Thursday, July 18, 2019

Langley residents’ opinions on local government services. Comparing results to the rest of Metro Vancouver.

A few weeks ago, I shared the results of the State of Local Government survey which was completed on behalf of the Young Regional Leadership Collective. The survey results were for Metro Vancouver as a whole. Because I helped co-author report, I thought I would share the Langley specific results.

One of the questions that was asked in the survey was “which of the following local government services do you use, and how satisfied are you with the quality of the service?”

As as note, these charts are selectable to reveal more information.

Some areas of difference between Langley residents and other Metro Vancouver residents is that Langley residents are more dissatisfied with public transit, and more satisfied with land-use, planning and development.

Because this survey was for all of Metro Vancouver, there were only 19 results from Langley. These results shouldn’t be considered to have the same statistical rigour as the full survey, but they do shed some light on the similarities and differences of Langley residents compared to the rest of the region.

Please read the full survey results report to see the differences between Langley and the rest of the region. Maybe surprising to some, but Langley residents’ views are very similar to the views of people in other parts of our region.

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.