Thursday, October 22, 2020

A case for more municipalities in the Lower Mainland

One of the things that pops-up from time-to-time is the idea that there are too many municipalities in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. The are 27 municipalities in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. There are 2.9 million people that live within these municipalities. This works out to one municipality per 109,000 people.

In the rest of BC, there are 1.6 million people that live within 135 municipalities. This works out to one municipality per 12,000.

Lower Mainland residents are underrepresented when it comes to municipalities compared to the rest of the province.

One argument about having less municipalities is that it will be more efficient because of deduplication of services. As I posted about in the past, duplication is minimal to nil in Metro Vancouver.

The other argument is that some people feel that there are just too many mayors and councillors.

In the Lower Mainland, people are already underrepresented when it comes to the number of municipalities. There are 195 people locally elected to councils in the Lower Mainland. This includes mayors and councillors. This works out to one municipal representative per 15,000 people overall.

This is not distributed evenly. Langley City has one municipal representative per 4,000. Abbotsford has one per 18,000. Surrey has one per 64,947.

As pointed out in a recent CBC article, 48 of BC’s 87 provincial electoral districts are within the Lower Mainland. This means that there is one MLA per 62,000 people.

Because 62,000 people is a lot of people to represent, each MLA gets a constituency office. A MLA’s base salary is $111,024. Each MLA also gets $141,400 to hire staff and run a constituency office. It would be impossible to serve 62,000 people on your own. That is a total cost of $252,424, or $4.07 per person in an electoral district on average in the Lower Mainland.

In Surrey, the mayor has a base salary of $147,019 while a councillor has a base salary of $74,980. With total salaries of $746,859, this works out to $1.28 per person in Surrey.

In Abbotsford, the mayor has a base salary of $122,379 while a councillor has a base salary of $46,132. All in, this works out to $3.10 per person in Abbotsford.

In Langley City, the mayor has a base salary of $115,446 while a councillor has a base salary of $53,874. All in, this works out to $15.83 per person in Langley City.

Councillors do not get funding for constituency offices.

As someone who is elected in Langley City, I feel that I can keep up with local issues and have time to meet up with residents to help them. I honestly don’t know how I would be able to do that if I was elected in a community like Surrey.

A case could be made to create more municipalities in Metro Vancouver. Surrey would be a clear example of a community that is under-represented at the local level.

In the Lower Mainland, there are less municipalities per person than the rest of the province. There are regional services, and coordination of services between municipalities. Some of the larger municipalities are underrepresented at the local level.

While it might look nice on a map to have fewer municipalities in the Lower Mainland, it would result in less representation than at the provincial level.

Addressing local issues is critical as they have the most impact on people’s lives. We should be looking to enhance representation, not reduce it.

As a note, Lower Mainland means the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley Regional Districts. The population estimated are for 2019 from BC Stats. All local government salaries are from 2019.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Report Crime Online

Earlier this year, the Langley Detachment of the RCMP launched online crime reporting. Instead of calling the police, you can now submit the following reports online:

  • You have lost something that costs less than $5000
  • Someone has stolen something from you that costs less than $5000
  • Someone has vandalized your property or vehicle and it will cost less than $5000 to repair it
  • You want to report general poor driving behaviour such as speeding, distracted driving, and failing to follow a sign or signal

Visit the Online Crime Reporting tool.

If there is a crime in progress, please call 911. For other requests and to report suspicious activity, call the RCMP non-emergency line at 604-532-3200.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

October 19 Council Meeting: Remembrance Day online ceremony, winter recreation, things to do in Langley City, and reducing waste at future events.

Langley City council received an update from Kim Hilton who is the Director of Recreation, Culture and Community Services yesterday afternoon. The City has been providing recreation opportunities, following WorkSafe BC COVID-19 protocols, since the summer. With winter fast approaching, some gymnasium programs have now started at Timms Community Centre such as pickleball, badminton, volleyball, and table tennis.

The City is once again offering 10 and 20 visit “punch” passes as well as unlimited monthly passes for recreation programs.

Remembrance Day will not be held in person this year in Langley City. Instead, a locally produced ceremony will be put online for people to view on Remembrance Day. For more information, please visit Langley City’s Remembrance Day page.

Discovery Langley City, our tourism marketing organization, has continued to promote our community throughout the pandemic. They recently launched a new video.

Discovery Langley City is continuing to work with Destination BC on COVID-19 recovery planning for 2021~22 and beyond.

On the topic of tourism, large outdoor events have been an important part of our community. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these events are paused. These large events unfortunately also generate a large amount of waste which ends up in landfill or incinerated. With events paused, council passed the following recommendation from our Environmental Task Group:

THAT Council direct staff to complete a report covering waste management for events within City of Langley including the following:

  1. How event waste management is currently addressed
  2. Summarize the typical events held within the City of Langley
  3. How waste at events can be reduced
  4. What waste reduction education resources should be provided at events
  5. Should the City implement a requirement that event organizers must submit a waste management plan prior to event approval
  6. Identify the components of a suggested waste management plan
  7. Identify implications to event organizers
  8. Estimate the cost and resource implications for City organized events

I look forward to seeing the staff report on how we can improve our waste management practices, and implementing those recommendations before large events start up again in the future.

Council also gave third and final reading to discharge a land use contract for 20093 44 Avenue, and gave final reading to the 2021 permissive property tax exemption bylaw.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Protecting Employment Lands and Jobs in Metro Vancouver. Increasing Employment Density near SkyTrain.

Land in Metro Vancouver has two levels of zoning. A regional zone and a municipal zone. Regional zones are in place to protect agricultural, industrial, rural, conservation, and recreation lands. Without regional land-use protection, Metro Vancouver would have less greenspace. Our region would also have less employment lands and jobs which are located along key transportation corridors including the Fraser River.

The protection of these employment lands and greenspace has been steadily increasing over the last 25 years. Currently to remove these protected lands for general urban uses, such as residential and retail, both municipal and regional rezoning must occur. At the regional level, rezoning is a rare occurrence due to the deliberate roadblocks put in place in the Metro 2040 Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) policies.

Current regional land uses in Langley City. Purple = Industrial; Salmon = Mixed Employment Lands. Source: Metro Vancouer GIS.

While the current RGS has been effective, there are some gaps in the protection of employment lands. As the regional district is now working on an updated Metro 2050 Regional Growth Strategy, some of these gaps are now being examined.

One of the biggest gaps is that retail uses are being permitted within employment lands. There is also employment land next to SkyTrain stations throughout the region that is low density. The regional district is looking at how to increase employment densities in regionally zoned employment lands around these stations while also providing affordable rental housing.

The following set of recommendations has been made by Metro Vancouver Regional District staff.

  1. Update and clarify the definition of industrial use
  2. Strengthen regional policies to protect Industrial lands for industrial uses
  3. Introduce some flexibility for Mixed Employment lands by rail rapid transit stations to accommodate higher job density and other regional growth strategy objectives
  4. Encourage industrial intensification/densification, where contextually appropriate to the activity and location
  5. Undertake a regional land use assessment to proactively identify the ‘best’ location for different land uses
  6. Improve climate action policy such as adapting to sea level rising and flooding

Langley City has regionally-zoned industrial and mixed-employment lands. City staff are in the process of updating Langley City’s Official Community Plan. Protecting these employment lands is supported. I look forward to seeing the specifics of how the region will support increasing employment density around SkyTrain stations as both proposed Langley SkyTrain stations are near employment lands.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mobility in Metro Vancouver. TransLink looking to encourage positive trends, discourage increased driving.

Since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency in March, TransLink staff have noticed emerging trends around mobility in Metro Vancouver. They have been thinking about how to support trends that will have a positive impact on people’s quality of live while discouraging trends that will have a negative impact on people and the environment.

Reduced transit ridership
Buses travel within general traffic lanes meaning that they get stuck in congestion. To speed up travel-time for bus riders, TransLink staff is looking to speed up bus service along key corridors in partnership with municipalities. Some ways to speed up bus service include putting in bus priority lanes along corridor and queue jumping lanes at busy intersections.

Increased walking and cycling
To encourage the increase in walking and cycling, TransLink staff is looking to work with municipalities to rapidly create more safe bike lanes. TransLink staff is also considering supporting municipalities to create “slow streets,” and improve walking safety at some of the most dangerous intersections in the region. TransLink staff also want to increase the use of e-bikes by partnering with municipalities to provide shared e-bike charging, and to lobby the province to include e-bikes in the BC Clean Energy rebate program.

Increased driving
Some people who used to take transit have now purchased new vehicles. The current concern is that an overall higher percentage of all trip will continue to occur via single-occupancy vehicle as we recover from the pandemic. This will lead to increased congestion throughout the region, increased pollution, and increased GHG emissions.

To reverse this trend, TransLink staff is looking to encourage mobility options such as carpools, vanpools, car sharing services, taxies, and ride-hailing.

TransLink staff will continue to work on policies to discourage driving during the busiest times of the day. This includes working with municipalities to develop a region-wide framework for on-street parking pricing and allocation.

Increased remote work and remote learning
To encourage remote work and remote learning, TransLink staff is looking to make the agency a clearinghouse for information about remote work and learning. TransLink could play a role in lobbying the province and feds to create policies that incentivize people and organization to continuing working from home.

Increased e-commerce
E-commerce delivery can have negative impacts on parking, congestion, and emissions. TransLink staff is looking to work with municipalities to create a region-wide approach to urban freight delivery. TransLink staff would also like to work to encourage deliveries via low emissions vehicles and cargo bikes.

Increased unemployment & household financial strain
The cost of transportation is a large component in most household budgets. Ensuring that transit remains safe, convenient, and low-cost are key goals for TransLink as we emerge out of the pandemic.

To learn more, please have a look at the report, “Transport 2050: Progress Report on COVID-19 Impacts and Opportunities on Long-term Planning.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

TransLink ridership increasing faster in South of Fraser than other parts of the region. Buses leading the way.

When I last posted about transit in July, ridership was about 33% of pre-COVID-19 state of emergency levels. At the most recent Mayors’ Council meeting, TransLink’s CEO provided an update on transit ridership.

Transit ridership is increasing, but ridership restoration has been uneven based on the mode used.

Mode Ridership Return
(% of pre-COVID Ridership)
Bus 43%
Expo/Millennium Line 38%
Canada Line 31%
SeaBus 27%
West Coast Express 17%
HandyDART 35%

Bus ridership has restored further than rail ridership. This makes sense because ridership is also restored back higher in areas that have limited rail service.

Sub-Region Ridership Return
(% of pre-COVID Ridership)
Vancouver/UBC 39%
Burnaby/New West 37%
North Shore 44%
Richmond/Delta 42%
Northeast/Tri-Cities 37%
Ridge Meadows 55%
Surrey/Langley/White Rock 51%

There is some speculation around why ridership is restoring faster in some parts of the region comparted to others, but it is a combination of how many people are still working from home, in post-secondary classes held remotely, and unemployed.

I would also guess that some people have switched from transit to walking and cycling.

For 2021, TransLink is planning for around 70% of pre-COVID-19 ridership. Limited capacity due to COVID-19 safety protocols on transit vehicles necessitate 100% of pre-COVID-19 service hours for transit in 2021.

Work is in-progress to plan for 2022 and beyond for transit as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for sometime.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A look at the new Brydon Park dog off-leash area and perimeter trail

The first phase of upgrades to Brydon Park is now open to the public. This weekend, I walked the new perimeter trail and took some pictures.

Perimeter Trail. Select image to enlarge.

One of the things I noticed is that the parking lot and new trails are gravel. This is to help with stormwater management. Instead of stormwater and pollutants running off asphalt directly into storm sewers which drain directly into rivers and creeks, water can filter through the ground. This reduces pollutants getting into the ecosystem. Gravel and other pervious surfaces also help reduce the flow of water into rivers and creeks which reduces erosion to watercourses.

Gravel parking lot. Select image to enlarge.

Another environmental feature in the newly opened section of Brydon Park is a bioswale which like pervious surfaces, helps to collect and remove pollutants, silt, and debris from stormwater.

Bioswale and dog-off leash area. Select image to enlarge.

One of the new things in recently renovated parks in the City is water fountains. This water fountain is located at the entrance to the new dog off-leash area.

Water fountain. Select image to enlarge.

The are also new water fountains at City Park, Nicholas Park, and Penzer Park.

The material in the dog off-leash area is a special engineered wood product. It is designed to reduce splinters. This material is also used in playgrounds and other dog off-leash areas in the City.

Entrance to dog off-leash area. Select image to enlarge.

The next phase of enhancements to Brydon Park is schedule to start in 2023 and will include:

  • Water play area
  • Sand volleyball court
  • Group picnic area with picnic shelters
  • Community table
  • New washroom building
  • Outdoor fitness equipment area

Future phases will include:

  • Youth activity and social area
  • Enhanced sports court
  • Enhanced play area for children with social area for parents

Thursday, October 8, 2020

October 5 Council Meeting: Sidewalk patios for restaurants, proclamations, and deputy mayor appointments

Monday night’s Langley City council meeting was a lighter agenda. Council gave final reading to repeal our Chauffeur Permit and Regulation Bylaw and update the Municipal Ticket Information System Bylaw accordingly. You can read more about why the bylaw was repeal in a previous post.

A proclamation is an old tyme was for mayor or council to have a day in recognition to show symbolic support for a group, cause, or organization. For example, a council could declare a day, “Water Appreciation Day.” These proclamations have little meaningful impact. As a result, this is something that Langley City council has not done. Council formally adopted a policy on Monday night to include requests for proclamations in the “Correspondence” section of council agendas, but not actually do proclamations.

Mayor and council show meaningful support for non-profit organizations in our community by offering community grants, raising non-profit flags (on-request) during specific time periods, and providing letters of support for non-profits seeking grant funding from third parties.

Council appointed the rotation deputy mayor position for 2020/2021 as follows:
Nov.1 – Dec 31, 2020 - Councillor Pachal
Jan.1 – Feb 28, 2021 - Councillor Albrecht
Mar.1 – Apr 30, 2021 - Councillor Martin
May 1 - June 30, 2021 - Councillor Wallace
July 1 – Aug 31, 2021 - Councillor Storteboom
Sept 1 – Oct 31, 2021 - Councillor James

The deputy mayor takes over the mayor’s responsibilities if she is unavailable.

One of the things that council has received frequent correspondence about during the COVID-19 pandemic is for the City to support sidewalk patios for restaurants. This is interesting because the City already provides free permits for restaurants that want to extend their patios onto sidewalks. This has been in place even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The City has produced a “Guide to Outdoor Dining on Sidewalks” to help restaurants in our community apply for this free permit.

Finally, council received a report from staff on the legal costs due to a complaint against the City from an individual to the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The complaint was dismissed by the Tribunal. The City’s legal costs to defend against the complaint was $62,058.05.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

October 5 Council Meeting: Smoke bombing the sewer and other projects on the go

If you see smoking rising out of manholes or catch basins in the Dumais Park area, do not be alarmed. It is the City testing the storm sewer and sanitary sewer lines.

Langley City council learned that City staff have noted an increase in sanitary sewer flow when it is raining. This means that there is likely a cross-connection between the storm sewer and sanitary sewer. This can happen over time due to human error during construction projects, or damage.

To help find issues, a smoke bomb is placed in the sanitary sewer lines. Crews monitor where the smoke escapes. This shows where there could be problems. This smoke is completely safe for people, animals, and the natural environment.

If sanitary sewer gets into the storm sewer system, raw sewage can flow into our local rivers and creeks. If stormwater gets into the sanitary sewer, it can overload sewer treatment plants resulting in raw sewage being released into the ocean and Fraser River.

Replacing traffic lights is important. Previously when traffic lights needed replacement, the traffic controller, poles, conduits, and signals would be replaced all at once. Each full replacement cost around $250,000.

In order to save money, City staff now complete an audit to see if traffic light poles and conduits are in good shape. If they are, only the actual traffic controller and signals are replaced. These replacements cost around $60,000 each.

City staff are always look for ways to save money while maintaining a good level of service, and state of good repair for our public infrastructure. By extending the life of traffic light poles and conduits, the savings can be reinvested into other infrastructure renewal projects such as renewing more traffic lights.

The City is working on getting Innis Corners Plaza lit for the holiday season. Based on the success of last year, there will be further enhancements to make this plaza a holiday destination. On the topic of the holidays, the light displays along the Fraser Highway One-Way will also be enhanced this year.

Council also received updates as follows:

  • Brydon Park upgrades are nearing completion
  • The 51B Causeway bridge will have it seals replaced shortly
  • The pedestrian bridges near Portage Park and in Nicomekl Park are being renewed
  • The storm sewer line around 47 Avenue will be relining to prevent root infiltration

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

High-Speed Rail Corridor Pitched for South Coast: Whistler to Chilliwack in 60 Minutes

I had the chance to review and provide some feedback for a high-speed rail corridor proposal for the Sea-to-Sky corridor, Metro Vancouver, and Fraser Valley. I think that the proposal has merit, and should be studied further by the provincial government.

I know that our region is continuing to grow; there will be another million more people in Metro Vancouver over the next 30 years. We need a bold vision to help us keep people moving in our region, and help us recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can read the high-speed rail corridor vision at https://mvx.vision/.

The following is the press release for the vision.

Travel time for Mountian Valley Express (MVX) compared to auto. Select image to enlarge.

Metro Vancouver - The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting Canadians in ways not seen for generations. People have lost loved ones, small business owners have been forced to close their businesses for good, and a record number of people are unemployed. This pandemic has paused our way of life as we know it, and has forced us to reset our priorities.

As we look forward to a vaccine for COVID-19, and a restarting of our economy, one urban planner wants the Province to chart an ambitious new course for recovery.

“We have a choice. Do we continue business as usual, or chart a new path to prosperity, a path that also considers the large looming climate emergency?” Asks PhD candidate Alex Gaio, who recently completed his masters degree in Sustainable Urban Planning and Design at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

Gaio notes that British Columbia, Washington State, and Oregon State are currently studying a $50 billion high-speed rail line that will link Vancouver to Seattle to Portland. He thinks that a similar study is required for the South Coast of BC.

The proposal for the plan is called the Mountain Valley Express or MVX for short. The report can be read on the website at https://mvx.vision.

“MVX high-speed rail will move 97,000 trips per day, taking 20% of all drivers off our congested highways,” says Delta native Gaio. “High-speed rail would mean you could travel from Whistler to Chilliwack in an hour.”

According to Gaio, the MVX corridor if built would:

  • Support the Province’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2040
  • Move as many people as 6 lanes of highway
  • Support 460,000 to one million jobs over 30 years
  • Create $49-61 billion in transportation benefits over 30 years
  • Cost 30-70% less than expanding the highway network to meet the same demand
  • Reduce travel time by 80% compared to driving

“As we think about the COVID-19 recovery, we need to think big,” says Langley City Councillor Nathan Pachal who has read the vision. “BC is a province of builders. Let’s build for the future.”

Gaio, a member of the MVX Collective, hopes that the Province will consider launching a feasibility study for the Mountain Valley Express.

“If we are studying the Cascadia high-speed rail corridor in earnest,” says Gaio, “We should also be studying high-speed rail for people who need it everyday in our own backyard.”

For further information, contact:
Alex Gaio
media@mvx.vision

Monday, October 5, 2020

New Lifeguard app to help prevent overdoses

BC has two health crises. One is caused by COVID-19, the other is caused by toxic street drugs. Throughout 2020, the number of people unintendedly overdosing due to toxic drugs has been steadily increasing.

Illegal Drug Overdose Events, Previous 12 Months. Source: BC CDC.

Younger men who use at home are the mostly likely to die from an unintendedly overdose. Because of the COVID-19 paramedic, more people are using along. This increases the risk of dying due to an unintended overdose.

The provincial government recently launched a new app for iPhone and Android devices call “Lifeguard App” in partnership with Lifeguard Digital Health.

The app is simple to use. If you are about to use, you activate the app. After 50 seconds, an alarm will sound. If you don’t press the stop button, the alarm will grow louder. After 75 seconds, a text-to-voice call is placed to 911.

The following video shows a demo of the app.

If you are using along, please consider this app. Even if you do not use alone, please let others know about the “Lifeguard App.” You could help save a life.

Download from Apple App Store

Download from Google Play

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on housing and jobs in Metro Vancouver

The Metro Vancouver Regional District struct a COVID-19 Response Task Force at the start of the pandemic state of emergency. One of the roles of the regional district is to be a clearinghouse for its member municipalities. As such, regional district staff have been compiling information about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Metro Vancouver.

Data on housing, the economy, transportation, and land-use was presented by regional district staff at the most recent Task Force meeting.

There were a few data tables that stood out for me.

BC Temporary Rent Supplement. Select table to enlarge.

BC Housing provided temporary rental supplements for low- and moderate-income households who lost income as a result of the pandemic. This program ran from April until the end of August. Regional-wide, 65,522 households applied for the temporary supplement. More than 1,412 households applied for the supplement in Langley (City and Township.)

New housing starts were up 50% year-over-year in Metro Vancouver, though the building permit value of these starts was lower. The biggest depressing in building permit values has been in the industrial sector.

Housing Starts in Metro Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge.

The last slide I wanted to share shows the unemployment rate in Metro Vancouver which has increased from 4.6% in February to 12.4% in August.

Unemployment rate (red) in Metro Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge.

The full data analysis presentation which includes transportation statistics, plus cost per square foot for industrial, office, and retail space can be viewed on the Metro Vancouver website .

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

September 28 Council Meeting: Meeting via Zoom will continue. Housekeeping matters addressed.

At Monday night’s Langley City council meeting, final reading was giving to the “Highway and Traffic Regulation” bylaw, and accompanying update to the “Fees & Charges” bylaw. As these bylaws are now adopted, the City can chargeback to a property owner the actual cost for removing things placed or installed on City property without authorization.

Receiving requests to discharge land-use contracts is a common occurrence for City council. First and second reading was given to discharge the land-use contract for the property located at 20324 49A Avenue. If approved, this will allow the underlining zoning to be applied. For more information about land-use contracts, please visit the provincial government’s website.

Prior to September 2019, municipalities could issue chauffeur permits based on certain conditions. Now, the regulation of taxis, limousines, and ride-hailing is solely the responsibility of the provincial government. As such, City council gave first, second, and third reading to repeal our Chauffeur Permit and Regulation Bylaw as it can no longer be enforced.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to amend our Municipal Ticket Information System Bylaw to remove references to the Chauffeur Permit and Regulation Bylaw.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency in March, council has been meeting via Zoom meeting. Public hearings have also been held via Zoom webinars.

The September 14 council meeting was held in-person as a pilot. Based on the feedback from staff and members of council, and after good discussion at Monday night’s meeting, it was decided by council to continue meeting remotely.

A significant amount of staff time was required to prepare and monitor the council chambers and city hall to ensure that proper COVID-19 safety protocol were being followed. Because council and staff were surrounded by plexiglass barriers, it was difficult to hear others at times. COVID-19 safety protocols also significantly limited the number of people that could attend meetings, making public hearings a challenge to hold in-person.

As council will likely be meeting remotely for some time, staff will be exploring options to make remote council meetings and public hearings even more accessible by:

  • Livestreaming regular council meetings
  • Allowing public attendance of remote council meetings
  • Allowing a limited amount of people to view remote council meetings and public hearings from City Hall for those that do not have access to a computer or Internet

The general feeling I got was that as soon as it is feasible, council would like to resume in-person public meetings. I believe that this will occur once a COVID-19 vaccine is available for the general public.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September 28 Council Meeting: Status Quo for $62,278 in Non-Profit Property Tax Exemptions

One of the abilities of municipal councils is to grant permissive property tax exemptions. These grants exemption certain properties from property tax. These permissive tax exemptions must be reviewed annually.

At last night’s Langley City council meeting, the 2021 Permissive Property Tax Exemption Bylaw was discussed and given first, second, and third reading.

There are two types of permissive property tax exemptions in Langley City. The first exemptions are for City-owned property which is leased to the following organization:

Langley Seniors Resource Society - 20605 51B Avenue
Langley Stepping Stones - 20101 Michaud Crescent
Langley Community Music School - 4899 207 Street
Langley Lawn Bowling (Outdoor) - 20471 54 Avenue
Langley Community Services Society - 5339 207 Street
Governing Council of the Salvation Army - 5787 Langley Bypass

These are clear-cut exemptions as it would make limited sense for the City to tax itself.

The second type of exemptions are more ad hoc. Previous councils have granted permissive tax exemptions to:

Global School Society starting in 2001. Private schools receive a statutory property tax exemption for the land school buildings and other improvements are on in BC. This permissive exemption covers the remainder of the property owned by the school.

Langley Care Society (Langley Lodge) starting in 2005 as a result of the BC Assessment Authority revoking their partial property tax exemption which they previously received since 1974.

Langley Hospice Society and Inclusion Langley received permissive tax exemptions for select properties starting in 2010.

These four permissive tax exemptions will reduce Langley City’s property tax revenue by $62,278 in 2021.

Unlike the provincial or federal governments, municipalities are not allowed to run deficit budgets. This means that the $62,278 must come from other property owners. If Langley City did not provide $62,278 in property tax exemptions in 2021, property tax could be reduced by 0.2% city-wide.

Because of this impact on property tax, no new property tax exemptions have been approved (even though new requests are receive annually) since I’ve been on council.

This year, the City received four new requests for additional properties to be exempted. The following list shows the organizations which applied, their property locations, and City permissive tax exemption requested.

Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary - 20560 Fraser Highway: $37,390
Inclusion Langley - 20689 Fraser Highway: $8,093
Langley Food Bank - 5780 203 Street: $12,332
Eureka Temple Society - 20701 Fraser Highway: $26,373

Langley Council received around 50 pieces of correspondence from supporters of the Langley Food Bank about their request for a permissive tax exemption.

Mayor van den Broek put a motion forward to include the Langley Food Bank to receive a permissive tax exemption in 2021. There was a good discussion about this, but in the end the motion was defeat by Councillor Martin, James, Albrecht, and me.

While I believe the foodbank is an important part of our community, I did not feel comfortable giving new permissive tax exemptions. There are two reasons why.

We have many non-profit organizations in our community that do great work. They do not receive permissive tax exemptions. Council does not have a policy on which organizations should or should not received permissive tax exemptions. This would be a hard policy to create. If I were to grant a new permissive tax exemption to one non-profit, I would feel like I would have to for all that applied.

As I said earlier, granting a permissive tax exemption is not free money. For each permissive property tax exemption granted, property tax must be increased to cover the loss in revenue. This increase is paid by all remaining property owners.

For these reasons, I view the current exemptions we have in place as grandfathered. While no policies exist for new permissive tax exemption requests, I will remain hesitant to vote in favour of granting new permissive exemptions.

Non-profits are encouraged to apply to Langley City’s Community Grant program. The Langley Food Bank has received community grants from Langley City in the past (including in 2020.)

The status quo will likely be maintained for permissive property tax exemptions in 2021.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Safety Improvement and Traffic Pattern Change for Grade Crescent at 208 Street

There is a significant change coming to the intersection of 208th Street and Grade Crescent/47 Avenue starting October 5th.

Currently, this intersection is a full uncontrolled intersection, but it will be changing to a limited movement intersection to increase safety. Traffic volumes and speed have been increasing along 208th Street over the last several years.

As a result, a median will be installed as shown in the following diagram.

Median at 208 Street and Grade Crescent

This means that only right-in, right-out turns will be allowed from Grade Crescent and 47 Avenue onto 208th Street. Through traffic between 47 Avenue and Grade Crescent will not be permitted. Left turns will not be permitted from 47 Avenue or Grade Crescent onto 208th Street, but left turns will be permitted from 208th Street onto 47 Avenue or Grade Crescent.

This change was originally proposed back in 2011, and was approved by council in the summer of 2019. Various other options were considered including a roundabout, traffic light, and other alternative lane configurations.

The traffic light was ruled out by the project engineers as it would be at the base of the hill which is against best practices. While a roundabout makes sense, it would require property acquisition which would make this a longer-term idea to consider.

For those people that live between 205th and 208th Street on Grade Crescent, they will now have to use 48th Avenue to head northbound on 208th Street.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact the City’s Engineering, Parks and Environment Department at 604-514-2997 or email engineering@langleycity.ca.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Metro Vancouver pilot program to reduce strata energy usage a success

Strata Building

In Metro Vancouver about 31% of households live in stratas, in Langley City that number is 43%. We also know that around 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in our region is a result of building energy usage which includes lighting, hot water, heating, and cooling.

Reducing energy usage in buildings is a key requirement if we are to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to help mitigate some of the impacts of climate change.

Both the provincial and federal governments have programs to help people that own detached housing retrofit their homes to reduce energy utilization. These programs have missed people that live in stratas.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District partnered with some municipalities in our region to launch a pilot program to help strata corporations reduce energy usage, and “make smarter choices, save money over time, and improve their building.” This program was supported by BC Hydro, Fortis BC, and BC Housing. The pilot program was called “Strata Energy Advisor.

82 strata corporations took part in the pilot program which included a walk-through energy assessment and business case report outline ways to save energy and money.

As a result of the program, 38 stratas completed energy efficiency retrofits which represented 2,642 households. This pilot program has resulted in 640,605 kWh of electricity and 3,758 GJ of natural gas being saved per year. The total lifetime greenhouse gas reduction for the pilot program is 2,265 tonnes.

These are large numbers show that the pilot program was a success. The pilot program also had some challenges, but the pilot program report outlines how these challenges were met.

As the pilot program was a success, Metro Vancouver Regional District staff are looking to roll out a full region-wide Strata Energy Advisor program.

I live in a strata apartment that was build in the 1980s and rebuilt in the early 2000s due to a fire. I know that our strata corporation would benefit from a program like this as completing an energy audit without the support of a program like Strata Energy Advisor would be a difficult endeavor.

I hope that the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors (which consist of mayors and councillors) approves moving forward with a region-wide program. It will help people save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a meaningful way.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

August COVID-19 Cases by Municipal Area in South of Fraser/Fraser Valley

The BC CDC has recently shared the number of COVID-19 cases by Local Health Area. They included a map which has a colour-coded representation of the cases per 100,000. To help quantify the data further, I thought I would create a chart which shows the new case rate for August.

This chart is based on new COVID-19 cases as shown in the following table. The new cases are extrapolated from the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases from January until the end of July, and January until the end of August. You can read my prevoius post to see a chart from January until the end of July. Data is from the BC CDC, and the 2019 municipal population estimates.

Municipal Area Population Cumulative Cases
- End of August
Cumulative Cases
- End of July
August New Cases Rate per 100,000
Chilliwack 94,534 38 34 4 4
Ridge Meadows 110,950 119 96 23 21
Delta 109,490 101 62 39 36
Mission 43,202 175 158 17 39
Langley 158,642 219 138 81 51
Abbotsford 158,457 561 454 107 68
Surrey/White Rock 605,553 1097 585 512 85

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Three rules for creating strong downtowns and main streets. Why these rules are almost impossible to follow today.

This summer, I’ve spent time rediscovering many of the villages, towns, and cities in BC’s Interior that I haven’t visited (or lived in) since I moved away from there almost 20 years ago. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that many of these places have strong walkable downtowns and main streets. What is the secret to their success?

One prerequisite is that these walkable areas must be in communities that have a stable or growing population though it takes more than population growth to create great walkable places. There are three things that I’ve observed that are required to create strong walkable downtowns and main streets.

The geometry of streets is critical. Streets must have intersections at least every 200 metres, have sidewalks, and be connected with each other. This doesn’t mean that every street has to be on a perfect grid. Langley City’s Downtown has streets that are connected at various angles, but they are all connected.

Streets should also be slow. People need to feel comfortable walking along a sidewalk, crossing a street, riding a bike, or parallel parking. Slower traffic is quieter which makes it pleasant to have a conservation while walking on a sidewalk or sitting on a street bench. This promotes wandering which is good for retail.

Nakusp's main streets are 30km/h. Select image to enlarge.

Shops must front the street in a continues wall of windows and entrances. There should never be a parking lot between a storefront and the streets, and there should never be a blank wall. These windows and doors encourage people to continue walking down a street to discover what’s next. Malls emulate this concept.

Parking can be accommodated on-street, via lanes, or with strategically placed parking lots/facilities.

On Broadway in Nakusp, there are sidewalks and on-street parking. Shops all front the main street. Select image to enlarge.

In Nakusp for example, their Save-On grocery store is located at the intersection of two of their main streets. The Save-On fronts both these main streets. Parking is provided on-street and via a small parking lot off the main streets.

These three rules are a basic formula that has been replicated in more than a hundred villages, towns, and cities in BC. With this proven formula, why is it almost impossible to create new main streets and downtowns? Much of it has to do with our municipal bylaws and master transportation plans.

Most municipalities place new connected streets every 400 to 800 metres. Internal streets are places within these 400-plus metre mega-blocks. On-street parking is usually prohibited on these connects streets. The speed limits on these streets are also 50km/h or higher. Internal streets, within these mega-blocks, are designed to be disconnected, making them difficult to travel whether by foot, bike, or car.

Most zoning bylaws in BC make it impossible to build new downtowns or main streets. Minimum parking requirements mean that more space is needed for parking than actual shops. Many zoning bylaws also require that on-site parking be place in front of and around shops making it unappealing to walk or bike.

In most BC municipalities, including Langley City, there are provisions that exempt older downtowns and main streets from current minimum parking requirements.

By encouraging a closely spaced street network, slower streets, and on-street/shared off-street parking, we can build downtowns and main streets that create a strong local economy, sense of places, and sense of community.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Langley City public projects under construction. Library branch service enhancements.

This summer has been a busy construction season in Langley City. Council received an update about on-going projects from Rick Bomhof who is the Director of Engineering, Parks and Environment for the City.

One of the largest projects in Langley City is the replacement of the Logan Creek culvert and watermain under the Langley Bypass near the Gateway of Hope. This $1.2 million project is jointly funded between the City and TransLink. The project is scheduled to wrap up at the end of this month if the weather remains dry.

Presentation about Logan Creek Culvert Replacements. Select image to enlarge.

On the topic of culverts, Langley City is also cleaning many other culverts that go under streets throughout the community. Over time, sediment and debris build up in culverts which impacts water flow.

The new walking trail and dog off-leash area at Brydon Park is nearing completion. This new section of the park is scheduled to open in the next few weeks.

One of the requests from residents along Grade Crescent was to pave the walkway that connects Grade Crescent to 48th Avenue, just east of 201A Street. This paving was recently completed.

Traffic calming was also recently completed at Upland Elementary School with the installation of delineators to narrow the road. City crews also repaired the bike lane delineators on 53rd Avenue.

Langley City’s library branch is now open for people to browse in-branch material and use the computers. Curbside pickup is still being offered as well. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of library services has been growing.

On Monday night, council approved funding upgrading the automatic book sorting machine and installing a countertop glass barrier for our library branch with $20,750 from the library’s “Salary and Benefit Reserve.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

September 14 Council Meeting: Development Matters Addressed. Chargeback for removing unauthorized things from City property proposed.

On Monday night, several development matters were addressed during the first in-person council meeting since March. This meeting was a pilot to see if further council meetings will be held in-person, or will continue via remote meeting.

First and second reading was given by council to discharge a land-use contract for 20093 44 Avenue. If approved by council, this will enable the underlying zoning which permits secondary suites. Land-use contracts were used between 1971 and 1978. On June 30, 2024, all land-use contracts in the province will be terminated. For more information, please visit the provincial government’s website.

Council also gave final reading for rezoning and issued a development permit to allow a 6-storey mixed-use building on the corner of Logan Avenue and 203A Street.

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

View from Logan Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

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

One of the concerns that I hear is around construction crews and trades people utilizing on-street parking when working on development projects. Council was told that the proponent of the project is securing off-site parking for people that will be working on this development project.

For more information on this project, please read a pervious post.

Council gave first, second, and third reading to update the “Highway and Traffic Regulation” bylaw, and accompanying update to the “Fees & Charges” bylaw.

If approved, these updates will allow the City to chargeback to a property owner the cost for removing things placed or installed on City property without authorization. The cost charged-back would be the cost to the City for removing and/or storing any unauthorized thing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

September 14 Council Meeting: Mayor’s Gala Discovery Report and Next Steps

On January 25, 2020, Mayor van den Broek held a gala fundraising event with proceeds going to the Langley Hospital Foundation. The gala may have appeared to be a Langley City event, but it was independently arranged by the mayor.

As a result, Langley City council unanimously passed a motion “that staff prepare a report outlining the following:

  • Liability to Langley City;
  • Unauthorized use of the Langley City crest;
  • Use of the RCMP crest;
  • Use of the wording ‘Langley City Mayor’ on marketing and advertising materials for a non-City event; and
  • A financial report outlining all material and in-kind costs to Langley City associated with the Mayor’s Gala, including RCMP costs.”

Last night, Langley City council received the “Mayor’s Gala Discovery Review” which was prepared by Paul Gill who is a third-party independent consultant. His full report can be downloaded from Langley City’s website. The recommendations from his report were:

On a go-forward basis, where a member of Council wishes to pursue an initiative like a gala, there should be formal consultation with Council.

Council Policy CO-64, Use of Corporate Identity & Brand, should be reviewed. The focus of the review should be around who can authorize the use of the City’s logo and brand, plus the consequences for not abiding by the policy.

A Council Code of Conduct should be developed and adopted by Council.

Paul Gill found in his discovery that the Officer-In-Charge of the Langley Detachment of the RCMP, Murray Power, acknowledged that “four-hour Overtime (approved by [Murray Power]) is enough to cover the costs for 2 persons” in relationship to the gala. An estimated cost is provided by Paul Gill in the discovery report.

Council passed the following recommendations last night:

THAT Council receive the Interim Report: Mayor’s Gala Discovery Review dated March 15, 2020 from Paul Gill for information.

THAT Council endorse the recommended actions as outlined in the Summary section of this report.

THAT Council direct staff to carry out a more detailed cost analysis to determine the salary and benefits costs and which accounts were charged to for those RCMP members that worked the four-hour overtime shift to cover the cost to purchase two tickets to the gala, and City staff costs.

During the discussions about passing the recommendations, council decided not to move forward with the Council Code of Conduct, or RCMP “expenditure protocol and expectations” for future events, until after the detailed cost analysis has been completed and presented to council.

Monday, September 14, 2020

In-person council meeting at City Hall tonight. What to expect.

Today marks the return of council meetings in Langley City since the end of July; Council meetings paused during the month of August for summer break. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, council meetings have been held via Zoom.

Tonight, council will be meeting for the first time since March in-person at City Hall as a pilot.

As noted on the City’s website:

  • COVID-19 measures will be in place, including physical distancing, plexiglass barriers, and occupancy limits for the Council Chambers (maximum occupancy 19), the foyer outside of the Council Chambers (maximum occupancy 8), and the CKF Meeting Room (maximum occupancy 8). Please note that with Council members and staff, there is a limited amount of seating available to the public in the Council Chamber
  • If the maximum occupancy limit is reached in the Council Chamber, you will be invited to view the livestream of the Council meeting in the CKF Room. Once maximum occupancy limits have been reached for both rooms, we will be unable to accommodate any more people on site to view the meeting and a sign advising of this will be posted outside of City Hall
  • The wearing of a face mask is encouraged
  • Please arrive no earlier than 6:40 pm and no later than 6:55 pm before the meeting start time of 7:00pm
  • The underground parkade continues to be closed; parking is available in the parking lot behind the Timms Community Centre
  • Upon entering City Hall, you will be required to provide your full name and either a telephone number or email address for contact tracing purposes as required by the Public Health Order on Events and Gatherings
  • The Regular Council Meeting will be livestreamed and may be viewed by visiting this page
  • The video recording of the meeting will also be posted on the above-referenced webpage the day after the meeting

Based on the experience of the pilot meeting, in-person meetings may continue. Council meetings may also switch to a hybrid in-person/remote format. Council meetings could also return to just the remote format.

Committee meetings, such as the Crime Prevention Task Group, will continue in the remote format.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Almost universal mask wearing made me feel safe taking transit. Enforcement may be needed for those that still refuse to wear a mask.

When COVID-19 pandemic measures were first put in place in mid-March, the company that I work for shifted to work-from-home. This put an end to my daily commute between Langley City and Vancouver.

When COVID-19 restrictions lifted, our company switched to a “your choice” work program, meaning that people could work at the office or work from home. 90% of the company is still working from home most of the time, including myself. Once a month, I head to the office.

I’m still taking transit to get to the office, and I’ve noticed some major changes over the past five months.

Main Street SkyTrain Station. Select image to enlarge.

The biggest change has been the steady return of people to transit in Metro Vancouver. This is backed up by Apple’s Mobility Trends and Google’s Mobility Report which shows that transit ridership is now down between 30~40% of pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

During May, transit ridership was down around 80% of pre-COVID-19 levels, so it was easy to stay two metres away from others on the bus or train.

TransLink encouraged people to wear face coverings/masks back in June. Unfortunately, this resulted in only around half of people taking transit wearing masks, even as ridership continued to increase.

I was feeling uncomfortable taking transit because the SkyTrain and 502/3 were standing room only in August. I was happy that TransLink switched to a mandatory mask policy at the end of that month.

Yesterday, I took transit into Downtown Vancouver. I was happy that during the morning, everyone on the bus and SkyTrain was wearing a mask. I was disappointed that on the afternoon trip back to Langley, there were two people in the SkyTrain and two people on my bus that did not wear a mask.

TransLink noted that they are seeing 92% compliance with mask wearing on transit. This is what I also observed.

I’m impressed that virtually all people in Metro Vancouver are doing the right thing to help keep other people healthy by wearing a mask on transit with limited to no enforcement. This keeps people safe, and makes people feel safe. With everyone wearing a mask, I’ve never felt safer from a health perspective while on transit.

Unfortunately, there is still a small group of people that will not do the right thing, even something simple like wearing a mask to protect others from COVID-19. As transit ridership continues to pick up, enforcement may need to occur.

While I’ve reduced my usage of transit, it is because I no longer have to commute to Downtown Vancouver as often. While taking transit, I now feel safe because I know that virtually everyone is doing their part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Langley City’s role in implementing the 2020 Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities

The 2020 Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities is a 20-point action plan that is being championed by Jennifer Keesmaat who is a prominent Canadian urban planner. Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians were grappling with the effects of long-term inequality and structural barriers to building sustainability communities. COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges.

The Metro Vancouver Regional district looked at Keesmaat’s 20-point action plan, and found five actions which would have the most positive transformational impacts to improve sustainability, livability, and prosperity for people who live in our region.

Because our region is a federation of many municipalities, much of the responsibility for implementing the actions as proposed in the declaration is with individual municipalities. The following lists the five critical actions as seen by the regional district, and highlights what progress if any has occurred in Langley City.

Allow appropriately scaled multi-tenanted housing, co-housing, laneway housing, and other forms of “gentle density” in all transit-adjacent locations
The proposed new Langley City land-use plan includes introducing multi-tenant housing along all transit corridors and in-fill “gentle density” near transit corridors.

Enact congestion pricing policies and dedicate 100% of revenues to reinvestment in the transportation system, being mindful of equity considerations
This action will require the support of the provincial government. Municipalities, TransLink, and the regional district have been supportive of congestion pricing, but so far the province has expressed little interest in moving forward with congestion pricing.

Enact a funded, detailed plan to achieve a 40% urban tree canopy cover
Langley City council’s strategic initiatives are to update our tree inventory, develop a tree asset management plan, and develop an urban forest management strategy.

Require all new large buildings to be carbon neutral, resilient to local climate change impacts, and located in Urban Centres or along the Frequent Transit Network
I’m not aware of a Langley City initiative to require large buildings to be carbon neutral. This may require an update to the BC Building Code. All large buildings must be located in our urban centre or along frequent transit corridors. We also have a strict bylaw to ensure that all new buildings are resilience to flooding.

Provide a minimum of 15% affordable housing in developments proximate to rapid transit to increase the supply of affordable housing in transit-oriented locations.
Affordable housing policies are currently being developed as part of the Official Community Plan update for Langley City. No affordability target is currently set.

While it is positive that we are already making some progress on these action items, there is much work to be done if we are going to truly become a resilient Langley City, supporting a resilient Metro Vancouver.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The results for the “Totally Unofficial Name-That-Park Survey” are in…

The results are in for the “Totally Unofficial Name-That-Park Survey” for the unnamed parkette at the corner of Fraser Highway and Production Way. The clear choice for people was “Railway Park.”

Unnamed parklet at the corner of Fraser Highway and Production Way

The vote breakdown is as follows:

Some people have asked why I wanted to name this parklette in an industrial area along a busy railway.

Currently, Langley City is working on updating its official community plan. One of the proposed land-use concepts is to transform Fraser Highway into a mixed-use corridor with shops and services at ground-level, and residents above. This parklette would be the western gateway to this mixed-use area. Also being considered in the update is to improve walking and cycling access between the Willowbrook Mall area, through the proposed mixed-use corridor, and Downtown Langley.

This parklette may not seen like much today, but it will become an important location as our community continues to grow.

Since this was not a City-run survey, I will be asking my council colleagues to consider an official naming context as we get closer to the completion of the updated official community plan.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

What would you name the parklette at Fraser Highway and Production Way? Vote Now!

Since I’ve lived in Langley City, I’ve always been curious about the parklet at the corner of Fraser Highway and Production Way. Its address is 5999 Production Way, and somehow has remained unnamed to this day.

Unnamed parklet at the corner of Fraser Highway and Production Way

This parklet was created as a result of the railway bypassing Downtown Langley. The original railway alignment was down Michaud Crescent and up Glover Road.

Earlier, I asked people to submit suggestions to name this unnamed park. I received 78 responses.

Based on these suggestions, I created a top-ten list of park names. I need your help once again to pick a name for this park.

Please note that this unofficial survey was created by me, and is not an official Langley City survey.

With so many serious things going on right now, sometimes it is good to have a little fun.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Cumulative COVID-19 Cases by Municipal Area in South of Fraser/Fraser Valley

The BC CDC has recently shared the number of COVID-19 cases by Local Health Area. They included a map which has a colour-coded representation of the cases per 100,000. To help quantify the data further, I thought I would create a chart.

This chart is based on the following table which includes the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases from January until the end of July from the BC CDC, and the 2019 municipal population estimates.

Municipal Area Population Cumulative Cases Rate per 100,000
Chilliwack 94,534 34 36
Delta 109,490 62 57
Ridge Meadows 110,950 96 87
Langley 158,642 138 87
Surrey/White Rock 605,553 585 97
Abbotsford 158,457 454 287
Mission 43,202 158 366

As a note, there was a serious COVID-19 outbreak in the Mission Institution medium security federal prison.