Thursday, April 29, 2021

April 26 Council Meeting: Tax rate bylaw, $7.5 million loan, and water and sewer master plans

While Langley City Council approved the 2021 budget in February, Council now has to approve a bylaw to collect property tax in 2021. The following table shows the number of each property type and the change in the property tax for this year.

Properties Ratio $ Change % Change
Average Single Family 3,303 1.00 $103.00 4.85%
Average Strata 6,634 1.00 $64.00 6.47%
Average Light Industrial 78 2.28 $1,167.00 5.05%
Average Business 620 2.54 $804.00 3.85%

The City plans to collect about 50% of property tax from residential property owners and 50% from all other property owners such as commercial property owners. In total, the City plans to collect $31.4 million in property tax this year.

City Council gave first, second, and third reading to this bylaw. Council also gave first, second, and third reading to the Tax Penalty Addition Bylaw. If a property owner is late with paying their property tax bill, they are charged a 5% late fee in July and an additional 5% late fee in August. Last year, City Council adjusted the late fees due to the pandemic, but this was unnecessary. People paid their taxes consistently like in previous years. This bylaw restores the late fees to what they were previously.

Part of the 2021 budget includes borrowing $7.5 million to purchase property to support the expansion of SkyTrain to Langley City. Because the City is borrowing money, we have to go through the Alternative Approval Process.

This process will allow people to submit an official opposition to borrowing these funds. If the 10% of the electors in Langley City, 2,137 people, oppose the borrowing, the City will have to hold a referendum on the borrowing or not borrowing the funding.

Council approved the Alternative Approval Process. The City will advertise information about this process per provincial law.

City Council approved staff applying for a provincial grant of $220,000 through the UBCM-administered Local Government Development Approvals Program to fund the City’s Water Distribution and Sanitary Sewer System Master Plans.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

April 26 Council Notes: Three Apartment Projects

Langley City Council moved forward on three development items at the Monday public meeting.

Council gave final reading to a rezoning bylaw, discharging a land-use contract, and approving a development permit to allow the construction of a 6-storey. 213-unit rental apartment at the site of the former West Country Hotel. 20% of the units will have below-market rents set to 30% of the median income for Metro Vancouver as per Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation requirements for this project.

This project will also expand the Michaud Community Gardens and create a new lane with a sidewalk connecting 56th Avenue to Michaud Crescent.

Rendering of the proposed project looking from 56th Avenue (20222 56 Avenue). Select image to enlarge.

You can read more about the development project in previous posts.

Council also gave third reading to amend the current Offical Community Plan and a rezoning bylaw to enable a 6-storey, 68-unit apartment at 5394, 5396, 5400, & 5402 207 Street. You can read more about this proposed development in a previous post.

Rendering of proposed apartment at 5394, 5396, 5400, & 5402 207 Street from 207th Street. Select image to enlarge.

Council also gave first and second reading to a bylaw, which, if given final reading, would enable the construction of a 5-storey, 62-unit apartment at the corner of 56th Avenue and 201 A Street. This proposed development is on the site of a former fire-damaged apartment building.

View of proposed apartment from the corner of 201A Street and 56th Avenue. 5609 201A Street. Select rendering to enlarge.

View of proposed apartment, south-facing view. 5609 201A Street. Select rendering to enlarge.

City staff will now schedule a public hearing for this proposal. I will post more about the development project at that time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

April 26 Council Meeting: Crime Stats, Mayor’s Gala Fallout, Reviewing the Delivery of Policing Services in Langley City

On Monday, Langley City Council addressed several RCMP matters. Council received an update about crime stats and initiatives of the RCMP by Acting Superintendent Mike Bhatti, who is the Officer in Charge of the Langley Detachment.

The following are interactive crime stats charts comparing Q1 2020 to Q1 2021.

Bhatti noted that overall crime is down in the City, but he acknowledged that mail theft is a growing concern. He also sits on Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group. The Task Group recently asked, and Council approved, City staff to investigate an incentive program to retrofit insecure mailboxes in multifamily housing to increase security and deter mail theft. Mail theft is a gateway to other serious crimes such as fraud.

Bhatti stated that the Detachment has been able to keep the number of front-line members at normal levels throughout the pandemic though there are resourcing concerns. New RCMP members come from Depot, which had reduced graduates over the last year due to the pandemic. This reduction means that there is a limited amount of people to fill vacant positions in the Detachment.

In the first quarter of 2020, Langely RCMP members responded to 207 calls where someone needed mental health services. They responded to 174 calls in the first quarter of 2021. The open question is, should the police be responding to mental health services calls?

When someone has a physical injury, we have provincially-funded paramedics who respond when you call 911. If someone needs mental health services in an emergency, should we not have provincially-funded mental health workers who answer the call?

Later in the meeting, City staff presented their findings on the Mayor’s Winter Gala. The gala occurred in January 2020. The gala was not an event approved by Langley City staff or Council.

Langley City’s internal investigation found that former Officer in Charge of the Langley Detachment Supterindentent Power sent an email “to his senior officers in order to encourage them to attend the Mayor’s Gala and that a 4-hour overtime shift would be approved to cover the costs of purchasing 2 tickets to the gala.”

The RCMP acknowledged that “$361.44 was charged against the City of Langley” to cover purchasing tickets to the gala. 1.23 hours of Langley City staff time was also used for the gala.

To get an answer to this simple question of cost, it took over a year. Without getting into the weeds, I perceived a lack of transparency and accountability from the RCMP. This matter could have been addressed quickly at the start of 2020 if Langley City staff was promptly able to get answers from the RCMP regarding costs.

Even with the recent information provided by the RCMP higher-ups, I am not convinced that we have the whole story. I posed the following motion, which Council supported:

THAT staff report back to Council with answers to the following question:

How much of the Mayor’s Gala overtime costs were allocated to the Township of Langley?

Why are there significant discrepancies between the Gill report and RCMP report on taxpayer costs, $8,100 compared to $361.44?

Why did it take over one year to receive a response from the RCMP?

Why was the former officer-in-charge of the Langley detachment, Superintendent Murray Power, reassigned?

The fallout from this event and on-ongoing revelations about systemic issues of racism and sexism in the RCMP over this last year has rocked my faith in the RCMP institution. RCMP Members at the Langley Detachment have shown willingness to work together with Council and the community. It is not about these members; it is about systemic issues within the RCMP.

Policing service costs in Langley City have grown faster than any other service we provide. It is our largest budgeted expense. Langley City council has limited control of the policing budget and priorities due to the complex contract between the federal government, province, and local governments. Langley City Council essentially “rubber-stamped” the policing budget.

Citizens and elected representatives are now demanding more transparency in how police services operate. Systemic racism is a real and ongoing issue within policing. Surveys show that people feel unsafe in Langley City.

I also put forward the following motion, which Council approved:

THAT staff including in the 2022 budget, a review of the policing service model for Langley City.

Is it time for Langley to have an independent police service, either shared with the Township or City-only?

As the Langley Detachment does not have a permanent Officer in Charge, Langley City Council asked the RCMP brass that Councillor Teri James and our CAO Francis Cheung be a part of the selection committee.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Transport 2050 – Have your say on the region’s long-term transportation vision

Our region has a long history of transportation visions that set out the high-level goals for our road and public transit network. For the most part, these long-term visions get built out on schedule. The most famous and impactful of these visions was Transport 2021, which the region and province adopted in September 1993.

Transport 2021 Vision. Select map to view.

Due to the 2015 transit referendum, a 10-Year Mayors’ Regional Transportation Investments Vision has guided transportation investment over the last decade, but its time is coming to an end.

Mayors’ 10-Year Vision. Select map to view.

We need a new transportation vision for our region.

TransLink staff have been working on Transport 2050, a new long-term vision for Metro Vancouver. In 2019, TransLink received feedback from over 31,000 people about their hopes and concerns for our region’s transportation system.

Out of that feedback, TransLink staff have developed three key themes for Transport 2050:

  • Creating People-First Streets: Making it safe and comfortable for you to walk, bike, or roll.
  • Building Out the Next Generation of Rapid Transit: More than tripling the rapid transit network. Making it quicker and easier to travel across the region.
  • Leveraging Automated Vehicles: Enabling convenient access to car trips, without adding to congestion.

TransLink staff has also developed two high-level concepts for the future rapid transit network.

Network A would build out 100 kilometres of SkyTrain and 100 kilometres of RapidBus or Light Rail in dedicated lanes.

Transport 2050 Network A. Select map to view.

Network B would build out 50 kilometres of SkyTrain and 350 kilometres of RapidBus or Light Rail in dedicated lanes.

Transport 2050 Network B. Select map to view.

Both options would have similar costs to build.

Knowing the history of our region, Network A is likely what our transit network will look like by 2050.

TransLink would like your feedback, and they have set up an engagement site where you can learn more and complete a survey. It is open until May 14, 2021.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Federal and Provincial budgets are good news for building SkyTrain to Langley

The provincial and federal governments recently released their budgets for the coming year, and it is good news for getting SkyTrain built to Langley.

The provincial government’s budget mentioned the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project three times. It included funding of $136 million in this year’s budget, a forecasted $272 million in next year’s budget, and $341 million in 2023/34 for transit infrastructure for “notional funding for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain.”

It is notional because the business case for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain is in progress. Provincial staff will complete the business case after the budget is adopted. Once staff complete the business case, and the government approves it, the notional funding will become just funding.

The provincial budget also included continued funding for the Broadway Subway SkyTrain extension as a separate line item.

The other key enabler to get Surrey-Langley SkyTrain built is the federal government. Local governments have been calling on the federal government to make a permanent fund for public transit.

The federal government will be providing $14.9 billion over eight years to support public transit projects such as the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain with a new $3 billion per year permanent transit funding starting in 2026. Of course, this is dependent on the results of a potential upcoming federal election.

This year, the federal government is allocating $328 million for public transit, $572 million for the next budget year, then $954 million, $1.5 billion, and finally $2.6 billion until the permanent public transit fund year. This budget sends a strong signal that the federal government is committed to public transit.

Metro Vancouver municipalities will still need to fund “their share” for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, which, based on previous projects, will be around 20% to 30% of the total cost. I’m confident that the region will fund the project as significant provincial and federal dollars are on the table.

I’m more hopeful than ever that SkyTrain will be coming to Langley sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Crime Prevention for Business: Take control of vehicle and pedestrian traffic

Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task group has released their latest “sell sheet” for crime prevention. This sheet is the first geared towards the business community in Langley and expands on the previous Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) video series for business.

The first tip is, “Take control of the vehicle and pedestrian traffic in your business area.”

Crime Prevention Tips

Please view the video on YouTube for more information.

You can also download the “sell sheet” to print or distribute to others.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

April 12 Public Hearing Notes: 6-storey building proposal near 207th Street and Douglas Crescent

On the evening of Monday, April 12th, Council hosted a virtual public hearing to gather feedback on a proposed 6-storey, 68-unit apartment building located on the east side of 207th Street. While the building is 6-storeys, beyond the fourth storey, the building steps back to reduce the impact of shadowing on neighbouring properties. It also reduces the massing of the building, which reduces its perceived height.

Rendering of proposed apartment at 5394, 5396, 5400, & 5402 207 Street from 207th Street. Select image to enlarge.

Rendering of proposed apartment at 5394, 5396, 5400, & 5402 207 Street from lane. Select image to enlarge.

The proposed building has 11 two-stories, 3-bedroom townhouses on the ground level, 39 one-bedroom, and 18 two-bedroom apartment units.

The proposed building will have 89 resident parking spaces and 12 visitor spaces. Six of these spaces will be accessible. Ten parking spaces will have EV charging on day one, while the remaining spots will be pre-ducted to accommodate EV charging in the future.

The proposed building will require an update to the current Offical Community Plan, rezoning, and a development permit. While the building needs an update to the current Offical Community Plan, it is consistent with the proposed new Offical Community Plan.

While no one but Council, City staff, and the development proponent attended the public hearing, Council received three letters from residents expressing concern about the building’s height. TransLink also submitted feedback noting that the building will help support creating a transit-friendly community. TransLink also encouraged the developer to make this a rental building.

The project also went through the City’s Advisory Design Panel, which includes architects, landscape architects, an accessibility representative, an RCMP member, a school board trustee, and members of the public.

The panel recommended:

  • Adding weather protection over the rooftop elevator access
  • Adding weather protection/pergola for a portion of the rooftop deck
  • Moving the garbage room south along the lane and enhancing the garbage room design
  • Making the lobby entrance more prominent
  • Making the 6th-floor amenity area larger
  • Adding seating to the amenity area on the 2nd floor near the play structure
  • Providing additional warm colour materials on the fa├žade to contrast with the white and grey materials
  • Adding a more extensive play structure for the amenity space
  • Shifting the accessible parking spaces closer to the elevator
  • Adding solar panels to supplement building energy use
  • Addressing privacy issues on level 5 and 6

Except for adding solar panels, the proponent accepted and addressed the recommendations of the Advisory Design Panel. The proponent will include space in the mechanical room and conduits to support solar panels in the future.

The next step for this proposed project will be for Council to consider giving the Offical Community Plan and rezoning third reading to accommodate the project.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Langley City projects including removal of old damaged Sitka Spruce near Portage Park

Langley City’s Park and Engineering Operations is always busy, and with warm weather here, municipal projects are ramping up.

The following projects and repairs are underway or recently completed:

  • Repaving 203rd Street between Douglas Crescent and Fraser Highway
  • Repairing drainage pipes on 204th Street Overpass
  • Grinding down sidewalk edges and replacing sections of sidewalks throughout the City to reduce tripping hazards
  • Pressure washing downtown sidewalks and lanes
  • Installing a rapid flashing beacon crosswalk on 208th Street at 45A Avenue
  • Renewing the 208th Street pedestrian bridge
  • Completing water main work on Industrial Avenue
  • Preparimg City Park for the baseball season
  • Completing landscaping around the picnic shelters at City Park
  • Performing maintenance at Brydon Lagoon
  • Installing memorial benches in the lower section of Sendall Gardens
A new section of sidewalk to reduce tripping hazard. Select image to enlarge.

Unfortunately, a City contractor had to remove an old Sitka Spruce in the loop trail area south of Portage Park. The tree caught fire many years ago, causing damage to its trunk. Over the years, it rotted away to the point that the tree was at risk of falling into neighbouring houses.

Deterioration of the tree over the years. Select image to enlarge.

You can now see the remains of the tree via a new path.

Remains of Sitka spruce in the loop trail area south of Portage Park. Select image to enlarge.

As staff presented this update at last Monday’s council meeting, City council asked staff to look into removing and cleaning up the social distancing signs that were put up last year as they are ending up in rivers, creeks, and natural areas. Council also asked staff to investigate reinstalling some garbage cans that have gone missing over the years along the Nicomekl Trail System.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

April 12 Council Meeting Notes: Mail Theft and Insecure Mailboxes, Final Approval for Langley Lions Affordable Housing, and Sewer Main Renewal Approved.

While the overall crime rate is down in Langley City, mail theft is on the rise year-over-year. Mail theft is a serious concern. The immediate impact of a stolen bank card, credit card, or cheque is often followed by identity theft and other fraud. A victim of mail theft can spend a significant amount of time recovering from one incident and can often be revictimized.

Each occurrence of mail theft and associated identity theft and fraud takes significant police resources to investigate.

To help reduce mail theft which would also free up police resources, Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group asked City Council to “direct staff to investigate an incentive program to retrofit insecure mailboxes in multifamily housing to increase security and deter mail theft, which in turn, reduces policing costs.”

While newer townhouse and apartment developments have secure mailboxes, many of the older buildings in Langley City do not.

On Monday afternoon, Council approved this request.

The redevelopment of the Langley Lions Housing Society’s seniors-focused affordable housing complex to the south of Langley Mall has been working its way through the approval process at City Hall. Council gave final approval to the housing agreement, official community plan update, rezoning, and development permit to construct a new 101-unit Birch Building on Monday. This approval also set the groundwork for the eventual redevelopment of the current 518-unit complex into a 981-unit, seniors-focused affordable housing complex.

Council also approved a land exchange as part of the West Country Hotel redevelopment. The exchange enables expanding the community garden along Michaud Crescent and a new access lane between Michaud Crescent and 56th Avenue.

Council approved staff applying for a grant to fund 50% of the cost to assess the City’s road pavement conditions. This assessment will help staff prioritize road repair work.

Council awarded a contract to PW Trenchless Construction for $821,213.11 to complete a sewer upgrade, as shown in the following map.

Map showing the 200th Street sewer replacement from 49 Avenue to the Nicomekl River.

Council endorsed Mayor Val van den Broek to stand for election to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors for one year starting in June 2021.

At the end of Monday afternoon’s meeting, Council asked staff to send a letter to the province asking them to bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Langley City Council provides suggested locations for Overdose Prevention Site

In BC, there is an ongoing overdose crisis due to the ever-increasing toxicity of illicit drugs. In February, Fraser Health staff told Langley City Council that 2020 saw the highest number of overdose deaths ever. While some people may associate overdoses with people experiencing homelessness, around 70% of overdose deaths occur in private residences, 16% in other indoor locations such as restaurants, and 13% outside.

The overdose crisis is primarily impacting employed, single young men. The province recently launched Lifeguard App for smartphones to help reduce overdose deaths for people that use alone. Another way to help reduce overdose deaths is to building Overdose Prevention Sites.

These sites provide:

  • Distribution of supplies for safer injection
  • Education on safe injection technique and infection prevention
  • Overdose prevention and intervention
  • Medical and counselling services
  • Referrals to substance use treatment
  • Connection to housing and other support services
  • Drug-checking

Fraser Health is looking to partner with a service provider to create an Overdose Prevention Site in Langley.

Langley City is a compact community. You can walk from one end of Fraser Highway to the other in about 30 minutes. There is a high concentration of social and health services within our downtown. While access to social and health services is critical, concentrating services in one area leads to ghettoization. Services should be spread throughout a community to increase access and reduce stigmatization.

Given Langley City’s small size, this presents a difficult challenge. Langley City council selected the green area as a recommended area to place an Overdose Prevention Site in our community.

Area for potential Overdose Prevention Site in green. Select map to enlarge.

The Langley Bypass area and area bound by Fraser Highway, the Langley Bypass and 200th Street are the Council recommended locations. The triangle area is accessible by transit and walking, which is likely a critical requirement for an Overdose Prevention Site.

Council also asked Fraser Health to:

  • Go through a rezoning process for a proposed Overdose Prevention Site since no existing zones permit its use today.
  • Require all services be provided inside a Overdose Prevention Site
  • Require 24/7 security and site clean up around a Overdose Prevention Site
  • Develop a good neighbour committee

As this is a health emergency, Fraser Health can likely place an Overdose Prevention Site wherever they see fit. I do hope that they consider Council’s recommendations which will help uplift people and our neighbourhoods.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Langley City Council adopts Living Wage Policies for Staff, Contractors, and Service Providers. Council Looks to Expand Food Truck Options.

Yesterday afternoon’s Langely City Council meeting started with a delegation from Shiera Stuart, the government relations officer for Gateway Casinos. Gateway Casinos operates Cascades Casino. She requested that the City updates its Business Licensing Bylaw to allow food trucks in the City beyond what is currently permitted.

Today, food trucks can operate if they are part of a Farmer’s Market, a community event, or operated by a non-profit as part of a fundraising effort.

The City’s proposed Offical Community Plan and Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan support the expansion of mobile food vending such as food trucks in locations such as at select trailheads.

Given this support in these plans, Council passed the following motion:

THAT staff investigate and report back to Council on updating our business licensing to permit food trucks, including in the report fixed business presence, recycling, garbage, sanitation, and location requirements.

Council also approved two policies to enable making Langley City a Living Wage employer. Langley City Council’s new policy will ensure that City staff receive a living wage per the Living Wage for Families Campaign. Currently, the living wage is $19.50 per hour. These policies would increase the salary of one position in the City.

The policies also apply to City service providers and sub-contractors who have contracts greater than $50,000 with the City. Examples of these contracts include garbage collection and security services at Timms Community Centre. Staff noted that these policies could result in an increase of $16,000 for garbage services, but that “municipalities that have adopted a Living Wage Policy did not experience a significant increase to most of their contracts.”

These policies exclude local amateur sports organizations, social enterprises, and one-off services such as emergency repairs from the living wage policy.

All of Council supported a living wage policy for City employees and contract instructors. Council had a robust discussion about applying living wage policies to service providers and sub-contractors. In a 4-3 vote, Council decided to move forward.

The Living Wage Policy for employees and contract instructors starts on July 1st and for services providers and subcontracts on January 1st, 2022. The Living Wage policies will apply to new contracts after that date.

The Chief Administrative Officer, in consultation with City Council, will review these policies annually.

Other Living Wage municipalities include Central Saanich, Victoria, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam, Vancouver, Pitt Meadows, Burnaby, and Quesnel.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Video: Walking across the new crosswalk at 208th Street at 45 A Avenue

One of the long-standing requests from residents in the Upland neighbourhood, and parents of students who attend Uplands Elementary, was to install a crosswalk to connect the area east of 208th Street with the school via a preexisting walkway.

The installation of this crosswalk will shave around 3~5 minutes of walk-time for people that want to access the school. People generally do not walk more than 10 minutes before considering driving, so this crosswalk supports building a walkable neighbourhood and increases the accessibility for walking and cycling.

This weekend, I decided to test the new crosswalk across 208th Street at 45 A Avenue.

It does the trick!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Attending Langley City Council Meetings, Committee and Task Group Meetings

A silver lining over this last year is an increase in accessibility to attend and view the agendas of the various committees and task groups of Langely City Council.

The City now has a webpage about committees and task groups, such as the Crime Prevention Task Group that I chair.

You can read the terms of reference for each committee and task group, view upcoming agendas, and view previous meeting minutes. You can also sign up to observe the meetings via Zoom.

The agendas and minutes of council meetings have been available online for as long as I can remember. Over the last year, people have been able to attend public hearings via Zoom and have been able to watch public hearings in real-time. City staff post council meeting and public hearing videos online, usually within a day. People can now sign-up to observe council meetings in real-time.

For more information on how to attend the various meetings, please visit Langley City’s website.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Metro Vancouver releases updated industrial land use mapping. Job-providing industrial land needs protection.

One of the Metro Vancouver Regional District's key priorities is to preserve the supply of industrial land in our region. Industrial land is home to over a quarter of the jobs in Metro Vancouver. Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of industrial land in Metro Vancouver, and it is under threat.

While many politicians and municipalities talk about the importance of preserving industrial land, they still allow non-industrial uses within industrially-zoned areas. Some are also rezoning industrial land to other uses such as retails, offices, and residential.

Metro Vancouver staff completed a detailed map of industrial uses in 2015. They recently completed a detailed map of industrial uses in 2020.

Based on the detailed mapping, Metro Vancouver staff found that:

  • The amount of industrial lands used for non-industrial purposes is increasing
  • There is limited availability of large industrial sites for logistics uses
  • There was an increase in the total size of the industrial land base, but the goods movement transportation network does not serve the added land well
  • Municipal governments removed land from the industrial land base with excellent access to the goods movement transportation network
  • Overall, most industrial land remaining is located in the South of Fraser and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows.

The following map shows the overall developed industrial land base.

Maps of detailed industrial land use in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

This next map shows the remaining industrial land.

Map of remaining industrial land in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

The final map shows non-industrial uses such as retail within industrially-zoned land.

Map showing non-industrial uses within industrially-zoned land. Select map to enlarge.

Regional district staff have been advocating for the following measures to preserve and enhance our region's industrial land base:

  • Create a provincial Industrial Land Reserve
  • Strengthening regional industrial land policies
  • Create trade-enabling zoning districts
  • Work with municipalities to have region-wide zoning consistency for industrial lands
  • Preform a regional land use assessment
  • Encourage intensification of industrial lands
  • Allow mixed-use industrial land with residential/office above industrial uses

You can read more about these specific measures in a previous post.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Can Langley City control the design of a single-family or multi-family development? What about an office building?

From time to time, people ask me about single-family housing redevelopment. Usually, people have concerns about the design and siting of a new single-family house. They are curious if Langley City can do anything about their concern.

In BC, local governments have control over the following attributes of property and buildings with the use of zoning, which is applied universally:

  • Uses permitted on a property such as residential, corner store, or office
  • The density allowed on a property, including the height, length, and width of buildings and structures
  • residential tenure
  • The location of buildings and other structures on a property

For multi-family housing such as townhouses and apartments, plus commercial and industrial zoned properties, cities can also require development permits that control buildings’ form and character. Langley City requires development permits.

Form and character include things such as:

  • Design quality, material, and design aesthetic
  • Relationship of buildings to other buildings in a neighbourhood
  • How the building interactives with sidewalks, streets, parks, and plazas
  • The livability of residential units, including their accessibility
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Usually, people’s concerns about new single-family developments are about the design and the relationship of a new house to other houses in a neighbourhood. Under BC law, cities have no control over these matters. This is something that I’ve always found odd; I think it is a throwback to the day when most people lived in single-family housing that was on larger lots.

Regardless of the zoning, including single-family or multi-family housing, a city can use development permits to:

  • Protect the natural environment
  • Prevent hazardous conditions
  • Protect farming
  • Promote energy conservation
  • Promote water conservation
  • Promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

Monday, April 5, 2021

Challenging, Better, Best. Sidewalks, Driveways, Laneways and Pedestrian Safety

Over the last year, I’ve walked to more places, more frequently in Langley City than any other previous year. I’ve seen various styles of interfaces between sidewalks and driveways, laneways, and intersections. These interfaces cover the 65+ years of Langley City’s existence.

It has been encouraging to see that each new generation of sidewalk and street design makes walking a more accessible, safe, and pleasant experience.

This first example shows a sidewalk letdown to a driveway. From a safety perspective, this design signals to people who are driving that they have priority. This psychological signal results from the sidewalk dropping down to the driveway. People walking have to be on high alert.

A challenging design where a sidewalk and lane meet. Select image to enlarge.

From an accessibility perspective, the driveway’s sharp letdown can make it challenging for people with limited mobility or who use mobility aids such as walkers or scooters to navigate.

The second example is a common interface between a driveway or laneway and a sidewalk in Langley City. This design is better than the first because it signals to people driving that people walking have priority.

A better design where a sidewalk and lane meet. Select image to enlarge.

An example of this design in action is the lane between the TELUS Building and Federal Building/RCMP Office on 204th Street. There used to be a stop sign where the lane met 204th Street, but someone drove into the sign years ago. The City never replaced the stop sign. People who are driving stop at the intersection without thinking because they see the sidewalk.

The design can still be challenging for people with limited mobility or mobility aids due to the angle and texture of the sidewalk.

The final example is the best design. The design explicitly sends the psychological signal that walking is the priority mode of travel because the driveway raises to the sidewalk. The sidewalk is smooth and flat, making it easy to navigate for all people.

The best design where a sidewalk and driveway meet. Select image to enlarge.