Monday, December 23, 2019

Holiday Break

Christmas tree in McBurney Plaza. Select image to enlarge.

Have a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year. I hope you get to spend some time with the people who mean the most to you in your life.

Christmas display in McBurney Plaza. Select image to enlarge.

I will be taking a break from blogging over the next few weeks. I will be back on January 6th. See you in 2020!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

December Council Meetings: Transit ridership up 30%, Preparing for SkyTrain, and the Magic of Christmas.

In the summer of 2018, council adopted Langley City: Nexus of Community. This is a comprehensive vision for our community focused around preparing for the arrival of SkyTrain. One of the key requirements of this vision is to have City staff report back annually to council on the progress made in implementing this vision. Council received the second annual update at Monday night’s council meeting.

Out of the 23 recommendations made in the Nexus of Community vision, 13 are in-progress including:

  • Communication plan about Nexus approved by council
  • Community outreach launched about Nexus
  • Official Community Plan update in-progress
  • Zoning bylaw update in-progress
  • Capital budget plan to support Nexus on-going
  • Expand Development Services completed
  • Advisory Design Panel approved by council
  • Nicomekl River Neighbourhood Plan in-progress
  • $1 million Prosperity Fund created
  • Strategic property acquisition and site assembly on-going
  • Economic Development Commission created
  • Iconic Entertainment/Cultural development (Performing Art Centre) in-progress
  • Annual progress reporting about Nexus on-going

Many of these initiatives will wrap up at the end of 2020 which should free up City resources to move forward with the remaining Nexus of Community recommendations.

Councillor Albrecht and Councillor Wallace presenting awards for the Magic of Christmas parade. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City’s Magic of Christmas parade a few weekends ago was the best yet! Awards were giving for the best parade entries this year at the Monday night meeting.

Transit ridership on 502 & 503 up over 30%. Select image to enlarge.

At the December 9th meeting, council received an update about the various projects occurring in our community. Some of the highlights include:

  • Installing new wire theft deterrents on City streetlights
  • Completing boulevard maintenance along 200th Street
  • Improving the Pleasantdale Creek trail
  • Building an off-leash dog area in Brydon Park, plus creating a new trail network within the park
  • Building a new washroom at Nicholas Park
  • Implementing bus lanes in Downtown Langley to support the 30% increase in transit ridership on the 503/503 since the launch of the new Fraser Highway Express

For a community that is only 10 square kilometres in size, we have a lot of good things going on.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

December 16 Council Meeting: Call to Artists for Public Art. Crime Prevention Task Group Mandate Renewed.

Langley City has several committees and task groups which investigate specific topics on behalf of council, and make recommendations for council to consider. These task groups and committees can include members of council, members of the public, city staff, and people who are topic experts.

At Monday night’s council meeting, several committee recommendations were approved by council.

The Arts and Culture Task Group recommended that a Call to Artists be made for the creation of a wrap-around mural on the washroom building at Linwood Park. The mural submissions will be required to be themed around the interurban passenger and freight electric railway that used to run down the middle of Michaud Crescent until the 1950s. The budget for this mural would include $2,000 for materials, and $1,000 as an honorarium.

This recommendation was approved by council.

Another Call to Artist was recommended by the Arts and Culture Task Group for a feature art piece at City Park located near the picnic shelters. This feature art piece would be funded up to $20,000 using money from the City’s Public Art Fund.

This recommendation was approved by council with the Mayor opposed. The City’s Public Art Fund currently sit at $40,000.

The Arts and Culture Task Group will review artists’ submissions, and will present their recommendations to council for final approval.

Council also approved extending the mandate of its Crime Prevention Task Group until the end of 2020 with an updated mandate. This updated mandate will focus the task group’s work on:

  • Continuing to advance media messaging around crime prevention and community defense model programs in collaboration with the City’s Communication Officer
  • Continuing with the door-to-door “Know Your Neighbour” campaign
  • In partner with the Community Police Office, promoting and educating residents about existing RCMP programs such as Block Watch, crime prevention such as CPTED, and community defense model programs such as neighbourhood gatherings
  • In partnership with the Community Police Office, Downtown Langley Business Association and Chamber of Commerce, promoting and educating business owners about existing RCMP programs, crime prevention, and community defense model programs

At the December 9th meeting, council received an update on the implementation of some recommendations made by the Crime Prevention Task Group including:

  • Three new lights that were installed in the lane north of Fraser Highway west and east of Salt Lane and four additional lights that were installed in Fuller Lane south of Fraser Highway
  • Community gardens along Michaud that have been completed, and community gardens that are being built in Douglas Park

Tomorrow, I will post about the remaining items covered over the last two council meetings.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

December 16 Council Meeting: Proposed Downtown 6-storey, mixed-use building. Board appointments renewed.

Last night was the final public Langley City council meeting for the year. The next meeting will be on January 13, 2020.

Council gave first and second reading to a rezoning bylaw which will accommodate a proposed 6-storey, mixed-use building that will front Logan Avenue, 203 A Street, and Locke Lane near the casino. This building is proposed to have 114 apartment units and 2,085 square feet of ground-level retail space. An average coffee shop is around 1,000 square feet.

Ground-level view from 203 A Street and Locke Lane. Select image to enlarge.

View from Logan Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Top-down view from Locke Lane. Select image to enlarge.

Because the site is located next to high-frequency bus transit today, and will be a short walk from the future 203rd Street SkyTrain station, the number of parking spots is proposed to be reduced from the typical 214 spaces to 192 spaces. This helps make the ground-level retail proposed as part of this project viable.

The proposed siting of the project will also allow the upgrade of Logan Avenue to include a wider sidewalk and protected bike lanes in the future.

A public hearing will be scheduled in the new year for this proposed development project.

I posted about City-controlled utility rate changes for 2020 yesterday. These changes were given final reading last night. Also, council gave final reading to a bylaw which updates the intermunicipal business license program which I posted about previously.

Council approved reappointing Mayor van den Broek to the Metro Vancouver Regional District board for 2020 (with Councillor Martin as the alternate.) Council also approved reappointing Councillor Martin to the Fraser Valley Regional Library Board (with Councillor James as the alternate.)

Tomorrow, I will be continuing my post about Monday night’s council meeting.

Monday, December 16, 2019

December 9 Council Meeting: Changes to City utility rates for 2020. New banking contract saves money.

The 2020 budgeting process is well underway for most municipalities in BC, including Langley City. One of the first steps in this process is to approve bylaws which enable changes to the water, sewer, and solid waste charges for the 2020 fiscal year.

Langley City is a member of the Metro Vancouver Regional District. As a member, the City purchases water and sewer services from the regional district. Indirectly, the City’s solid waste removal contractors also use Metro Vancouver waste transfer stations, landfills, and the waste-to-energy facility. Metro Vancouver is in the process of upgrading these critical utilities, not just for accommodating population growth, but to replace aging infrastructure and meet updated federal regulations for drinking water and sewage. This means that these utility rates are increasing in 2020.

Langley City charges a base $75 each for water and sewer services, for a total of $150 per household. These charges are meant to pay for maintaining the pipes and other fixed assets that are not dependent on the amount of water used. Langley City purchases water from the regional district. For residential users, the water rate is increasing by 4 per cubic metre to $1.35. The sewer rate is increasing by 8 per cubic metre to $1.27.

Langley City has water meters. The water rate is based on 100% of a water meter reading. The sewer rate is based on 80% of a water meter reading.

For households that receive City garbage service, the rate is increasing to $204 per year. Strata properties and commercial properties are responsible for looking after their own garbage.

At last Monday’s council meeting, there were also some housekeeping matters that were addressed.

Through a competitive process, BMO Bank of Montreal was awarded a five-year banking service agreement to be the City’s primary supplier of banking services. This will result in an annual reduction of $1,050 in the City’s banking fees, plus an annual increase of approximately $60,000 in interest income.

Council approved a update to its Public Art Policy to change the wording about the public advisory committee that is responsible for making recommendations about public art in our community.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

December 9 Council Meeting: Langley Lions Housing Society’s 981-Unit Affordable Housing Project

Bound by 203rd Street, 54th Avenue, 204th Street, and the Langley Mall, the Langley Lions Housing Society complex is one of the largest seniors-focused affordable housing complexes in the province. There are 518 units of affordable housing within the complex today.

The current mix of people that live in the complex include 466 people who are aged 55 or above (86.3%), with the remaining people under the age of 55. Of these 74 people who are under the age of 55, 3 live in assisted living units, 10 are in the Acquired Brain Injury Program, and 8 are in the Mental Health Program. These programs receive funding from Fraser Health (the provincial government.)

Rendering of overall redevelopment plan for the Langley Lions Housing Society complex. Select image to enlarge.

The buildings in the complex are at the end of their useful lives; they need to be replaced. There is also an affordable housing crisis in our province. With this in mind, the Langley Lions Housing Society is looking to replace the buildings within the complex over the next decade or so. This will result in the number of affordable housing units increasing to 981 units.

The first phase of the project that is being proposed is to replace the now demolished 66-unit Birch Building with a new 8-storey, 101-unit building funded in partnership with BC Housing (the provincial government.) They are currently proposing that 80% of these units be for seniors which is lower than the current 86.3% mix today. These units are proposed to be primarily 1-bedroom.

Renderings of proposed 101-unit Birch replacement building. Select image to enlarge.

The proposed redevelopment is phased in such a way that every person that lives in the complex today will be able to remain living within the complex during its redevelopment.

Because this is a significant project, Langley City’s Official Community Plan will need to be updated. This is in addition to rezoning the properties which the complex is on, plus approving a development permit for the first phase of this project which is the new Birch Building. Langley City is also requiring a housing agreement be signed to ensure that the buildings remain affordable into the future, and that they are primarily for lower-income seniors.

Council gave first and second reading to amend the Official Community Plan, rezone the properties, and discharge the current land-use contracts. This will enable a public hearing to be held on January 13th, 2020.

This is one of the most significant redevelopment projects to occur in our community. As always, I will be keeping an open mind and listening to people in our community to make sure that we get this right.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

80% of people support Langley City funding a performing art centre. Support for cannabis stores, more house options, and more investment into the community.

Langley City’s recently released the results of its community survey. This survey is done every three years, and is based on a representative sample of people from the community. Yesterday, I posted about how people feel about the quality of life in our community, what contributes or detracts from their quality of life, and what major issues are facing Langley City, both today and historically. Another part of the survey focused on getting people’s opinions about potential initiatives that the City could pursue.

People who participated in the survey where asked about various proposals to improve parks and recreation facilities. The following lists some proposals, and their level of support:

A wildlife interpretive centre along the Nicomekl River: 76%
Additional community gardens: 74%
Additional off-leash dog areas: 65%
A new indoor pool: 64%
Pocket parks in Downtown Langley: 62%
Enclosing Al Anderson Pool: 45%

56% of people that completed the survey supported cannabis retail stores coming to Langley City. Of note is that people are very passionate about this topic with 31% of people strongly supportive of cannabis retail and 35% strongly opposed.

People where also supportive of adding small-scale retail at certain locations in neighbourhoods south of the Nicomekl River. Along with this, people were interested in seeing more housing options in those neighbourhoods such as duplexes, townhouses, and smaller lot homes. All these items were supported by at least 2/3rds of people in our community, including the majority of people that live south of the Nicomekl River.

The majority of people who completed the survey were also supportive of the City providing financial incentives to increase the stock of affordable housing in our community.

I am a strong supporter of the City building a performing art centre in Downtown Langley. When asked if they would support Langley City funding part of the construction and on-going operating expenses of a performing art centre in our Downtown, 80% of people said “Yes, please!”

80% of people support the City funding a performing arts centre in our downtown. Select image to enlarge.

One of the concerns in our community is around on-street parking. Similar to previous years, there was virtually no support for installing parking meters to help with turn-over in Downtown Langley. About 41% of people supported parking permits to help make more on-street parking available in residential areas.

I did not post about all the topics that were covered in the community survey. Please view the complete community survey results on Langley City’s website.

The community survey is completed over the phone, and has been since its inception. This year, there was an option for people to complete the survey online as well. The results of the online survey were not weighted, so they are not a representative sample of the community. Even so, while the results of the web survey were different, they tracked with the sentiment of people who completed the phone survey. These web survey results are available from the City’s website.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

95% of Langley City residents believe they have a good quality of life, but…

Every three years, Langley City completes a community survey to track quality of life metrics about the community, and to get opinions from residents about topical issues. This survey has been run by Ipsos over the last 15 years. The results of the survey reflect a representative sample of people in Langley City.

At last night’s Langley City council meeting, the latest survey results were presented. Over the next few days, I will be going over the results of this survey.

One of the basic questions asked in the survey is “how would you rate the overall quality of life in the City of Langley today?” Over the last 15 years of surveys, this has remained constant with 95% of survey respondents saying that quality of life is good or very good.

Overall Quality of Life today for Langley City residents. Select image to enlarge.

The ratio of people that choose very good, good, poor, and very poor has not significantly changed since the 2016 survey.

What is interesting is that when people were asked how quality of life has changed over the last three years, while 65% of people said that it has stayed the same or improved, 32% said that it has worsened. In 2016, people’s sentiment was statistically identical. It seems that while about a third of Langley City residents believe that quality of life has worsened over the last six year, this doesn’t seem to be reflected in how they rate their quality of life which has remained high. There seems to be a disconnected.

Change in Quality of Life over the last three years for Langley City residents. Select image to enlarge.

When asked why they believe quality of life is improving, survey participants identified the top reasons as:

  • Recreational opportunities: 13%
  • Well-maintained and clean community: 10%
  • General investment in the community/new things: 7%
  • New/improved roads: 7%
  • Growth/development: 7%

When asked what are the reasons why quality of life has worsened, the top reasons were:

  • Increased poverty/homelessness: 40%
  • Increased crime/drug activity: 22%
  • Over-development: 8%
  • Population growth: 6%
  • Increased traffic: 6%

One of the reasons why I think that a full third of Langley City residents believe quality of life has worsened is because they see increased homelessness in our community. This is an on-going concern, and one of the reasons why I believe we need more supportive housing in Langley.

When asked another way about top issues facing Langley City, survey participants noted:

  1. Social Issues
  2. Crime Issues
  3. Transportation Issues

These top three issues have not changed over the last decade.

Looking at the results of the quality of life section of the survey, it is clear to me that while people believe that they have a high quality of life, they want all levels of government to work together to make sure that everyone has a high quality of life in Langley City. This means addressing long-standing challenges around homelessness and poverty in our community.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Bus lanes in Downtown Langley open. Improving transit reliability, decreasing congestion.

If you’ve been in Downtown Langley lately, you will have likely noticed the new bus lanes that have been installed. While there are a few finishing touches left to do (when the weather is dry and above five degrees), these lanes are now fully functional.

New bus-only lane along 203rd Street between Fraser Highway and Logan Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

When most people think of Langley City, frequent transit might not be the first thing that comes to mind; there many be some questions as to why TransLink and the City installed bus-only lanes.

Three buses in a row during afternoon peak period in Downtown Langley. Select image to enlarge. 

With the recent introduction of the Fraser Highway Express, Downtown Langley is served by over 15 bus routes which use Fraser Highway, 203rd Street, and Logan Avenue. During the busiest parts of the day, there is a bus about every minute.

As noted on Langley City’s website:

Fraser Highway is a key transit corridor with 13,000 bus boarding’s each week and 3.5 million bus boarding’s each year. It is clear that more and more people are choosing transit with an approximately 30% increase in ridership along the Fraser Highway route in 2019 on top of the 12% increase in 2018. And, in 2018 the 502 bus was the 3rd most overcrowded bus in the entire Metro Vancouver which is what has driven the need for service changes. The 503 has seen a huge uptake as ridership quadrupled since these improvements. The transit improvements include more service along the Fraser Hwy corridor to reduce overcrowding and bus-only lanes to improve the speed and reliability of transit on this corridor.

TransLink recently released a report which shows that general road congestion increases delays and decreases reliability of bus service. TransLink is spending $75 million per year just because of this congestion! By adding bus lanes in Langley City, we are helping to improve the reliability of bus service along one of the most congested transit corridors in Metro Vancouver.

For people that drive through Downtown Langley, the City will be implementing traffic light timing changes to improve the flow of general traffic as well.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

People in Metro Vancouver want more transit, especially in the Fraser Valley

Yesterday, TransLink released the results of its phase one engagement report for Transport 2050. Transport 2050 is the upcoming update to our region’s long-term transportation strategy. This strategy will guide how we build our transportation network for the next 30 years.

In 1993, Transport 2021 was adopted which is a similar long-range plan. It is essentially built-out, or the last components of the plan under construction. The biggest change to that original plan was the switch of high-capacity transit from King George/104th to Fraser Highway in Surrey.

Transit vision from Transport 2021 which was adopted in 1993. Select map to enlarge.

To help inform the creation of Transport 2050, TransLink engaged in a significant public feedback program which resulted in some 31,682 people completing a 6-part questionnaire and/or submitting ideas. As these public engagement results may not have necessarily represented all people in our region —some groups of people may be over- or under-represented— TransLink also commissioned a polling firm to ask the same questions, weighting the responses to be more representative of our region’s people.

So, what do people think about Metro Vancouver and its transportation system?

Well, the most submitted idea was to expand transit in the Fraser Valley. This is good news because it confirms what I and others in the South of Fraser have known for a long time; there is a pent-up demand for transit service in our communities.

When asked why people live in their neighbour, the top four responses were because it was:

  • Near transit
  • Close to shops and amenities
  • Near my family and community
  • More affordable

When asked about what we should prioritize as a region in the future, there we two response that received more than 50% agreement:

  • Expanding and improve the transit system
  • Increasing housing choice and affordability

As the region changes, I’d most like us to prioritize. Blue = TransLink public engagement, Orange = Weighted Poll. Select image to enlarge.

Expanding highways, which just get jammed up with traffic a year or so after being expanded anyway, is not a priority for people in our region.

To view a summary of the feedback received, please view the full phase one report. As I stated earlier, this feedback will be used to help create Transport 2050 which is due to be completed at the end of 2020.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Latest news on SkyTrain to Langley

Is the SkyTrain really coming to Langley? This is a question that I get asked from time to time, and the answer is yes. While funding is currently only available to build the extension of SkyTrain to Fleetwood today, work is actively underway to secure the funding required to get the line built to Langley.

Map of proposed SkyTrain extension to Langley. In two stages. Select map to view.

One of the first steps to securing funding is to complete the business case to build SkyTrain to Langley. TransLink management is providing an update to the TransLink board later this week, including the latest updates on expending SkyTrain along Fraser Highway.

Full Scenario: King George to Langley City Centre Fleetwood Scenario: King George to 166 St
Scope 16 km
8 stations
55 vehicles
7 km
4 stations
25 vehicles
Ridership 62,000 in 2035
71,200 in 2050
39,900 in 2035
44,200 in 2050
New transit trips 24,000 in 2035
30,000 in 2050
12,000 in 2035
14,000 in 2050
Benefit cost ratio 1.24 1.12
Capital cost* $3.12 billion $1.63 billion
Annual operating cost† $32.4 million $17.0 million
Annual fare revenue† $21.3 million $10.2 million
In-service date 5.5 years fromproject approval 5.5 years fromproject approval

Work done since earlier this fall includes:

  • Completing a corridor geotechnical investigation program
  • Completing a reference case design
  • Completing studies to support the project environmental screening review
  • Completing risk workshops, risk analysis and industry market sounding to support assessment of procurement options
  • Initiated briefings with senior government on elements of the draft business case
  • Advanced negotiation of agreements with Surrey, Langley City, and Township of Langley
  • Advanced Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC) programming and site assessment analysis
  • A second round of public engagement

The business case for this SkyTrain extension will be completed early next year. Once the business case is signed-off, formal funding agreements will be drafted with the federal and provincial governments. Once complete, an 18-month procurement process will start for building SkyTrain to Fleetwood, followed by a 4-year construction, testing, and commissioning period.

The federal and provincial governments have pledged their support for the Mayors’ Council transit vision which includes building SkyTrain to Langley. The missing funding to build to Langley is the regional portion. The Mayors’ Council will need to figure out the right combination of property tax, gas tax, and/or development charges to complete their full transit vision which includes SkyTrain to Langley. I’m optimistic that they will be able to sort this out next year.

* Year of expenditure, costs for project completion to Langley will increase the longer construction is delayed
† 2019 dollars

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Solutions to reducing homelessness in Langley City

Addressing homelessness is a serious challenge not just in Langley, but in communities throughout BC. Cuts to critical government programs in the early 1990s is one of the reasons why homelessness is on the rise today. The good news is that we know how to reduce homelessness, and all levels of government are starting to act. Find out what this means for Langley City.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Building a Walkable and Transit-Accessible Community: A First Look at Langley City’s New Concept Land-Use Plan.

As I posted about last week, Langley City is in the process of updating its official community plan. This plan, and accompanying zoning bylaw, will guide development in our community for decades to come. With fast, frequent bus service launched this fall to Langley City along Fraser Highway, and SkyTrain in the works, we have an opportunity to rethink how our community grows.

People's hopes and fears about the future of Langley City. Select picture to view.

Metro Vancouver data says that our region, and our city, will continue to grow. If we continue with “business as usual” development patterns, we will end up with more motor vehicle traffic and more congestion. If we choose to build a walkable and transit-accessible community, we can keep traffic at bay, while building a happier and healthier community.

After an intense one-day workshop, a concept land-use plan was created. This plan is all about making a walkable, bikeable, and transit-accessible community.

Langley City really consists of two different development patterns today: the more urban north of the Nicomekl River, and the more suburban south of the Nicomekl River.

The concept land-use plan embraces these two different patterns to ensure that the character of our community isn’t fundamentally changed.

Concept land-use plan for Langley City. Select picture to view.

The location of the SkyTrain stations are known. Within a 10-minute walk of these station, the concept plan calls out creating transit villages with high-density mixed-used buildings that would support residential, retail, and office uses. Radiating away from the SkyTrain stations, the density and mix of uses would reduce.

Should high-density housing be built near SkyTrain in Langley City? Select picture to view.

Because there is little to no green space in the northwest section of Langley City, the concept plan calls out the need for new park space.

Along Fraser Highway, the concept plan seeks to replace the current strip mall land-use pattern with a transit corridor land-use pattern such as like Burnaby Heights.

There would be no change to our industrial land base nor the Langley Bypass. Along Glover Road and Logan Avenue, the plan is to support high-tech businesses with uses such as light industry, retail, and office. This area would be transformed to be more walkable and bikeable.

The Fraser Highway One-Way would maintain its form and character as our downtown core.

South of the Nicomekl River, the concept plan seeks to add small-scale coffee shop/corner store retail at key locations to help support creating a more walkable community. Because 200th Street and 208th Street will be high-quality bus corridors in the future, the concept plan would allow 3-storey or lower ground-oriented townhouses or du-tri-four-plexes along these corridors.

The areas near the Nicomekl River would be aligned with the proposed land-uses called out in the Nicomekl River District concept plan.

The concept plan also calls out the opportunity to added granny flats or carriage homes in the form of “invisible infill” to the area south of the Nicomekl River bound by 200th Street, Grade Crescent, and 208th Street.

There would be little to no change in all other areas south of the Nicomekl River.

An open house was held on Thursday to get people’s feedback on the concept plan. There will be future opportunities to submit your feedback about the concept plan online. I will post this link when it becomes available.

Based on feedback received from the community and council, the concept plan will be refined.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Planning Langley City’s Future: Yesterday’s workshop on housing forms and density.

Langley City’s is in the process of rewriting our Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw. These are the key documents which will guide growth and urban design for our city over the next several decades.

With the arrival of high-quality public transit such as the 503 Fraser Highway Express, and the pending arrival of SkyTrain, there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to preserve what we love about our community, build a walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly community, and ensure that we create a city where people can afford to live no matter their age, income, or ability.

In the summer, a public workshop and open house was held to help inform the creation of the smaller-scale Nicomekl River District plan. Following the same process, but for the whole community, yesterday morning’s workshop was held to get ideas about density and housing forms for our whole community.

At the workshop, people we split into tables. People were asked what and where should different density levels be in our community. People were also asked what forms of housing should be allowed and where.

People reviewing various housing forms. Select image to enlarge.

Ideas ranged from keeping things the status quo in our most southern neighbourhoods, to building towers near Willowbrook Mall.

A group reviewing a map of Langley City. Select image to enlarge.

Taking pictures after finalizing ideas. Select image to enlarge.

The general feeling that I got was that people believed higher density housing should be focused around transit, but that there was also an opportunity to add two neighbourhood nodes that could support corner stores or coffee shops south of the Nicomekl River. These small nodes might also include a limited number of row homes. I got the idea that people would like to see more diversity in single-family redevelopment options than the current large-format housing that we are seeing built today as neighbourhoods redevelop.

A group reviewing various housing designs. Select image to enlarge.

I also got the feeling that people thought that designing for walkability and transit while keeping our community affordable was important.

The ideals from this workshop will be refined and presented at an open house tonight at Timms Community Centre from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

I will be taking some pictures from the open house, and will share them on Monday.

Not everyone is able to make it to open houses, or provide feedback in-person. There will be an opportunity to provide feedback online. As soon as this is up, I’ll share the link.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

With lowest recycling rates in our region, multi-family households need to step up game.

Our region, Metro Vancouver, is a North American leader when it comes to recycling. 64% of waste was recycled by people in our region in 2018. This is higher than the Canadian average which is around 27%.

This is a number that we can be proud of, but it is well short of the goal of recycling 80% of waste by 2020.

A look at the numbers shows where there are gaps.

Sector Recycling Rate (2018) Disposed (tonnes/capita) Disposed (tonnes/ household)
Residential - Single Family 64% 0.16 0.54
Residential - Multi-Family 37% 0.22 0.45
Commercial/Institutional 46% - -
Construction/Demolition 78% - -

The construction industry is close to meeting the goal of 80% diversion of waste. This includes both construction and demolition waste.

About 60% of people live in single-family housing in our region. Around 2/3rd of their waste is recycled. The rest of us living in multi-family housing where the recycling rate is only 1/3rd. This is low. It is interesting to note that people living in multi-family also generate more waste per capita.

The commercial and institution sectors recycled 46% of waste.

As someone who grew up in single-family housing, but now lives in an apartment, I have an idea about why the recycling rates are lower in multi-family housing.

When I lived in a single-family house, I remember that we had a strict limit on the amount of garbage that would be picked up. If you wanted to throw out more, you had to buy stickers. There was a direct link between waste and cost.

In multi-family, most people see garbage bins as limitless. People don’t see the connection between more waste and more cost. This is because it is diffused through strata fees. This is an example of tragedy of the commons. People recycle who live in multi-family housing because they believe it is the right thing to do.

To change people’s behaviour, Metro Vancouver will need stronger tools to make it costly for waste hauler to pick up garbage bins full of recyclable material. Education will also be required show the link between waste and strata fees. Even a bit of peer pressure to recycle from neighbours may be required.

Metro Vancouver diversion rate for waste from all sectors 1994 to 2018. Select chart to enlarge.

While recycling rates have been climbing steadily, there is still much more work to do. Besides recycling, we also need to look at reducing the amount of waste generated in the first place. With the province considering a ban on single-use packaging, I believe we will get there.

For more information, please read the Metro Vancouver Recycling and Solid Waste Management 2018 report.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

10-step plan to enhance the protection of job-creating industrial land in Metro Vancouver

In Metro Vancouver, there are certain types of land that we protect. There is a long history of protecting agricultural land in British Columbia which dates to the 1970s.

We have been protecting land for conservation for even longer in our region. Two of the most significant conservation areas are our watershed in the North Shore, and Burns Bog in Delta. We are now starting to protect industrial land.

Why do these lands need to be protected? Agricultural land provides food security for our region which is critical. Conservation lands provide important ecological services to us, including clean drinking water and air purification. Industrial lands provide the space for manufacturing and logistics which provide good jobs for people in our region.

Because of the value of land in our region, if no protects where in place, you would see land transformed to its most profitable use. For example, waterfront industrial land would be transformed into luxury condos, and our watershed would be transformed into multi-million-dollar mansions. Burns Bog would have been the site of the PNE!

Metro Vancouver - Total Inventory by Detailed Type of Industrial Land Use (2015). Select map to enlarge.

Sometimes maximizing land value isn’t in the best interest of people in our region. Metro Vancouver is currently looking to enhance the protection of job-generating industrial land. It has a 10-step plan as follows:

  1. Strive for zoning consistency across municipalities for industrial land by developing a consistent definition of industrial and guidelines for permitted uses.
  2. Strengthen regional policy in the Regional Growth Strategy by increasing the minor amendment voting threshold for Industrial and other requirements.
  3. Recognize and protect trade-enabling lands in strategic locations through specific land use designations and increased direction for permitted uses.
  4. Conduct a Regional Land Assessment
  5. Encourage intensification of industrial uses in appropriate locations by removing unnecessary restrictions on increased development heights and densities and explore opportunities to incentivize such developments, as informed by regional guidelines.
  6. Develop ‘bring-to-market’ strategies for remaining areas of vacant land to proactively identify and address issues preventing sites from being developed.
  7. Coordinate strategies encouraging local economic growth, local business expansion, and attraction of investment across Metro Vancouver.
  8. Ensure transportation connectivity among the region’s industrial areas by working together to proactively designate, manage and coordinate investment related to the region’s goods movement network.
  9. Establish a broader framework for economic and land use planning collaboration between Metro Vancouver, neighbouring regions, and port facilities to support industrial land protection.
  10. Conduct a regional employment survey biannually to provide a better method of tracking changes in employment growth, land use, and built space over time.

Currently, industrial land is protected by a regional land-use designation. To remove land from this designation takes effort, including getting a two-thirds weighted vote approval at the regional board level.

This 10-step plan will further enhance the protection of industrial land. For more information, you can read the Regional Industrial Lands Strategy.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Bus Strike Survival Guide for Langley

As a daily transit user, and someone who does not own a car, I have been closely following the contract negations between Unifor and TransLink’s wholly owned subsidiary Coast Mountain Bus which operates most bus routes and SeaBus service in our region.

It is looking likely that from Wednesday thru Friday this week, most bus routes and SeaBus service will not be operating. This means that up to half a million people in our region will need to figure out alternative plans when it comes to getting around, work, and school.

Langley is in a bit of a unique situation because many of our bus routes will be operational no matter what, and there are some options to get connected into the SkyTrain network.

If you own a car, but work west of the Fraser River, you may want to check if your employer will let you work from home. Because there may be increased traffic on the major routes, this would be the least stressful option.

Another option is to check if your employer will help arrange carpooling.

If you take the 555 to get to the SkyTrain network, you could take the West Coast Express from Maple Meadows Station. There is a park and ride lot, but it may be busier than normal.

If you use buses to get around in Langley, all community shuttle routes will be operating because they are contracted to First Transit. This is the list of bus routes that will be running in Langley no matter what:

370 Cloverdale / Willowbrook
372 Clayton Heights / Langley Centre
560 Murrayville / Langley Centre
561 Langley Centre / Brookswood
562 Langley Centre / Walnut Grove
563 Langley Centre / Fernridge
564 Langley Ctr / Willowbrook

If you live in Aldergrove, need access to the rest of Langley, and transit is your only option, you may consider using BC Transit. The 21 and 66 can be used to get to Carvolth Park and Ride. You need to walk about eight minutes to transfer between these routes at High Street as shown in the following map.

Transferring between the 21 and 66 in Abbotsford near High Street Mall. Select map to enlarge.

As a note, BC Transit is a cash-only system and doesn’t take Compass Card.

SkyTrain and West Coast Express will be running on their regular schedule, even if there is a bus strike.

For the latest information, please be sure to visit TransLink’s website.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Christmas is coming to Downtown Langley

The Christmas spirit is in the air in Downtown Langley. In partnership with Cascades Casino, Langley City has done up Innes Corners Plaza for Christmastime for the first time that I can recall.

Langley City council was taking Christmas card photos last night, so I decided to take some pictures of holiday-mode Innes Corners Plaza.

Innes Corners Christmas

When you are in Downtown Langley next, be sure to check out this Christmas display.

Besides Innes Corners, there are several other events taking place in Langley City to launch the Christmas season.

The first event is the Langley Christmas Wish Breakfast on Tuesday, November 26th. Bring a new unwrapped toy to support the Langley Christmas Bureau who helps families in need. After, enjoy a free breakfast. For more information, please check out Langley City’s website.

On Saturday, December 7th, come and have Breakfast with Santa at Douglas Recreation Centre. There will be a pancake breakfast plus fun for the family. The price for the breakfast has been lowered to $5 per person with children under 3 being able to eat for free. More information is on the City’s website.

Later in the day, the Magic of Christmas comes to Downtown Langley and McBurney Plaza as follows:

Entertainment and Crafts: 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Parade: 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Tree Lighting and Caroling: 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Again, more information is available on Langley City’s website.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

November 18 Council Meeting: Aldergrove Regional Park’s extraterritorial area approved. 56 Avenue parking request received. Responding to the climate change emergency.

Yesterday’s post was part one of two about Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. Today’s post is part two.

Langley City, Langley Township, Matsqui, and Abbotsford where part of the Central Fraser Valley Regional District until 1995. Aldergrove Regional Park came into existence during the Central Fraser Valley Regional District era. When regional districts were redrawn in 1995, and Abbotsford became part of the Fraser Valley Regional District, it still participated in the Metro Vancouver Regional Parks system.

This changed a few years ago when Abbotsford withdrew from the Metro Vancouver Regional Parks system. Metro Vancouver transfer all its parks in Abbotsford to that municipality. Aldergrove Regional Park straddles the border of Langley Township and Abbotsford. Half the park was transferred to Abbotsford. From an operational perspective, this didn’t make a lot of sense. Abbotsford is now transferring its half of the park back to Metro Vancouver.

Because the Abbotsford section of Aldergrove Regional Park is in another regional district it is called an “extraterritorial area.” For it to be a Metro Vancouver park again, two-thirds of the municipalities in Metro Vancouver must consent to bringing all of Aldergrove Regional Park back into our regional parks system. Langley City council did its part on Monday night and consented.

Langley City is also part of the Fraser Valley Regional Library System. Council approved $25,000 to be used to renew furniture in our library branch.

Back in April, Ms. Damianos who lives and operates a business in the live-work building located at 19897 56 Avenue, asked council to consider providing full-time on-street parking in front of her business. Council passed a motion asking staff to explore this. The staff report came back not recommending full-time on-street parking along this section of 56 Avenue.

Council received a letter from Ms. Damianos asking that the curbside westbound lane of 56 Avenue be used for on-street parking between Noon and 7am. Staff did not recommend making this change as 56 Avenue is a major road. Council approved sending a letter back to Ms. Damianos noting that there will be no change to on-street parking along that section of 56 Avenue.

As a note, there is on-site parking at 19897 56 Avenue. This is similar to other commercial buildings in the area.

A photo from Councillor Wallace that she took at the Livable Cities Forum. Select image to enlarge.

Councillor Wallace recently attended the Livable Cities Forum in Victoria. She gave a presentation to council about her experience at the conference including about food security and upcycling programs in Victoria. She also read a statement from the forum about the need for local governments to take action to response to the climate change emergency.

Alex Speers speaking to council. Select image to enlarge.

Council also received a presentation from Alex Speers who is a grade 12 student at DW Poppy Secondary School. She thanked council for supporting her project to plant more trees at Hunter Park. Council thank her, and Mayor van den Broek presented her with a small token of our appreciation.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

November 18 Council Meeting: Environmental Task Group, Reducing Red Tape, and Rosewood Seniors Centre Housing

Last night’s Langley City council meeting covered a lot of ground. Today will be the first of two posts about that public council meeting, focusing on some of the decisions made.

Langley City council establishes task groups that have a variety of mandates. One such task group is the Environmental Task Group which has the mandate to “prioritize, evaluate and develop a business case for the implementation of various environmental initiatives and programs” for council to consider.

The following recommendations were made by the task group for council to consider:

THAT mandate item four from the Environmental Task Group Terms of Reference be amended from:

“Promote landscape boulevards and environmental features on boulevards by residents, food production, bees/butterfly gardens” to

“Promote landscape and environmental features on boulevards by residents, businesses and developers, ie. food “security”, bee/butterfly gardens’

THAT the Environmental Task Group recommends Council receive a presentation from Green Teams Canada.

THAT the Task Group recommends that Council give funding to Green Teams of Canada to hold up to 3 events in 2020 at a cost of $2,000 per event.

THAT the Environmental Task Group recommend that City Council extend the term of the Task Group to December 31, 2020 in order to allow the group to fulfill their mandate.

To provide some context around the motion, task groups in the City are term-limited, and must be renewed. Green Teams of Canada previously held a successful event in Langley City where volunteers removed invasive plants from one of our parks.

Council approved the recommendations of the task group, modifying the funding request to be considered as part of the 2020 budget process.

Previously, if you were a contractor or other construction industry professional, you would need to get a business license in each community where you worked. This created red tape. To help streamline the process for people in the construction industry, municipalities came together to create the intermunicipal business license program. This means that only one business license is required from Delta to Hope for people in the construction industry.

Harrison Hot Springs and Merritt are joining this program. Council gave first, second, and third reading to a bylaw to help enable these municipalities to join the program.

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

Last October, council gave first, second, and third reading to an Official Community Plan update and Zoning Bylaw update to enable a proposed Rosewood Seniors Centre Housing development on Old Yale Road. You can read more about this proposed development project in a previous post.

The last step for this project to get started from a municipal policy perspective is the final reading of the bylaws, and approval of a development permit by council. For this to occur, City staff must be satisfied that certain conditions are met for these final approvals.

There is a one-year time limit between when third reading of a development-related bylaw is given, and when final reading of that bylaw must occur. If this time limit is exceeded, a development project proponent must go through the whole process again. Langley City allows for a 6-month extension of this one-year time limit. The proponent of this development project requested an extension “to resolve an existing tenancy and demolish buildings on the site.” This extension was approved by council.

Tomorrow, I will post about the remaining items covered at last night’s council meeting.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Have your say on the future of Langley City by attending next week’s workshop and open house about land-use planning

Official Community Plan - Zoning Bylaw Updates Poster. Select image to enlarge.

One of the key planning documents for municipalities in BC is the Official Community Plan. Every municipality is required to have an Official Community Plan which details the “objectives and policies to guide decisions on planning and land use management.”

A municipality’s zoning bylaw is the companion to its Official Community Plan. It is about the prescriptive implementation of the policies and objectives found in the Official Community Plan.

Langley City’s Official Community Plan received its last major update several decades ago. Because Langley City council recently adopt its Nexus of Community vision, and because of the pending arrival of SkyTrain, both the Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw are being re-written.

Since these are key documents for our community, getting people involved in the creation process of them is critical.

Next week, there is a workshop and an open house for all to attend. The details are as follows:

Official Community Plan & Zoning Bylaw - Housing Forms Workshop

Date: Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Time: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Location: Ballroom at the Coast Langley City Hotel & Convention Centre

It is recommended that you signup for the workshop.

Official Community Plan & Zoning Bylaw - Housing Forms Open House

Date: Thursday, November 28, 2019
Time: 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Location: Timms Community Centre

There will be other opportunities to provide input as well, and I’ll be posting about them as they become available.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Fixing the misalignment between creating a livable region and our employment zones.

Metro Vancouver is consistently ranked as one of the most livable places in the world. One reason why is due to our land-use patterns of building walkable, bikeable, and transit-accessible communities.

This land-use pattern is codified in our regional land-use plan which all 21 municipalities in Metro Vancouver adhere to. The following map shows urban centres, frequent transit development areas, and frequent transit corridors in our region. The region’s long-term goal is to accommodate 40% of all residential growth within these areas, and 50% of all job growth, between 2006 and 2041.

Map of urban centres, frequent transit development areas, and frequent transit corridors in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

When it comes residential development, we are meeting that goal. For jobs, we are not. Only 18% of job growth has occurred in these areas between 2006 and 2016. One of the reasons why has to do with our land-use planning. The following map shows the areas in our region that are zoned as “employment land”. These zones can accommodate anything from factories to office space.

Map of “employment land” zones in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

What might stand-out is that much of our “employment land” is outside of urban centres and frequent transit corridors. This wasn’t by mistake either, this is also codified in our regional land-use plan. The Metro Vancouver Regional District has now recognized that there is a misalignment between job growth objectives and land-use.

From a recent regional district staff report:

This suggests that new policies and tools may be needed to support the strategy’s objective to direct employment growth to centres and corridors served by transit. This could include new supports from the Provincial government, such as the creation of commute trip reduction legislation, similar to that implemented in Washington State that requires employers to take actions to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips; more research is needed on this and other possible directions. Staff also intend to explore how much employment growth is taking place on lands with an Industrial or Mixed Employment regional land use designation.

TransLink is updated its long-term transportation plan. This is a good opportunity to realign our land-use patterns and transportation network.

One idea could be to start serving these “employment land” areas with frequent transit. To support frequent transit, and to build more livable “employment lands”, mixed-use zoning could be introduced.

Given that most employment land-uses are quiet and produce little to no air contaminants, residential and retail uses could be introduced to these areas in the form of mixed-use buildings. An example could be an industrial/residential building. I remember attending a 2003 Sustainability by Design conference where this idea was explored. You can see an example of what this might look like for Langley.

I look forward to seeing how TransLink and the regional district will make our “employment land” more livable.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Traffic-related air pollutants highest near major roads, increases risk to human health

This may not come as a surprise to many people, but the closer you are to a major road, the higher your exposure to air contaminants. In fact, according to a new report from the Metro Vancouver Regional District “multiple traffic-related air pollutants (TRAP) have been identified with adverse health effects. Living and spending time near a major roadway has been identified as a risk factor for a number of respiratory symptoms and cardiovascular problems.”

Approximately half the population of Metro Vancouver lives near a major roadway.

Major roadways have more than 15,000 vehicles per day using them. In Langley, examples include 200th Street, 208th Street, the Langley Bypass, and Fraser Highway.

Traffic-related air pollutants can be elevated up to 250 metres from major roads. Select image to enlarge.

The results of the study show that within 250 metres of a major roadway is where there is a significantly higher concentration of air contaminants.

The following chart shows the increase in air contaminants near major roadways compared to ambient air quality.

Traffic contributed to significant increases of measured air contaminants at the Clark Drive monitoring station, relative to the comparison station in the Metro Vancouver study. Select chart to enlarge.

Over other findings include:

  • Large trucks are a main contributor to the amount of air contaminants associated with major roadways
  • The highest concentrations were measured when the wind was blowing from a nearby major intersection
  • Concentrations near a major roadway can vary considerably from hour to hour and day to day based on traffic volumes and wind

The good news is that air quality has been improving overall in our region, and “these trends are expected to continue, as newer and cleaner vehicles, including electric vehicles, replace existing cars and trucks while use of public transit and active transportation increases.”

Even so, the regional district will be working to further help reduce people’s exposure to traffic-related air pollutants. This work will need to be supported by both the provincial government and municipalities.

For more information, please review Metro Vancouver Near-Road Air Quality Monitoring Study.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Electric River Bus Network for Metro Vancouver

SkyBridge - Fraser River

One of the ideas that gets floated from time-to-time is to make more use of the rivers and inlets in our region for public transit.

There are some good examples of this today with the SeaBus between Downtown Vancouver and North Vancouver, the Q to Q Ferry between Downtown New Westminster and Queensborough, and the small passenger ferries that ply False Creek.

TransLink is updating its long-term transportation plan called Transport 2050, and the agency is seeking feedback to help plan our region’s transportation network for the next 30-years.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District’s Climate Action Committee is considering a recommendation that TransLink look at the idea of using electric “river buses” aka ferries as a way to serve communities along the Fraser River.

Some of the things that need to be considered according to the Metro Vancouver Regional District staff report include:

  • The member jurisdictions that would potentially benefit from a river bus service.
  • The suitability of the land uses and destinations that would benefit from the use of marine based passenger service.
  • The suitability to connect to the river bus service from the existing transit network.
  • The commercial availability of the technology for the application.
  • The locations for docking and charging infrastructure.
  • The cost compared to other transportation options being investigated.
  • The environmental impact compared to other options being investigated.
  • The ability of the service to reduce road congestion.
  • The employment opportunities generated from the new service.

There are examples of battery-electric ferries in operation today, including in Denmark and Sweden.

I would be interested to see a study of the feasibility of a “river bus” system. Would people take a “river bus” between Fort Langley and Sapperton SkyTrain? Or to get to Annacis Island? Would a route work between Haney and Port Kells?

All ideas are on the table, and I’ll be excited to see what Transport 2050 looks like.