Burnaby city council roundup—June 20, 2022
Here's what council talked about Monday night, from passionate delegations about traffic concerns to Burnaby's plans for the next heat dome.
It’s always interesting to see how city council reacts to members of the public who come, for whatever reason, to speak or observe at council meetings.
There’s a bit of a running joke in Burnaby council that we heard a few times on Monday night—a group of civilians receives an award, for instance, or a delegation comes to speak passionately about an issue that affects them, and then they… you know… leave.
And Mayor Mike Hurley jokes, “You guys are welcome to stay, you know. Our meetings are really interesting.”
Everyone chuckles appreciatively, including me! I really do think council meetings are interesting. But it’s fun to see how “normal people” view the processes of local government.
Here’s some of the items your city council talked about on Monday night.
Delegate John Morrison appeared to speak on behalf of community members in the area of Lakefield Drive and Fourth Street, where residents are concerned about the proposed closure of a portion of the road to vehicle traffic.
Lakefield Drive has been closed since November while FortisBC works on the Patullo Gas Line Replacement Project, and recently the city announced plans to build new pedestrian and cycling amenities in the area—including an area between Reigate Street and Elwell Street that would be closed to vehicle traffic permanently.
Morrison gave an impassioned speech to council members in which he claimed the proposed closure is unnecessary and does nothing to encourage active transportation in the area, and wouldn’t get people cycling.
Instead, he said it would deeply impact quality of life in the community—”effectively isolat[ing] our neighbourhood.”
Residents have created a petition opposing the proposed road closure that Morrison said has so far garnered 502 signatures from people who “drive, walk, cycle,” and live in the community.
“[The area is] a part of our lives, not just a line on the map,” he told councillors.
“It’s a vital route for the community.”
In part, that’s because the neighbourhood is not walkable, Morrison said—there’s poor public transit connectivity, and not a lot of stores or amenities nearby, meaning people simply have to drive.
If Lakefield were to be closed off permanently, he said many people would have to go to Canada Way and Edmonds Ave instead, which would actually increase driving time and distance for people in the area.
He wants the city to work with members of the community to develop amenities the area, including work on sidewalks on 6th St—but he says that nothing should be done without extensive consultation with the community.
Morrison ended his appeal to large applause from the crowd who came to support him, and council members widely agreed with the points he raised—Mayor Mike Hurley thanked Morrison for his submission and said council would be listening, noting that no decisions have been made as yet.
Hurley lives in the neighbourhood himself, meaning that many of the people at Monday’s meeting who came to support Morrison’s delegations are his neighbours.
Councillors Joe Keithley and Dan Johnston have also lived in the neighbourhood in the past and agreed based on their own experiences that a road closure may not actually have the intended effect in the area.
A new OCP for Burnaby
It’s a question Burnaby Beacon asked in a story published earlier this month, and now the city is getting closer to beginning its engagement process.
The city’s new OCP will, hopefully, be in place by 2025 and guide Burnaby’s policies and priorities until 2050. Phase 1 of the OCP development, entitled ‘Surfacing’, will begin later this summer and involve raising awareness about the project and inviting the community to become involved.
Here’s some of the questions staff will be asking of Burnaby residents:
- How have Burnaby’s communities changed over time?
- What do people value in their communities and neighbourhoods?
- What would people like to see change in their communities and neighbourhoods?
- What are Burnaby’s community needs now and in the future?
- What is Burnaby’s identity and role within the region?
Councillor Alison Gu told her colleagues that while she is excited for the process of developing a new OCP for Burnaby and to see the central values that form its pillars, she wants staff to be mindful of making the process accessible to all who live in the city.
That means, she said, not only thinking about how people communicate (i.e. in what language), but where they communicate (on what mediums). Members of the Chinese community, for instance, are more likely to discuss matters on WeChat, while members of the Filipino community are probably on WhatsApp.
“We should meet people where they’re at and find them where they are,” Gu said.
Councillor Pietro Calendino, meanwhile, noted that the process of developing the OCP will likely unfold over the next three years—if it’s on schedule.
And as chair of the planning and development committee, he also pointed out that there is a resource issue here—he said 11 full time staff members are needed to develop the OCP by 2025, meaning the committee would like funding to add five more people to their workforce.
Calendino said it’s the biggest project the planning and development committee will have on their plates in the next few years.
As the city notes, the OCP is an important piece of framework that will shape the next few decades in Burnaby.
“The creation of a new Official Community Plan is one of the most important initiatives the City will undertake over the next few years,” said Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley in a press release earlier this week.
“It will shape how and where we live, learn, work and play. It will guide us through some difficult challenges that lie ahead, such as the housing crisis, climate change and protecting our natural assets.”
Extreme heat response
Are we ready for the next heat dome?
The anniversary of the heat dome that killed more than 70 Burnaby residents last summer is coming up, and the city has made several plans to support those most at risk should a similar event occur.
A report to council from general manager of community safety Dave Critchley lays out some of those strategies—mostly relating to communications, cooling infrastructure, and coordination with community partners.
Councillor Gu noted that the plan is described as evergreen—meaning it can be implemented whenever necessary, and will evolve if and when things change—and asked Critchley to elaborate on plans to transport people most at risk of extreme heat to cooling locations.
Last year, for example, she noted that there were questions about whether TransLink could provide air conditioned buses—but there was no capacity for that in 2021.
Critchley said staff is working to provide transportation to those in the target group (older seniors who live alone) who request it, mostly through partnerships with community groups.
The city is also trying to build a list of people who might be at risk and who may be looking for rides to cooling centres, but Critchley pointed out there are some roadblocks regarding privacy.
In the meantime, he said, staff are asking physicians with Burnaby Divisions of Family Practice to ask their patients for consent to be put on a list where, if there is another heat wave, the city can reach out directly and ask if they need support.
Community organizations also have their own capacity to create lists of people who need support, so the city is trying to combine that capacity.
And Critchley said the coming weekend—where temperatures are expected to near 30°C, in contrast to the chilly temperatures the Lower Mainland has seen so far this year—will be a good time to test out preparations and protocols.
Gu also asked about a recommendation by Gabrielle Peters, a former member of the BC Coroner Service’s death review panel who later resigned, that the province provide air conditioners to those most at risk of heat illness, like those with disabilities that affect their mobility. Gu wanted to know if there is any possibility that the municipal government could step in to provide air conditioners for Burnaby residents.
Critchley said that while there are ongoing discussions with Fraser Health, that’s something that would ultimately fall under their responsibility.
The discussion closed with Councillor Sav Dhaliwal pointing out that extremely hot summers are expected to become more frequent in our part of the world, and that local governments would do well to begin treating extreme heat like we do extreme cold—meaning we have to treat it like an eventuality and plan for it in building codes.
He said that for future developments, the city should have air conditioning “on its radar”.