Monday, May 16, 2022

Reducing vandalism while creating safer and cleaner Langley City public washrooms

One of the ongoing challenges for public washrooms in Langley City parks is vandalism. Another challenge is the utilization of washrooms for activities that result in unsafe environments for all washroom users.

The following photo, which Langley City staff shared with Council last week, shows the latest round of vandalism at Linwood Park.

Vandalism at Linwood Park Washroom. Select image to enlarge.

Park washrooms are essential, and Langley City does whatever is possible to keep our park public washroom open. These washrooms have come to my rescue on many occasions.

Of course, the City doesn’t want to continually repair vandalized washroom or have park washroom users find themselves in an unsafe situation.

As Langley City public washrooms have similar challenges and opportunities as some washrooms in the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation Parks Washroom Strategy has insights relevant to our community.

Example of washroom fixtures from Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation Parks Washroom Strategy

Of the eight best practices in the strategy, the following may be directly applicable to Langley City:

Maintenance - Washroom layout should be designed for ease of maintenance. Surfaces should be of resistant materials that discourage graffiti and allow for pressure washing. Fixtures should have a durable design to withstand heavy use. For fire resistance, select stainless steel for surfaces, replace paper towels with hand dryers, and limit the number of garbage cans inside.

Monitoring & Emergency Response - Besides using durable fixtures and considering harm reduction, attendants can help mitigate impacts at socially sensitive sites. An attendant is a person hired to monitor and supervise a washroom facility to ensure the safety of the washroom user. The attendant acts as the first responder in the event of an emergency and ensures washrooms are well-maintained. In most successful cases, the attendant is a peer or member of the community who has social connections and understanding of the relevant issues.

When I was in Kelowna recently, I noticed that they had attendant monitored and maintained washrooms at their downtown transit exchange.

In Langley City, there may be opportunities for new approaches to monitoring and maintaining washrooms at Linwood, Penzer, Douglas, and Rotary Centennial parks. There is a clear opportunity to partner with Fraser Health and other service providers in our community.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

May 9 Council Notes: Budget, Property Tax, and Upcoming Local Government Election

Langley City Council addressed several housekeeping matters at its Monday meeting.

Council gave final reading to amend the 2022 budget as the City has received additional grant money for projects and some other projects’ scopes have changed. You can read more about these grants and changes in a previous post.

Council also gave final reading to update the 2022 tax rate bylaw. You can read more about this in a previous post.

With the upcoming election this fall, Council gave first, second, and third reading to a bylaw which will improve voting options. Anyone will now be able to vote during advanced voting at the Langley Senior Resources Society. The proposed bylaw will also provide authority for voter registration by mail and voting by mail.

The proposed bylaw will also increase the number of nominees someone needs to run for Mayor or Council from two to ten. This change will help to ensure that there is meaningful support from qualified electors for candidates running.

Currently, candidates can put election signs on private property and at two public property locations (the Gateway of Hope and BC Hydro Right-of-Way on 200th Street.)

While discussing a minor change to the sign bylaw for election signs, Council suggested that we shouldn’t allow election signs on any public property, including these two locations. The rationale is that signs on public property are always subject to extreme vandalism, with vandalized sign parts getting into our ecosystem. Sign clutter at these two locations also means that they don’t effectively promote candidates.

Council did not move forward with the minor change to the sign bylaw, asking staff to look at updating the sign bylaw to continue allowing private property owners to place election signs on their property while restricting election signs on all public property.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Langley City receives clean financial bill of health. Overall expenditures under budget though some exceptions.

City Hall

Annually, Langley City prepares year-end financial statements that must be independenty audited. Kristine Simpson from BDO Canada LLP is Langley City’s independent auditor, and at Monday’s Council meeting, she gave the 2021 year-end financial statements a clean bill of health.

Langley City’s budgeted $53.1 million in revenue for 2021, but actually received $59.7 million in revenue. The City didn’t budget to receive revenue from the casino in 2021, but it received $4 million due to its reopening. The City also received higher than budgeted revenue due to increased development activity, including developer cost charges that must be allocated to specific projects.

Overall, expenses were under budget though some individual items were over budget.

The City’s legal fees were $232,000 over budget “due to increased assistance with labour matters.”

RCMP contract policing costs in 2021 were $402,000 over budget due to RCMP members’ first collective agreement, which included a significant pay bump. This increase was offset by $424,000 in RCMP detachment savings due to staff vacancies and other operational savings.

Overall maintenance costs for roads, water mains, and sewer lines were about $267,000 higher than budgeted. $34,000 of this was due to the flooding in the fall. Some of these costs were offset by reduced labour costs.

Security costs were $38,000 over budget. Costs related to vandalism & homelessness were $54,000 over budget. The City also went over budget by $45,000 to beef up last year’s Christmas displays downtown.

Due to receiving more revenue than budgeted, and overall expenses being under budget, the City transferred an additional $7.6 million to reserve accounts in 2021. These reserve accounts are used to fund future capital projects such as renewing parks, roads, and the water and sewer system.

The following shows the City’s overall revenue and expenses:

Langley City’s overall revenue and expenses. Select table to enlarge.

For more information, please read the complete “Consolidated Financial Statements of City of Langley.

As a housekeeping matter, Council gave first, second and third to a bylaw to align the 2021-2025 Financial Plan with the consolidated financial statements.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Living Well in Langley – A five-year poverty reduction action plan

Innes Corners Plaza

The federal and provincial governments have created poverty reduction plans. Because local governments are best positioned to advocate for and convene stakeholders in their communities, the province partnered with the Union of BC Municipalities to provide local governments with grants to deliver “on the ground” poverty reduction action plans.

The Township of Langley and Langley City, together with the Langley Poverty Reduction Task Group, created “Living Well in Langley,” a five-year poverty reduction strategy.

Kwantlen First Nation “generous contributions to this process, including sharing their time and knowledge and joining as a member of the Task Group.” Other task group members include the school district, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Fraser Health, and social service organizations.

Langley City Council received a presentation of the draft plan yesterday.

The following table outlines actions the Township of Langley and Langley City must take to reduce poverty:

Task Group Advocacy to the City and Township of Langley. Select table to enlarge.

The following table outlines actions that the province and the federal government must take to reduce poverty in Langley:

Task Group Advocacy to the Province of British Columbia and the Federal Government of Canada.

The plan outlines when each of these actions should start in the next five years. For more information, please read the draft action plan.

Once the plan is adopted, the Langley Healthier Communities Partnership, which includes Langley City, will monitor the plan via an annual report, including the strategies that have been implemented or are in progress, changes in indicators of poverty and low income, and emergent issues.

This action plan will likely be finalized and adopted by this summer.

Monday, May 9, 2022

TransLink’s New Ten-Year Vision. More transportation choices with safer cycling and walking infrastructure

Safer walking and cycling infrastructure

While TransLink is best known for its transit service throughout Metro Vancouver, they are also responsible for funding the regional road network, including cycling and walking infrastructure. Last month, I posted that TransLink and the Mayors’ Council are working on their ten-year prioritized transportation infrastructure vision. Improving bus service, including introducing Bus Rapid Transit, is a big part of their new ten-year vision. Walking and cycling infrastructure is also an important part of that vision.

Transport 2050: Regional Cycling Network

Walking and cycling will be a significant part of our future transportation network in Langley City, which is 3km by 3.7km in size. An average person would be able to bike from one end of town to the other in about 10 minutes. Building safer cycling and walking infrastructure will be key to providing people with transportatin choices in our community as people do not feel safe cycling in many parts of our community today. There are still parts of Langley City that don’t have sidewalks.

Langley City is an Urban Centre per TransLink’s definition.

Over the next decade, TransLink is proposing to:

  • Complete up to 66% of its 2050 walkway network in Urban Centres and Frequent Development Transit Areas near rapid transit stations, frequent transit, and other important areas served by transit
  • Complete up to 75% of the traffic-separated 2050 Major Bikeway Network, implementing bike networks for all Urban Centres, and supporting the Regional Greenway Network
  • Install 200 new bike lockers and build 6 new bike parkades in underserved areas
  • Install 140 additional bike counters to grow the regional bike monitoring program

Parents should feel comfortable letting their kids bike to school once TransLink actions its ten-year vision in Langley City. People will also feel safer riding their bikes to one of our two SkyTrain stations and take advantage of secured bike parking.

There should also be sidewalks in our industrial areas near SkyTrain, such as in the Production Way industrial area.

With congestion increasing and the cost of fuel increasing, I’m excited that TransLink will be partnering with municipalities throughout Metro Vancouver to expand transportation choices for people in our region.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Crime Prevention and Environmental Sustainability Committees Annual Work Plans Approved

Earlier this year, Langley City converted many of its longer-term task groups to committees. Task groups are, in theory, time-limited. If a task group’s work continues, it must be periodically renewed by Council. Some task groups, such as the Crime Prevention Task Group and Environmental Task Group, have officially become committees; Council has been renewing these task group’s mandates for around five years.

Because Council doesn’t need to periodically renew the mandates of committees, they must submit their annual work plans to Council for approval. The committees develop their work plans themselves, and Council will generally approve the work plans without modification.

On April 25th, Langley City Council approved the 2022 work plans for the Crime Prevention Committee and Environmental Sustainability Committee.

These committees help further the goals of Langley City, and I’m excited to see the results of their work plans over the coming year.

The Crime Prevention Committee’s work plan includes:

  • Hosting a “Know Your Neighbour” Pop-up Event
  • Finding Volunteers to Staff Events
  • Creating an innovative Crime Prevention Program for Business
  • Starting a Youth Social Media Program
  • Launching Mail Theft Reduction Program
  • Using Crime Statistic Analysis to identify trends/problem areas

The Environmental Sustainability Committee’s work plan includes:

  • Planning and implementing the Annual Earth Day Event (Done)
  • Reviewing single-use product bans for possible City bylaw
  • Discussing and developing environmental recognition programs for individuals and businesses
  • Developing a poster campaign to raise awareness on environmental sustainability initiatives
  • Researching and discussing tree preservation ideas to support tree protection and urban forest management

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

$2.5 Million Expansion of Douglas Recreation Centre Childcare

As I posted last week, Langley City Council updated our 2022 budget to allocate $2,460,750 to expand the Cookie Monster Preschool, which operates out of the Douglas Recreation Centre.

Left-to-right: MP Carla Qualtrough, Councillor Rosemary Wallace, MLA Andrew Mercier, Councillor Gayle Martin, MLA Katrina Chen, Councillor Nathan Pachal.

Yesterday, the provincial and federal governments announced that Langley City is receiving a $2,360,750 grant to expand and renovate Douglas Recreation Centre to allow the Cookie Monster Preschool, which currently has space for 13 children, to have space for 85 children. The City will provide $100,000 in funding.

The Cookie Monster Preschool is an affordable and quality option for working families. Heather Gillard, a parent of a child enrolled at Cookie Monster Preschool, spoke passionately about the positive impact that Cookie Monster Preschool had on her daughter and how important it is for more affordable childcare spaces to be available for other families.

Heather Gillard speaking.

The breakdown of funding is ten spaces for infant-toddler, 14 spaces for 2.5 years to kindergarten-age children, and 48 spaces for school-age children. The spaces must be accessible.

These spaces will be prioritized for families who:

  • Have a low-income
  • Have children with support needs
  • Are Indigenous
  • Are new to Canada
  • Have young parents (25 years and younger)
  • Are Black
  • Are francophone

Langley Township is also getting funding to expand Sandbox Early Learning with an additional 74 spaces.

For more information, please read the province’s backgrounder.

Monday, May 2, 2022

April 25 Council Notes: Two Proposed Apartment Projects

Last Monday, Council addressed several development matters. Council gave third reading to a bylaw which would enable the development of a 6-storey, 92-unit apartment at the southeast corner of 55A Avenue and Brydon Crescent.

Render of a proposed apartment at 5494-5508 Brydon Crescent & 19890 55A Avenue. Select the image to enlarge.

The landscaping plan of a proposed apartment at 5494-5508 Brydon Crescent & 19890 55A Avenue. Select the image to enlarge.

Langley City’s Advisory Design Panel made the following recommendations which the project’s proponent adopted.

  • Employ a warmer/darker colour for the south and east podium fencing
  • Employ warmer/darker materials and colours along the building’s middle portions
  • Improve access between underground accessible parking spaces and elevator lobby
  • Increase perennial and hedge landscaping and variety, along with larger canopy trees
  • Provide lighting at covered surface parking stalls to address potential CPTED concerns
  • Design a more attractive east parkade wall treatment as it relates to the neighbouring property
  • Incorporate additional landscaping along the south edge of the surface parking area and

The proponent did not adopt the following recommendation of the panel.

  • Consider opportunities for rooftop landscaping/amenity space
  • Consider a more active/engaging children’s play structure
  • Consider options for additional permeable paving to assist with stormwater runoff management

The Design Panel includes architects, landscape architects, an accessibility representative, and community members, among others.

Council also gave final reading to a bylaw and issued a development permit to enable the construction of a 5-storey, 62-unit apartment development on the northwest corner of 56th Avenue and 201 A Street. Langley City staff noted that the development proponent asked to replace some landscaping with plastic grass (synthetic turf.) Council has previously stated in no uncertain terms that plastic grass was a no go as it contributes to microplastic and the heat island effect. Staff told the proponent that they would not be allowed to install plastic grass. You can learn more about this project in a previous post.

The front rendering of a proposed apartment at 5609 201A Street. Select the image to enlarge.

The back rendering of a proposed apartment at 5609 201A Street. Select the image to enlarge.

The landscaping plan of a proposed apartment at 5609 201A Street. Select the image to enlarge.