Mayor's Update: Year in Review
Jan 15, 2020
It’s been a little more than a year since this Council was elected, and I’d like to take some time to celebrate the many things we’ve accomplished, and acknowledge the work still to be done.
Right after the election, we hit the ground running with the B-Line, and it was a bumpy ride. Fortunately, as my dermatologist recently told me, I have very thick skin.
At the beginning of 2019, Council worked together to set our direction. We agreed on a vision “to make West Vancouver a complete community; one that is liveable, vibrant and inclusive; where a full spectrum of people live, play and work”. And we developed 35 objectives under six strategic goals to direct our work. As this is our roadmap, I’d like to review how far we have travelled.
Starting with Housing
Our goal is to “Significantly expand the diversity and supply of housing, including housing that is more affordable.”
The Housing Needs Report, which is in progress, will provide us with estimates of the number of housing units, by type, that we will need, as set out in our Official Community Plan (OCP). Under the OCP and the Metro Regional Growth Strategy, we’ve been working towards a goal of 200 new units per year, of which 25 per cent should be rental. We have not met that goal in actual construction for a number of years.
The District’s proposal to develop the municipally-owned land at 2195 Gordon Avenue is well in progress. An application for rezoning has been submitted to planning which will proceed through our standard process. It will provide more affordable rental housing for our professional workforce, while also recouping our initial investment.
Last month, when Council approved the rezoning for Rodgers Creek, not only did it create much smaller units, it added more secured rental units.
Work is underway to develop an area plan for Cypress Village, and we will continue to move forward as quickly as possible. We’ve heard from residents, in particular above the highway, about how important the village’s proposed amenities are to them.
The Neighbourhood Character Working Group is working hard to develop practical solutions in the areas of building size, site and boulevard landscaping, neighbour and public interface, and housing diversity. They will engage the community this spring and make recommendations to Council before the end of 2020.
And at the North Shore level, we are working with the City of North Vancouver, the Squamish Nation, and UBC on an innovative project called the Balanced Housing Lab, which is developing engagement, partnership and housing models with a final report due mid-year.
Next is our Local Economy
Our goal for our local economy is to “create vital and vibrant commercial centres”.
The first important step was the Economic Development Plan, and its implementation is one of Council’s objectives. A key strategy in the plan is to position West Vancouver as a visitor destination in the Sea-to-Sky and Metro Vancouver tourism markets. As part of this, staff are currently developing a Community Wayfinding Plan, and community engagement on this gets underway this month.
West Vancouver is also a keen participant in a new Metro initiative to attract strategic investments to the region.
While the OCP provides a vision for the community as a whole, it is the local area plans that will really benefit our commercial centres.
The Marine Drive/Taylor Way Local Area Plan was completed in June of 2017. The Local Area Plan (LAP) for Horseshoe Bay is underway and should be completed by mid-2020. After that, staff will begin the LAP for the Ambleside Town Centre. And the LAP for the Taylor Way Corridor, north of Clyde Avenue, is anticipated to begin after the Ambleside one.
We are committed to working with the business community on parking. In 2019 we completed the Ambleside Off-street Parking Study and we found that there is more availability of private, off-street parking stalls than public ones, so we need to encourage customers to use private parking attached to the businesses they are visiting. We have also learned that by adding left-turn lanes at the intersection at 15th Street and Marine Drive we could improve traffic flow. However, to do that, 16 to 20 parking stalls on the street would have to be eliminated.
So the trade-off is really between parking stalls and traffic efficiency. That’s why we are going to wait on making a decision for this intersection until the Ambleside Local Area Plan is completed and we can confirm the community’s priorities.
Council’s third goal is to “Protect our natural environment, reduce our impact on it, and adapt to climate change.”
In May 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the most up-to-date science showed us that more aggressive targets were needed. In July, Council declared a Climate Emergency. We aligned our targets with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and now we must speed up our efforts to reduce energy use and carbon emissions in the community and in District operations. Council approved an updated and ambitious plan in this regard in October and specific metrics are currently under development.
We are addressing the threats of wildfire and floods with work on the Community Wildfire Plan and a suite of complementary initiatives to address the threat of sea-level rise, including setting Flood Construction Levels for new development on our waterfront, and a joint project with the other North Shore municipalities to determine impacts across the North Shore, both of which will be completed this year.
In 2019 we developed a preliminary Natural Capital Assets Inventory. This is the first step towards putting a value on the services provided by our eco-system. Including our creeks, forests and parklands in our asset ledger will mean we will also develop plans for protecting and maintaining them.
The Interim Tree Bylaw Working Group completed its work, and Council received staff’s corresponding recommendations in the spring. Before moving forward, Council has requested updated Lidar data quantifying the percentage of tree canopy across the District.
Reducing community and corporate waste is an on-going effort and West Vancouver citizens have been leaders in this area for some time now. We’ve begun working together with our business community to find ways to reduce single-use plastic items, and advocating at the provincial level for a regional ban, or the power to regulate this at the municipal level.
Traffic congestion continues to be an ongoing and serious issue across the region, which is why Council set the goal to “Improve mobility and reduce congestion for people and goods”.
The Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project (INSTPP) brought together all levels of government across the North Shore, including First Nations and TransLink, to identify, evaluate, and prioritize joint transportation decisions.
The report, released in 2018, outlined 13 key Project Actions. As the new Chair of NXSTPP (Next Step) the successor to INSTPP, I will ensure that West Vancouver continues to work with these partners to implement the recommendations. Several are well underway such as the new Lynn Valley Interchange Project, increased Seabus service and an Express Bus from Metrotown to the North Shore. And Council Cameron’s work on TransLink’s Mayors' Council prioritizes improving transit on the North Shore, and to and from the North Shore, including obtaining funding and initiating planning for rapid transit links.
As it was an item of considerable attention by Council and the community last year, I can’t move on without commenting on the process regarding the B-Line. This was likely the biggest transportation initiative since the Upper Levels Highway went through our community. On reflection, the top lesson that came out of that experience was that significant, complex, and multi-stakeholder decisions require more time, more thought and more attention to build understanding within the community and with our partners. I acknowledge and apologize for the stress and division it caused in the community and will aim to do better in the future.
We are also working to expand active transportation options, such as the recently opened pedestrian and cycling path above the Upper Levels Highway leading from the Capilano-Pacific Trail to Hugo Ray Park. This is a huge safety improvement for those travelling between North and West Vancouver and was the result of an effective multi-government partnership.
We are committed to “Delivering municipal services efficiently.”
We are in the business of providing a high quality of life to our residents, and most services to residents are delivered by staff. We are constantly balancing the need to attract and retain high-quality employees while reviewing current service levels to see what, if anything, can be reduced or eliminated.
The 2020 Budget will address the challenges of responding to the climate emergency, planning for maintenance of our natural capital, and addressing the $13 million dollars deferred maintenance deficit on our current assets. The draft budget will be published this week and information meetings will be held on January 28th, 29th and 30th.
West Vancouver residents have always been highly engaged, and we have updated our online engagement platform with positive results and feedback. We are test-driving a new Council Procedure Bylaw for the next four months, and I have committed to bringing forward a motion to add a public comment period at the beginning of Council meetings. Over the last year, I’ve held three information sessions at the Library, and I host an informal coffee meeting with the community every month. I have also been pleased with the response and uptake in subscriptions to my new monthly newsletter.
Property taxes cover the costs of delivering services, and we are always looking for sources of funding other than residential taxation. Last year we began actively lobbying the provincial government to allow West Vancouver to apply its own vacancy tax to the many empty homes in our community. Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier Carole James was very receptive, and we will continue to pursue this.
Council’s last goal to “Enhance the social well-being of our community” will be attained by creating opportunities for people to meaningfully connect and contribute.
We have now purchased 30 of the 32 private properties in Ambleside towards completing Council’s 1976 vision of a public, open and accessible waterfront park, and work is currently underway to finance the last two purchases.
The proposal for 2195 Gordon Avenue was modified last year to include a permanent home for a new purpose-built Adult Day Centre, which is badly needed by many families in our community.
The closure of the Ambleside Youth Centre a year ago due to roof failure was a big loss for our young people. Establishing a temporary Youth Hub at Park Royal will allow us to continue to provide much-needed programs and services to youth, while we continue to plan for a high-quality permanent location.
A new all-weather field and running track at West Vancouver Secondary School will benefit the entire community. That’s why Council has contributed $2.25 million dollars towards the estimated $4.9 million dollar cost, and private donors have responded very generously since then, so I’m confident it will get built.
The Arts & Culture Facilities Plan was completed in 2019, and Council appointed the Arts Facilities Advisory Committee to assess the requirements for new facilities. Next month, Council will consider site recommendations before launching community-wide engagement. A sub-committee is looking at short, medium and long-term uses of Klee Wyck, with a report expected this spring.
I’d also like to mention that there is a new concession service at Ambleside Park called the Boat Shed. It has received a lot of positive reviews! And those dozen or so clear plastic domes being erected around it will contain dining tables with meals prepared by the 2019 Top Chef Canada winner Paul Moran. I understand that 70 per cent of the reservations have already been sold for its one-month run.
These are just some of the highlights of the past year; and there’s much more work being done, both to accomplish Council’s Strategic Goals and to carry on delivering excellent service to our community every day.
I’d like to especially thank our residents for engaging with us on these important projects.
I’d also like to thank our partners in West Vancouver and the region because collaboration on many levels is necessary to achieve our goals.
Thank you to our amazing staff for their exceptional efforts last year. We ask a lot of them in quantity and quality, and I’m very proud of the committed and professional work they do.
Finally, to my fellow Council members, you are each here because you care deeply for this community, and want to contribute to making it the best it can be. We have made significant progress on 27 out of the 35 strategic objectives we set, and for that, I really want to thank and congratulate you!
In March we will formally review our Strategic Plan, refine the goals, add new ones, and retire those we’ve accomplished. I look forward to providing an updated set of priorities and objectives to the public by the summer.
Thank you for a productive 2019 and I look forward to continuing Council’s good work in 2020.
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth