Thursday, May 28, 2020

May 25 Council Meeting: Lock Out Auto Crime, Public Hearings, and Eliminating Homelessness

This week, I’ve been posting about the afternoon Langley City council meeting that was held on Monday. I covered Langley City’s 2019 financial audit as well as what the City is doing to support BC’s Restart Plan due to COVID-19. Today, I will be covering the remaining topics from that meeting.

One of the goals of Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group is to reduce the theft of items from vehicles. This is the single largest segment of criminal activity in our community. One of the hot spots for theft from vehicles is around Linwood Park.

Earlier in the year, ICBC provided eight “Lock Out Auto Crime” signs which were placed around Linwood Park at the request of the Crime Prevention Task Group. These signs were made of low-cost plastic, and were vandalize and/or stolen. The task group requested that these signs be replaced with metal signs for a total cost of $500. These signs would be the same quality as all other street signs in our community.

Council approved the Crime Prevention Task Group’s request. Once the new signs are installed, the City and RCMP will monitor if there is a reduction in theft from vehicles around Linwood Park.

As I posted about a few weeks ago, council gave first and second reading for a rezoning bylaw to allow a 4-Storey, 92-Unit Rental Apartment between 200 and 200A Street. Council gave third reading of that bylaw on Monday.

Currently, council meetings are held by Zoom and posted to YouTube. This has made it impossible to hold public hearings or allow people to view council meetings in real-time. The provincial government now allows public hearing to be conduction via solutions like Zoom as long as the provincial state of emergency due to COVID-19 is in place. Previously, public hearing had to occur in-person.

Council approved allowing public hearings to be held via Zoom Webinar and Video Conferencing. This will allow people in our community to once again participate in council meetings if they choose.

Council received a letter from the City of Port Moody regarding homelessness and passed the following motion in response:

WHEREAS our society has been plagued by homelessness and a lack of support systems for those affected by addictions and mental illness for generations;

AND WHEREAS the state of homelessness in our region has only worsened over the course of decades and throughout multiple Provincial Governments;

AND WHEREAS an eventual economic rebuild is a good opportunity to make positive upgrades to our society;

BE IT RESOLVED:

THAT the City of Langley considers a return to the “normal” state of homelessness in our region, province, and nation after the COVID emergency fundamentally unacceptable;

AND THAT the City of Langley call on the Metro Vancouver Regional District, the Government of BC, and the Government of Canada to use the post-COVID recovery as an opportunity to “upgrade” our society by eliminating homelessness;

AND THAT the City of Langley supports a return to large-scale supportive housing arrangements for those afflicted by mental illness, such as a revived facility at Riverview.

As a note, Ellen Hall was appointed to the City’s Environmental Task Group.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Restarting Langley City: Businesses, Parks, and Recreation Services

Over the last several weeks, the provincial government has been rolling out “BC’s Restart Plan.” This is a multistage process to remove restricts and shutdowns that were put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now in phase 2 of this plan.

In this phase of the plan, museums, art galleries, childcare facilities, libraries, recreation, sports, parks, beaches, and outdoor spaces are opening following WorkSafeBC protocols. This means that many municipal services will be opening again under enhanced protocol to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Langley City council received an update from Kim Hilton who is the Director of Recreation, Culture and Community Services at Monday afternoon’s council meeting. She noted that some in-person recreation services will be starting up in our community including programming for kids and youth starting on June 1st.

Langley City’s Economic Development Task Group which includes members of council and the business community also presented its restart action plan which was approved by council. The action plan includes:

  • Working with the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Langley Business Association to assist businesses to clarify and interpret COVID-19 related government regulation and guidelines.
  • Supporting businesses to develop their safety plans in accordance with WorkSafe BC requirements.
  • Supporting businesses to help them re-open including supporting the specific requirement for restaurants.
  • Implementing a marketing and promotional campaign for Langley City businesses and Downtown Langley.
  • Lobbying the provincial and federal governments for stimulus funding for infrastructure projects to create jobs.
  • Reviewing if municipalities are permitted to “buy local” first, and if so, review the City’s procurement policy.
  • Promoting the availability of the provincial residential property tax deferment program.

This is just a selection of items from the full report.

Council also received letters from restaurant and brewery industry organizations requesting actions that will be addressed in Langley City’s restart action plan. These letters were sent to staff for follow-up.

One of the things that has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increase in the use of non-compostable, single-use packaging which creates long-term health and environmental impacts. Langley City council approved a motion by Councillor Wallace to “requests the provincial and federal governments to provide a subsidy for biodegradable and/or eco-friendly packaging for the food and beverage industry.”

With more activity in our community, some people are walking on streets to maintain a two-metre distance from each other. Council passed the following motion which I put forward.

WHEREAS Dr. Bonnie Henry stated that "if you are passing someone on a sidewalk where you cannot keep 2 metres apart, and you walk by them 'very quickly,' the risk of spreading COVID-19 is negligible";

WHEREAS a standard sidewalk is around 1.5 metres wide making it impossible to keep 2 metres apart; and,

WHEREAS many people are walking in general vehicle travel lanes to maintain a 2-metre distance from other people, increasing the risk of personal injury:

THAT council direct Mayor van den Broek to send a letter on behalf of council requesting that Fraser Health provide official public guidance for people who are passing others while using a sidewalk.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Langley City 2019 Audited Financial Statements

As per provincial law, local governments must annually prepare independently audited financial statements. These financial statements are incorporated into annual reports which are released in the summer. Langley City council approved the 2019 consolidated financial statements at Monday afternoon’s council meeting which was held over Zoom. These meetings can be viewed on YouTube.

The following interactive charts show the 2019 audited revenue and expenditures less amortization. You can hover over each pie slice to get more information.

Every year, the City takes a portion of the revenue that it receives, and transfer it into reserve accounts. These reserve accounts help fund capital projects such as replacing water mains, improving parks, and resurfacing roads. At the end of 2019, the City had $41.9 million in these reserve accounts.

The City also collects revenue from developers as a required part of the redevelopment process in our community. This is called Development Cost Charges. This collected revenue must be used for specific projects which are approved by the provincial government. The City had $20.9 million at the end of 2019 in Development Cost Charges.

As part of approving the 2019 consolidated financial statements, council must also approve updating the 2019-24 Financial Plan to replace the budgeted amounts with the actual amounts. Council gave first, second, and third reading for this amendment to the financial plan.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Surrey Langley SkyTrain Update

Over the past several months, local governments, the province, and federal government have been focused on getting by day-to-day. This has left little energy to think about medium-term projects. With COVID-19 emergency management shifting from the initial response phase to recovery phase, work is now beginning on how we can move forward in our region.

One of the major projects in Metro Vancouver is to expand the SkyTrain from King George to Fleetwood, and then into Langley.

The pre-COVID-19 plan was to have an updated “Phase Two” investment plan approved this summer which included extending SkyTrain to Fleetwood, but with COVID-19 negatively impacting the economy and therefor TransLink’s financial plans, this investment plan was put on pause.

This does not mean that the Surrey Langley SkyTrain project is cancelled, work is still ongoing. The following table highlights work completed, and next steps for this project.

Business case submitted to Provincial and Federal Governments Submitted in January 2020
Government review of business case In-Progress
Compensation agreement Awaiting final direction from Mayors’ Council
Procurement documents complete Targeted for July
Third-party agreements In-Progress
Environmental screening and 3rd round of engagement In-Progress

It is now looking like the updated “Phase Two” investment plan will be moved forward with an estimated fall completion date.

With the federal government and provincial government now looking at “economic stimulus” to help in the COVID-19 recovery process, this project could benefit from enhanced funding from the federal and/or provincial governments.

The original plan was to extend SkyTrain to Langley in two phases, will it now be able to occur in one phase?

As noted in a TransLink staff report that will be addressed at the May 28th Mayors’ Council meeting, “despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, the project’s business case is still sound; SLS is a crucial addition to the region’s transportation system to support regional growth in the decades to come.”

Even with the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on our region, I am confident that SkyTrain will be extended to Langley. It might even happen in one phase instead of two which would be good news for Langley residents and businesses.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Discovering Logan Creek in northeastern Langley City

Langley City has an extensive trail and parks network, but there are some gaps in our community.

Map of parkland in Langley City. Select map to enlarge.

North of 56th Avenue, the trail and parks network is limited though there are some areas to connect with nature.

Logan Creek runs through the northeastern section of Langley City. It starts near Langley Twin Rinks and follows Duncan Way.

I found an older trail network master plan from 2005 which envisions a trail loop around this area.

2005 Nature Trail Network Master Plan for Langley City. Select map to enlarge.

While this trail loop was never created, there are still opportunities to enjoy nature around Logan Creek.

In the south section of the Kwantlen Polytechnic campus, just north of the Gateway of Hope, there is a small nature trail and lookout for Logan Creek.

Between the intersection of 208th Avenue and 57th Street, you can walk through Dumais Park to Duncan Way. The City recently completed a multi-use path between Glover Road and the 204th Street Overpass on Duncan Way. There are areas along this path where you can look into the Logan Creek natural area.

Logan Creek along Duncan Way multi-use path. Select map to enlarge.

While not as extensive as the trail network and natural areas that connect to the Nicomekl River, there are some opportunities to enjoy nature in the northern sections of Langley City.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Map of All Municipal and Regional Public Washrooms

Sometimes when you have to go, you have to go. With closures or restrictions in the use of washrooms that people many typically use at cafes, restaurants, and other retailers, the Metro Vancouver Regional District has compiled a map of all public washrooms that are maintained by local governments. These washrooms are primarily in parks.

As a note, the map shows that Langley City public washrooms are closed. They are now fully open as of May 19th.

If you select the link, it will be viewable in the Google Maps apps.

View in Google Maps

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rediscovering Buckley Park. A great place to visit while physically distancing.

Since the start of the COVID-19 state-of-emergency, I’ve been working from home and staying close to home. Except for going to the shopping area along 64th Avenue between 200th Street and 204th Street, I have not left Langley City since mid-May. This has given me some time to explore the parks and trails in Langley City; I’ve set a goal to explore every City park and trail this year.

As I live in the Douglas neighborhood, before COVID-19, I spent most of my time in the Downtown area and around City Park. I did not spend much time at all in the Simonds or Alice Brown neighborhoods. This long weekend, I spend some time exploring these areas.

Buckley Park. Select image to enlarge.

One of our significant parks in Penzer Action Park which received a $1.3 million investment in 2016-17. If you continue to walking west along the BC Hydro power lines, you’ll get to Buckley Park. Buckley Park is from a different era.

Old sign in Buckley Park. Select image to enlarge.

Starting in 2014, there was a concerted effort to re-invest into our parks and trail network. I noted Penzer Action Park, but there has also been significant investments made at City Park, Brydon Lagoon and Park, and Hunter Park. This is in addition to playground renewals, trail enhancements, and the expansion of the community gardens network and dog-off leash areas.

Buckley Park is scheduled to receive $1.6 million in upgrades starting in 2027.

Even as the province reopens, the current advice is to “stay close to home and avoid any travel between communities that is not essential.” When outside, the guidance is to “keep physical distancing, as much as possible when in the community and where not possible, consider using a non-medical mask or face covering.”

How does this relate to Buckley Park?

As a park that has two formerly high-end sports fields, there is lots of room for people to visit or have a picnic while keeping a physical distance from others. Buckley Park also provides a way to access Hi-Knoll Park in Surrey which is a good walking area.

Access to Hi-Knoll Park from Buckley Park. Select image to enlarge.

Even after living in Langley City around 15 years, I’m still discovering new things about our community. You can stay close to home and still enjoy the outdoors.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

May 11 Council Meeting: Lower property tax rate approved. Physical distancing on streets.

Today will be my last post about Monday afternoon’s Langley City council meeting. You can read about a development proposal, and about City projects, in previous posts.

As the end of April, council gave first and second reading to an amended 2020 – 2024 Financial Plan. As I posted about previously, this amended financial plan will reduce the City-control portion of property tax for residential property owners from around 5% to 2%. Industrial and commercial property owners will also see their property tax increase reduced from 7% to 2%.

This reduction in property tax was in response to the COVID-19 state-of-emergency to help support residents and business owners in our community.

Because of the tax reduction, several critical projects and new staff positions have been deferred. You can read more about this in a previous post.

Council also approved updating the penalties that are payable if people do not remit their property taxes on time from 5% in July and 5% in August, to 2% in July and 8% in October. As per a provincial order, commercial and business property owners can remit their property taxes in October without penalty.

It is important that people pay their property taxes on time because the City needs that cash-flow to ensure that staff, crews, contractors, and vendors can continued to be paid.

Council gave unanimous approval to the updated financial plan, tax rate, and tax penalty.

Later in the meeting, council endorsed Mayor Val van den Broek to stand for election on Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors for the period between September 2020 and July 2021.

Council received a letter from the Langley chapter of the HUB which is a cycling advocacy organization. They requested that the Fraser Highway One-Way and one westbound lane on Logan Avenue be closed to motor vehicle traffic to allow more space for people to walk and cycle.

Langley City staff was not supportive of this proposal. Council instructed staff to reply noting that full-time closures are not supported by staff.

I did bring up that there are other pinch points in our community for walking and cycling such as along the 208th Street Causeway. Staff will be investigation if there is anything that can be done to ensure that people can maintain physical distancing in this area.

The City is currently planning to permanently fix the pinch point on the 208th Street Causeway for walking and cycling, hopefully next year, along with installing safer bike lanes on Glover Road.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

May 11 Council Meeting: City Projects Update

Even throughout the COVID-19 state of emergency, Langley City staff, crews, and contractors have been busy. Council received an update from our Director of Engineering, Parks and Environment, Rick Bomhof, about City projects on Monday afternoon.

On top of regular work, the following was put in place due to the COVID-19 state of emergency over the last few months:

  • Closing playgrounds
  • Making the Brydon Lagoon trail one-way

Spring cleaning was underway with power washing, grooming, and replanting of boulevards throughout our community. One the topic of boulevards, the median at Fraser Highway just west of 208th Street was renewed recently.

Work has also been on-going to enhance the trail network including installing:

  • Larger garbage cans at trailheads
  • New railings on the Pleasantdale Creek trail

New memorial trees and a plaque were placed at Brydon Lagoon to honour Rhys Griffiths who was an advocate for Brydon Lagoon and floodplain preservation.

New Community Garden at Rotary Centennial Park. Select image to enlarge.

Further work is completed or ongoing within our parks including:

  • Enhancing the Sendall Gardens lower creek area
  • Renewing the fountain at Sendall Gardens
  • Opening two new community gardens at Douglas Park and Rotary Centennial Park
  • Creating a new trail and dog off-leash area at Brydon Park
  • Starting work to improvement drainage and the entrance to Upland Off-Leash Park

Crews were also busy flushing water mains throughout the community, renewing stormwater management systems, and repairing sewer mains as part of annual maintenance programs.

There are many creeks in our community which means that we have an extensive network of culverts. Many of these culverts will be cleaned out this year. There will also be a major culvert replacement project starting in August at the Langley Bypass near the Gateway of Hope. This will require lane closures.

Tomorrow, I will be posting about other matters that were addressed at Monday night’s council meeting. I posted about a proposed development project yesterday.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

May 11 Council Meeting: 4-Storey, 92-Unit Rental Apartment between 200 and 200A Street

Yesterday afternoon, Langley City council met on Zoom. While currently people cannot view these meetings in real-time, they can view the video shortly after on the City’s YouTube channel.

One of the items on the agenda was a rezoning bylaw and development permit to accommodate a 4-storey, 92-unit rental apartment that fronts 200 Street and 200A Street, just north of 53 Avenue.

Rendering of proposed development project from 200A Street. 5321, 5331, 5341, 5361 200A Street. Select image to enlarge.

Rendering of proposed development project from 200 Street. 5326, 5334, 5340, 5360 200 Street. Select image to enlarge.

This proposed apartment is going through a new process.

Council approved the creation of an Advisory Design Panel which includes members from the community, architects, landscape architects, and an accessibility representative. This panel met for the first time to review this proposed development project. I attended this first Advisory Design Panel.

The mix of people on the panel allowed for a discussion about how the building’s proposed design and character would fit within our community from an on-the-ground perspective. Because there were architects and landscape architects, the panel’s recommendations were able to be articulated in a way that the development project’s proponents would understand.

The Advisory Design Panel made the following recommendations:

  • Upgrade the entry area (stairs and ramp) on 200A Street
  • Consider massing of corner elements to add a more robust look
  • Consider more colour on the façade
  • Widen corridor between courtyard and lobby, and add additional bathroom to amenity space
  • Review turn radius in parkade

These recommendations were considered by the project’s proponent, and changes made to the design of the building. For more information, please read the Explanatory Memo of the Advisory Design Panel.

One of the requirements for this project is to dedicate land and contribute money to build a new multi-use path for walking and cycling along its 200 Street frontage.

In another first since I have been on council, there will be no public hearing for this proposed development project.

Due to physical distancing requirements, in-person public hearings cannot occur. City staff are currently working on a solution to enable people to attend virtual public hearings, but this is not yet ready.

Because this proposed project is consistent with our current Official Community Plan and zoning in the area, staff recommended that the public hearing be waived for this proposed development project.

People in the area will still be notified about this proposed development project.

During the meeting, Councillor Storteboom and myself noted that being transparent and giving people the opportunity to provide input on redevelopment is important. I noted that while I was supportive of this request to waive the public hearing for this particular development proposal, I urged staff to work to ensure that people will be able to provide feedback for future development proposals.

Council approved waiving the public hearing for this development proposal. Council also gave first and second reading to the rezoning bylaw.

Tomorrow, I will continue posting about Monday’s council meeting.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Transit service reductions and cancellations put on pause

Since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency, transit ridership has dropped significantly as has the number of people using other modes of travel to get around our region. This has resulted in TransLink running into a cash flow problem as the agency is losing $75 million per month. The province and federal government were asked to step-in with a cash infusion to ensure that transit service could be maintained.

Without this emergency funding, transit service would need to be slashed throughout Metro Vancouver. In Langley, 17 routes would have been impacted starting May 18th.

On Friday, TransLink and the province announced that these planned route cancellations and service reductions would be paused.

The Province and TransLink are working on a comprehensive solution to address the major financial impacts that TransLink, like many transit agencies across the country, has incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the progress in these discussions, TransLink and its operating companies will suspend the service reductions planned to begin on May 18 and rescind layoff notices issued to approximately 1,500 employees. The Province and TransLink will also continue to call on the federal government for a national solution to the challenges facing transit systems.

This is good news. It is important to note that even with significantly lower transit ridership currently, because of physical distancing measures, 30% of bus capacity is available system-wide.

As the province looks to open again, it will be important that people can travel safely around our region. Having enough transit service to allow people to travel, while keeping their distance, is critical.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Supporting Local Restaurants on Mother’s Day

Douglas Crescent in Langley City.

With Mother’s Day occurring on Sunday, May 10th, you may be considering doing something special to celebrate. For some people, this might have included going out for a meal. While dining-out is not an option this year, many restaurants are offering Mother’s Day meals which can be picked-up or delivered.

In Langley City, there are many locally-owned restaurants along the Langley Bypass and in our downtown.

For a list of restaurants that are open downtown, please view a list provided by the Downtown Langley Business Association.

I received a note from someone who worked at Cora, a locally-owned franchise, stated that they are also having a breakfast special available for pick-up on Mother’s Day.

There are many apps available for ordering food, but they take a cut which would otherwise go to the local restaurateur. Some of these apps take a 25% to 35% cut!

If possible, considering phoning in your pick-up order.

They are many different food options available in our community. If you can, while following the guidance of the BC CDC, please consider supporting a local restaurant this Mother’s Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Housing Agreements - Creating and Maintaining Affordable Housing

While the conversation around affordable housing has subsided over the last few months, it is still one of the top issues that needs to be addressed in our region.

I have posted about the various ways that local governments such as Langley City can help support increasing the number of affordable housing units. Affordable housing is a continuum of housing options.

Emergency shelters, supportive housing for people with complex needs, independent social housing, and rental assistance needs provincial and federal government on-going funding.

Below market rate rentals, market rentals, and affordable home ownership can be created with the help of local governments through the development process.

As part of a development project, local governments can require affordable housing options be created in exchange for allowing a developer to increase the number of housing units beyond what would normally be allowed. This is called inclusionary zoning or density bonusing.

This is all well and good, but how do you ensure that these housing options stay affordable over the long-term? This is where housing agreements come into play.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District recently released a new guide for municipalities in our region called, “What Works: Securing Affordable and Special Needs Housing through Housing Agreements.

Housing agreements can cover:

  • Groups or persons permitted within housing units (e.g. seniors, low income households, or a mix of tenants)
  • Type of tenure (rent or ownership)
  • Rent rates
  • Price restrictions (upon re-sale)
  • Administration or management requirements

A housing agreement is made between a local government and property owner. Once an agreement is in place, it remains attached to the property even if the property changes ownership. The only way a housing agreement can be terminated is by a local government’s council.

One of the challenges with housing agreements is that they require on-going monitoring, and in some cases enforcement, as some people will not follow housing agreement terms.

Local governments must have the staffing to be able to monitor and enforce housing agreements. One of the ways to help minimize compliance costs is to empower people who live in housing covered by housing agreements.

“It is important to take steps to ensure that tenants are aware of the basic terms of the Housing Agreement that may impact them, and that there are avenues for tenants to issue a complaint if they notice property managers or neighbours contravening a Housing Agreement. This enables tenants to act as ambassadors of the agreement… Local governments can take a more proactive approach by distributing [information about housing agreements] directly to tenants and posting approved Housing Agreements publicly.”

A housing agreement is a powerful tool. In Langley City, we will be requiring a housing agreement as part of the Langley Lions Housing Society redevelopment project.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Information about transit route service reductions and cancellations in Langley

Update: This has been put on pause. More information: https://sfb.nathanpachal.com/2020/05/transit-service-reductions-and.html

As I’ve posted about in the past, TransLink has seen its revenue severally reduced due to the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The following graph is from Apple’s Mobility Trends report since mid-January. It shows that transit usage is down around 80% and driving is down around 50%. This is generally consistent with TransLink’s own numbers.

Mobility Trends for Metro Vancouver. Source: Apple.

Transit fares and fuel tax are TransLink’s top two sources of revenue.

As a result, there will be a significant reduction in transit service this month. Bus routes that service Langley are impacted as follows.

Bus Route Service Change Start Time
320 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 5:00am on weekdays
342 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 5:00am on weekdays
364 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts 6:00am. Ends at 9:00 pm on weekdays
372 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 7:00am on weekdays
388 No Change No Change
395 Cancelled - (Use 364 or 503)
501 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 5:00am on weekdays
502 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 4:30am on weekdays
503 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 5:00am on weekdays
509 Cancelled - (Use 501 or 562)
531 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends No Change
555 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 5:00am on weekdays
560 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 7:30am on weekdays
561 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 7:00am on weekdays
562 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 8:00am on weekdays
563 Cancelled - (Use 531)
564 Cancelled
595 Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on weekends Starts at 5:00am on weekdays

For more information, including all transit service that is being reduced or cancelled, please visit TransLink’s website. These changes start on May 18th.

Transit is a critical part of our transportation infrastructure in Metro Vancouver. As the provincial government looks to reopen more segments of the economy, it will need to bridge the gap in funding to make sure transit remains a viable travel option.

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Brief History of Langley City

From portaging between the Salmon River and Nicomekl River in the past, to being at the junction of Yale Road, Glover Road, and the BC Electric Interurban rail line, the location of Langley City has always been an important crossroads.

Learn why Langley Prairie became Langley City in 1955, how the community became an important commercial hub, and why this still matters today.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

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

Every quarter, the Langley RCMP provides an update on crime statistics and trend in Langley City. I created the following interactive charts based on information that was recently provided to City council. The period covered is from the beginning of January to the end of March.

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

The COVID-19 state of emergency started in the last few weeks of this reporting period. This could be the reason why there was a slight uptick in business break & enters, and a slight decrease in residential break & enters in the month of March. The next reporting period will show the full impact of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The largest segment of crime in Langley City is still theft from auto. You can help reduce theft from auto by keeping your vehicle locked at all times, and removing all items from your vehicle.

Select crime statistics for Langley City in the first quarter of 2019 and 2020. Select table to enlarge.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

April 27 Council Meeting: Expanded free ebooks, online streaming, classes and courses. COVID-19 local update.

On Monday afternoon, Langley City’s third virtual open council meeting was held. Yesterday, I posted about a new proposed 2020 budget for Langley City which would result in a significantly lower property tax increase than was approved earlier this year. I will be covering the remaining items haerd at the meeting in this post.

With people spending more time at home, and physical libraries closed, the Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) has been focusing on its online resources. They have ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, music, and online streaming services such as Acorn TV available. There is also access to online learning resources such as Lynda.com, and content that is especially for kids.

These online resources are accessible via your library card which is funded by property taxes. If you do not have a library card, you can get one online and start accessing these resources instantly.

Because of the surge in demand, and closure of physical library branches, FVRL has expanded the breadth and quantity of online resources available.

They have also added virtual storytimes for kids which is done on Facebook.

Langley City’s has also moved its recreation services online with “Recreation at Home.” There are instructor-led fitness classes and art courses that have been created in-house. These classes and courses are for all ages, from kids to seniors. Youth activities are also happens including Teen Time Online and Instagram Live events.

Council received an update from Ginger Sherlock who is the emergency coordinator for the Langley Emergency Program, and acting fire chief Scott Kennedy.

Langley City and Township activated our emergency plan on March 11th due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency Operations Centres for both communities have been setup to coordinate local government efforts in response to this pandemic.

Ms. Sherlock stated that the provincial government is leading the COVID-19 pandemic response, and the role of local government is to follow the advice and orders of the province.

She also stated that unlike other emergencies in our community’s history, this is going to be a longer-term sustained response.

While we are still in a COVID-19 state of emergency, the Langley Emergency Program is starting to shift its focus to a recovery plan.

As a housekeeping matter, council passed a motion that “open meetings of Council be held in the absence of the public until such time as the provincial declaration of state of emergency has been lifted.”

While people have not been able to attend council meetings in-person, they can still be viewed online. City staff are working to make virtual meetings even more accessible.

Finally, council appointed the following people to its Advisory Design Panel which gives advice to council on development projects:

Scott Thompson, City of Langley Resident
Rob Chorney, City of Langley Resident
Heidi Tobler, Business Community Representative (Downtown Langley)
Garth White, Business Community Representative (Chamber of Commerce)
Clark Kavolinas, BC Society of Landscape Architects
Chad Neufeld, BC Society of Landscape Architects
Mark Lesack, Architectural Institute of BC
Wendy Crowe, Architectural Institute of BC
Ella van Enter, Accessibility Representative

These appointments are for a year. This panel will be meeting virtually.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Langley City proposed updated 2020 budget in response to COVID-19 will see tax increase halved

When Langley City council approved our 2020 budget at the end of February, we were about to launch the much-needed Nexus investment plan for our community. This investment plan was to be funded by a $50 million loan to be paid back in five years.

For people who owned single family homes, the portion of their City-control tax bill would have increased 5.65% or on-average $179 this year. For people that owned a townhouse or condo, the portion of their City-control tax bill would have increased by 5.52% or on-average $86 this year.

This seems like an eternity ago.

The COVID-19 paramedic has caused financial instability for households, businesses, and local governments. Because of this, Langley City staff and council reviewed our 2020 budget.

Yesterday afternoon, a proposed new 2020 budget was given first and second reading.

While we still need to move forward with the Nexus investment plan, this year is not the right time. Because we still need to make investments in our community, this Nexus plan is proposed to be deferred by one year. This deferral will result in $827,665 less taxation revenue being required this year.

Council is also proposing to defer several staffing positions that were planned for this year including:

  • A Community Outreach Facilitator to deal with matters around poverty, homelessness, and other social challenges in Langley City.
  • A Recreation support worker to help children with disabilities participate in City recreation programming.
  • A City Hall support worker to help with increased workloads.

The staff training budget was also reduced.

These deferred positions and training will result in a further $135,855 in taxation revenue no longer being required for this year.

Langley City’s capital projects are funded by around one-third from revenue received from the casino. With the casino now closed, this will impact capital projects.

Langley City has a policy of budgeting conservatively. Because of this, council is proposing to maintain this year’s capital projects minus what was part of the Nexus investment plan. Some capital projects planned for future years will need to be deferred due to the casino being closed, unless the City is able to receive extra funding from the provincial and/or federal government.

Every year, council tries to set aside taxation revenue for capital projects in future years. The proposed revised budget will see this reduced by $50,000.

Due to conservative budgeting and a reduction in funding for future capital projects, an additional $450,000 in taxation revenue is no longer required for this year. This is not sustainable, and is a one-time reduction.

The proposed new 2020 budget will see people who own single family homes have the portion of their City-control tax bill increase 2.44% or on-average $78 this year. For people who own a townhouse or condo, the portion of their City-control tax bill will increase by 2.41% or on-average $37 this year.

We are in a time like no other in the history of Langley City. The property tax increases for this year are proposed to be reduced significantly to help people get through the COVID-19 paramedic.

Investment still needs to be made, and in future years, we will have catching up to do if this proposed new 2020 budget is approved.

For more information, please visit the financial plans section of the Langley City website.

Monday, April 27, 2020

TransLink: $710 million to $3.25 billion budget shortfall due to COVID-19

TransLink has been losing $75 million per month since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency in mid-March, but has still been providing transit service to some 150,000 unique riders each week. About 40% of people using transit today are “essential” workers.

At last week’s Mayors’ Council virtual meeting, TransLink staff provided an update and presentation on the state of transit service in our region.

The following map from the presentation shows the location of Vancouver General Hospital employees, 30% of whom rely on transit to get to work.

Home Location of 5214 VGH Employees - colour shows relative distance from VGH. Select map to enlarge. Source: VGH 2016.

Without transit service, these people would have a hard time getting to work.

As I noted last week, because of significant revenue loss, TransLink was forced to slash transit service last week. Due to these cuts and measures put in place to promote physical distancing on transit, transit capacity is 18% of what it was a few months ago.

It is not just transit service that is being impacted, road network maintenance and projects in our region are also being impacted. TransLink is responsible for funding 50% of the costs to upkeep the major roads in our region, and up to 75% of road project costs. This money is transferred to municipalities, but is now being deferred. For example, TransLink is responsible for 50% of the costs to upkeep 200th Street, Fraser Highway, 203rd Street, and the Langley Bypass in Langley City*. This will put a strain on municipal revenue which is already being significantly impacted due to the COVID-19 state of emergency.

TransLink has investigated four plausible scenarios of how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out over the next one to four years.

Four plausible COVID-19 scenarios. Select to enlarge. Source: TransLink.

Depending on the duration of the current physical distancing measures, and how people change their travel behavior as the economy re-opens, TransLink would face anywhere between a $710 million and $3.25 billion shortfall in revenue compared to what was forecasted before the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Transit and transportation agencies throughout Canada are in a similar situation to TransLink; a federal response is needed.

If the federal government does not help support TransLink, not only will transit service and road repairs be further eroded in Metro Vancouver, but projects like building SkyTrain to Langley could be cut. This cannot happen.

If you believe that transit and roads are important, please ask your MP and MLA to help.

In Langley City our MP is Tamara Jansen: tamara.jansen@parl.gc.ca
Our MLA is Mary Polak: mary.polak.MLA@leg.bc.ca

*Section of 203rd, north of Fraser Highway. Langley Bypass, south of Glover Road.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Enhancing public programming in regional parks to better connect people with nature

Over the past week, I’ve posted about regional parks in Metro Vancouver.

One of the goals of the Metro Vancouver Regional District is to enhance public programming within its park network:

  • To instil knowledge and deeper understanding of nature so people:
    • respect, protect and care for nature and regional parks;
    • feel comfortable in and want to become familiar with nature;
    • make intellectual and emotional connections while they are in nature;
    • develop a sense of wonder about nature, and strive to live sustainably.
  • To enhance regional park visitor enjoyment. To build community connected to regional parks.
  • To showcase nature to regional park visitors.

The regional district’s future enhanced parks programming will be focused around the following themes:

Broaden Your Base: Work needs to be done to connect culturally diverse families, seniors, young adults, and older teens to nature.

Extend Your Reach: Increase awareness of Metro Vancouver Regional Parks’ outdoor programming.

Make a Deeper Connection: Improve public programming to do a better job of acknowledging the unique essence of place and ecology that defines each regional park and makes it special.

Invest in Youth: Children today spend too much time indoors, and when they do get outside, they are constrained and supervised by parents worried about their safety. Park programming should connect children to nature facilitated by a trusted mentor. This can foster a lifetime of environmental engagement.

Ensure Financial Sustainability: Set programming fees to stay in line with comparable market rates, and not unduly subsidize program and event costs through the tax levy.

Enhancing public programming requires additional staff which would increase regional park expenditures. The regional district will be exploring various cost recovery options as follows:

A pyramid model for revenue generations for parks programming. Select image to enlarge.

In Langley City, some recreation programs have fee such as fitness classes, while other services are free. The idea of having various cost recovery options for recreation and park services is nothing new.

While public programming will not likely resume for some time due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. Once we get through this pandemic, I will look forward to seeing more public programming in our regional parks. I think the challenge for the regional district will be to balance the needs of cost recovery with the public benefits of connecting people better to nature.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Forest Health in Regional Parks

As many people in Langley City know, it is important to monitor the health of forests and groves in parks to help manage the spread of diseases that cause the premature death of trees.

Trees in Hunter Park had Laminated Root Rot. Laminated Root Rot spreads tree-to-tree if action isn’t taken. Unfortunately, a significant number of trees in Hunter Park had to be removed, but it stopped the spread of the disease. This is a local example.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District recently completed a forest health survey to help identify problem areas within their park network.

The following maps show three of the significant forested parks in the South of Fraser. More maps are available in the April 1st Regional Parks Committee presentation package.

Burns Bog Forest Health. Select map to enlarge.

Campbell Valley Forest Health. Select map to enlarge.

Aldergrove Park Forest Health. Select map to enlarge.

The next step for the regional district will be to come up with a plan to remedy the problem areas within the forests that they manage.

Forests provided significant ecological services to our region such as:

  • Carbon storage
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Disease regulation
  • water filtration and purification
  • Flood control
  • Pollinator habitat
  • Nutrient recycling
  • Pest control
  • Soil erosion prevention
  • Recreation and exercise
  • Air filtration
  • Shade and cooling
  • Soil formation
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Opportunities for wildlife viewing

It is important that we maintain the health of the limited amount of forested areas that remain in our region.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

SkyTrain and bus service slashed. 65 bus routes to be eliminated.

As I posted about last week, TransLink has seen a massive decline in both transit ridership and revenue. This has resulted in the organization losing $75 million per month since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency. TransLink staff warned last week that if the province or federal government didn’t provide emergency funding, transit service would be significantly cut to ensure that the organization would have the cashflow to meet its financial obligations.

Currently, there is no federal or provincial emergency funding for transit service in Metro Vancouver. Yesterday, TransLink announced significant cuts to transit service which start this week.

On Wednesday, SkyTrain service will be further reduced by 15% to 40% depending on the route and time of day. With reduced frequency, it will be harder for people to practice physical distancing.

The West Coast Express will see two trips in the morning and two trips in the afternoon cancelled. The size of the trains will be reduced.

The SeaBus will also stop sailing by 7:45pm.

Bus service will be hard hit with service reductions or eliminations.

On Friday, 12 bus routes will be eliminated including the R3 Lougheed Highway RapidBus. Six NightBus routes will also be eliminated.

In early May, 47 more routes will be eliminated. Service frequency will be reduced on many remaining routes.

The following routes in Langley are planned to be cut in May:

The 564 bus route which services Langley City and Willowbrook will be eliminated in May. Route shown on map. Select map to enlarge.

The 563 bus route which services Brookswood/Fernridge will be eliminated in May. Route shown on map. Select map to enlarge.

The 509 which is a peak-only service for Walnut Grove will also be cut.

In order to ensure physical distancing, TransLink has reduced the seating on its buses. If these reduced seats become full, transit operators will not pick up further passengers.

With reduced frequency and eliminated routes, it will be challenging for essential workers (including those who work in healthcare) to get to their jobs.

The province has declared transit an essential service. If you believe that transit is important, please ask your MP and MLA to save transit.

In Langley City our MP is Tamara Jansen: tamara.jansen@parl.gc.ca
Our MLA is Mary Polak: mary.polak.MLA@leg.bc.ca

Monday, April 20, 2020

COVID-19 impacts on regional utilities and parks

The Metro Vancouver Regional District provides water, sewer, and solid waste disposal services on behalf of its member municipalities which includes Langley City. The regional district also owns and operates parks throughout Metro Vancouver.

The regional district has posted some statistics about the change in demand for its utilities since the province declared a state of emergency to support COVID-19 response in mid-March.

The demand for water and sewer services has been consistent compared to previous years, even with many businesses shut down.

Weekly water utilization during COVID-19 state of emergency in Metro Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

The biggest change has been a shift in peak water demand in the mornings during weekdays. People are likely getting up later in the day as many people no longer need to commute for work.

There has been a 10% decrease in solid waste (garbage) being delivered to Metro Vancouver waste transfer stations. This is likely due to many businesses being shut down.

Solid waste delivered to Metro Vancouver transfer stations by day during COVID-19 state of emergency. Select chart to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

There has been a large increase in regional park utilization. The regional district has noticed a 40% increase in park utilization. This is supported by Google’s data which shows an overall 20% increase in park utilization throughout the province.

Parks utilization in BC. Select chart to enlarge. Source: Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report.

Interestingly, BC is the only province in Canada that has seen an increase in park utilization since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

With more people in our parks, Metro Vancouver has created a video and guidelines to help keep people healthy.

Physical Distancing in Metro Vancouver's regional parks from Metro Vancouver on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A quieter, cleaner Langley City

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the lives of people in Langley City. But even in this crisis, there are silver linings.

I’ve done a lot of walking throughout Langley City over the years, and I’ve noticed some things since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our community is quieter now. I can hear birdsongs when walking from my apartment to the grocery store, I can hear people doing yard work, and I can say hello to someone across the street without yelling.

A normally busy 56th Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

The reason why is because there is less traffic on the roads. It is interesting to hear how one relatively quiet car can drown out the sounds of nature. Diesel pickup trucks are especially loud compared to the now normal level of ambient sound in Langley City.

It is good that our city is quieter now because most people are under a higher level of stress. A reduction in ambient sound is linked to improved cardiovascular health, cognitive functions, sleep, and mental health.

With significantly less traffic on our roads, our air quality has also improved. If you’ve been able to see the mountains more over the last month, this is one of the reasons why.

Fine particulate (PM2.5) matter in Langley City over the last month. Source: Metro Vancouver
Inhalable particulate matter (PM10) in Langley City over the last month. Source: Metro Vancouver

Improved air quality is also linked to improved health outcomes.

If you find yourself outside on a walk (where you are practicing physical distancing) stop for a moment and listen to the sounds of nature in our community, look out to see the mountains in the distance. In this crisis, this gives me solace.

When the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, I hope that the provincial government looks at policies to reduce ambient noise in our communities, and stays the course on reducing motor vehicle emissions.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Help Save Transit Service in Metro Vancouver

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on people's lives and our economy. As noted by Statistics Canada, “the number of people who were unemployed increased by 413,000 (+36.4%) from February to March, the largest monthly change since comparable data became available in 1976.

Magnitude of this unprecedented employment change compared with past shocks. Select image to enlarge. Source: Stats Canada.

This has translated into less people travelling by car and by transit. A quick look at Google Maps shows that even during the traditionally busiest times of the day, highways are all green.

A good proxy of the reduction in motor vehicle traffic volumes is that TransLink has seen a 60% reduction in gas tax since the start of the pandemic.

A TransLink RapidBus.

TransLink ridership has also dropped as follows:
SeaBus 🔻90%
West Coast Express 🔻95%
Bus 🔻82%

TransLink has stopped charging fares on buses, and has reduced bus service by 15~20% since mid-March.

The provincial government has deemed transit an essential service. In order to allow people to follow physical distancing recommendations, TransLink has reduced seating capacity.

In 2019, TransLink’s major sources of operating income were:
Transit Fares: $685.4 million
Fuel Tax: $403.1 million
Property Tax: $382.7 million
Parking Tax: $81.9 million
Hydro Levy: $21.4 million
Provincial Grant: $17.8 million

For TransLink, like most organizations, cashflow is more important than revenue; you cannot pay employee salaries and the bills without it.

While TransLink receives steady cashflow from fuel tax and transit fares, property tax revenue is received in one lump sum in the third quarter of the year. With significantly reduced cashflow due to the drop in both fuel tax and transit fares, plus talk about shifting property tax due dates until the fourth quarter of the year, TransLink is in a jam.

According to TransLink’s CEO Kevin Desmond, TransLink is “losing $75 million per month and on our current trajectory, we will face cashflow issues within weeks.”

So why does this matter? Currently 75,000 people still rely on transit. Many of these people are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in health care, in grocery stores, and in logistics. They still need to get around safely to ensure that the basic needs of people in our region can be met.

As the economy starts up again, transit service must be able to be quickly ramped up.

What can be done?

The provincial and federal governments are supporting workers and private sector businesses to keep people employed and businesses from failing. The same is needed to keep public transit going.

Like municipalities, TransLink cannot run an operating debt, it will need a cash infusion from the federal and/or provincial governments.

You can help by sending an email to your MP and MLA, asking them to save transit.

In Langley City our MP is Tamara Jansen: tamara.jansen@parl.gc.ca
Our MLA is Mary Polak: mary.polak.MLA@leg.bc.ca

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

COVID-19 Fireside Chat

There have been many discussions about COVID-19 and what it means for our country and our province, but what about our mid-size cities in Metro Vancouver?

City councillors Kiersten Duncan of Maple Ridge, Patrick Johnstone of New Westminster and I discuss the implications of this pandemic on local governments.

How are local governments responding? What should and shouldn’t local governments be doing during this crisis? What will the COVID-19 pandemic mean for local governments that are cash-strapped, but still need to deliver critical services?

We talk about this, and what has kept our communities and ourselves going over the last month in a Metro Conversations virtual fireside chat.

You can also subscribe to the Metro Conversations podcast series to listen to this COVID-19 Fireside Chat.

Apple Podcast

Google Podcast

Thursday, April 9, 2020

March Langley City Property Crime Map

Even with the COVID-19 state of emergency in BC, people are still committing crimes.

The Langley RCMP has released its March property crime map for Langley City.

March 2020 property crime map for Langley City. Select map to view.

With more people staying at home, residential break and enters have decreased in Langley City.

Theft from auto is still a concern in our community. To reduce your chance of being a target, remove everything from your vehicle. This includes garage door openers. If it’s not bolted down, someone will try to steal it.

If you see suspicious activity, call the RCMP non-emergency line at (604) 532-3200. From personal experience, I know that reporting suspicious activity helps create a safer neighbourhood.

Because the population density is higher north of the Nicomekl River, there will be more activity both positive and negative, compared to south of the Nicomekl River.