Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Study shows walkable neighbourhoods can have up to 75% reduction in direct health costs

One of the things that people are innately attracted to are walkable communities. When you think of places where you’d bring a friend from out of town, you are more likely to show them Downtown Langley, Fort Langley, or Steveston than the Langley Bypass.

There has been extensive research on the benefits of walkable communities on people’s physical and mental health. These benefits translate into better health outcomes which helps lower the cost of providing health care services. How much are those savings?

The Health & Community Design Lab out of the UBC School of Population and Public Health has been researching this for many years. They presented their most recent findings at the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee.

The following map shows the different classifications of neighbourhoods: car dependent, somewhat car dependent, somewhat walkable, moderately walkable, and walkable.

Five different types of neighbourhoods based on walkability in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

Obesity is linked to diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for people in BC. People who living in walkable communities tend to get more physical activity naturally which lowers the rate of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

The Health & Community Design Lab has been able to quantify the direct health costs for people who live in different types of communities by “linking the My Health, My community data with the Economic Burden of Illness in Canada and the Canadian Community Surveillance System estimates.”

Direct health costs for diabetes based on neighbourhood type.

Direct health costs for hypertension based on neighbourhood type.

Direct health costs for heart disease based on neighbourhood type.

As shown, there is significantly lower direct health costs for people who live in walkable neighbourhoods compared to car dependent neighbourhoods. The cost difference ranges from around 40% to 75%.

Given that health care spending is the most significant budget item provincially, it would make sense for the provincial government to support communities by increasing funding to build sidewalks and bike lanes, and also by providing toolkits to support communities in changing their default design which is based around accommodating cars to around people and walking (including people with limited or no mobility.)

One of the goals in Langley City’s strategic plan is to “enhance the multi-modal transportation network within the community.” This means enhancing walking and cycling infrastructure. You have seen this is action with the upgraded 203rd Street and 53rd Avenue. We have more work to do in our community; the north side Langley City is moderately walkable while the south side is somewhat car dependent.

Building a walkable Langley City not only helps reduce congestion, but it also supports making our community healthier. This also happens to be good for our collective wallet as it leads to a reduction in health care costs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

TransLink survey says strong support for bus lanes in Downtown Langley

As I posted about last week, Langley City council approved partnering with TransLink to implement Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes in Downtown Langley as shown below.

Planned westbound bus lane along Fraser Highway marked in yellow. Outside lane restrict to buses, bicycles, and vehicles turning right. Select map to enlarge.

Planned northbound bus lane along 203rd Street marked in yellow. Outside lane restrict to buses, bicycles, and vehicles turning right. Select map to enlarge.

Planned eastbound bus lane along Logan Avenue marked in yellow. Outside lane restrict to buses, bicycles, and vehicles turning right. Select map to enlarge.

These lanes will not only speed up bus service, supporting the new 503 B-Line like service launching this fall which will connect Langley City to King George SkyTrain along Fraser Highway, but they will also speed up general traffic to due traffic signal optimization.

This is a win-win project as it makes getting around better for people no matter the mode of travel they choose. TransLink held a public engagement process during the first half of June to get people’s feedback on the now-approved changes, and recently posted the feedback they received from the public.

Level of support for the proposed bus priority lane on 203 Avenue northbound from Fraser Highway to Logan Avenue — 100 responses

Level of support for the proposed bus priority lane on Fraser Highway westbound from 203 Street to 200 Street — 100 responses

Level of support for the proposed bus priority lane on Logan Avenue eastbound from 203 Street to Glover Road — 100 responses

As shown, there is public support to make these changes. The full engagement summary report can be downloaded from TransLink’s website.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Pilot program to help residential strata corporations reduce energy usage.

While a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions is generated due to transportation, energy usage within residential buildings also generates a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions in BC. There have been government programs to help support retrofitting single-family housing and rental buildings to reduce energy usage, but these types of programs have been harder to come by and access for strata residential buildings. This is significant as over 70% of our housing stock in Metro Vancouver is not single-family housing.

An example of a strata building. Select image to enlarge.

For strata corporations, it can be harder to implement energy reduction retrofits due to the nature of strata governance which normally includes volunteer strata councils, limited funding, and complexities around aligning individual owners who may have competing interests.

To help support residential strata corporations, the Metro Vancouver Regional District launched a Strata Energy Advisor pilot program. The goal of the pilot program was to see if there was an interest in a program to help residential strata corporations get energy assessments to support completing building upgrades to reduce energy usage.

There was a desire for such as program as the original pilot target of 70 qualified building was met 14 weeks earlier than planned. The pilot program was expanded to include 88 qualified buildings. A total of 118 energy-saving project were created as a result of this pilot. 64 of these projects are in progress, and 18 projects have been completed to date.

Some municipalities also provided grants to help support strata corporations complete projects. These municipalities included Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster, the City of North Vancouver, and UBC.

In total, the pilot project was delivered for $759,000. Work will now begin to develop a report to “summarize the projects implemented to date, the estimated greenhouse gas reductions, cost effectiveness of the program, a survey of the participants and other measure of the impact of the program.” It will also include next steps. This could be an ideal program for the provincial or federal governments to support to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change.

More information about the Strata Energy Advisor pilot can be found on a Metro Vancouver website.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

July 8 Council Meeting: City Park renewal, other projects, and administrative matters

Today will be my last post about Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. You can read yesterday’s post and Tuesday’s post to learn about all the items covered.

Langley City is in renewal mode. City Park is one of the major multi-year renewal projects occurring in our community. Over the past few years around $1.2 million has been invested into renewing this park. The latest round of projects are starting to take shape as shown in the following pictures from Monday night’s council meeting.

A slide showing pictures of City Park renewal. Select image to enlarge.

Another slide showing a picture of City Park renewal. Select image to enlarge.

Other projects that are moving forward in Langley City include:

  • Brydon Park improvements with new trails and an off-leash dog area in the forest area
  • Rotary Centennial Park ball diamond has been cleaned up to support pick-up games
  • Pickleball courts were installed in Douglas Park
  • New bike racks installed in Downtown Langley
  • 203 Street sewer replacement between Fraser Highway and Logan Avenue
  • 48 Avenue storm sewer has been renewed
  • Annual fire hydrant inspection and cleaning underway
  • Annual catch basin cleaning program is underway
  • Annual sewer pipe inspections completed for 1/5th of the City. (Every 5 years, all pipes are inspected.)
  • Michaud Greenway conceptual design underway
  • Glover Road protected cycling lane design underway
  • Grade Crescent conceptual design underway

There were some administrative items that council approved.

Langley City council supported the City of Burnaby’s request calling on the province to expand the types of investments that municipalities can utilize to save money. Right now, municipalities are essentially only able to save money in bank accounts. While this is a super safe place to save money, it has a ultra-low rate of return. Expanding the types of investments would allow municipalities to get a higher rate of return for money saved over multiply years.

Council also approved our Corporate Officer Kelly Kenney to be a signing officer for the City’s bank accounts.

In most communities, including Langley City, the mayor sends letters of support as requested by local organizations that are seeking grants from the province or federal government. There has been no official policy about this in Langley City. Council approved a policy that formally allows the mayor to send a letter of support on behalf of council for local non-profits and recognized community organizations for projects that directly benefit the community, and where there is no cost to the City. Additionally, these letters of support will be made available to council.

Council also appointed Leigh Castron to the Arts & Culture Task Group.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July 8 Council Meeting: Reducing Theft from Auto, BAT Lanes Downtown, and Budget Updates

Today I will be continuing posting about Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. Please read my previous post about the meeting for information about development matters, and the two public delegations to council.

Langley City’s financial plans (budgets) are bylaws. This means that whenever there is a change made to a financial plan, it must be approved by council. Reasons for changes can be due to receiving an unexpected grant from the federal or provincial governments, or TransLink. It can also happen when funding is shifted from one budgeted item to another. Financial plans are also updated to reconcile the budget with actual revenue and expenditures.

Langley City applied for a grant for TransLink to contribute 75% of the funding to build protected bike lanes on a section of 208th Street and Glover Road. If successful, the City will transfer $476,000 from developer contribution reserves to fund 25% of the costs.

The City also received $15,484 from the Municipal Insurance Association to address “any risk management issues.” The City will be applying for $25,000 from the Fraser Valley Regional Library to install new accessible desks, computer kiosks, and renew furniture at our library branch.

The following items will be funded with additional casino proceeds totalling around $300,000:

  • Traffic Signal Updates at: 203/Industrial Avenue and 200/Logan Avenue
  • Fraser Highway One-Way Renewal Project
  • Roger’s Hometown Hockey – January 2019
  • Fire Hall Generator Replacement
  • City Hall Office Space Optimization

Langley City will be implementing Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes as follows:

  • Northbound on 203 Street between Fraser Highway and Logan Avenue
  • Eastbound on Logan Avenue between 203 Street and Glover Road
  • Westbound on Fraser Highway between 203 Street and 200 Street

These BAT lanes will speed up the new B-Line like, rapid bus service that is coming to Langley City this fall. It will also speed up general traffic as well. Council gave the official approval for installing these BAT lanes at the Monday night meeting. It is expected that these lanes will be implemented this fall in time for the introduction of the new 503 B-Line like service along Fraser Highway from SkyTrain to Langley City, continuing as a regular bus to Aldergrove.

For more information about these BAT lanes, please read a previous post on the topic.

People stealing items from other people’s vehicles is one of the largest categories of crime in Langley City. Given that we share the regional town centre with the Township of Langley (which has a lot of surface parking spots), this isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that people still do not lock their vehicles doors, and leave items in sight. Right now, thieving is simply a matter of checking if a door is locked or not.

Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group asked council to pass the following set of motions.

THAT the Task Group recommends that Council direct staff to investigate signage and location options to educate the public to remove all belongings from vehicles and to lock vehicle doors in areas where there is high occurrences of theft from auto.

THAT the Task Group recommends that Council direct staff to incorporate “Theft from Auto” crime prevention tips into routine social media messaging.

THAT the Task Group recommends that Council direct the City’s communication staff to work with the RCMP’s communication staff to cross promote crime prevention initiatives related to ‘theft from auto’ crimes.

Council unanimously passed these motions. ICBC provides signage to promote locking vehicle doors and the RCMP has data on places that are hot-spots for theft from auto. The City’s role will be to facilitate the installation of these signs.

Tomorrow will be my last post about Monday’s meeting.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

July 8 Council Meeting: Public hearing on proposed apartment, standing committee on legal cannabis, and interim improvements for Grade Crescent

Last night was the second to last public council meeting before the August break; there was a packed agenda.

The meeting started with a public hearing for rezoning property as shown in the following map along 53A Avenue to accommodate a 69-unit, 5-storey apartment building.

Location of properties proposed to be rezoned. 20209, 20219, 20225, 20237 53A Avenue. Select map to enlarge.

The proponent of the apartment project stated that the building will have mix of 1 bedroom, 1 bedroom + flex, 2 bedroom, and 2 bedroom + flex units. Some of the units are planned to be adaptable which means that they can be easily modified to accommodate people with limited mobility. The building will also include 2 EV parking spots on opening day, with all other parking spots roughed in for EV parking in the future.

Rendering of apartment being proposed for 20209, 20219, 20225, 20237 53A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Before a proposed rezoning or development permit goes to council, it goes to the citizen-led Advisory Planning Commission. One of the comments from the commission was to increase the window size and openness of the parking level lobby. The proponent of the project stated that they will be incorporating the commission’s recommendation regarding the parking level lobby.

There is a ramp from the street that connects to the main entrance. Councillor Storteboom asked if the ramp would be able to accommodate scooters. The proponent of the project stated that it met current accessibility requirements.

Councillor Albrecht asked the proponent if they considered a double gate system to enhance the security of the underground parking. The proponent stated that they did not consider a double gate.

I asked why the proponent didn’t add individual staircases to connect ground-level units to the street as recommended by the City’s Crime Prevention Through Environment Design checklist. The proponent stated it was something that the developer considered, but ultimately decided against pursuing. The following is an example of ground-level access from a recently completed building near Michaud Crescent and 200th Street.

A recently completed apartment building with individual unit ground-level stairs. Select image to enlarge.

A resident who spoke at the public hearing and lives adjacent to the proposed building stated that she did not want to see it built in her back yard.

An render of how the proposed apartment building would look in relationship to other buildings in the area. Select image to enlarge.

After the public hearing, there were two delegations to council.

The first delegation was from Randy Caine and his associates on the need for retail cannabis sales in Langley City. After this delegation, Mayor van den Broek stated that she will be creating a standing committee of council to research and make recommendations around how the legal cannabis industry could be accommodated in Langley City.

A presentation about the state of Grade Crescent between 200th Street and 203rd Street. Select image to enlarge.

The second delegation was from Bruce Downing on behalf of residents that live on Grade Crescent between 200th Street and 203rd Street. He noted the state of the crosswalks, sidewalks, and trails in the area, asking council to improve their safety and accessibility.

An example of the current state of the sidewalk along Grade Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

City staff is currently working on a medium-term plan for this corridor to improve safety for people walking, cycling, and driving. This project is several years away from starting. Based on the state of Grade Crescent today, interim measures are likely required. Council passed the following motion:

THAT staff investigate the cost of implementing interim traffic calming measures, interim repairs, and interim crosswalk safety improvements between 203rd Street and 200th Street along Grade Crescent in time for the 2020 budget development process or sooner.

This will allow council to consider interim measures in the 2020 budget. In the meantime, City staff will be improving a section of sidewalk and repainting the crosswalks in this area starting in the next few weeks.

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

Monday, July 8, 2019

Study finds Metro Vancouver residents willing to pay for improving services in their community.

Young Regional Leadership Collective

Metro Vancouver is a region of over two-and-half million people comprised of over two dozen First Nations and municipalities, yet very little is known about how residents view the performance of their local governments. The Young Regional Leadership Collective set out to investigate this matter in the fall of 2018 and has just released the findings from their State of Local Government survey.

Millennials and Boomers are often thought of as having opposing values, but the Collective wanted to understand if this narrative extends to views about local government. What the Collective found was both surprising and predictable.

“One of the things that we hear continually is that people are blanket opposed to increased taxes,” said Nathan Pachal one of the survey’s co-authors and a Langley City councillor. “What we found was that 52% of Boomers said they are actually willing to pay more taxes to increase services in their community.” This percentage was higher for all other generations. The survey results show that only around a quarter of the survey respondents wanted to cut taxes and services.

“While there were some surprising differences in opinion across generations,” stated co-author and city planner Katelyn McDougall, “it was also interesting to see how few differences there were across the generations overall.”

The survey results show that people are generally satisfied with the services provided by local governments across Metro Vancouver, though there are some areas where respondents are universally dissatisfied: affordable housing, land-use, planning, and development.

“People have been impacted by the high cost of housing in the region and might associate that with planning. There are many tools planners have that can help improve housing, but so much of it goes beyond the role of the planner and into the world of politics and funding from senior levels of government” says McDougall.

“What I take away from this survey is that across all generations, people are willing to support their local government to improve quality of life,” says Pachal. “People are also looking to their municipality to address challenges such as affordable housing, and are willing to give local governments the financial resources to address these challenges.”

Download the Report

The full report can be downloaded online at: https://report.yrlc.ca/.

About Collective:

The Young Regional Leadership Collective is ad-hoc group of young, urbanist politicians and planners who are passionate about placemaking in Metro Vancouver. The group’s mandate is to research regional matters, organize events and provide an online forum for regional planning and governance discussions.

https://www.yrlc.ca/ |https://www.facebook.com/groups/yvr.yrlc/

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Interactive map shows population density and neighbourhood build-out in Langley City

Jens von Bergmann who runs the Mountain Doodles blog has built some interesting visualizations over the years with the use of census data. The latest creation from von Bergmann is an interactive map of the changing population density in the Metro Vancouver Regional District from 1971 to 2016.

The following are samples looking at Langley City from 1991, 2001, and 2016. The population density is scaled the same, so it is an apples-to-apples comparison.

Langley City Population Density, 1991. Source: Mountain Doodles

Langley City Population Density, 2001. Source: Mountain Doodles

Langley City Population Density, 2016. Source: Mountain Doodles

Beside population density, I found it interesting to see the growth of the single-family neighbourhoods south of the Nicomekl River. Starting with Eagle Heights and along 203rd, then filling-in moving west to east from 1981 to 1996. Another thing I saw was the decrease in population density from 1996 to 2016 in neighbourhoods south of the Nicomekl River due to decreasing household sizes.

From a technical explanation of the interactive map, please read the post Census Custom Timelines.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

June 24 Council Meeting: City projects and maintenance supporting the quality of life for residents

If people want to speak with local governments, they can submit a request to appear before a council. In Langley City, this is a simple process. There were two requests to appear before council at the June 24th meeting.

The first request was from the Amanda Smith, representing the Tri-It Triathlon Committee. She presented a 1st place trophy to Payton Henderson who won in the 10/11 year-old female category. As a note, other awards were given out on the day of the Tri-It Triathlon.

Amanda Smith presenting a 1st place trophy to Payton Henderson. Select image to enlarge.

Council also received a presentation from a group call L-CHAT, or Langley Collaborative Homelessness Action Table. The presentation was from Leith White of the Langley Vineyard Church. He spoke about their group’s mission to create a welcoming community were everyone can call home, and their mission to advocate and support people who are experiencing homelessness.

Summer is construction season is the City, and there are many projects in progress to help support a good quality of life for residents in our community.

Clean drinking water is key to ensuring that our community remains healthy. Langley City crews have been busy ensuring that safe, clean water continues to flow. The water mains under a section of Fraser Highway are in the process of being replaced. This is a tricky project as it is occurring on one of the busiest sections of road in Langley City between the Langley Bypass and Landmark Way. This project is expected to be wrapped up by the fall.

City crews have also been doing pressure value maintenance to ensure that water is flowing at just the right pressure.

With the summer season, also comes seasonal planting in places such as Innes Corner and the annual hanging of flower baskets in our downtown core.

There has also been annual maintenance completed on some city-owned facilities and within the trail network.

Nicholas park is getting a refresh. Its spray park was recently repaired and resurfaced, and a new washroom is in the works.

There is also a new trail connection opening soon from the south side of Conder Park.

City Park is receiving a major upgrade this year with a new perimeter trail and central commons area. The following pictures show the progress that is being made.

Rick Bomhof providing an update about City Park. Select image to enlarge.

More pictures about the upgrades happening at City Park. Select image to enlarge.

To learn about the other items that were addressed at the last Langley City council meeting, please read my previous posts about development yesterday, and the RCMP and camping which I posted last week.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

June 24 Council Meeting: Development continues along Brydon Crescent and near Linwood Park

On June 24th, there was a Langley City council meeting. I posted about police expenditures and camping in city parks which were covered at that meeting last Tuesday. Normally, I would post fully about council meetings in the week that they occur, but these posts were preempted due to the Nicomekl River District workshop and open house.

As I posted about previously, Langley City’s 2018 Annual Report is available online. As part of the formal adoption process of the annual report, members of the public can provide feedback about the report at a council meeting or in writing. Those opportunities were made available; no one took advantage of those opportunities. Langley City council approved the 2018 Annual Report.

Council also gave third reading to a re-zoning bylaw which would accommodate a five-storey, 115-unit apartment building located along Brydon Crescent. You can read more about this proposed project in a previous post.

Council gave final reading to a re-zoning bylaw, and issued a development permit, to allow for the construction of a three-story, 30-unit townhouse project also along Brydon Crescent. The re-zoning bylaw was given third reading back in June 2018. Sometimes there can be delays between when a re-zoning bylaw receives third reading and when it is finally adopted. These delays can be caused for various reasons. For example, the re-zoning proponent may have been waiting to secure funding to build the project, or revisions needed to be made to the project to ensure that all city requirements have been met.

Location of properties proposed to be re-zoned. 20209, 20219, 20225, 20237 53A Avenue. Select map to enlarge.

Rendering of apartment being proposed for 20209, 20219, 20225, 20237 53A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Council also gave first and second reading for a re-zoning bylaw that would accommodate a five-storey, 69-unit apartment building located at 20209, 20219, 20225, & 20237 53A Avenue. This allows for a public hearing on the matter at the July 8th council meeting.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the remaining items covered at last Monday’s council meeting.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Concept plan revealed for the Nicomekl River District

For the last two days, Langley City’s proposed Nicomekl River District has been going through a “charrette” to come up with a concept plan to enhance the Nicomekl River, its tributaries, surrounding protected areas, and adjoining neighbourhoods. This “charrette” was an intense two-day process involving the participation of members of the public, council, city staff, and technical experts to develop a concept plan which will be refined over the next year.

Yesterday, I posted about the public workshop which was held on Tuesday to launch the “charrette”. That post provides the context for today’s post about last night’s open house which was held at City Hall.

I was happy to see that the open house was well attended. People were able to learn about the workshop process, and see the work of the technical team in consolidating the ideas from the workshop into one concept plan.

People attending the open house for the Nicomekl River District. Select image to enlarge.

The original plan was to have two concepts, but it became apparent early on that their was strong consensus amount all the workshop participants on how to best enhance the areas around the Nicomekl River. This is pretty amazing as during the workshop people where split into different tables that worked independently.

At the open house, people were encouraged to provide feedback.

Nicomekl River District Design Principles. Select image to enlarge.

The proceeding photo shows the design principles for the Nicomekl River District. The photo was taken early during the open house. I kept my eyes on this board, and while the intensity of the dots increased, the distribution did not change much. The five design principles are:

Walkable & Accessible
People-oriented street designs and inviting pathway connections will make walking a delightful activity and allow people of all abilities to move around safely and comfortably.

Mix of Uses
A mix of uses, including small-scale shops and cafes within the neighbourhood will help create a complete community. A place where individuals and families can get their daily needs all within a short walking-distance from home.

Ecologically Sensitive
Careful stewardship of the Nicomekl River and its floodplain will ensure it stays healthy and full of bio-diverse life for generations to come.

Heritage Conscious
Recollecting the past and animating the landscape with the stories and imagery of those who inhabited the area prior to us will help us understand the present and provide context for the future.

Playful & Safe
Planning and designing for fun and whimsy across all ages will help bring people together and foster a sense of security and ownership in the community.

The following board from the open house provides a brief overview of the workshop.

An overview of the workshop held on Tuesday. Select image to enlarge.

The concept for the Nicomekl River District is split into four different rooms. Each of these rooms has a different focus on how to connect people with the river system, but all include enhancing the natural systems.

The Nicomekl River District concept plan. Select image to enlarge.

The four rooms of the Nicomekl River District. Select image to enlarge.

To help build a complete community, village centres for small-scale shops were proposed for the areas at 200th Street and 50th Avenue, and 208th Street and 48th Avenue. This could be mixed-use areas with shops on the ground level and housing above. The areas highlighted in orange represent places where there is an opportunity to increase the mix of housing types by introducing low-rise apartments, townhouses, and/or rowhouses. This could even include low-rise mixed-use buildings in some areas to improve walkability and enhance the small-town feeling of our community.

One of the other important features of this concept is to start connecting Langley City together. Today, our community can almost feel like it is two different places. This concept looks at connecting our downtown with the Nicomekl River system, and with our southern neighbourhoods.

Based on feedback gathered from the open house, this concept will now start the refinement process. As I noted, this process will take about a year, and there will be further opportunities to help shape the Nicomekl River District.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Bold ideas from yesterday’s Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood planning session will be presented tonight.

The Nicomekl River and its tributaries are important assets in our community. One of the most obvious functions of these protected areas around the river is to provide water management during periods of rain and seasonal flooding. The river system is also important salmon habitat, and provides habitat for other animals including a variety of birds. Finally, the Nicomekl River trail network connects people with nature and neighbourhoods throughout Langley City. Most people in our community are no more than a 5-minute walk to the river system’s extensive trail network.

While I do not speak on behalf of council, I am confident in saying that every member of Langley City council and staff understands the value of the Nicomekl River system. This is why the city is working on a “Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan.”

The planning process is expected to take a year, and the first phase of this process is currently underway. As you might have seen online or in the local newspaper, a public workshop was held yesterday where all members of the community were invited to attend.

People at the Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood workshop yesterday. Select image to enlarge.

At the start of the workshop each participant was asked about their one major hope for the Nicomekl River District and their one fear. Some of the hopes that I saw were that people wanted to see the area enhanced both from an environmental standpoint and from a neighbourhood standpoint. People were fearful that the plan could be watered-down, that Langley City’s small-town feel could be disrupted, and that the environment would degrade.

There was a facilitator to help capture ideas from people at each table. They helped guide the process to ensure that the questions posed to the groups were answered. Tables were either given a section of the map of the Nicomekl River District to capture ideas about, or were given an overall map for the whole district. The following pictures show the ideas captured from the tables who were given specific sections to generate ideas about.

Ideas captured for areas west of 203rd Street. Select image to enlarge.

Ideas captured for areas east of 203rd Street. Select image to enlarge.

There were some broad themes that emerged during the workshop. The first was to enhance the natural areas of the river system. There are many non-native plants and changes done within the river system and floodplain over the years. These areas could be restored to their natural forms including with native plant species. The second theme was to enhance the connectivity within the river system: both in connecting people to nature and the river, and in connecting people between neighbourhoods. There was discussion about a nature centre, boardwalks, and lookouts. There was also the idea of creating a better interface between the river system and the built-out areas. As an example, most buildings turn their back to the floodplain.

The other broad themes were to increase housing diversity to support affordability, and to provide corner stores and coffee shops that people could walk to, especially in the areas directly south of the Nicomekl River. There were ideas to create some pockets of mixed-use areas and higher-density areas to support coffee shops and small-space retail that could be combined with low-rise apartments and townhouses. There was discussion that this development could help pay for enhancing the river system.

The workshop held yesterday was part of a “charrette” which is an intense, two-day process to develop several concepts for the Nicomekl River District. The end result will be two concepts that will be able to move forward for further feedback from members of our community and council. One concept will then be chosen and refined.

The results of the “charrette” will be presented tonight at Langley City Hall. You can you drop by between 6pm and 8pm.

Don’t worry if you were not able to attend the workshop or the open house tonight, there will continue to be other ways to contribute to this plan as most people have very busy schedules that limit the ability to attend in-person events solely dedicated to this plan.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

June 24 Council Meeting: RCMP 2020 Contract Policing Budget Approved in Principle. Camping Banned at Rotary Centennial Park.

While Langley City council approved the 2019 municipal budget only three months ago, and property owners still have until July 2nd to pay this year’s property tax, work has already begun on preparing the 2020 budget.

Policing is the single largest operating expenditure for Langley City at 25% of the total budget. These policing costs are broken down into three major categories: RCMP contract policing, detachment operations, and the community police office.

Because the federal government pays for 10% of the RCMP contract policing costs for Langley City, council is required to provide approval in principle for the 2020 contract policing budget to support the federal budget cycle.

As it has been for the last several budget cycles, the RCMP member strength for Langley City has been set at 51.35. This works out to one RCMP member for every 537 residents in our community which is one of the highest ratios in Metro Vancouver.

The contract policing budget is broken down into two major categories, local detachment and integrated services.

The local detachment contract policing costs are expected to increase from $8.68 million this year to $8.84 million in 2020. This is an increase of 1.84%. Wages, training, vehicles, and computer equipment are the major drivers of this increase.

The Langley detachment of the RCMP is a member of several integrated policing teams which provide services throughout Metro Vancouver for all RCMP detachments and some independent police forces. An example of an integrated team is the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT). Langley City’s share of funding for these teams is proposed to increase from $1.25 million this year to $1.32 million in 2020. This is a 5.6% increase. This increase could have been higher, but the provincial government is increasing its funding contribution to IHIT from 10% to 30%.

More information about the integrated teams is available from the RCMP website.

Contract policing represents around 80% of Langley City’s policing budget. Langley City shares the cost of operating the Langley RCMP detachment building and civilian staff with the Township of Langley. The City also pays for the community police office in our Downtown. The remaining 20% of the policing budget will be finalized next year.

Langley City council gave approval in principle to the 2020 RCMP contract policing budget last night.

As I posted about recently, Langley City council gave first, second, and third reading to limit overnight camping at Rotary Centennial Park. For more information around why this was proposed, please read a previous post that I wrote.

Rotary Centennial Park. Camping is now restricted in the area inside the red square. Select image to enlarge.

At last night’s meeting, council gave final reading, approving an update to our Parks and Public Facilities Regulation Bylaw to limit camping throughout all of Rotary Centennial Park. This is in addition to Douglas Park, McBurney Plaza, Innes Corner, and in city-owned buildings where camping is already limited. The rules around who can be in any park, plaza, or city-owned building has not changed.

Councillor Wallace was opposed to the final reading of the bylaw.

Monday, June 24, 2019

From the Interurban to SkyTrain, an exclusive look at our transportation history from the West Coast Railway Association

This weekend, I visited the West Coast Railway Association’s Heritage Park with a friend. He arranged for an extended “railfan” tour which enabled us to see parts of their collection and facilities that is not general accessible.

Between 1910 and 1950, you could take an Interurban train between Downtown Vancouver and Chilliwack (via a transfer in New Westminster). The Langley City Station, known as Langley Prairie, was located near Fraser Highway and Glover Road in our Downtown. The Interurban service had a profound impact on our region’s development. If you look at the current SkyTrain network today, much of it mirrors the Interurban network.

If you want to experience what it was like to ride the Interurban, you can head to Cloverdale in the summer months and visit the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society. They offer several 1.5km rides on a restored Interurban during the weekends.

Beside providing passenger service, the railway also provided freight service. This freight service is still provided today by Southern Railway of BC. As a note, the railway through Langley City was redirect south along the Langley Bypass many years ago. Michaud Crescent was the original railway alignment.

Circling back, West Coast Railway Association volunteers are restoring some of the original electric freight locomotives used on that railway. The locomotive pictured below was built in 1912 and operated on the BC Electric Railway from 1946 until 1970.

BC Electric Railway Locomotive 960 being restoring. Select image to enlarge.

Skipping ahead several years, if you’ve ridden on SkyTrain, you’ve experienced the original SkyTrain cars. While the cars are functional, I certainly prefer the current generation of SkyTrain cars. Back in the 1990s, BC Transit (the precursor to TransLink in our region) was trying to figure out what the maximum dimensions could be for the next-generation SkyTrain cars. They built a mock-up that they towed behind the original Mark I cars to see if things would work out. This prototype (which had no motor/control system) helped inform the current dimensions of the second- and third-generation cars.

Front of Mark II prototype SkyTrain car. Select image to enlarge.

Side of Mark II prototype SkyTrain car. Select image to enlarge.

While not directly related to Metro Vancouver transportation, did you know that when the provincial government owned and operated BC Rail, they also operated a “Premier Car”? The Northern Summit would haul the Premier of BC in style from the Lower Mainland up to Northern BC. The car even included one of those traditional end-of-train platforms for politicians to wave to citizens with space for a dogwood flag to be draped over the end of the train. The Northern Summit needs extensive work, but luckily it is stored indoors to prevent further deterioration.

BC Rail Northern Summit car in storage. Select image to enlarge.

Our region and province have a rich history when it comes to rail-based transportation, and it was really interest for me to learn about some of that history this weekend.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

New Metro Vancouver Clean Air Plan under development

In most parts of BC, the regulation of air quality is the responsibility of the provincial government. Certain aspects of air quality regulation have been delegated to the Metro Vancouver Regional District in our part of the province.

The regional district is responsible for establishing ambient air quality objectives, and monitoring and reporting on those objectives. This can be seen in the AirMap that the regional district provides as well as the air quality advisories that are unfortunately issued regularly during the summer months.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District also issues air quality permits to control emissions from industrial facilities, as well as enforces air quality emissions regulations.

Beyond its regulatory authority, the regional district is also responsible for developing plans, strategies, and programs to manage air quality including incentivizing people and companies to improve air quality. An example of such a program is the Wood Stove Exchange program.

Greenhouse gas emissions play a large role in air quality, but are currently not within the regulatory mandate of the regional district. While industrial facilities can be large emission generators, it is emissions from transportation and our housing that creates a significant amount of emissions.

Charts showing the sources of greenhouse gas emissions within the energy sector in BC. Source: Trends in Greenhouse Gas Emissions in B.C.

Controlling vehicles emissions and building emissions (via the BC Building code) rests with the provincial government as they have the authority to regulate emissions from these sources.

Even so, the regional district can still play an important role in the reduction of emissions from vehicles and housing.

The Regional Growth Strategy is something that all municipalities in Metro Vancouver must align their official community plans with. Building complete communities that promote walking, cycling, and transit help reducing emissions and improve air quality.

The regional district adopted “Climate 2050” as the long-term air quality strategy recently. A new implementation plan is now being developed call the “Clean Air Plan.” This plan will provide concrete actions that can be taken over the next 5 to 10 years to improve air quality, and get the region closer to the goals set in “Climate 2050”.

The regional district is currently in the process of working towards getting feedback from stakeholders (including people who live in Metro Vancouver) about the development of this new Clean Air Plan. As new information becomes available, I’ll try to post it on this blog.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

TransLink implementation timeline for new fare structure and products

Fare vending machines at the entrance to King George Station. Select image to enlarge.

Last summer, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation approved TransLink moving forward with changing the current SkyTrain zone-based fare system to a distance-based fare system. The current West Coast Express fare structure was also approved to be changed into a simpler station-by-station fare structure. There was also proposed improvements to HandyDART fares. You can read more about this in a post I wrote last summer.

Changing the fare structures means making changes to the Compass Card system. Because this is not a simple process, TransLink has now provided an implementation timeline for the fare structure changes that were approved last summer in the most recent Open Board Meeting Reports package.

The following outlines the implementation timelines for the approved fare recommendations:

Explore introducing new flexible products: Finalized plan and cost estimates for new flexible products anticipated by end of 2019. Implementation could begin by 2020.

Accept Concession fares on HandyDART: Finalized plan and cost estimates anticipated by end of 2019. Implementation could begin by 2020.

Develop business case for targeted discounts to help reduce overcrowding: Throughout this year.

Explore expanded discounts for youth and low income through discussions with the Province: Throughout this year.

Finer-grained distance-based pricing (based on distance between stations or stops) on gated system (SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express): Finalized business case including cost in 2020. If approved, implementation would take two years.

Restructure prepaid monthly passes by distance, instead of zones: Finalized business case including cost in 2020. If approved, implementation would take two years.

The majority of transit riders will not experience any changes to the fare system structure until at least 2022/23.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Double-decker buses going into service this fall. Other buses on order.

In order to accommodate growing transit ridership in our region, and to replace aging buses, TransLink has a significant number of new buses on order. These buses are arriving and starting to enter service.

I posted about this bus purchasing program at the end of May, but there is now more detailed information in the latest TransLink Open Board Meeting reports package.

TransLink trialled double-decker buses on the 555 route between Lougheed SkyTrain Station and Carvolth Exchange in Langley Township in the winter of 2017/18. I had the change to ride one of those trial buses.

There was overwhelming positive feedback received from transit riders. The 555 is a busy route, so these buses will relieve some of the overcrowding on this route.

One of the new double-decker buses is expected to be delivered mid-July with the remaining buses being deliver between August and the end of this year. Once these new buses are commissioned, they will start entering service this fall on routes such as the 555 and other highway routes.

The following table shows the full list of buses that are scheduled to arrive or enter service this year, and whether they are for replacing aging buses or for service expansion. It goes without saying that people are needed to drive these buses. TransLink’s bus operating subsidiary also needs to hire more transit operators.

Bus Type Number for Expanding Service Number for Replacing Aging Buses Timeline
Standard Compress Natural Gas 0 47 Will arrive second half of year
Standard 94 10 Being delivered
Highway Coach 0 23 Entering service
Double-Decker 5 27 Will arrive second half of year
Articulated (B-Line) 58 52 Being delivered
Battery Electric 4 0 Arrived in May
Community Shuttles 12 15 Entered service
HandyDART 10 40 Arriving

In order to meet the needs of our region, more buses will be arriving next year and beyond. Phase three of the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Vision for transit service expansion is still unfunded. This funding shortfall needs to be sorted out soon to make sure that there is no interruption in much need transit service expansion in our region.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Contribute to the creation of the Nicomekl River Neighbourhood Plan

Langley City is undergoing a generational update of our official community plan. An official community plan is almost like a constitution for a municipality; it is the framework on which other policies and bylaws must align with.

An official community plan contains the guiding principals for land-use matters such as density, affordability, and design. It also includes principals on how to maintain and enhance the transportation network, water system, sewer system, parks, recreation facilities, and cultural amenities. Official community plans also provide guidance on environmental protection and climate change mitigation measures. These plans also can speak to social planning matters such as poverty reduction.

Official community plans in our region must be consistent with the objects of the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s Regional Growth Strategy.

The last major update to Langley City’s official community plan was done in 2005/06, and the last significant update was done in 1999. The City is currently in the process of completing a significant update to our official community plan.

Because official community plans tend to be higher-level documents, sometimes it makes sense to also develop neighbourhood plans. Neighbourhood plans expand on the guiding principals of an official community plan for specific neighbourhoods. In Langley City, we currently have a Downtown Master Plan which is a neighbourhood plan.

Looking north from the Nicomekl River Floodplain. Select image to enlarge.

The Nicomekl River floodplain system is a significant asset for our community, and council believes that the floodplain and surrounding area deserves special attention. A neighbourhood plan for the Nicomekl River area is being developed in conjunction with the official community plan update.

Because these plans can last for decades, it is important that people who live, or have an interest in Langley City, can meaningfully contribute to the development of these plans.

As part of the first phase of developing the Nicomekl River Neighbourhood Plan, there is an upcoming workshop and opening house.

The workshop details are as follows:
Date: Tuesday, June 25
Time: 9:00am to Noon

The City of Langley is hosting a design workshop to explore the future of the Nicomekl River and its surroundings. During this 3-hour session we will learn about the floodplain, discuss our most ambitious dreams for the neighbourhood, and develop design concepts. The results of the workshop will help shape the neighbourhood plan which will guide growth and development for years to come!
You must register to attend.

The open housing details are as follows:
Date: Wednesday, June 26
Time: 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Location: Main Floor — Langley City Hall

Phase 1 is all about reaching out to the community to hear what you have to say. This phase introduces key issues and trends and includes an open house for community input into the development of neighbourhood plan concepts.

There will be other opportunities to contribute to the development of the Nicomekl River Neighbourhood Plan, and the updated official community plan. These opportunities will be posted on the City’s website, and I’ll also be posting about them here.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

June 10 Council Meeting Notes: Moving forward with restricting camping at Rotary Centennial Park

In 2015, the BC Supreme Court ruled that people who are experiencing homelessness can camp in municipal parks between 7pm and 9am. People are allowed to camp until a community has enough shelter/supportive housing spaces available to accommodate all people who are experiencing homelessnes in a community under the ruling. We currently do not have enough spaces in Langley.

BC Housing is working on building more supportive housing in Langley, and a new 49-unit facility is opening soon. The 2017 regional homeless count found that there was at least 79 people who were unsheltered and experiencing homelessness; this number is likely higher today. 49 units of supportive housing with 24/7 wraparound care is a good start, but it is likely that we need at least another 50 more units in our community.

While we wait for more supportive housing spaces, the BC Supreme Court ruling remains in effect. In response to the court ruling, Langley City council approved an update to our Parks and Public Faculties Bylaw which allows for people who are experiencing homelessness to erect temporary shelter and camp between 7pm and 9am in parks. Temporary shelters must be removed by 9am.

The bylaw also places reasonable restrictions on where camping can take place in parks. For example, camping is not allowed in playgrounds, flower beds, washrooms, sports courts, and sports fields. Camping is also not allowed in all public plazas, public squares, and public buildings.

The BC Supreme Court ruling allows municipalities to restrict camping in whole parks, but only if it doesn’t impact a person who is experiencing homelessness the ability to seek shelter that is easily accessible. As such, every camping restriction must be carefully considered. Currently camping is restricted in the whole of Douglas Park.

Rotary Centennial Park. Area inside red square is in the process of having a 24/7 restriction on camping being put in place. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City council is in the process of considering restricting camping in the whole of Rotary Centennial Park. The reasoning behind placing a restriction on camping in the whole park include:

  • The park’s proximity to high density housing including low income families with children who play in the park.
  • The large number of Syrian Government-Assisted Refugees live in the neighbourhood and are vulnerable due to limited English language skills.
  • The concern of residents about exposing their children to the ongoing intravenous drug use by some people who are sheltering overnight.
  • The on-going challenge with some people who are sheltering overnight who consistently refuse to abide by the BC Supreme Court ruling which states that shelters must be taken down between 9am and 7pm, so that other park users can enjoy the playing field and rest of the park.
  • There are other areas nearby where camping is permitted.

Council gave first, second, and third reading to amend the Parks and Public Facilities Regulation Bylaw to include Rotary Centennial as a park where camping is restricted in the whole park.

One of the ways to reduce homelessness is to make sure that there is enough supportive housing in our community. I will continue to advocate to the province and BC Housing for more supportive housing for Langley.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

June 10 Council Meeting Notes: Presentations on secondary suites, the climate crises, plastic pollution, and increasing provincial funding for libraries.

Today, I will be continuing posting about the items that were heard at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting.

There were four groups that presented to council on Monday. The first presentation was from Diane Gendron from Bard in the Valley. This organization has been presenting Shakespeare plays in Douglas Park and in other parts of Langley for 10 years. Gendron noted that in celebration of their 10th season, they will be bringing back “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which was their first production. She thanked council for our on-going support of Bard in the Valley, and noted that of their 17 performances this year, 8 of them will be in Douglas Park. As always, the shows will be free to see in the park.

Council also heard a presentation from Andrea Baird who is a person that rents housing in our community. She stated that her family and another family live in one single-family house. The single-family house has a main area and a legal secondary suite. She stated that when she and the other family rented in the house, they didn’t know it was in violation of the City’s secondary suite bylaw which requires that all houses with secondary suites be owner-occupied.

In Langley City, one space in a single-family house can be rented out, but the other space must remain owner-occupied. Because this matter came to the attention of the City, the City had to enforce its bylaw. Baird noted that with the current housing crises in our region where less than 1% of all rental units are empty, the City should reconsider the owner-occupied requirement for legal secondary suites. She also presented a petition with 100 or so signatures.

She was concerned that she would not be able to find another place to rent and would have to up-root her family.

Langley City is currently in the process of updating its Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw. This includes reviewing the owner-occupied requirements for secondary suites. As this process will require the collaboration of the whole community, I do not know what the result of this process will be.

At the meeting, City staff confirmed that the information Ms. Baird submitted will be considered as part of the updating process.

Council heard from Chloe Arneson, Josh Park, Alexandra Munday, and Prabhasha Wickramaarachchi from Walnut Grove Secondary School about their proposal to “Stop The Ocean Plastic (STOP)”. They presented on their education plan around stopping the proliferation of plastic waste which eventually ends up in our oceans. This group of students received a $10,000 scholarship for their idea at the Langley School District’s I.D.E.A. Summit recently.

A presentation by Sustainabiliteens. Select image to enlarge.

The next presentation was from Sustainabiliteens “which is a group of teens from across Metro Vancouver organizing actions including climate strikes” around the current climate crises. They asked that council consider passing a motion declaring a climate emergency in Langley. This is a symbolic motion which has been passed in hundreds of other cities. They also called on the City to be more aggressive its own greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Councillor Albrecht and I asked that they present to the City’s new Environment Task Group to help flush out the details of their motion, and their proposal around emission reduction targets. Councillor Wallace and Albrecht chair the Environment Task Group. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the Sustainabiliteens collaboration with our new task group.

Currently, the provincial government provides grants to offset the cost of providing library services to communities. This includes a per-capita grant as well as grants to support programs such as the InterLINK program in Metro Vancouver.

For Langley City, the per-capita grant worked out to $46,081 this year. Across BC, $14 million in grants were provided by the province. This is a modest number.

The City of Victoria sent out a letter to all municipalities in the province noting that this per-capita grant has been frozen since 2009, and requested that councils call on their mayors to sent a letter “to the Minister of Education, the Premier, and all local MLAs strongly advocating for the restoration of library funding to a level that reflects both inflationary cost increases since 2009 and the value of this system to the Province.”

Councillor Martin put a motion forward to support Victoria's request which was unanimously approved by council.

Tomorrow will be my final post about Monday night’s council meeting.