Thursday, August 6, 2020

Langley has third largest population of people experiencing homelessness though numbers stabilized

Preliminary data from the 2020 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver was recently released by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. This count of people experiencing homelessness occurs region-wide every three years. It is a point-in-time sampling of people over a 24-hour period from March 3rd through March 4th.

This report shows a minimum estimation of people visibly experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver. The count does not include people who are staying with friends, living in cars, in jail, in hospital, or in locations which people performing the count were not able to enter.

Like the 2017 count, the top three community where people are experiencing homelessness are Vancouver (2,095), Surrey (644), and Langley (209). These three community represent 80% of the people counted.

The following chart shows the number of people experiencing homelessness in Langley since 2005 from the current and past counts.

The largest increase in Langley occurred between 2014 and 2017. In 2020, it appears that the number of people visibly experiencing homelessness has stabilized.

Since 2017, an integrated case management team to support people experiencing homelessness was created for Langley. This team connects people experiencing homelessness with housing. The Creek Stone supportive housing facility has also recently opened.

There is still more work to be done in Langley. 209 people is too much, and we will need the continued support of the provincial government through BC Housing and Fraser Health to get people experiencing homelessness housed and supported.

For more information, please view the full preliminary data report.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Metro Vancouver transit ridership sets record in 2019. Fraser Highway Express fastest growing route.

2019 was a record-setting year for transit ridership in Metro Vancouver and in the South of Fraser as is evident in TransLink’s 2019 Transit Service Performance Review.

The top five routes in the South of Fraser serve the Scott Road, King George Boulevard, Fraser Highway, and Guildford-Whalley corridors. The ridership of these tops routes are similar to the top routes in Burnaby/New Westminster.

There has been a myth that people in Surrey, Langley, and White Rock don’t want to take transit. The numbers show that this is a myth. When fast and frequent transit service is provided, ridership significantly increases in South of Fraser communities.

One of the success stories has been the introduction of express and local bus service along the same corridors. This combination of service increases transit ridership.

The first example of this is King George Boulevard with the R1(former 96) and 321. The second example of this is the new 503 and 502 service along the Fraser Highway corridor.

In the fall of 2019, the 503 was upgraded to the Fraser Highway Express. This resulted in a 120% year-over-year increase in boardings, making the 503 the fastest growing bus route in Metro Vancouver. Even with the rapid growth of ridership on the Fraser Highway Express, ridership also increased year-over-year for the local service 502 route.

In Langley, transit routes continued to see increasing ridership in 2019. The following table shows the change in ridership for Langley-focused routes:

Route 2018 2019 Percent Change
502 3,176,000 3,209,000 1%
501 1,521,000 1,799,000 18%
503 740,000 1,627,000 120%
555 1,172,000 1,428,000 22%
531 648,000 752,000 16%
595 449,000 629,000 40%
562 305,000 332,000 9%
372 144,000 194,000 35%
560/561 130,000 139,000 7%
509 96,000 104,000 8%
563 83,000 86,000 4%
564 53,000 63,000 19%

Transit ridership is currently around 50% of 2019 levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While 2019 might seem like a different era, ridership numbers show that there is a demand for transit service in the South of Fraser.

COVID-19 has muted that demand today, but when a cure is found, it is good to know that we will have a transit system available to handle new ridership demands.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Public Art in Langley City Parks: 5’ Xylophone and Interurban/SkyTrain Mural

Langley City’s Arts and Culture Task Group recommended two new public art installations in our community.

The first piece of public art recommended was an upright 12-note pipe xylophone to be installed near the picnic shelters at City Park.

Front view of Xylophone. Select image to enlarge.

According to the artist Laara Cerman, the xylophone “can be played by people of any age or culture, as music is a language that often crosses these boundaries, and it can be played from either side of the sculpture so two participants can make music together.” This fits in with the City’s Nexus Vision.

Top-down view of Xylophone. Select image to enlarge.

The xylophone will be 5 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and 1.5 feet deep. It will be built with sturdy exterior construction materials. A mallet will be embedded into each pipe on the xylophone.

Mallet emedded into xylophone. Select image to enlage.

The second piece of public art recommended was a mural by artist Judy Pohl to be installed on the exterior of the washroom building at Linwood Park.

Linwood Park is located along Michaud Crescent which was the old Interurban rail corridor that provided passenger and freight service several times a day between Vancouver and Chilliwack up until 1950.

Interurban/SkyTrain Mural. Select image to view.

Judy Pohl, in her description of the mural, notes that the “wraparound mural features Langley City’s flag on two opposite corners joining together the past and future of Langley’s rail travel. On the east side where the washroom doors are located shows the picturesque Langley Prairie with the Michaud farmhouse. The north wall features Langley's old light rail car on the prairie farmlands of the era. On the south and west walls you have our future [SkyTrain] amidst a floral bouquet representing Langley's vibrancy.”

These two public art recommendations were approved by Langley City council on July 27th. The total cost of the Xylophone is $19,544. The total cost of the mural will be no more than $3,000. Both projects are funded from Langley City’s Public Art Fund.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

July 27 Council Meeting: 400m buffer for vape and tattoo shops, apartment project approved, and walkway/road work paving program approved

Monday was the final Langley City council meeting before the summer break. The next council meeting will be held on September 14th. Council adopted several bylaws on Monday.

This first bylaw adopted amended the definition of “body-rub service” in our currently zoning bylaw. It also updated the zoning bylaw to only permit new body art and tattoo services to be located beyond 400 metres of existing establishments, as well as new vape stores only permitted beyond 400 metres of existing vape stores. You can read more information about this in a previous post.

Council also discharged two land use contracts for 19986 50A Avenue and 19986 50A Avenue.

Council approved an amended to our zoning bylaw, and issued a development permit, to allow a 4-storey, 92-unit rental apartment to be built at 5326, 5334, 5340, 5360 200 Street, and 5321, 5331, 5341, 5361 200A Street. You can read more about this apartment project in a previous post.

Council also approved the purchase of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses for the Langley City Fire Rescue Service at a price of $407,996.38.

Council approved a tender to Lafarge Canada Inc in the amount of $516,827.00 to complete the City’s 2020 paving program which includes:

  • Paving pathway between Grade Crescent and 48th Avenue
  • Paving 62nd Avenue between 200th Street and the Mall entrance
  • Paving pathway in City Park
  • Installing new raised traffic median on 208th Street at Grade Crescent
  • Pavement repairs throughout the City
  • Road work on 203rd Street between Douglas Crescent and Fraser Highway

Council also passed a motion from Councillor Albrecht requesting that the federal and provincial governments provide emergency operating funding to protect vital local services including public transportation, public health, and emergency services.

Council received a letter from the lobby group “Clean Energy BC” asking that we support their efforts to keep the “self-sufficiency” requirement in the provincial Clean Energy Act. Council did not act on their request, but some members of council did commit to researching this matter further.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

2019 Langley City Expenses: Council, Staff, and Suppliers Breakdown

One of the requirements for every municipality in BC is to disclose the salaries, expenses, and benefits for members of council on an annual basis. The following table shows the 2019 financial information for Langley City council.

Name Remuneration Expenses Benefits Total
Mayor Valaria van den Broek $115,446.00 $19,822.00 $133.00 $135,401.00
Councillor Paul E Albrecht $53,874.00 $4,869.00 $3,990.00 $62,733.00
Councillor Teri L James $53,874.00 $545.00 $2,760.00 $57,179.00
Councillor Gayle ME Martin $51,950.00 $7,806.00 $133.00 $59,889.00
Councillor Nathan J Pachal $53,874.00 $14.00 $133.00 $54,021.00
Councillor Rudolph Storteboom $55,798.00 $6,444.00 $2,303.00 $64,545.00
Councillor Rosemary HM Wallace $53,874.00 $7,961.00 $3,990.00 $65,825.00

Benefits include travel and accident insurance, extended health, and dental. Expenses include travel costs and fees to attend conferences or events per the City’s “Travel and Expense Policy.” Travel costs within the City or Township of Langley cannot be expensed.

The total cost of council was $499,593, or 1.2% of total operating expenses, in 2019 for Langley City.

In addition, the salaries and expenses of all municipal employees must also be provided annually. For people with a salary of more than $75,000, this information is broken-down per employee. For people with a salary under $75,000, this information is provided as a group. In 2019, Langley City employees’ salaries and expenses totaled $12,241,663.

Finally, a named list of suppliers of goods or services to municipalities must also be disclosed annually. If a municipality has spent less than $25,000 with a supplier, the name of the supplier is not included in the disclosure. In 2019, Langley City had a total of $43,883,952 in disbursements to suppliers.

For more information about Langley City employees’ salaries and expenses, plus the named list of suppliers, please read the 2019 “Statement of Financial Information (SOFI)” starting at page 25.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Crime stats from first half of the year shows crime down in Langley City

Every quarter, Langley City council receives an update from Superintendent Murray Power who is the Office in Charge of the Langley detachment of the RCMP. The following interactive charts are from the crime statistics that he provided to council which cover a six-month period between January and June in both 2019 and 2020.

As a note, common assault includes things such as bar fights and domestic situations.

So far in 2020, overall offences are down in Langley City though there are some types of offences that have increased including break and enters into businesses, auto theft, and mail theft.

One of the things that Superintendent Power noted was that there has been a decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness on our streets. He attributes this to both Creek Stone Supportive Housing, and the temporary COVID-19 program where BC Housing is placing people who were experiencing homelessness into accommodation.

I asked Superintendent Power if he would consider writing a letter noting the correlation between providing housing for people and a reduction in people experiencing homelessness. He said that he would be willing to work with Langley City and the Downtown Langley Business Association to write this letter to be presented to the provincial government.

The RCMP will also be ramping up traffic enforcement. I’ve received complaints from residents about noisy vehicles and speeding along Grade Crescent and 203rd Street. Superintendent Power stated that he would check if these corridors will be receiving enhanced traffic enforcement.

The following table shows the details crime statistics breakdown.

Person and property related offences in 2019 and 2020. Select table to enlarge.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Connectors, buttons, and sensors that make walking and cycling easier in Langley City

I have been working from home since mid-March, and as part of my morning routine, I have been taking walks around Langley City neighbourhoods. Douglas, Nicomekl, and Blacklock are the neighbourhoods that I frequent the most.

In neighbourhoods like Blacklock, many of the roads are curvilinear. This design helps to reduce the likelihood of people “rat running” on side streets. One of the unintended consequences of this design is that it can discourage people from walking.

When streets are aligned on a grid, you can walk the shortest path to your destination. With curvilinear streets, a 5-minute walk “as the crow flies” can easily turn into a 10- or 15-minute walk.

This is not that case in many Langley City neighbourhoods because where there are curvilinear streets, there are also pedestrian connectors.

Walkway in Blacklock neighbourhood. Select image to enlarge.

These connectors are sort of like the shortcuts in an Ikea. They let you get from point-A to point-B much quicker. These connectors are in most neighbourhoods in Langley City with the exception of Uplands (which could use a pedestrian connector around 46 A Avenue and 206 Street.)

One of the other things that I have noticed while walking around is that more people are cycling on the trail network and on the streets. While bike lanes have been the most visible addition to cycling infrastructure in our community in recent years, there have been some other changes that help make cycling easier.

The City is slowly rolling out bike sensors and bike push buttons as shown in the following pictures.

Bike lane sensor at 200th Street and 53rd Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Bike lane button at 200th Street and 53rd Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

This allows people to stay on their bikes, and still be able to trigger a traffic signal.

As the City continues to invest in walking and cycling infrastructure, and with the new Official Community Plan looking to provide small-scale neighborhood retail at locations such as 50 Avenue at 200 Street, and 48 Avenue at 208 Street, the walkability of our community will continue to improve.

One of the metrics of success for me will be when parents feel safe letting their tween go to the corner store or school independently by foot or by bike.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Read Langley City’s 2019 Annual Report

One of the requirements for every municipality in BC is to release an annual report. This report contains:

  • The audited annual financial statements for the year in review
  • Tax exemption information
  • Information about municipal services and operations
  • Progress update towards council’s strategic goals

Langley City’s 2019 Annual Report is now available for review. It is in an easy-to-read format.

You can select the image below to view the report in full-screen mode in your browser.

A downloadable PDF version is also available.

You can provide feedback on the report. More information is available on the City’s website.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Langley City’s New Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw: What Did People Say?

Starting in the spring of 2019, Langley City has been in the process of updating our Official Community Plan (OCP).

An OCP is like the constitution of municipalities; infrastructure planning and land use management must be consistent with an OCP. The most visible connection most people have to an OCP is in relationship to zoning.

Langley City retained the services of MODUS Planning, Design & Engagement to help us create a new OCP and accompanying updated zoning bylaw.

Getting people involved in the creation of the new OCP is critical.

During the summer of last year, there was a staffed tent at two community events to get people’s feedback around the new OCP and zoning bylaw. A total of 312 interactions took place at these events. 50 people attended open houses in the fall.

107 people took part in a series of workshops. One of the workshops was for high-level visioning. The other four workshops were focused each on the business community, development, the environment, and general community.

592 people took part in an online survey about the new OCP and updated zoning bylaw.

The following key themes emerged from the engagement activities:

Affordable Living & Diverse Housing for all Generations

  • Designate a Mosaic of Land Uses
  • Develop a Broader Range of Zones
  • Create Missing Middle Options
  • Increase Supply & Mix of Tenures
  • Renew Purpose Built Rental Housing
  • Foster Strategic Housing Partnerships

A Highly Connected City Aligned with Rapid Transit

  • Integrate Sidewalks, Paths, & Trails in All Places
  • Place Destinations in Proximity of Homes
  • Provide a Journey that is Safe & Pleasant
  • Encourage Cycling & Transit for Longer Distances
  • Leverage Rapid Transit Investment

A Safe & Inclusive Community Rich with Cultural Destinations

  • Create Safe & Attractive Public Places
  • Offer Excellent Parks, and Recreational Spaces & Programming
  • Build a Performing Arts Centre as a Cultural Hub
  • Incorporate Child Care into Land Use Regulation
  • Nurture Cultural Diversity & Relationships

A Responsive Economy that Creates New Jobs

  • Attract Office Space & the Technology Sector
  • Establish an Innovation Boulevard
  • Protect & Intensify the Industrial Land Base
  • Support Small & Local Businesses

Environmental Solutions to Fight Climate Change

  • Align Land Use & Transportation
  • Protect & Enhance the Natural Environment
  • Adopt the Step Code & Encourage Green Design
  • Reduce Parking Requirements
  • Produce More Urban Food
  • Incorporate Green Infrastructure & Technology

A land-use concept plan as shown below was created based on the engagement results.

Draft Land-Use Concept Plan for Langley City. Select map to enlarge. Source: Langley City.

Broadly, the highest densities of housing and commercial uses will occur near the future SkyTrain stations. Because 200th Street and 208th Street will be future RapidBus corridors, introducing townhouses and du-tri-fourplexes up to 3-storeys is being considered along these corridors.

In the current single-family neighbourhoods north of Grade Crescent, bound by 200th Street and 208th Street, the introduction of garden suites and coach homes is being considered.

New walkable neighbourhood retail is being proposed as noted by the red stars on the land-use concept plan.

There is little green space in the northwest sector of Langley City. Creating new open spaces or green space is being proposed in the new OCP.

For more information, please read the “Key Directions Report.” The next step in this process is the creation of policies and regulations that will become part of the new OCP and zoning bylaw.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

July 20 Public Hearing: 400m buffer between existing and new tattoo services/vape stores. Spa definition update.

At the end of the last month, Langley City council gave first and second reading to update our zoning bylaw to consider requiring a 400m buffer between existing tattoo services and any future tattoo service, and a 400m buffer between existing vape stores and any future vape store.

This 400m buffer already applies to pharmacies and thrift stores in Langley City.

The bylaw also updates the definition of “spa”, requiring that treatments be provided by people who are registered under the Health Professions Act, or would be eligible for a business license as a therapeutic touch therapist.

Langley City council and staff convened a public hearing last night around the proposed changes to the zoning bylaw.

In addition to the normal notices that Langley City places for public hearings, notices were also mailed to all 12 tattoo services and vape shops in our community.

Council received a letter from Michael Prior who is the owner of LadyLuck Tattoo. He also spoke at the public hearing.

He was concerned that as an existing business, with the 400m buffer in place, it would make it hard to move to a new location if another tattoo service was within that buffer. Staff noted that he could apply to council to allow the move, even if it was 400m from another tattoo service.

He also noted that he would prefer a bylaw that would cap the number of tattoo services instead of providing for a 400m buffer.

Finally, he noted that nail salons, brow parlours, and lash lounges should also be considered for this interim bylaw update.

Council also received a letter from Guannan Song who is the owner of Vaping Bear. He asked if there were any suggestions around “how we can design and improve our frosted storefront windows to present a more vibrant business image for the community.”

The purpose of a public hear is for council to listen to input from the community. Debate about this proposed bylaw update will occur at a future council meeting.

For more information about this proposed bylaw update, please read my previous post on this topic. This is a proposed interim bylaw; it will be replaced early next year as part of the overall major official community plan and zoning bylaw update.

Monday, July 20, 2020

We all play a R.O.L.E. in reducing deaths related to opioid overdoses

In 2016, the provincial health officer of BC declared a public health emergency due to the sharp increase in opioid overdoses, and deaths related to these overdoses.

The number of paramedic-attend overdose events has been increasing since that public health emergency was declared.

The number of people dying from opioid overdoses was slowly decreasing, while the number of overdoses reserved due to naloxone was increasing over the last several years, but that has changed since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Since the start of the COVID-19 emergency, the rate of opioid overdoses has rapidly increased to the highest level since the opioid public health emergency was declared in 2016.

Illicit drug overdose deaths in BC. Select chart to enlarge. Source: BC CDC.

The people who have been impacted the most are young men between the ages of 19 and 39. The majority of overdose deaths occur at home.

Some people may think that this crisis is a Vancouver issue, but the South of Fraser is an epicentre for deaths related to opioid overdoses.

Daniel Snyder & Arianna Wingfield, who are part of the Langley-based We all play a R.O.L.E., have released a series of videos about the ongoing overdose crisis in our province.

The following video is titled, “The Overdose Crisis, fentanyl & the toxic drug supply.”

More information about We all play a R.O.L.E. can been found on their Facebook page, including about the education services that they provide as well as how to get free overdose training.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Community Day Scavenger Hunt: On now until July 31st

Community Day 2020 Scavenger Hunt

Langley City’s Community Day normally takes place during the third Saturday of every June. It would have been the 26th Community Day this year, but for obvious reasons, the event did not occur.

One of the things that I have enjoyed over the past few months is rediscovering the parks and trails in our community. To help maintain the spirit of Community Day, Langley City staff have put together a family-friendly scavenger hunt.

The rules are simple:

  • Get your copy of the Scavenger Hunt Booklet
  • Go out on your own, or with your family, to follow the clues at your own pace
  • Record your answers in the clue boxes
  • Submit your completed booklet to enter a draw

There are 20 prizes of $50 Downtown Dollars each to be drawn.

For more information, including on how to get the Scavenger Hunt Booklet, please visit Langley City’s Community Day 2020 webpage.

By the way, if you have any pictures of past Community Days that you’d like to share, please email: events@langleycity.ca.

The deadline for the scavenger hunt is July 31st. Hope to see you around town with your scavenger hunt booklet!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

July 13 Council Meeting: Watermain inspection, community grants awarded, and EV charging in apartments.

On July 6th, Langley City council attended its first public hearing via Zoom Webinar, streamed live on YouTube. The public hearing was for discharging land-use contracts for:
19671 50A Avenue
19986 50A Avenue

For more information about this, please read my post about that public hearing. On Monday, council gave third reading to two bylaws to enable the discharging of the land-use contracts for the noted properties.

As I posted about yesterday, it is important that the City keep up with inspecting our watermains, so that issues can be identified and repaired quickly. This ensures that our water supply remains reliable and safe.

The City budgeted $75,000 to inspect 3km of old 1960s era asbestos cement (AC) watermains on Fraser Highway, Glover Roads, and Grade Crescent. AC watermains are safe provided they are not disturbed.

Council approved City staff to apply for a $50,000 grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Municipal Asset Management Program. If we are successful in receiving the grant, we will be able to inspect an addition 3km (for a total of 6km) of AC watermains.

Langley City normally has two intakes for community grants for non-profit organizations that provide programs, services, or events that benefit Langley City residents. These grants are funded by a portion of the casino revenue we receive.

Council approved grants as follows:
Archway Community Services - Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity: $750.00
Boys and Girls Club of Langley: $1,420.00
Douglas Park Community School: $2,300.00
Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation: $358.40
Langley Arts Council: $1,500.00
Langley Food Bank Society: $1,861.74
Langley Meals on Wheels: $26.25
Langley Ukulele Association: $1,810.00
Langley Volunteer Bureau: $2,000.00
Southgate Church - Back to School: $4,500.00
Special Olympics Langley: $3,500.00
Terry Fox Foundation - Terry Fox Run: $1,038.42

With the casino shutdown, funding for community grants will be limited next year.

Langley City currently has a voluntary requirement that new apartment buildings have all underground parking spots roughed-in for EV charging, and that at least two spots have EV chargers installed.

Council received a letter from the Victoria EV Association around the “right to charge” in apartments.

The City is currently in the process of updating our official community plan and zoning bylaw. City staff noted that there will be a higher requirement for EV chargers in the updated zoning bylaw.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

July 13 Council Meeting: Second Life for Hunter Park Trees. Resolving Uplands Dog Off Leash Park Drainage Issues. Underground Utilities and Other Updates.

Since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency, Langley City staff have been incredibly busy. They have been working to make sure that our community services remain up and running, while at the same time completely changing how we deliver a significant number of programs that residents and businesses rely on, following public health orders.

Yesterday afternoon, Langley City council received updates about the Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) as well as active City projects and programs.

The FVRL is currently providing a full range of programming and services online. In addition, they are offering a curbside pickup service for items such as physical books, audiobooks, and kits. FVRL staff are currently working on a plan to reopen library spaces, but there is no timeline on when this reopening will occur.

Back in 2016, a significant number of trees needed to be removed from Hunter Park to prevent the spread of laminated root rot. Langley City has staff members who are woodworkers, so these removed trees have been upcycled into signage at Hunter Park, Brydon Lagoon, and Sendall Gardens. They have also been used for fencing. Coming soon, you will see benches at City Park made from these same trees.

The City is also renewing many of the walkways that connect through neighbourhoods. The Hunter Park trees were recently used to restore the staircase that connects 197A Street to 50th Avenue.

Work is also complete at McBurney Plaza. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication between the original contractor for the project and the City which resulted in the trees being planted inappropriately. This has been rectified, and the new trees should remain healthy for many years to come.

New Trees at McBurney Plaza. Select image to enlarge.

If you walk through Innes Corners Plaza, you’ll notice that City staff have updated the plantings.

There have been drainage issues at Uplands Dog Off Leash Park for some time. The City is nearing completion of a project which should resolve this matter.

The entrances to the park are also being upgraded, along with a new shorter walking loop which will include benches and new trees.

While it is hidden, the City has an extensive investment in water, sewer, and storm sewer lines. The City has an on-going program to inspect these underground assets to make sure that repairs can be made to extend the life of these assets as well as to ensure that our utilities remain reliable. This is a long-term program.

Langley City council saw some examples of issues in our storm sewer lines including from contractors that have caused damage to these pipes.

While it will never generate a news headline, the inspection and repair program of our underground utilities ensures that when you turn on a tap, you’ll get cleaning drinking water, and that when you flush the toilet, wastewater will flow to a Metro Vancouver sewer treatment plant.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Langley City has highest remittance of commercial property tax in Metro Van. Strong business sector helping municipal services remain operating.

Unlike the provincial or federal governments, local governments are not allowed to run operating deficits. This means that there must be enough revenue to cover the costs of providing services. Because property tax, and user fees for water and sewer services, are stable, local governments are generally able to make this work. This year is different.

Property tax is due at the beginning of July for municipalities in Metro Vancouver. It is important that property taxes are paid by this date to ensure that local governments are able to pay their bills.

Not to get to into the weeds, but most local governments have limited financial capacity to bridge financing between the start of a budget year and when taxes are due. Cash flow is important.

Due to the COVID-19 state of emergency, the provincial government is allowing commercial property owners to pay their property taxes penalty-free in October (as opposed to July.)

Because local governments also collect school tax on behalf of the provincial government, the province is allowing local governments to hold on to school tax until the end of the year to ensure that the October due date for commercial property taxes does not cause cash flow issues.

Even with the help of the provincial government, many municipal financial officers were concerned that a larger number of property owners simply would not be able to pay their property tax this year.

In Metro Vancouver, the remittance of property tax has been tracked. The following table is from the agenda of the regional district’s COVID-19 Response Task Force. It shows the percentage of property tax collected as of July 8th.

Local Government Total Collected* Residential* Non-Residential*
Village of Anmore - - -
Village of Belcarra 95% 95% -
Bowen Island Municipality 90% 97% 3%
District of North Vancouver 86.20% 93.60% 52.50%
Township of Langley 85% 92% 66%
City of Langley 82% 90% 72%
City of North Vancouver 79.50% 92.50% 56.80%
City of Delta 73% 79% 66%
City of New Westminster 71% 76% 60%
City of Pitt Meadows 70% - -
District of West Vancouver 67.40% 70.60% 20.80%
City of Surrey 61% 71% 29%
City of Maple Ridge 58% - -
City of Richmond 56% - -
City of Port Moody 55.60% 65.80% 14.01%
City of Vancouver 50.16% 31.70% 18.50%
City of Burnaby 47% 65% 35%
Village of Lions Bay 42% - -
City of Port Coquitlam 41.38% 47.24% 28.19%
City of White Rock 39% 39% 33%
City of Coquitlam 28% 25% 32%
Tsawwassen First Nation 19.64% 33% 0.05%

It is good to see that 90% of residential property tax and 72% of non-residential property tax has been collected in Langley City. Our community has the highest percentage of commercial property tax collected to date in Metro Vancouver. This is encouraging to see because it shows the resilience of our business sector. This high rate of remittance is important because it ensures that Langley City will not have cash flow issues; services can continue being delivered uninterrupted.

*Percentage of total property tax revenue.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Regional Greenway 2050: Building 350 kilometres of new multi-use paths

One of the things that has become clear during the COVID-19 state of emergency is the importance of parks, trails, and paths.

Metro Vancouver Regional District’s new Regional Greenway 2050 plan outlines some of the benefits of trails and greenways including:

  • Promoting physical and emotional health
  • Protecting nature and restoring habitat
  • Mitigating climate change
  • Providing more opportunities for active living
  • Enhancing tourism and business development

In our region today, we have a mix of trails and paths that are operated by the Metro Vancouver Regional District, TransLink, municipalities, and the provincial government.

The goal in the Regional Greenway 2050 plan is to build out 830 kilometres of interconnected multi-use trails and paths throughout our region. About 480 kilometres is built today.

The following map outlines the current network in green, what is planned in yellow, and proposed new additions to the network to fill-in any gaps in red.

Proposed Greenway Network in Metro Vancouver. Select image to enlarge.

In Langley City, our contribution to the network is complete, but there is significant work left to do both in Surrey and the Township of Langley. One of the proposed additions to the regional network would skirt around Langley City from the Langley Airport to Glover Road.

Most of the responsibility to build out this network will rest with municipalities. This means that the build out of the network is dependent on each municipalities’ internal priorities.

If the Metro Vancouver Regional District wants to see this network built out at an accelerated schedule, regional funding would be required. With COVID-19 recover top-of-mind, this regional vision might be a good candidate for future economic recovery funding.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

I’ve left Langley City three times on transit. Face masks are key to a safe transit trip.

I’ve been staying close to home since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency, and with the exception of venturing off to 64th Avenue, only recently travelled outside of Langley City.

When I originally moved to Langley City, it was because I thought it had everything I needed within walking distance. I can also work from home. For 3 months, I was able to stay within the 10 square kilometers of this community. I have of course missed visiting friends, but other than that, I’ve really enjoyed working, living, and going for walks throughout Langley City.

I’ve now left Langley City three times since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency. Twice I left to go into Downtown Vancouver for work. Once I left to visit a friend in Green Timbers park for a picnic. These three times, I’ve used transit as I do not own a motor vehicle.

King George SkyTrain Station with reduced operating fare gates. Select image to enlarge.

Knowing that transit service is still running on the same pre-COVID-19 schedule, and that local governments and the provincial government are committed to ensuring that transit remains fully funded, has reduced stress for me as I’m sure it has many others in our region.

Transit service is still in demand, and ridership is slowly climbing. As of the end of June, transit boardings are about 33% of pre-COVID-19 levels.

Currently, TransLink only allows people to be seated on the bus. You are not allowed to stand. TransLink has reduced the flow of people through SkyTrain stations.

Me waiting for the SkyTrain at Stadium-Chinatown Station. Select image to enlarge.

On the six times I’ve been on a bus, and four times I’ve been on a SkyTrain, I’ve noticed TransLink is getting close to their reduced capacity limit.

TransLink is currently recommending that people wear a face mask or face covering when riding transit. I believe soon TransLink will need to move back into full capacity mode. In order to move back into full capacity mode, masks will likely play a significant enabling roll.

As of this post, the BC Centre for Disease Control guidance states that a mask “is a good option in situations where you cannot keep a safe distance from others for an extended period of time, such as when you are on transit, getting a haircut or visiting someone indoors.”

In Toronto, masks are now required when people are using transit. To ensure that all people have access to a mask, they are also distributing masks for free.

Transit is critical for people in Metro Vancouver, and ridership is climbing. As TransLink looks to restore full capacity on the transit system, masks will play an important role in keeping everyone safe.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

July 6 Public Hearing: First held via Zoom Webinar and live-streamed on YouTube.

Yesterday, Langley City council attended the first public hearing since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency. The public hearing was for two bylaws to discharge land-use contracts.

The properties part of the hearing were:
19671 50A Avenue
19986 50A Avenue

A land-use contract was a zoning tool that was used in the 1970s, but hasn’t been used for 40 years. In Langley City, many of the single-family neighbourhoods south of the Nicomekl River have land-use contacts. Land-use contracts override the underlying zoning of a property.

Langley City has allowed secondary suites for around 15 years within primary buildings in single-family-zoned neighbourhoods. Land-use contacts do not allow secondary suites in Langley City. Since I’ve been on council, we have discharged (or removed) many land-use contracts to enable the underlying zoning which permits secondary suites.

As a note, City council is planning to discharge all land-use contacts as part of adopting its new Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw, scheduled to take place later this year.

The provincial government will discharge all land-use contracts on June 30, 2024.

One of the special things about this public hearing was that it was live-streamed on the City’s YouTube channel, and people were able to attend and speak to council live via Zoom Webinar.

People were also able to submit correspondence via email or letter about the discharging of these land-use contracts.

Council received one email from a resident that was opposed to secondary suites. A resident on the webinar asked about the process of building a legal secondary suite.

When I logged off from the public hearing, I was excited.

I was excited because COVID-19 has caused governments throughout Canada to examine how they do business. In the past, public hearings only occurred in-person and usually in the City Hall Council Chamber.

Many people are not able to attend these in-person meetings whether it be due to a disability, work schedule, or home life. By offering the ability to attend a public hearing online, more people are now able to engage with local government.

By streaming via YouTube, council meetings are also viewable on mobile phones, computers, and TVs. This helps enhance transparency.

Right now, online council meetings and webinars are allowed by the province only because of the COVID-19 state-of-emergency. I hope that once this state of emergency is gone, local governments will still be allowed to hold meetings and public hearings online.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Recycling program changes in Langley City

In BC, recycling is the responsibility of retailers, manufactures, and restaurants that supply packaging and paper products for use within the province. This means that the responsibility for the collections of these materials is the responsibility of these businesses.

Historically, municipalities funded recycling programs via property tax. This is not that case in Langley City. Recycling services in Langley City are provided directly by Recycle BC with no municipal involvement.

At the start of this month, Recycle BC changed the contractor responsible for recycling collection for single-family homes in our community. I received several inquiries from residents about this change.

Recycle BC provided the following information which may be of use.

What are the changes to the recycling collection program in Langley?

  • GFL takes over as the collection contractor from Emterra effective July 1
  • Residents will use new customer service contact information for questions/issues about their recycling collection: srrecycle@gflenv.com or 778-765-3662
  • A yellow bag has been delivered to each home – for residents to set out paper materials
  • A grey box has been delivered to each home – for residents to set out glass materials
  • Increased education and enforcement regarding sorting requirements

What remains the same about the recycling collection program in Langley?

  • The collection schedule will not change
  • The accepted materials will not change
  • Residents will continue to use the blue boxes that they have – now only for containers (plastic, metal and cartons and paper cups)
  • Multi-Family collection will continue to be provided by Emterra Environmental to multi-unit properties

FAQs

Why are we getting a yellow bag for paper, the blue boxes were fine?

Yellow bags are used successfully in the collection programs in Township of Langley, City of Burnaby, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Richmond, Vancouver, and the North Shore. The yellow bags are being implemented due to the enforcement of sorting requirements, many homes were not properly sorting paper into one blue box and containers into another.

Residents are welcome to continue using their existing blue boxes, as long as you are ensuring that the material is properly sorted.

We have never had to sort before, why the change now?

There have been sorting requirements in place for years; however, they were not enforced prior to now. Proper sorting ensures that more of the material that gets collected is successfully recycled.

Why are we required to sort if it all goes into the same truck anyway?

The truck body has separate compartments. The driver ensures that the materials are placed into the trucks compartments correctly.

Why can’t the driver sort the materials?

The drivers are collecting from more than 750 homes each day. Unfortunately, they cannot take the time at every home that would be required to sort everyone’s material.

Why don’t we get the large carts like they have in Surrey, people don’t have to sort there?

When the material is sorted at the house like we do in the City of Langley, it reduces contamination and more of the collected material can be recycled. Many other local communities are also required to sort including the Township of Langley, Maple Ridge, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Vancouver, and the North Shore.

What do I do with my extra blue box and green box?

You are welcome to keep the extra boxes. They can be used for storage, moving boxes, raised garden beds, or kept as a back-up recycling box in the event that your main box goes missing or is damaged. Unfortunately, the boxes themselves cannot be collected for recycling, so if you want to dispose of it, it will need to be placed in the garbage.

More Questions

GFL Environmental can answer any other questions or concerns at: srrecycle@gflenv.com or 778-765-3662.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

June 29 Council Meeting: Considering a 400m buffer between tattoo services and between vape stores

Diversity and transparency are two key attributes of successful pedestrian-oriented shopping areas such as Downtown Langley.

Having a diversity of shops and services creates a draw for people to visit shopping areas. Once they arrive, it gives them a reason to stick around, and keep coming back.

Humans like watching other humans, and like seeing expressions of creativity. This is why coffee shops and restaurants are critical components in shopping areas. Having engaging storefronts is important for downtown areas as they are creative expressions. Storefront displays can be a draw unto themselves.

I know it is not much of a traditional today, but Christmas displays in stores were an attraction that most people viewed.

When there is something new in each window, people will continue walking to see “what’s just around the corner.”

People also need to see beyond the storefront to what’s inside, this is why shopping mall storefronts are transparent glass, and in thriving downtowns, you can see into shops.

For as long as I can remember, one of the constant policies of City Hall has been to support creating a pedestrian-oriented downtown. This is reflected in the current Downtown Master Plan, Langley City: Nexus of Community, and upcoming proposed Official Community Plan.

To ensure the diversity shops and services in Downtown Langley, council in the past has updated the City’s zoning bylaw to help facilitate a 400m buffer between thrift stores and between pharmacies. Council in considering the same measure for body art/tattoo services and vapour product stores (that primarily sell e-cigarettes, e-substances and cartridges.)

There are a good number of spas in our Downtown that do not have transparent windows. As part of the same update, council is considering only allowing spas (or body-rub services) that give treatments by people who are registered under the Health Professions Act, or would be eligible for a business license as a therapeutic touch therapist.

If this proposed set of measures are adopted, current businesses will be grandfathered in. The updated zoning will only apply to future businesses.

On Monday, council gave first and second reading to an updated zoning bylaw.

There will be an upcoming public hearing for people to provide input on these proposed changes later this month.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 29 Council Meeting: Development Matters, Visitors Parking.

Several development matters were addressed at Monday afternoon’s Langley City council meeting.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many economic activities to be paused or reduced; the construction industry has been impacted by the pandemic.

Rezoning bylaws require four readings (or votes in favour) by council to be adopted. Between the third reading and final reading of a rezoning bylaw, City staff work with the rezoning proponent to ensure that the proponent can follow-through on all the provisions of the rezoning bylaw. Once staff is satisfied, the final reading of a rezoning bylaw is presented to council for a vote.

Council has a policy which states that the time between third and final reading of any rezoning bylaw must not exceed a year. If a year is exceeded, a rezoning proponent needs to start at square one.

When the City issues a development permit, it is valid for a year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several development proposals that could reach the one-year limit. Based on a request from City staff, council approved extending the one-year limit for the following proposals:

In-stream development applications adjusted time limits. Select table to enlarge.

The City received a request from the developer of the new 69-unit apartment fronting Park Avenue and 204th Street to adjust the number of visitors parking spots from 17 to 11 to accommodate enhanced landscaping on the laneway just off 204th Street.

Rendering of proposed vistors parking for Park Avenue apartment building. Select image to enlarge.

The developer funded an independent parking study. The study's authors found that visitors parking was only half-utilized at neighbouring buildings, and noted that reducing visitors parking to 11 would meet the demand for this new building.

Council approved the reduction in visitors parking.

In November 2018, council gave third reading to a rezoning bylaw which would enable a 40-unit, four-storey apartment at 5398, 5410, 5448 208 Street (at the corner of Douglas Crescent.) Council gave final reading to this bylaw and issued a development permit yesterday. For more information about this development project, please read a previous post about it.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Fraser Health – Safe to pass people on sidewalk, even when 2 metres cannot be maintained

Sidewalk in Downtown Langley

At the end of May, Langley City council sent a letter to Fraser Health requesting official public guidance on what to do when you cannot maintain two metres from someone when you are passing them on a sidewalk.

This was because people were walking onto the street to avoid others which introduced another safety risk. Council received a letter back from Andrew Larder who is the Executive Medical Director — Medical Health Officer for Fraser Health.

This is an excerpt from the letter:

The citizens of the City of Langley can be reassured that there is essentially no risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 while walking on the city’s sidewalks.

Even if it is impossible to remain 2m apart when passing another person there is no risk of transmitting the disease unless the individuals touch or one person coughs or sneezes directly on to another.

People who are still concerned about passing close to other have the option of wearing a non-medical mask while walking on the sidewalk. There is no need to step off the sidewalk when passing other pedestrians, nor to walk on the roads.

For more information, please read the full letter.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Making crossing safer at 206th Street and Douglas Crescent. Walking Priority Signal.

Since being elected to Langley City council, one of the common concerns that I’ve heard from residents is about the intersection of 206th Street and Douglas Crescent. This intersection sees a high volume of people walking. It is also located right next to a playground and near Douglas Park Community School.

People at this intersection who are driving make a significant number of left and right turns. Many times, people who are driving are not mindful of people who are about to walk across the intersection, or are already walking across the intersection, resulting in a significant amount of near misses.

Langley City staff have upgraded this intersection to include a pedestrian led interval for the traffic signal at this intersection. When someone walking pushes the crossing button, they will get a walking signal for around 5 seconds before the traffic light turns from red to green in the direction that they are travelling.

This helps people driving see people walking, before making a turn. It also helps to reinforces pedestrian priority at intersection.

The following pictures show what this looks like at 206th Street and Douglas Crescent.

Example of pedestrian led interval signal walking eastbound on Douglas Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

Example of pedestrian led interval signal walking northbound on 206th Street. Select image to enlarge.

Since this change has been implemented, I have felt safer while crossing this intersection, and have not had to run out of the way of someone turning their vehicle.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

TransLink funding “quick-win” projects to improve bus speed. Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project continues to move forward.

As I posted about yesterday, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a reduction in vehicle and transit volumes throughout Metro Vancouver. At the same time, there has been an increase in walking and cycling.

Many municipalities have responded by reallocating road space to make walking and cycling more comfortable.

This current reduction in vehicle and transit volumes has given TransLink staff the opportunity to evaluate the bus network with the eye to increase the travel speeds of buses with “quick-win” projects. Some of the ideas that TransLink staff are evaluating include:

Bus stop optimization:
Some locations present opportunities to remove or consolidate bus stops where they are too closely spaced relative to adopted Transit Service Guidelines (2018). This can improve bus performance and expand public realm by freeing up sidewalk space.

Bus bulges and boarding islands:
Curb extensions or boarding islands are real ‘win/wins’ by reducing delays for buses entering and exiting traffic while also increasing sidewalk space for walking, queuing, patios, etc.

Lines & signs:
There is a suite of other bus priority measures that can often be implemented quickly or trialed with temporary materials. These include regulatory changes (rush regulations, turn restriction, right turn pocket), and lane designations (bus/HOV lane, transit approach lane, queue jump) that reduce bus delay.

While TransLink can optimize bus stops without the support of municipalities, municipal partnership is needed for the other two categories of “quick-win” projects.

To that end, TransLink is making $547,000 available immediately for municipalities to implement “quick-win” projects.

A while back, there were some headlines that implied that SkyTrain to Langley was going to be delay significantly. While the original timeline for federal and provincial sign-off of the project has moved from this summer to this fall, work is still ongoing.

TransLink staff provided an update to its board on the on-going work to build the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension. This work includes:

  • Preparing the procurement documents including a request for qualifications, request for proposal, and draft project agreement
  • Refining the reference design concept
  • Negotiating a Municipal Access Agreement with the City of Surrey
  • Coordinating with BC Hydro on the design of transmission tower relocations at two locations
  • Continuing studies supporting the environmental screening review
  • Preparing specific project approval documentation for internal capital project approval
  • Coordinating with parallel projects including those being delivered in the Expo Millennium Line Program and Broadway Subway project.

I am still confident that the SkyTrain extension project will be moving forward.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Looking into the crystal ball: COVID-19 and the future of transportation in Metro Vancouver

With the response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in many people working from home, school operating virtually, and the unemployment rate at 13.4%, both transit and driving is down in Metro Vancouver.

These things are changing as we prepare to enter phase 3 of BC’s Restart Plan. As our economy restarts, the number of trips that people are taking is increasing. Our roads are busier and transit ridership is starting to recover.

Until there is wide vaccination, community immunity, or broad successful treatments, COVID-19 will continue to impact both our transportation systems and economy.

Once there is a path forward for COVID-19, just like in past pandemics, we will revert to a pre-COVID-19 state.

As this timing is unknown, TransLink has been working on how to address the impacts of COVID-19 on our transportation network over the next few years. Some of the impacts include:

  • Reduced transit ridership
  • Increased driving
  • Increased walking and cycling
  • Increased unemployment

In response, TransLink is evaluating opportunities to ensure that our region remains livable, and that people continue to have a variety of safe and convenient transportation options.

To promote transit usage, TransLink is continuing to move forward with its Safe Operating Action Plan. Beyond that, it must continue to make sure that transit remains convenient and reliable. This means that it remains important to roll out transit priority measures throughout our region. An example of a recent priority measure is the bus lanes on 203rd Street and Fraser Highway.

Transit funding is heavily dependent on user fees unlike other modes of transportation in our region. The conversation needs to continue on creating a new stable funding formula for transit that is less dependent on gas tax and fares.

I’ve noticed more people walking and cycling in Langley City; this is something that is occurring throughout Metro Vancouver. To ensure that active modes of travel remain a preferred choice, TransLink will need to double-down on its partnership with municipalities to roll out more comfortable, safe walking and cycling routes. An example of a project that TransLink helped fund is the rebuilding of 203rd Street from Grade Crescent to Michaud Crescent.

As our economy continues to recover, TransLink is concerned that some previous transit riders will switch to driving. This would cause an increase in congestion and pollution in our region. Besides ensuring that walking, cycling, and transit continue to be preferred travel options, work needs to be done to discourage unnecessary driving. At the same, the province will need to continue to support the migration to EVs, including building-out charging infrastructure.

For more information about the short- and mid-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, please read “Transport 2050: Covid Impacts and Opportunities” in the latest TransLink Board meeting agenda.