Monday, December 21, 2020

Merry Christmas. See you in 2021.

I’ll be taking a break from blogging over the next few weeks. I’ll be back posting on January 4th.

Though our holiday season is different this year, I hope that yours is merry.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

TransLink to purchase 205 new SkyTrain cars for $723 million

Today the TransLink Board will be meeting for the last time this year. On the agenda is purchasing 205 new SkyTrain cars. These cars will replace the ageing original Mark I cars and provide enough new cars to support the Millennium Line's Broadway Subway extension.

Even compared to the latest SkyTrain car model, there will be new and improved features such as:

  • The trains will be in a 5-car configuration versus 4-car seen today
  • Provisioned for passenger Wi-Fi
  • Better HVAC with extra cooling
  • Better seating arrangement and design
  • Equipped for new in-train next stop/information displays
  • Enhanced bike racks
  • Fold-down hostler seats
  • On-board computers enhancements
  • Provisioned for a new communication system
  • Enhanced LED headlights
  • Extra middle interior light for door status
  • Additional fault detection lights on each door
  • New end cap design
  • 15% reliability improvement

The total cost for these new cars is $723 million. TransLink is also securing an option to purchase 400 more SkyTrain cars to support future expansion, including the extension to Langley.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

December 14 Council Meeting: Development matters including a proposed apartment on Eastleigh Crescent

On Monday afternoon, Langley City council addressed two development proposals and their associated enabling bylaws.

Renderings of proposed apartment project at 20689 & 20699 Eastleigh Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

Council gave first and second reading for an Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment and rezoning bylaw to accommodate a 6-storey, 88-unit apartment located along Eastleigh Crescent on a currently vacant site. An OCP update is required because the proposal doesn’t align with the current OCP. However, it will align with the proposed new OCP, designed around building a walkable, bikeable community with SkyTrain.

The City’s Advisory Design Panel reviewed the proposed project and recommended the following additional actions:

  • Ensure snow management keeps accessible and other parking spaces clear
  • Consider additional fenced parking areas on surface parking level
  • Utilize secure fencing materials (discourage chain link fencing)
  • Provide access between indoor amenity room to outdoor amenity area
  • Ensure parkade area is well-lit
  • Add additional benches, seating and garden plots in amenity area
  • Utilize reflective roof materials
  • Encourage additional installed EV stalls.

The proponent of the project is incorporating the recommendations of the design panel. The proponent noted that six level-2 electric vehicle chargers would be included. All other parking stalls will be roughed-in for future chargers.

Residents along Eastleigh Crescent have told me that the lack of loading zones creates problems such as people illegally parking and parking in other building’s parking lots. Council was told that this proposed apartment project would include a loading zone.

Also of note is that the project will step down towards the back of the site and is a T-shape. This will reduce shading on adjacent buildings. The large trees at the back of the site (though on adjoining property) will also be retained.

The proposed project will include a mix of one- and two-bedroom units.

Council also gave third reading for a rezoning bylaw, and to discharge a land-use contract, to accommodate a 6-storey, 213-unit apartment on the former West Country Hotel site on 56 Avenue/Michaud Crescent. You can read more about this proposal in a previous blog post and post about its public hearing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

December 14 Council Meeting: Virtual Christmas Events, Crime Prevention Videos for Business, Not a “Ghost Town”

Yesterday afternoon was the last Langley City council meeting of the year.

Council received an update from Kim Hilton, Director of Recreation, Culture and Community. She noted that limited indoor recreation options are available at City facilities with information posted on the City’s website.

She also highlighted some of the virtual Christmas events that are occurring this year, including the Elf on the Shelf Countdown to Christmas, Holiday Lights Virtual Tour, and Langley Youth’s 12-Days of Christmas Giveaway Contest.

To help celebrate Christmas Eve, the City is asking people to jingle bells for 2 minutes at 6 pm outside to help spread some holiday cheer.

Dave Selvage, Manager of Community Safety, presented a video series produced by the RCMP Langley Detachment about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. This is an initiative of the City’s Crime Prevention Task Group. The City will post a series of 5 minutes videos to its YouTube page to highlight what businesses can do to help reduce crime. Some examples include tips on cleaning up tagging/vandalism and securing outdoor areas such as around garbage, organics, and recycling bins. The videos were kept short, recognizing that many business owners are extremely busy, especially this year.

Council enthusiastically endorsed this series and to work with the RCMP, Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, and Downtown Langley Business Association to spread these videos throughout Langley. I will post a link to these videos once they are up.

Langley City council also approved staff to apply for a grant from the federal government’s COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Program to cover the cost of a $486,00 project to implement flood mitigation along 46 Avenue between 206A Street and 207 Street in 2021. This area has been subject to flooding over the last several years. If the City does not receive the grant, construction of this project will occur in 2022.

The area along 46 Avenue that is subject to flooding.

Councillor Wallace presented a motion declaring a climate emergency in Langley City. This motion will be discussed at a future Council meeting.

Councillor Martin brought up the topic of Cloverdale-Langley City MP Tamara Jansen calling our community a “ghost town.” Members of council refuted that claim. After a robust discussion, council agreed to send a letter to the MP asking for an explanation of what she meant by “ghost town” and to meet with City council.

While 2020 has been a challenging year for businesses, our community is resilient. This weekend, I walked around both Downtown Langley and the Langley Bypass. I noticed lineups on the streets and full parking lots. We can best support our business community this holiday season by shopping local.

Monday, December 14, 2020

People are already walking to the Langley Bypass. Let’s make it a walkable corridor.

Over the last year, I’ve done significantly more walking throughout Langley City. One of the areas that I walk to regularly is the Langley Bypass area. The Langley Bypass isn’t a pedestrian-friendly area. In some respects, the design of the corridor actively discourages walking and other active forms of transportation. Yet, whenever I go to the Langley Bypass, there are always people on the sidewalks.

People waiting to cross at 200th Street and the Langley Bypass. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City is a compact community. It is only about 1 kilometre between the Langley Bypass/Willowbrook Mall area and Downtown Langley. For most people, that is a 10-minute walk.

Research suggests that most people will choose to walk to a destination if it is a 10-minute or less walk away.

Langley City is in the process of updating our official community plan. This is the document that will guide the development of our community over the coming decade. One of the big focuses of the new official community plan is to prepare for the arrival of SkyTrain.

With SkyTrain, the goal is to make it safe and inviting for people to walk or cycle to a SkyTrain station. This means that our streets need to be great places to walk and cycle.

This summer, the City posted a draft land-use concept plan online. The land-use concept proposes to add green space to the northwest section of our community. The SkyTrain guideway will run down Industrial Avenue. Part of the guideway construction could include creating a linear park similar to the BC Parkway in Burnaby for example.

This would create a pleasant walking and cycling corridor for people to get to shops and services along the Langley Bypass and Willowbrook Mall.

As our community grows, people must have transportation choices to get out of congestion. People are already choosing to walk to a place in our community that is not the most pedestrian-friendly. The updated official community plan will allow the City to embrace the walking that is already occurring in the Langley Bypass area. An area that traditionally would not be considered a walkable corridor.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Call to Artists: Langley City Virtual and Storefront Gallery

Langley City is inviting artists to submit up to two art pieces to be displayed virtually on the City's website, or if 2-D/3-D to be displayed in the storefronts of local businesses.

As per the City's Application Information:

  • Maximum of two submissions per artist
  • Digital photographs should be 300dpi and 2-5 MB in a JPEG format
  • All 2-D and 3-D artwork must be gallery quality and ready to hang or display
  • Langley City will adjudicate the work to determine which pieces will be shown at local businesses

This exhibit will run from January 18 to January 31, 2021.

Please visit Langley City's website, where you can learn more about the exhibit and download the application form to participate.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

December 7 Council Meeting: Updates on plans and projects in Langley City. 2020 was a busy year.

Monday afternoon was the penultimate Langley City Council meeting in 2020. The meeting started with Councillor Paul Albrecht reading a statement about why he voted for Councillor Gayle Martin for the City’s representative on the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board.

Councillor Martin gave an update about the Fraser Valley Regional Library, of which Langley City is a member. Currently, eBook loans are up 55% compared to the same time last year, and physical material loans are up 6%.

Picnic Shelter Slabs at City Park

Rick Bomhof, Director of Engineering, Parks and Environment, provided an update to Council as follows:

  • 62 Avenue sidewalk and curb project near 200 Street is complete
  • Concrete slabs poured for the new picnic shelters in City Park
  • New iconic signs installed at Innes Corners Plaza and Douglas Park/Spirit Square
  • Pavement renewed at Fraser Highway near 201A Avenue
  • Annual water main flushing is in progress
  • Drainage improvements completed in Penzer Park
  • Christmas lights around Downtown Langley are up

Francis Cheung, Chief Administrative Officer for the City, provided an update on implementing the Langley City: Nexus of Community vision.

In 2020, the City implemented a new Advisory Design Panel that includes architects, landscape architects, RCMP, an accessibility representative, and representatives from the business community and the community. This panel provides feedback on all projects that require a development permit in the City.

Also nearing completion is:

  • A new Official Community Plan
  • A new Zoning Bylaw
  • A new Downtown and Transit Corridor Masterplan
  • New neighborhood plans

It has been a busy year at City Hall implementing the Nexus vision.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Public Hearing for the redevelopment of the West Country Hotel to a rental apartment building

Last night Langley City Council held a Public Hearing for a Zoning Amendment Bylaw, Development Permit, and Land Use Contract Discharge for a proposed 6-storey, 213-unit rental apartment located at the site of the former West Country Hotel located at 20222 56 Avenue.

You can read more about this proposed redevelopment in a previous post.

Council received several pieces of written correspondence about the redevelopment proposal, and four people from the general public attended the public hearing virtually.

There were three major themes that I heard from the people who provided feedback for the hearing.

One theme was around the building’s height and its impact on the surrounding apartment buildings. The applicant noted that they would be retaining the trees on both the west and east sides of the property to create a buffer. The applicant also provided a shadow study, which shows that shadows would directly impact the property east of the proposed development from the spring equinox to mid-summer around 10 am daily. Otherwise, shadowing is minimal.

Shadow study for the proposed development at 20222 56 Avenue/20237 Michaud Crescent.

The second theme was that the proposed public lane on the east of the property would create rat-running and be high-speed. The lane itself is 6.5 metres wide with a 1.5 metre wide sidewalk for a total of 8 metres. The width of the lane is a requirement of the fire department.

If the redevelopment moves forward, the applicant will be incorporate traffic calming along the lane as part of the servicing agreement process.

Site plan showing the trees that are being retained and expansion of community garden.

The third theme was about the impact on the community garden. The applicant noted that the current community garden plots are staying in place and would be expanding from 18 to 29 plots.

This applicant is working with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to fund this proposed project. The CMHC requires that 20% of the proposed units have below-market maximum rents equal to 30% of Metro Vancouver’s median income. I asked why it wasn’t 30% of the Langley City median income. The applicant told me that using the median income for Metro Vancouver was required by the CMHC.

No votes occur at public hearings. Whether to give a third reading for the Zoning Amendment Bylaw will occur at a future council meeting.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Municipalities, Pension Plans, and Fossil-Fuel-Free Bonds

On November 2, Langley City Council received a delegation from World Beyond War. One of their requests was for municipalities to divest from companies involved in the fossil-fuel industry.

In BC, municipalities and regional districts are limited to where they can invest funds. Investment is limited to products offered through the Municipal Finance Authority (MFA). Local governments can also invest in provinces, other local governments, and the federal government. Local governments can put money in savings accounts or guaranteed investment certificates (GICs.)

The Municipal Finance Authority is “owned” by all local governments in BC and had $3.2 billion in pooled short-term investments on behalf of local governments.

For 2-5 year investments, municipalities can invest in fossil-fuel-free bonds or bonds that could include companies involved in the fossil fuel industry.

Metro Vancouver Regional District board recently passed a policy to no longer invest in the fossil-fuel industry. The MFA’s fossil-fuel-free bonds enable this option.

People elected to local governments have been calling on the MFA to provide fossil-fuel-free investment options.

Another major investor that is “part-owned” by all local governments is the Municipal Pension Plan (MPP). The MPP holds close to $60 billion in investments used to support municipal workers’ pensions.

In 2015, people elected to local governments called for the MPP to study divestment from the fossil fuel industry. The MPP recommended against this, and instead proposed a Climate Action investment strategy.

Currently, the MPP is signed on to the Climate Action 100+ program to “engage systemically important greenhouse gas emitters and other companies across the global economy that have significant opportunities to drive the clean energy transition and help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

The program’s goals are to “improve governance on climate change, curb emissions and strengthen climate-related financial disclosures.”

For more information on why the MPP took this approach, please read “Primer on Fossil Fuel Divestment.

Municipal governments can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions directly through how we build our communities and where we put our money.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Langley City’s Elves on the Shelf Ally, Timmy, and Doug countdown to Christmas. Keeping Christmas Bright Downtown.

Usually, this weekend would be the start of Langley City’s Christmas events. This year, things have to be different as public gatherings and events are not permitted at this time.

To help keep you in the Christmas spirit, Langley City has solicited Ally, Timmy and Doug to help countdown to Christmas. You can follow their antics on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. You can also visit the City’s Magic of Christmas webpage.

Here is what they were up to yesterday.

This morning we were just hanging around so we decided to add some additional decorations to the lobby at Timms Community Centre / Langley City Hall. If you visit the weight room or the library, don't forget to look up. #LCelfontheshelf

If you find yourself in Downtown Langley during the evening, check out the Christmas lights at City Hall, Innes Corners Plaza, Douglas Park, McBurney Plaza, and along the streets. City staff went all-in this year to help keep Christmas bright.

Innes Corners Plaza

McBurney Plaza

Douglas Park

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Metro Vancouver remains a recycling leader, but more needs to be done for multi-family housing

One of the things that we can be proud of is that we have been steadily reducing the rate of materials that end up in landfills or incinerated.

The following graph shows that over the past 25 years, the amount of recycled waste has been steadily increasing.

Regional recycling rate for waste from all sectors.

The next graph shows the tonnes per capita of waste generated, recycled, and disposed of into landfill/incineration.

Total waste generation, disposal, and recycling rates per capita.

Disposal and recycling per capita have swaps positions. The total amount of waste generated per capita has remained stable. The good news is that less waste is being disposed of today in absolute numbers than 25 years ago even with an increasing population.

Ideally, we should be moving towards reducing the amount of waste generated in the first place. Paper and plastic are the top recycled items in our province. It is easier said than done, but reducing the amount of product packaging would go a long way to reducing waste generation rates.

Another area for improvement is for people that live in apartments and townhouses (multi-family). People living in single-family homes recycle 63% of waste. People living in multi-family homes have a 36% recycling rate.

I live in an apartment with easy organics and recycling collection. Yet, I still see recyclable items in the garbage bin.

Overall, our region is doing well with reducing waste, but we do have areas where we can improve. For more information, read the 2019 Metro Vancouver Recycling and Solid Waste Management report.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

COVID-19 Impacts on Mobility. Driving back to before levels. Ferries and transit below.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how we travel. Before the start of the pandemic, I commuted to work in Downtown Vancouver by transit. I’ve now been working from home since mid-March.

I would also explore various parts of our region during weekends in the past. I’ve made a conscious choice to stay within Langley City now.

Instead of taking transit almost daily, I’ve taken transit about four times since mid-March. I don’t own a car, so my primary mode of getting around the 10 square kilometres of Langley City is on foot.

I took a vacation to the Okanagan and Kootenays this summer, but that has been it for travel.

When I’ve been around Langley City, I’ve certainly noticed more people walking and cycling. I’ve also seen that motor vehicle traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District has a COVID-19 Response Task Force. At their recent meeting, they looked at changing mobility patterns.

The first slide shows major bridges’ traffic volumes as of November 9. These bridge volumes are a good proxy for overall traffic volumes in the region.

Bridge Traffic Volumes. November 9, 2020. Source: BC Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure.

BC Ferries passenger and vehicle volumes are below.

BC Ferries Volumes. November 6, 2020. Source: BC Ferries.

From news reports, transit ridership is at about 40% of pre-pandemic levels. I would expect transit levels to return to normal levels once people start going back to work in offices.