of new non-market housing.

COMMUNITY LAND TRUSTS: A community land trust acquires and holds land for the benefit of the broader community. Governments should partner with community land trusts to support the development and preservation of affordable homes.

TRANSPORTATION: As the need for more public transportation infrastructure increases, affordable housing near transit is in danger of being replaced with more expensive and less family-friendly housing. Municipalities can implement policies to protect affordable stock near transit and provide incentives for the development of new, affordable, transit-oriented housing.

FEE WAIVERS AND RELIEF There are a variety of municipal costs and fees associated with housing developments that can be waived, including development cost charges, community amenity charges, utility fees and building permit fees. Waiver of these fees can reduce overall building costs.

ZONING FOR RENTAL HOUSING: BC provincial regulations regarding municipal authorities have recently been amended to allow local governments to zone specifically to retain and encourage rental housing in their communities.

The second list of policy tools can be implemented based on density bonusing. Density bonusing allows a municipality to set both a base density for housing within a zone, and if a developer complies with affordable housing requirements, a higher density for housing.

INCLUSIONARY ZONING: Inclusionary zoning requires developers to create some type of non-market housing as a condition for new development sites. Municipalities can ask that a specific number of non-market units be built in a development and/or ask for a contribution to a municipal housing fund.

HOUSING AGREEMENTS: Housing Agreements are a regulatory tool, in the form of a contractual arrangement between local governments and property owners or housing providers that govern the tenure, occupancy, cost and restrictions on non-market housing.

This final list of policy tools can be voluntarily followed by developers, but cannot be legally enforced. As noted early, a municipality could offer incentives like a faster turnaround time for developers who voluntarily follow these policies.

DEMOLITION POLICIES: Demolition and conversion policies protect against demolition of existing affordable housing and replacement with more expensive homes. Polices can be implemented that make this difficult, with significant financial implications to developers who apply for demolition.

REPLACEMENT POLICIES: Replacement policies can establish a ratio of replacement for every affordable or rental unit demolished. Frequently, this is a one-to-one ratio. Municipalities can ensure these ratios are protected within their development and rezoning policies.

Some tools are not applicable to Langley City such as land contributions and community land trusts as the City does not own a significant amount of land that can be redeveloped. Other tools should be combined. For example, rental-only zones should be near high-quality public transit.

Some tools are harder to manage over the long-term for municipalities such as housing agreements which can be difficult to monitor and enforce. A better tool for communities with populations under half a million is to use inclusionary zoning with affordable housing owned and managed by an organization such as the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation.

If I’m re-elected, I will look forward to seeing how we can use some of these tools as we update our land-use bylaws and policies.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Data shows green space being preserved in Metro Vancouver over last 7 years

One of the key tenets of land-use planning in Metro Vancouver is to preserve green space, whether it be parks and areas with sensitive ecosystems, or farmland. To accomplish this, our region has an urban containment boundary in which all urban development is supposed to occur. There are policies in place, agreed to by all municipalities in our region, that create a higher barrier to sprawl outside of the urban containment boundary.

Urban Containment Boundary and General Urban Areas Map. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

Has our region done a good job of protecting green space? The answer would be a qualified yes. The following table shows the change in land-use mix in Metro Vancouver.

Proportion of Overall Land Area in 2011 Proportion of Overall Land Area as of August 2018
Agricultural 19.8% 19.7%
Conservation & Recreation 47.1% 47.4%
Industrial 3.6% 3.6%
Mixed Employment 1.2% 1.2%
Rural 3.1% 3.1%
General Urban 25.2% 25.1%

There has been a small reduction in both land available for urban development and agricultural land, and a small increase in protected green space (parks and conservation). The following table from the October 5th Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee agenda shows how regional land-use designations have shifted over the last seven years.

Cumulative Changes in Regional Land Use Designation Amendments 2011 to August 2018. As a result of mapping clean-up through RCS, 0.3 hectares changed from undesignated to Conservation & Recreation, and 5.3 hectares changed from undesignated to Industrial. Select table to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

Communities like Langley City have been long built-out, and all our growth comes from redevelopment. While this is the story for pretty much all municipalities in Metro Vancouver, there are still significant areas of greenfield land available in the following municipalities:

Municipality Hectares Percentage of Total Greenfield Land in Region
Langley Township 1,910 32%
Surrey 1,850 31%
Maple Ridge 1,330 22%
Coquitlam 680 11%

Greenfield land includes undeveloped land, former suburban land, and former rural land.

Over the last 7 years, the Metro Vancouver Regional District and its municipalities have done a reasonably good job of preserving green space. With continued pressure to transform the most productive farmland in our province into sprawl, we will need to be vigilant to ensure that population growth occurs in already built-up areas or in the 5,770 hectares of greenfield areas.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Election Update #6 - Partnering to Tackle Homelessness and Affordable Housing

This past term I have attended national, provincial, and regional conventions for local governments, and there are certain issues that everyone is talking about: creating affordable housing, reducing homelessness, helping people to improve their mental health, and linking people to resources to tackle substance abuse.

The good news is that we know how to combat these issues, and it appears that we have partners within the provincial and federal governments who are willing to help; municipalities cannot address these issues on their own.

As a council, we lobbied hard for a specialized provincial team to tackle these complex issue. In partnership with Fraser Health & BC Housing, we are now connecting people who are homeless with the stable housing, and health & social services that they need. This program has been successful but is now fully subscribed. I will be continuing to advocate to ensure that this program is expanded as it is one of the only ways to get people off the street for good.

Through Langley City’s new Nexus community vision, we will also be updating our bylaws to give us new tools which will enable us to create more affordable housing options for everyone, whether just starting off, in need of an extra hand, mid-carrier, or retired. I am, and will continue to be, a strong supporter of this new vision.

The opioid crisis continues to impact people in all walks of life. We need to ensure that our first responders have adequate resources to address this crisis, and work with our provincial healthcare partners to establish better education and long-term solutions.

I will continue to advocate for youth in our community to have positive opportunities available to them through our recreation department and in partnership with other community organizations.

These are serious issues that require developing good relationships with people in government and in our non-profit sector. While these issues will not be resolved overnight, I am fully committed to moving forward and ensuring that our community remains healthy, prosperous, and full of opportunity.

With your support, we can continue the positive momentum, bringing solutions forward for a better Langley.

If you are able to volunteer your time to help out on the campaign, if you haven’t already done so, please visit https://help.nathanpachal.com/.