Thursday, September 22, 2022

September 19 Council Notes: Motions on Community Safety, Truth and Reconciliation, Electoral Districts

On Monday afternoon, Langley City Council considered three motions.

Last year, Langley City Council approved placing an “Every Child Matters” banner across the two Fraser Highway entrances to Downtown Langley for the week when the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation occurs. The original motion only specified that this would happen in 2021. Council passed a motion on Monday to ensure that the City places the banners every year for the week when the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation occurs. This year, the banners will go up on September 26th.

Every Child Matters banner across Fraser Highway. Select image to enlarge.

The next motion that Council considered was mine on creating a Citizens’ Assembly on Community Safety Reform in Langley City. As I posted about last week, one common theme I hear when I talk to people is that many do not feel safe in our community. Our current approaches to community safety aren’t making people feel safer, so this motion presents a new, holistic approach to community safety. To learn more about the full motion and background, please read a previous post on it. I was proud that this motion passed, supported by Councillors Albrecht, James, Martin, Storteboom, and Wallace.

Finally, the federal government has established independent electoral district commissions in each province to redraw ridings. BC is getting one new seat in parliament for the next federal election. In BC, the commission is proposing what I think is an uninformed decision to split Langley into four odd ridings, the strangest of which is the proposed Pitt Meadows Fort Langley riding.

Proposed federal electoral districts in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

Langley City Council approved writing a letter to the ”British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission (BCEBC) to consider reconfiguring the electoral boundaries to have one boundary for the City of Langley and the Township of Langley and be represented by one Member of Parliament.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

You Can Help Save the Farmland at the Old Federal Government “Cloverdale Site” on the Langley Border

If you’ve been down 192nd Street between Colebrook Road and 36th Avenue, you would see farmland with Government of Canada and do not trespass signs. This site was a former radio monitoring site for the government, in service until 2018. This radio monitoring required a significant amount of land as some antennas consist of a tall tower and buried cable. This meant that the surface was farmable. The federal government has contracted with a family that actively farms the land for produce since the 1980s. For more information, please check out the site Beautiful Brookswood.

Location of Cloverdale Site. Select map to enlarge.

Since the federal government decommissioned the site, it is now looking to sell it. Unfortunately, because this was federal government land, it could not be included in the Agricultural Land Reserve. Once the federal government sells the site, this active farmland will likely be turned into an office park or industrial area as the land is regionally zoned for “mixed employment” use.

Communication building that was onsite until 2005. Source: Beautiful Brookswood

The Metro Vancouver Regional District’s Agricultural Advisory Committee passed the following motion as they are concerned:

That the Metro Vancouver Agricultural Advisory Committee forward a letter to the Regional Planning Committee expressing: 1) its concern and opposition to the property known as Heppell’s Potato Farm, located between 36 and 42 Avenues and between 192 and 196 Streets in Surrey, currently owned by the Federal Government, being removed from active farming and sold; 2) its support for the property to be preserved as farmland, now and into the future; and 3) that the Agricultural Land Commission be requested to consider its inclusion into the Agricultural Land Reserve.

If you support preserving this site as farmland, please sign this official petition at https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-4128. This petition is sponsored by John Aldag, the MP for Cloverdale-Langley City, so it carries some weight.

To learn more about the site, please site Beautiful Brookswood.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Climate Change, Invasive Plants, and What We Can Do

Minnekhada Park - Quarry Trail

When we think of climate change and its impacts on our ecosystems, we likely think of native plant and animal species, but climate change also impacts invasive species. In partnership with UBC and Trinity Western University, the Metro Vancouver Regional District recently completed a mapping exercise of several invasive plant species, plotting out how their range would change by 2050.

They looked at four invasive plant species. Three of the four invasives would benefit from climate change while the other would have a reduction in our region.

The following maps show the changes for these four species.

If Flowering Rush is established in our region, it will proliferate throughout Metro Vancouver if not contained. Currently, it is only in Hatzic. Select map to enlarge.

Mouse-Ear Hawkweed will reduce in Metro Vancouver due to climate change. Select map to enlarge.

Climate change will make Shiny Geranium highly suitable for invasion throughout Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

Water Hyacinth will likely spread further throughout our region due to climate change. Select map to enlarge.

As we know, climate change stresses native species and may lead to their extinction over time. Invasives out compete native plants for resources. The replacement of native plants with invasives degrades our ecosystem, creating economic, infrastructure, and human health challenges. Some invasive plants can literally break apart concrete on highways!

This all means that, as a region, we need to double down on our efforts to control the spread of invasive plants. For example, in Langley City, we usually partner with non-profits to set up summer student teams that clear invasives in the Nicomekl Floodplain. City crews target the removal of particularly nasty invasive plants. Over time, we will need to increase City resources to control invasive plants in our community.

Please check out the September 9th Metro Vancouver Climate Action Committee agenda for more information.

Monday, September 12, 2022

A Fresh, Community-Led Action Plan for Increased Safety in Langley City

Community Police Office

One common theme I hear when I talk to people is that many do not feel safe in our community. When I first ran for Langley City Council, I thought that implementing a few new programs would help make people feel safer, but I’ve come to understand now that we will need a comprehensive approach to addressing community safety. Community safety encompasses policing, fire-rescue, the bylaw department, ambulance, and health care. It also includes how we design and build our community, parks, roads, recreation programs, library, lighting, and overall engineering services. It includes our education system.

Over the past year, I’ve studied how we can deliver increased community safety for Langley City. I’ve talked to people in our community, experts, politicians, and ex-politicians, including in other municipalities, about how we can deliver a comprehensive community safety plan for Langley City.

I will present the following motion at the September 19th Langley City Council meeting. If approved by Council, it will allow us to create a community-led action plan to improve safety in a meaningful way. This action plan includes built-in transparency. The actions in the plan will be regularly measured to see if they drive meaningful improvement in community safety. If not, the actions will be changed to drive a meaningful improvement.

Background

Based on Langley City’s Community Survey, in 2004, 82% of residents felt safe and secure. Over the past two decades, this number has been steadily dropping. As of 2019, only 67% of Langley City’s residents felt safe and secure. This is despite the City’s protective services budget more than doubling over the past 18 years.

In 2004, the City budgeted 39% of property tax for the police and $8.5 million on protective services overall. In 2022, the City budgeted 45% of property tax for the police and $20.5 million on protective services overall.

The top concerns in our City remain poverty, homelessness, and the perception of crime.

The status quo, how we are responding to these concerns, is not working and is costing Langley City residents not only dollars and cents or their quality of life, but, tragically for some people, their lives. Reform only works when it comes from the community. A Citizens’ Assembly brings together people from the community, representing diverse viewpoints and lived experiences.

A Citizens’ Assembly convenes, supported by experts and facilitators, to deliberate on a given set of challenges and provide a set of recommendations. The Assembly drives the outcomes of these recommendations. At a high level, Assembly will evaluate current pressures and top calls for service in Langley City for the police service, fire-rescue service, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), bylaw department, parks department, and engineering department through the lens of community safety.

The Assembly will determine which services or City department can fulfil these calls for service in the most timely, nimble, and resource-effective manner to maximize positive outcomes. Where there is a gap in capacity, the Assembly will also look at which service or department the City controls or influences can most effectively close the gap in the ability to execute.

For example, the fire service may be in the best position to help stabilize people during a medical event and partner with health care professionals to ensure people are attached to the care they need.

The bylaw department, working with health care and housing professionals, could be in the best position to attach people experiencing homelessness to housing and healthcare.

A new City Park and Trail Ranger service might be the best to help keep our parks safe and clean.

These are just ideas, and the Assembly will think outside the box.

The Assembly will also look at the upstream reasons for the top calls for service and generate an action plan for the City to complete in partnership with First Nations, the federal government, province, school board, other local governments, and our non-profit sector.

For example, the Assembly might determine that universal access to after-school programs will reduce tagging of City infrastructure, and recommend future advocacy of provincial funding for said programs.

Motion

THAT Staff include in the 2023 budget a line item for convening a Citizens’ Assembly.

THAT, if Council approves the resources to convene a Citizens’ Assembly, the Assembly will:

  1. Be representative of the demographics of Langley City, have five additional seats for each of our four host First Nations, and one additional seat for a person who lives in Langley City who self-identifies as Indigenous.
  2. Have access to people with lived experience or, external of Langley City and independent, expert knowledge to help inform its recommendations.
  3. Look at the calls for service that are responsible for 80% of the volume each for the police service, fire-rescue service, BCEHS calls where the fire-rescue service responds, bylaw department, parks department, and engineering department to determine:
    1. Which service or department should handle the call for service based on:
      1. Cost-effectiveness.
      2. The ability to respond promptly.
      3. The most direct line of accountability to local businesses and residents.
      4. The ability to improve people’s quality of life, attaching people to services and care.
      5. The “best fit” for resolving a call for service based on the existing skillsets of people working in the service or department, looking thru the lens of equality and equitably, as well as the report “Transforming Policing and Community Safety in British Columbia.”
      6. The ability to reduce repeated calls for service caused by a single person.
    2. If there isn’t a “best fit” department or service, identify:
      1. What skillsets are missing and must be implemented into a department or service to be able to respond to the call for service effectively; or,
      2. If a new department, service, program, or partnership is required to provide a “best fit” to respond to a call for service, identify why a department, service, program or partnership is needed and what skillsets are required.
  4. Develop a phase staffing plan to address the calls for service assessed in section 3.
  5. Evaluate for the top ten calls for service based on volume, the upstream reasons causing these calls for service.
  6. Develop an action plan for the City, either directly or by working directly with partners, to reduce calls for service identified in section 5.

THAT, if Council approves the resources to convene a Citizens’ Assembly, Staff work with the Citizens’ Assembly to prepare a report of recommendations and outcomes desired, based on the work plan outlined in this motion, for Council to consider.

THAT, if Council approves the resources to convene a Citizens’ Assembly, that Staff:

  1. Develop metrics to monitor the implementation of the Assembly’s recommendations and outcomes desired.
  2. Develop a process to create a feedback loop to facilitate updating the actions of the City to ensure the spirit of the Assembly’s recommended actions and outcomes are being met.
  3. Update Council at least biannually on items i. and ii.

More information

https://pub-langleycity.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=10926
https://langleycity.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/Finance/Financial%20Plans/Amended%20Bylaw%203194%202022%20Financial%20Plan-updated.pdf https://web.archive.org/web/20050403214113/http://www.city.langley.bc.ca/serv/tax.htm
https://www.leg.bc.ca/content/CommitteeDocuments/42nd-parliament/3rd-session/rpa/SC-RPA-Report_42-3_2022-04-28.pdf

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Advanced Voting and Vote by Mail Information for Langley City Election

I may be biased, but I believe local government is extremely important. Whether collecting garbage, providing water and sewer, ensuring traffic and street lights are working, and maintaining streets and sidewalks, local government impacts your daily quality of life.

Unfortunately, local government elections have low voter turnouts. For example, only 25% of eligible voters participated in the 2018 Langley City election.

To make voting more accessible, you can vote in person before or on general election day on October 15th.

The advanced voting dates are:

October 4th from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Timms Community Centre
October 5th from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at Timms Community Centre
October 6th from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm at Langley Senior Resources Society Recreation and Resource Centre
October 12th from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at Timms Community Centre

For more information, please visit the City’s website.

New this year, you can also request to vote by mail. For more information, please download the Application to Vote by Mail form. It is easy to complete on paper or on your computer/tablet/phone. You can email or drop off the form.

For more details, please check out the City’s FAQs on voting.

To help you find out information about candidates running for mayor or council, the City is posting candidates’ profiles, so you can learn more about people running. The City will publish this information starting after 4 pm on Friday. Be sure to check out the City’s website.

I’m hoping that we will have more than 25% voter turnout this year. I know some people may think that voting doesn’t matter, but the people you elect do have a significant impact on the direction of your community.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Let’s drop the spaghetti-mess transit network and invest in fast, direct service

TransLink bus

Around 15 years ago, TransLink introduced the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan. The big idea in that plan was to shift the transit network focused on getting people from “the suburbs” to Downtown Vancouver, to a network that gets people easily around Surrey, Delta, White Rock, and Langley with fast and direct bus service.

The bus network at the time was more a spaghetti mess of infrequent transit routes that were not intuitive to use. The following map shows the 2008 transit network in Langley.

Example of spaghetti-mess routes in Langley back in 2008. Select map to enlarge.

Back then, the 502 and 501 even had different routings based on the time of day. You almost needed to be a transit expert!

While some of the spaghetti-mess network still exists today, and there are still very infrequent or peak-period only routes such as 388 or 509, TransLink has invested in creating direct, easy-to-understand routes over the past decade or so.

The big idea of the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan was that you could use a grid of frequent bus routes to get from any point to any point in the South of Fraser with only one transfer. Because the routes were frequent, you’d never have to wait more than 15 minutes for a bus. You usually wait less.

2031 proposed fast and frequent transit network from the 2007 South of Fraser Area Transit Plan, Phase 1. Select map to enlarge.

One of the biggest success stories of investing in direct, frequent, and easy-to-understand transit routes is the 531, which connects White Rock/South Surrey to Langley. This route has been leading in ridership growth.

I’ve now been on several 531 that have been jam-packed this year.

About five years ago, the 501 would almost act like an express bus along 200th Street, when I took the 501 this weekend, it was busy, and people were getting on and off at many stops along the route.

I’ve seen firsthand how valuable this direct network can be as the population and jobs in the South of Fraser grows.

With overall transit ridership still below pre-pandemic levels, TransLink has the opportunity to evaluate the transit network. It might be a good time to assess if peak-period, Vancouver-bound commuter transit routes are meeting the needs of people, especially in the South of Fraser. Does it make sense to reallocate funds from peak-period-only Vancouver commuter specials and other infrequent, spaghetti-mess routes to strengthen the frequent, direct transit network?

From what I’ve seen, the answer is yes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Election 2022 - Working Together

After two terms on Langley City Council, I've learned that you can get the most done for our community when you work with others. That is why I decided to run for Mayor of Langley City.

If elected, I will be a facilitator on Council, working with all Councillors to find common ground and move forward in the best interest of our community.

I will work with others on Council to build a strong relationship with First Nations, the province and the federal government.

With strong partnerships, we can move forward on increasing community safety, addressing affordable housing, reducing homelessness, and tackling climate change.

On Council, I worked with others to put forward a motion on moving towards reconciliation with the four First Nations whose traditional territories Langley City is situated on.

I have built a solid relationship with other local government representatives in the region. I will work with them to ensure we move forward, giving people more transportation options in Langley City and region-wide.

I will work with others on Council to rebuild our relationship with the Township of Langley and Surrey.

If you would like to help out or want a "Vote for Nathan" yard sign, please visit: https://help.nathanpachal.com/

If you would like to donate to my campaign, please visit: https://donate.nathanpachal.com/

Together, we can bring forward solutions for a better Langley!

Friday, September 2, 2022

What makes a neighbourhood, a neighbourhood?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to read the book “The City Assembled: Elements of Urban Form through History” by Spiro Kostof. It is an older book, but it looks at how we built our cities, towns, and villages going back hundreds of years.

One of the things that stood out to me is the importance of gathering places (where we are almost forced to interact with people) in creating neighbourhoods.

Why are neighbourhoods important in the first place? They are essential to creating a sense of ownership in an area beyond our home. When you have a sense of ownership in a neighbourhood, many people are willing to go above and beyond to ensure their neighbours and neighbourhood are healthy, happy, safe, and have a good quality of life.

Neighbourhoods need gathering places where people have the opportunity to interact with others beyond a 30-second hello.

These places would have traditionally been a place of worship or public market. Every resident in a neighbourhood would be within walking distance of a place of worship or market. In some places, caf├ęs were the traditional gathering place.

A small coffee shop in Port Alice on Vancouver Island. Select the image to enlarge.

In the modern context, I would add community/rec centres, libraries, community gardens, locally owned & operated shops/cafes/coffee shops, dog off-leash areas, and playgrounds to the list of gathering places.

In all cases, these places need to be easily accessible and walkable.

When I lived in my old apartment on 53rd Avenue and 204th Street, many gathering places were within easy walking distance, and I felt part of the Douglas Neighbourhood.

I now live in the Brydon area at the end of 55A Avenue by the Surrey border. While we have Brydon Park and Lagoon, I don’t feel like this part of Langley City has a focal point where people can informally gather and build that sense of neighbourhood and community.

In Langley City’s new Official Community Plan, we added areas where small-scale commercial would be allowed and be within a short walk of most residents to help create these gathering places over time.

Example of small-scale commercial areas in Langley City’s new Official Community Plan. Select the map to enlarge.

In the Brydon area and other parts of Langley City, we still have gaps, even in the new Official Community Plan. Beyond small-scale commercial, we need to consider other gathering places such as community centres or neighbourhood houses that are within walking distance.

When you think of your neighbourhood, where do people gather? Where do you run into your neighbours? What makes you feel like you are part of your neighbourhood?