Monday, May 30, 2022

I’m running for mayor because we need to work together for a better Langley City!

I'm excited to announce that I'll be running for Mayor of Langley City in the upcoming fall municipal election.

As a senior manager of operations for a large retailer and over my two terms as a city councillor, I know that we get the most done when we work together. And we have a lot we need to get done in Langley City, a community that I'm proud to call home.

Like every great community, we have our share of challenges. We must improve community safety, take meaningful action on reducing homelessness, build more affordable housing, mitigate the impacts of climate change-induced flooding, and enhance our greenspace.

With SkyTrain coming to our community, we are at a critical crossroads in Langley City. To move forward in a positive direction, we must work together with our federal and provincial government partners and local community leaders.

As a leader, I work best when collaborating with others. I will continue to work with residents, the business community, other elected representatives, and community organizations to get things done.

I look forward to sharing more about my vision for Langley City in the coming months and how I plan to work together with others to move this vision forward.

Let's make Langley City the place to be!

PS: A mayoral campaign costs $24,434.63 in Langley City. If you are interested in donating, you can write a cheque or use a credit card. Under BC law, you can donate up to $1,250.

Mailing Address:
Nathan Pachal Election Fund
16 - 19631 55A Ave
Langley, BC V3A 0L5

Donate by Card:

Thursday, May 26, 2022

South of Fraser and Industrial Area Routes Leading Transit Recovery

When I first got involved in the “Smart Growth” movement in Metro Vancouver more than a decade ago, people in the movement (who were primarily Vancouver-based) thoughts that the South for Fraser would be hard to serve by transit. They thought people in Delta, Surrey, White Rock, and Langley were not “transit people.” These Vancouverites also believed it was a fool’s errand to provide transit service through industrial areas. Who would take transit service to industrial areas?

Person on a bus

Some of these misconceptions even made their way to TransLink planning. TransLink believed that industrial areas wouldn’t support high-quality transit services for the longest time. The good news is that TransLink listened to the community and started improving transit service in a big way about a decade ago in the South of Fraser, including industrial areas.

TransLink recently released its 2021 Transit Service Performance Review. 2021 was a year of transit ridership recovery, and it was interesting to see two things.

The first is that transit ridership recovery was the strongest in the South of Fraser.

Ridership recovery by sub-region in Metro Vancouver at the end of 2021. Select map to enlarge.

The second is that ridership on some transit routes through industrial areas grew even beyond 2019 levels.

The 175, 418, and 531 transit routes serving industrial areas saw around 100% or greater ridership recovery in 2021. Select map to enlarge.

These insights show that there is still pent-up demand for quality transit service in the South of Fraser. It also shows that it makes sense to provide quality transit to industrial areas in Metro Vancouver. There is still one industrial area, Gloucester Industrial Estates, in the Township of Langley that doesn’t have transit service at all. I wonder if it is time to trial transit service to this area?

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Impact of Noise on Health is Real – What Can Municipalities Do?

55 A Ave

For about 15 years, I lived in an apartment that backed onto the floodplain. While I wasn’t shielded from all sounds from 53rd Avenue, these sounds were muted. I was never worried about the sounds of traffic waking me up at night if I left a window open.

Last summer, I moved to an apartment that fronted 203rd Street at Industrial Avenue. Some traffic would drown out my TV if I left the windows open. I never kept windows open at night.

I now own a townhouse at the end of 55A Avenue that fronts the street. It is right next to 196th Street. This street is quiet though a few people enjoy their subwoofers or crank the bass in their vehicle, including at night. These loud sounds impact all people along the street. I’ve been woken up a few times.

There are also some folks with vehicles that have loud mufflers that race across the 196th Street overpass.

I know I might sound like an alarmist, but urban noise harms cardiovascular health, creates cognitive impairments, causes sleep disturbance, impacts mental health, and has pulmonary effects.

So, what can a municipality do about urban noise?

One of the things that municipalities can do is require developers to improve the sound reduction from the exterior to the interior of buildings. It makes a big difference. For example, the apartment on 203rd Street has excellent sound reduction from the exterior. I cannot say the same about my townhouse. The good news is that Langley City’s newly adopted Official Community Plan states that:

Development fronting the SkyTrain guideway, and/or any Provincial Highway, major arterial and railway, shall incorporate measures to mitigate noise impacts and incorporate Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) guidelines for maximum acceptable levels of noise in dwellings, including triple-glazed windows, additional wall insulation, sound dampening or absorbing walls and cladding materials, and concrete construction, solid glazed balconies, sound absorptive landscaping and street tree plantings, and water features.

Recent housing projects along major roads in Langley City now incorporate these recommendations.

The best solution is to reduce the noise at the source by enforcing mufflers and speaker/subwoofer sound levels. Of course, like enforcing speeding, this is easier said than done. In Paris, they are trialing an automated method to enforce loudness levels.

Today, we understand that noise pollution negatively impacts human health, and we are now starting to look at ways to mitigate these impacts in urban areas.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Ghosts of the Past: Remains of the Electric Interurban Passenger Rail System

Up until the mid-20th century, Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley had an extensive electrified passenger and freight rail service network. The most famous line is the Interurban that ran from Downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack. Seventy years ago, I would have been able to take one train from Langley City to my work in Downtown Vancouver.

Unfortunately, BC Electric (whose assets are now owned or operated by BC Hydro, FortisBC, Southern Rail, and TransLink) didn’t renew or expand its passenger rail service, but let the service degrade over time. BC Electric converted the Interurban passenger service to diesel bus service, and the rest is history.

You can read more about the history of the Interburan on this blog or view some of the historic passenger and freight rail maps of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

The Interurban is still an active freight line today, and you can still see some of the older passenger rail “stations” and power substations along the line.

This long weekend, I checked out two of the easily accessible and remaining substations. The first is located at 256th Street and 68th Avenue. There is even an interpretive plaque.

Coghlan Substation. Select image to enlarge.

Coghlan Passenger Waiting Hut. Selet image to enlarge.

If the building looks familiar. You’ve likely seen it on a TV show, including the now-cancelled “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

The other substation is located at 39623 Old Yale Rd in Abbotsford. This substation was fully renovated into a mansion and is currently listed for sale. You can also find it on Airbnb.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Filling in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Gap for Large Existing Buildings

Older Building

Buildings are responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in Metro Vancouver. The Metro Vancouver Regional district's overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, achieve a carbon-neutral region by 2050, and improve the overall ambient air quality. For this to happen, our current buildings must be retrofitted and newer buildings constructed in a way that further reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

While the BC government has solid greenhouse gas reduction policies, laws, and regulations for new construction, there are no policies or requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for existing buildings.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is proposing to help fill in that gap regarding existing buildings. Its first step is to look at office, retail, and residential buildings larger than 25,000 sq. ft.

Taking a whole building approach to increase efficiency and reduce GHG emissions. Source: Metro Vancouver.

The first phase of filling in the policy gap is reaching out to large building owners to understand the challenges they face in upgrading buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The regional district's goal is to create a phased policy approach requiring increasingly stringent greenhouse gas emissions targets for exiting large buildings.

Please read "Potential Approachers for Managing Greenhouse Gas Emission from Larger Buildings in Metro Vancouver." This start on page 17 of the May 13th Metro Vancouver Regional District Climate Action Committee Agenda.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Right-Sizing Parking Requirements in Metro Vancouver

West Beach Parkade in White Rock

The Metro Vancouver Regional District has completed a series of parking studies over the last decade. They have found that apartment building on-site parking supply exceeds demand throughout the region, including in Langley City. They also found that on-street parking in most residential neighbourhoods with apartments has about 65% utilization most of the time, with Saturday evening being the highest use for on-street parking, where demand can sometimes exceed supply. These studies did not look at townhouse parking rates.

Parking matters because surface parking takes up a lot of space which could be used for housing, businesses, or parks. Surface parking makes a community sprawl out, creating places where people have to drive, limiting travel choices and increasing travel costs. The cost of providing parking is around $80,000 per stall, which impacts the overall affordability of housing.

None of our most cherished neighbourhoods in Metro Vancouver meet “modern” parking requirements.

Based on the research done by Metro Vancouver and on-the-ground experience, Langley City has right-sized the number of parking spaces required for apartment, commercial, and mixed-use buildings that will be within a 10-minute walk of the future SkyTrain stations. On-site parking is still about 85% of our current bylaw requirements for these buildings.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is now working on a comprehensive Regional Parking Strategy based on its past work. The strategy will include developing parking policies and regulations that municipalities can use as templates.

The strategy will look at:

  • Right-sizing the supply of parking spaces
  • Right-sizing parking to reduce construction costs, increase land efficiency and increase housing affordability
  • Supporting Employer parking cash-out
  • Securing bicycle parking requirements

The regional district is still working with its members to finalize the scope of the parking strategy. I think that on-street parking demand management will also need to be part of the plan.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

SkyTrain to Langley Full Steam Ahead. Public Feedback Needed

Building SkyTrain to Langley is full steam ahead. With $128 million in advance works already in progress, the train has left that station!

Conceptual rendering of 203rd Street SkyTrain Station. Select image to enlarge.

Conceptual rendering of Willowbrook Mall SkyTrain Station. Select image to enlarge.

Some of the advance works to support the construction of SkyTrain to Langley include:

  • Partnering with the City of Surrey on phase two of Fraser Highway widening
  • Designing and relocating power lines, utilities, and other structures in Surrey and Langley
  • Purchasing property along the SkyTrain corridor

While the SkyTrain extension to Langley City does not need a full Environmental Assessment, work is wrapping up on an Environmental Screening Review. This review includes looking at noise, visual, archaeology, vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, and air quality impacts and making recommendations to reduce adverse effects.

For example, the project will use TransLink’s SkyTrain Noise Assessment recommendations to reduce noise impacts. The province will also design the stations to minimize potential bird strikes.

The province is looking for your feedback. You can learn more by visiting the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Project site and completing the online feedback form.

You can also attend the following open houses:

Wednesday, May 25rd
4 pm to 7 pm
Surrey Sport and Leisure Complex
100 - 16555 Fraser Highway

Tuesday, May 31st
4 pm to 7 pm
Langley City Hall
20399 Douglas Crescent

The business case approval for this SkyTrain extension is expected in the fall of this year. The province is planning to issue the contract for construction in 2024. The extension should be in-service by 2028.

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.