Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A Queer Perspective on the COVID-19 Vaccine

As someone who is gay, I’m part of a marginalized community that has needed to protest, participate in civil disobedience, and continually advocate to live. In the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was in full force. Because HIV/AIDS predominantly impacted gay men, which most people in power didn’t care about at the time, governments paid little attention as they saw it as a “gay disease.” Some in power even saw it as some sort of punishment from God.

We know today that HIV/AIDS is a disease that impacts all people though it still disproportionately impacts marginalized people.

I have gay friends who lived through the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which they called “the plague.” They called it that because they lost countless friends. Many also lost partners. People can only take so much before they start taking action.

Silence = Death. A sign used by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fleshmanpix/7650195616/

The drug AZT, a potential cancer therapy drug from the 1960s, showed promise in treating HIV. It was one of the first treatments for HIV. People needed to protest and participate in civil disobedience to get governments and pharmaceutical companies to study the drug and let people participate in potentially life-saving treatment.

Fighting for access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment isn’t a thing of the past. It wasn’t until 2018 that the Government of BC provided free, expanded access to PrEP. This drug is a highly effective treatment to prevent HIV infections, which scientists first proved effective in 2010. Access to this drug is still limited in most of the world.

So what does this have to do with getting a COVID-19 vaccine? I’ve heard the stories of “the plague,” I know people who can manage HIV successfully with medication, and I know people who are on PrEP.

The right to getting treatments and preventative drugs for HIV was hard-fought. When the COVID-19 vaccine became available, I wanted to get it right away. Why would I turn down a life saving vaccine that helps reduce the likelihood of getting and spreading a deadly virus?

As part of a community devastated by a virus in the past, I want to do what I can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and my likelihood of getting ill today.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Does Langley City Need a Tree Protection Bylaw? Take My Survey to Let Me Know

A tree

In 2010, Langley City proposed a tree protection bylaw that would fine people between $1,000 and $10,000 if they remove healthy trees on private property with a 20cm or larger diameter. Due to public feedback, this bylaw never moved forward.

With hotter summers and renewed understanding of the critical services that trees provide in cleaning the air, cooling our cities, and preventing soil erosion, some people have suggested that it is time to revisit a tree protection bylaw. What do you think? Take my survey, and let me know.

Go to the survey

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Public Feedback Requested for Subdivision and Development Servicing Bylaw

Construction Sign

In early July, I posted about Langley City’s proposed new Subdivision and Development Servicing Bylaw. This bylaw is important as it outlines:

  • Waste management requirements during construction
  • Standards for lot grading
  • Standards and best engineering practices for storm/rainwater management, water distribution, sanitary sewer system, roadway design, landscaping, trail design, streetlight, traffic signal design, and water meters
  • Road cross-sections that accommodate safer, separated infrastructure for walking and cycling, roundabouts, and high-quality streetscapes
  • Storm sewer management requirements that incorporate the impacts of climate change into its design

For single-family housing zones, which are not subject to council approving development permits as per BC law, this proposed new bylaw, combined with the zoning bylaw, dictates site preparation for redevelopment, density, lot coverage, and siting of buildings on a lot.

Langley City is seeking public feedback on the proposed new Subdivision and Development Servicing Bylaw.

For more information, please visit Langley City’s website or contact Hirod Gill at hgill@langleycity.ca by August 27, 2021.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

From grey to green, how Langley City will tackle the heat island effect

Recently, Nathan Griffiths published an article in the Vancouver Sun about the heat island effect in urban areas. He noted that in Langley City, “asphalt and other heat-absorbing materials from malls, parking lots and businesses, pushed surface temperatures to among the highest in the region.”

As someone who is currently living in an industrial and commercial area, I can attest to the facts of that article. Langley City is actively working to reduce the amount of “grey” in our community to reduce the heat island effect, among other environmental initiatives.

View from my apartment. Select image to enlarge.

Motor vehicle parking creates much of the “grey” space in our community. As part of the proposed new Official Community Plan for Langley City, which is currently waiting for approval by the Metro Vancouver Board, the City is reducing the amount of parking required in our community, especially near SkyTrain stations.

East of 200th Street and north of 53rd Avenue, the City will create “a public parking strategy, complete with potential parking pricing approaches” to manage parking spaces. The City will combine this parking management with shared parking and reduced or no on-site parking requirements to free up space for more green infrastructure.

A recent concrete example is an apartment project near Nicomekl Elementary School. Langley City’s Advisory Design Panel recommended more green space for the project. In response, the project’s proponent removed five visitor parking spaces to plant more shrubs and trees.

The new Official Community Plan strongly discourages surface parking lots, but if built, the City has strong environmental considerations as part of the proposed Official Community Plan.

The City will require permeable pavers in large paved areas to ensure that rain is absorbed into the ground for parking lots.

The City will also require parking lots to contain smaller parking areas with significant landscaping and a minimum of one tree for every six parking spaces.

On the topic of trees, the City will require street trees as part of all new development projects. These trees will further help reduce the heat island effect.

The City also plans to build more open spaces and greenways, as shown in the following map.

Map of proposed new plazas, open spaces, and greenways. Select image to enlarge.

While Langley City has many “grey” spaces today, which leads to the heat island effect, the new proposed Official Community Plan contains policies to green our community.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Drinking Water Conservation – Lawn Watering Regulations

A few weeks ago, someone reached out to me about the lawn watering regulations in Langley City. As Langley City is part of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, our water comes from the Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam reservoirs. Langley City aligns its water use regulations with the regional district’s regulations.

You can have a healthy lawn even with watering restrictions.

For up-to-date information, please visit the regional district’s lawn watering regulations page. The water regulations page also contains links to having a great lawn or garden that conserves water. There is even information on Nutrifor Landscaping Soil which is a product of our regional sewer treatment process.

Stage 1 water restrictions are always in effect between May 1st and October 15th.

Stage 1 restrictions are as follows for residential properties:
Even-numbered addresses: Wednesday, Saturday mornings 4 am - 9 am
Odd-numbered addresses: Thursday, Sunday mornings 4 am - 9 am

You can water trees, shrubs and flowers any day, from 4 am to 9 am if using a sprinkler, or any time if hand watering or using drip irrigation. All hoses must have an automatic shut-off device. Edible plants are exempt from regulations.

For commercial property regulations and information on what stage we are in, be sure to check out the lawn watering regulations page.

If you are curious, you can view real-time drinking water reservoirs levels on Metro Vancouver’s website.

Metro Vancouver Drinking Water Reservoirs Levels Example. Select image to enlarge.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

International Overdose Awareness Day in Langley – Remember Friends and Family

In our society, substance use problems are something most people don’t talk about if they are experiencing it. People feel shame and judgement as there is still stigmatization around people with substance use problems. As a result, people will try to hide their problems from family or disassociate from family altogether. People will hide their problems at work. People will also not want to talk to their doctor.

Unfortunately, this leads many people to experience an overdose. Today, because of toxic street drugs, there is a higher chance of death.

As I posted earlier, my dad experienced substance use problems which resulted in overdoses. Because he had a support system of family and friends, he eventually got help from a doctor who worked with him on a methadone treatment plan. Because of that, he survived. Many people do not because they do not have those support systems.

A picture of my dad, mom, and me which was taken in 2019.

Langley Community Overdose Response is holding an Overdose Awareness Day free to attend event as follows:

Tuesday, August 31st at 6:00 pm
Derek Doubleday Arboretum and Doulgas Park

The event schedule is:
6 pm - Opening and Elder’s Blessing at Derek Doubleday Arboretum
6:15 pm - Walk from Derek Doubleday to Douglas Park (with First Responders escort)
6:30 pm - BBQ (community agencies available / naloxone training available & static displays)
7:15 pm - Speakers (Mayor Val Van den Broek, John Aldag and Mom’s Stop The Harm member Lisa Weih)
8:00 pm - Candlelight vigil (Indigenous drumming & moment of silence)

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day. It is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdoses. It is a chance to remember without stigma or judgment those who have died and acknowledge the grief of family and friends left behind.

Please visit Fraser Health’s Family and Friends Support Group page for more information on how you can help a friend or family member with substance use problems.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Langley City’s July Property Crime Map – Theft from Auto an On-Going Concern

The Langley RCMP has released the latest property crime map for July, which you can see below.

Langley City July 2021 Property Crime Map. Select image to enlarge.

I wanted to highlight a few things. The first is that Langley City’s business areas and 62% of the population live north of the Nickomekl River. You will see the majority of business-related crimes north of the river. The volume of property crime is higher north of the river, as is the population. As a result, the crime rate may be lower than it appears as the rate is crime divided by population.

Regardless, theft from auto is still a significant concern in our community. If you live in the Downtown and Michaud Crescent areas, you should double down on efforts to reduce the likelihood that people will target your vehicle.

Theft from auto is a crime of opportunity. As a result, remember:

  • Lock your doors whenever you leave your vehicle
  • Never leave your wallet, garage door clicker, keys, purse, or anything of value in your vehicle
  • Never leave any items visible that are not bolted down

About 15 or so years ago, someone stole a rental DVD from my car because I left it visible. They ended up smashing the glass to get it, so it cost me $200+.

You can report most types of property crime online at https://ocre-sielc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/langley/en. By reporting crime, you can help the whole community as it helps the RCMP put the right resources where they are required.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Langley City Council Tenders $1.3 million 208th Street Causeway Safer Bike Lane Project

Over the last five years, Langley City has successfully received grants from the federal and provincial governments, plus TransLink, to build a safer cycling network in our community.

One of the most visible projects completed was along 203rd Street. Glover Road is currently under construction.

Yesterday, Langley City Council tendered $1,265,259.18 to 644230 BC Ltd. to fill a missing gap in the cycling network along 208th Street between 52 A Avenue and Fraser Highway. This section of road is hazardous for people cycling with no shoulder and an extremely high curb. Most people ride on the sidewalk, which creates a safety concern for people walking as there is no way to leave the sidewalk without going over the steep hill or into traffic.

Scope of the project. Select image to enlarge.

The project includes building a bike lane similar to 203rd Street with the bike lane above the curb and abutting to the sidewalk.

Typical crosssection for the project. Select image to enlarge.

On 203rd Street, one of the concerns expressed by people cycling was the design of the driveway letdowns. For this project, the asphalt bike lane will extend across all driveway letdowns within the project area.

TransLink is funding about 75% of the project. 644230 BC Ltd. has completed work in Burnaby and Coquitlam. These munipcailities found the contractor a “very good conscientious contractor, knowledgeable in their work and fair in their negotiation on extra work.”

Monday, August 16, 2021

Building People-Centred Communities – Valemount, Jasper, and Banff

I recently returned from a vacation to Banff and Jasper. One of the things that I like to keep an eye out for when on holiday is how other municipalities build people-centred communities.

One of the things that I saw in many communities along my journey was the removal of street parking, the closure of lanes, and even full closures of streets to accommodate streetside patios.

In Banff, they made their main street for cycling, transit, and walking only.

Main Street in Banff for patios, walking, cycling, and transit. Select image to enlarge.

Banff also created shared streets where people could drive, but at a much slower speed.

Slow, shared street in Banff. Select image to enlarge.

To encourage people to park once and walk within Banff. They introduced paid on-street parking in their downtown with free parking in their downtown parkade and other parking lots at the edge of the downtown. With SkyTrain coming to Langley City, this is something that we will need to do in our community. Of course, we need a downtown parkade first.

In Banff, Jasper, and towns like Valemount, the speeds in the downtowns and main streets were set at 30 km/h. This is something that should be considered throughout all of Langley City’s Downtown.

Streetside patios take over a lane of traffic in Jasper. Select image to enlarge.

While it would take a change to BC law, setting the default speed to 30km/h in municipalities would allow places like Langley City to set a default 30km/h speed limit on all streets and lanes. Of course, main streets such as 200th, 208th, overpasses, and sections of Fraser Highway would still be posted with a 50km/h speed limit. This reduction in default speed would reduce injuries, fatalities, and the severity of crashes in our community.

In Valemount, they also created traffic-calmed intersections, which included built-in street furniture along their downtown.

Traffic Calmed Intersection in Downtown Valemount. Select image to enlarge.

Small Downtown Plaza in Valemount. Select image to enlarge.

While it makes sense that communities like Banff, with a large volume of pedestrians traffic, would implement the measure I’ve just posted about. Communities like Jasper, Valemount, and others are building people-centred communities where walking and cycling are safer, and downtowns are a pleasure to walk through.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Holiday Blogging Break

I am taking a summer break from blogging. I will be back posting on August, 16th.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

July 26 Council Meeting: Official Community Plan sent to Metro Vancouver for Approval. Other Housekeeping Matters.

On June 28th, Langley City Council hosted a public hearing about the community’s proposed new Official Community Plan. Council received 35 written submissions for the public hearing, and approximately 28 members of the public attended the public hearing.

Langley City staff proposed around 25 changes to the draft Official Community Plan based on the feedback received. Council asked staff to incorporate these changes at its July 12th meeting.

Langley City Council gave third reading to the proposed new Official Community Plan on July 26th. Third reading incorporated these 25 changes, plus 14 other changes resulting from a legal review of the proposed new Official Community Plan.

While most of the legal review changes were mainly housekeeping, some rationals for policies in the Official Communty Plan (OCP) were strengthened, such as:

Building General Form & Character Guidelines -“To implement the strategic directions and policies of this OCP that aim to create walkable, human-scale, attractive, and safe neighbourhoods.”

Hazard Guidelines - “Where landslip and erosion may impact the safety of people, property, and buildings.”

Environmentally Sensitive Area Guidelines - “Where healthy riparian habitat, watercourses, and tree stands are key to achieving the OCP’s key directions and policies related to mitigating the impacts of climate change and enhancing biodiversity.”

Under provincial law, municipal Official Community Plans must be approved by Regional Districts and be consistent with its Regional Growth Strategy. The Official Community Plan contains “regional context statements,” which link it to the Regional Growth Strategy.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District Board is responsible for approving Official Community Plans. Because Langley City staff have been working with regional district staff on the Official Community Plan, they are confident that the regional district board will likely approve it. The earliest this process could complete is October 29th.

If the regional district approved the Official Community Plan, Langley City Council could then give final reading to adopt it.

Council also adopted two policies around annual inspections for road markings and speed bumps primariliy as “a useful tool for defending lawsuits alleging your local government was negligent.”

E-Comm Wide-Area Radio Network

Langley City uses E-Comm 911’s dispatch network for our Fire Rescue and Police services. As such, we have a rotating seat on the board, which we share with White Rock and the Township of Langley. Langley City’s term on the board is complete, and Langley City accepted White Rock’s appointment to the board for a two-year term. The Township of Langley’s four-year term will start in 2023.

Council approved applying to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Municipal Asset Management Program for a grant to participate in a collaborative project with other municipalities to improve asset management, which will help keep our water, sewer, and other infrastructure in a state of good repair.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Langley City Development Update: Eastleigh Crescent Apartment and 55A Avenue Townhouses

Last Monday, Langely City Council gave final reading to update the current, old Official Community Plan, Rezoning Bylaw and issued a Development Permit to enable the construction of a 6-storey, 88-unit apartment development at 20689 and 20699 Eastleigh Crescent.

This project had a slight adjustment between the third and final readings. The elevation of the living spaces on the ground floor needed to be raised due to Langley City’s Floodplain Elevation Bylaw to protect people’s living spaces during a 1 in 200-year flood event.

These renderings show the updated design.

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

These renderings show the original design.

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

Council also gave third reading to a bylaw to enable a 15-unit townhouse development at 19665 and 19669 55A Avenue. You can read more about this proposed development in a previous post.

Council gave first, second, and third reading to “close” a lane which the City never built out. The lane’s location is between 5500 and 5510 Brydon Crescent.

Proposed lane closure. Select image to enlarge.

Ideally, this lane could have formed part of a connection to 199A Street to improve cycling and walking access, but because the previous Council (which I was a part of) and I missed the opportunity during a previous development project along 199A Street, this is no longer possible.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

July 26 Public Hearing: Apartment Near Nicomekl Elementary School, Washworld Mixed-Used Redevelopment

Last Monday, Langley City Council held a public hearing regarding two proposed development projects.

The first proposed development was a 6-storey, 113-unit apartment building at 20040-20070 53A Avenue & 20041-20071 53 Avenue, just north of Nicomekl Elementary School. The proposed project also includes a new walking and cycling greenway on the east side of the property, which will connect 53A Avenue to 53 Avenue.

53/53A Avenue proposed project view from 53rd Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

53/53A Avenue proposed project view from 53 A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City’s Advisory Design Panel made the following recommendations for this proposed project:

  • Provide additional on-site outdoor amenity space
  • Improve privacy for ground floor patios adjacent to building entrance and parking ramp entrance
  • Consider updating landscaping in narrow areas
  • Consider additional installed EV chargers and rough-ins, including in the visitor parking/ground floor
  • Ensure combined storage areas are usable and practical
  • Utilize solid opaque privacy screens between patios/balconies
  • Ensure security is considered for mailroom placement/design, including by employing a CCTV system
  • Update fencing material on ground floor parking deck to be high quality
  • Consider increased weather protection over balconies on the 5th floor below indoor amenity spaces
  • Provide landscaping in the surface parking area to soften its appearance

The proponent of the project accepted the recommendation of the Advisory Design Paneling, including adding 4 EV chargers in the visitor parking and 2 in the underground resident parking area.

Council received emails from three residents about this project. Two residents noted that they lived on the 5th floor of an existing building in the area and were concerned the 6th floor would block their southern view.

Another resident was concerned that the building would cause parking and traffic issues, didn’t like the design of the building, had concerns about rental buildings in general and was worried about the loss of green space.

The second proposed development at the public hearing was for a mixed-use, 6-storey building with 144 apartments and 9,052 square feet of ground-level retail space at 20137 & 20139 Fraser Highway, which is currently the location of Washworld.

Proposed mixed-use project view from Fraser Highway. Select image to enlarge.

Proposed mixed-use project plaza view. Select image to enlarge.

Proposed mixed-use project view from the corner of 201A and Fraser Highway. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City’s Advisory Design Panel made the following recommendations for this proposed project:

  • Provide complete floorplans for Council submission
  • Consider more varied brick pattern with colour accents to add interest to ground floor fa├žade
  • Add increased visual interest to plaza pavement pattern/colour
  • Add a double row of trees along Fraser Highway and 201A Street
  • Highlight column in the plaza with colour and lighting
  • Secure waste management and mailroom areas
  • Use a decorative aluminum fencing material in the parkade
  • Consider a larger pedestrian area at the Fraser Highway and 201A Street intersection and potential expanded public realm along 201A Street
  • Integrate the future bus stop into the Fraser Highway frontage design to complement and enhance the public realm and complement commercial uses
  • Use more shade-tolerant trees on the interior outdoor amenity deck and taller shade-providing trees on the western outdoor amenity deck
  • Incorporate public art and seating elements in the plaza

The proponent of the project accepted most of the recommendations of the Advisory Design Panel except for adding the double row of trees and updating to use more shade-tolerant trees.

The proponent noted that the underground parkade design prevents adding a double row of trees along the street. They would add more landscaping features, including more trees along the single planting strip along Fraser Highway and 201A Street and new trees lining the proposed plaza area at the corner of Fraser Highway and 201A Street.

Council will consider the feedback received at the public hearing. These projects will be back for council to consider third reading in September.