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.