Langley City Election 2018 - October 20th

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/.