Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Major Developments proceeding in Sapperton and Uptown

The New West News Leader reports two significant developments are coming along

The old Labatt's Brewery site is going to be developed into a major comprehensive area.  Apparently there will be a major focus on medical office space, given the proximity to Royal Columbian Hospital.  While this will fill a short term need, what is the plan for this space 15-20 years down the road? 

The city has rightly recognized that Royal Columbian will gradually decrease in significance in the Fraser Health Authority as services migrate more towards the centre of mass for the region.  What will become of all these medical spaces as that happens?  Will Sapperton become a third office district, after Downtown and Uptown?  Does the city need a third area, and can it support it? 

On a much smaller, but still significant scale, Royal City Centre has finally found a tenant for the old Zellers spot.  I believe the fitness centre will fill a gap in uptown.  It was empty when I moved here a year ago, I wondered how the mall was managing with that major spot location vacant.  Also, two small storefronts look nearly done at 6th and 6th where there used to be a Japanese restaurant.  No signs of any tenants there yet though. 

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One Man's Trash...

Time to dust of those shelves and clean out those closets.  Bring out any DVDs, books, CDs or games you don't want anymore for an old-fashioned swap meet.  Bring what you have, take what you want.  Any leftovers will be donated to the Salvation Army. For sake of space, please limit what you bring to DVDs, books, movies and games.  Monday, November 23rd, 7-9 pm.

We are doing this at our house, so I won't put the address up here publically.  If you are interested in coming, email me at hollettm (at) lifeinnewwest . com, or send me a message on twitter or facebook and I will let you know where it is. 

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day New Westminster 2009

Highlights from the 2009 Remembrance Day ceremonies in New Westminster. I don't know how it compares to previous years, but the ceremonies seemed very well attended today. The Royal Westminster Regiment drill hall was overflowing, and I couldn't get close enough to the cenotaph to hear anything.

I hope everyone took time today to reflect on those who put their lives on the line for us. Having a friend in Afghanistan right now made Remembrance Day even more poignant for me this year. Lest we forget.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sixth Street Streetcar


When you think of San Francisco, what do you see?  For most people who haven’t lived there, it’s probably two things – The Golden Gate Bridge, and F Market Streetcar running up and down Market Street

While New West and San Francisco don’t share a lot of similarities, a significant one is the steep hilly terrain.  Anyone from New West can testify getting up or down the hill along 6th, 8th, or even 12th street gives you your thirty minutes recommended exercise for the day. 

This means people coming into or out of New West using the Skytrain are either limited to walking the Downtown and Quayside areas, or getting a bus or taxi to get up the hill.  Cabs are a limited option due to the expense.  The bus service up the hills is generally decent.  Busses generally operate 10 to 15 minutes or apart or faster on 6th street, and 15 – 20 minutes apart on 8th and 12th.  The 6th Street bus is particularly well used and often crowded.  It is also part of Translink’s Frequent Transit Network, dictating service at least every 15 minutes 15 hours a day. 

Partially due to that crowding, along with many other well know reasons, many people are reluctant to ride the bus.  New West needs a frequent, reliable, attractive public transit option for getting up and down the hill.  To that end, I believe New West should restore a streetcar route along 6th Street.  Just picture it – image the red and green car sitting in the Old Spaghetti Factory passing by City Hall, the Royal Westminster Regiment, dropping commuters off at uptown and with tourists checking out other parts of the city they may not have seen before. 

Historically, two streetcars ran up the hill; 6th Street, which then went along Edmonds, and 12th Street.  The two then joined near Kingsway and connected with the interurban.  6th Street is a major commercial corridor all the way to Edmonds, and Edmonds is developed all the way to Kingsway, so matching that part of the route makes a good starting point.  However, there is no major anchor at Kingsway and Edmonds, so it would probably make sense to run the line right out to Edmonds Skytrain, matching that portion of the current 106 bus route. 

You can find a map of the old streetcar routes at Matthew Laird's History of the BC Electric Railway page. Matthew also writes regularly on Tenth to the Fraser.  



The benefits of a streetcar, particularly in New West are plentiful. 
-          Environmentally friendly: the streetcar is electrically powered, thus getting powered from BC’s relatively clean hydro power. 
-          Attractiveness:  Rails has consistently been shown to be more attractive to users than a bus.  Witness the recent change to the Canada Line from the 98 B-Line.
-          Historic: Fits with historical character of New West, particularly the downtown area.
-          Touristy:  As San Francisco has shown, a heritage streetcar in the right place can be very attractive to tourists.  This would also open more of the city up to tourism opportunities. 
-          Reliability: Rail service tends to meet service schedules better than busses do
-          Quieter:  Streetcars will fit into neighbourhoods better, and be less disruptive
-          Capacity:  higher capacity than busses as demand on the corridor increases


Cons
-          Overhead wires restrict some tall traffic.  6th street doesn’t carry a large amount of truck traffic, but there are major crossings (Royal, 8th Ave, 10th Ave) that would be affected. 
-          Accessibility issues – I’ve only ridden historical streetcars which are not accessible at all.  Modern ones, like the new streetcars going to Toronto are accessible.  I would presume modern designed cars, even those with an historical bent, are made friendly for those with wheelchairs, strollers, et al.  Worst case, modern accessible cars could be mixed with heritage types. 
-          Traffic flow – currently, buses on 6th pull out of the main travel lane allowing vehicles to pass while passengers embark/disembark.  Streetcars would block the lane while loading passengers.  Pedestrian bumps currently on the road are just for crossing, but maybe they could be modified for use by a streetcar.

Naturally, some study needs to be done to implement a project like this.  Specific routing at the southern terminus, traffic impact studies, where to locate the northern terminus, who will pay for what – these and more questions will need to be answered.  However, lets not get so lost amongst the questions that it takes a decade to move forward at all (a la Vancouver’s downtown streetcar project).  Do the studies.  Look at the results – I believe they will be strongly in favour.  Then get it going.  As my son would say, “Ding Ding!”

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Local Businesses Blast Body Armour Ban


On Tuesday, the BC Government introduced legislation that will restrict the purchase of body armour to law enforcement, security personnel, and other people with a demonstrated need.  Among the several businesses supplying police equipment and surplus military gear in New Westminster, opinions on how the law would impact to business were mixed.  However, thoughts on how effective the law will be were clear.

Dave’s Surplus, on 12th Street, said they currently only sell body armour to police and law enforcement officials.  Staff there felt there was no need for civilians to possess body armour, “other than maybe bouncers.”  The main problem, they said, was once body armour is put onto the general market, you “can’t control where it will go,” after the first purchaser is done with it. 

Based in Victoria, MD Charlton is a law enforcement supply company with a major branch on Columbia Street.  Like Dave’s, they currently sell body armour only to police, military and similar services.  As such, they said the legislation will have no impact on them and would like to see body armour off the street.  To assist with this, people who buy armour from them can return the armour when it expires, and they will dispose of it for the user. 

Westley Surplus on Front Street is less restrictive on who they will sell to.  “Anyone should be able to buy it,” the manager said.  Westley has no restrictions in place and will sell armour to anyone who wishes to purchase it, meaning this law will significantly impact how they sell armour. The manager also stated the proposed legislation has created an environment for price gouging, with some stores more than tripling the prices of their armour in anticipation of the law. 

Where all three stores agreed was on the effect the legislation will have on safety.  Everyone stated the proposed legislation will make no difference to public safety or significantly affect the gangs’ ability to get armour.  Westley said you can get anything you want off the internet, and MD Charlton spoke at length about different ways armour comes into the province.  Internet sales, from both Canada and the US were named the primary culprit by all stores. 

Other than banning possession, the proposed legislation seems to have no ability to restrict internet sales.  Without similar restrictions in place in other provinces, there is nothing to prevent out of province stores selling to buyers in BC.  Private sales from the U.S. are also an issue.  According to MD Charlton, Canadian Border Services Agency does restrict the flow of body armour coming from the US, however a lot of it slips by with generic descriptions such as “shirt” or “clothing.” 

Given the multitude of sources of armour available to those who want it, will the proposed legislation make local streets safer?  According to those who sell the armour here, the answer is a resounding no. 

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Burger Burger - Top Notch Value

I was coming back from the Quay this weekend, really hungry, and craving a burger. I was taking the 106 up Sixth Street, and my instinct was to head to McDonalds or Wendy’s for something familiar. But as we came up to Fourth Avenue, I saw a sign I had passed with curiosity many times, the sign for a joint called “Burger Burger.” So I rang the bell, hopped off at Fourth, and sauntered across the street.
Walking inside, I was nearly blinded by the bright, colourful walls floors and tables. I don’t know if it was just the colours, but while not seeming dirty, the place didn’t totally feel clean either. There was nothing specific I noticed, so it was probably just the way the d├ęcor works.
I found the counter, and after perusing the menu for a moment, ordered the classic – bacon cheeseburger with fries and a coke. “So you want the special,” the helpful lady at the front counter offered, while pointing me at the signs of specials I had completely missed. “Yes I do,” I replied while pulling out my debit card.
I grabbed a seat at a nearby table, and had the whole place to myself. So I took two papers as the restaurant thoughtfully provides a large rack of reading material. Most of it is the free stuff you’ll get anywhere, but it’s nice to have a sizable collection to choose from. I didn’t time how long it took to get my meal, but it was somewhere in the 5-10 minute mark.
The burger was very good. The patty was tasty, but nothing extraordinary. I couldn’t tell if it was a pre-made, or just a plain fresh made patty. Either way, it was nicely cooked. The bun was nice and soft, and the bacon and veggies were crisp. It was very nice to bite into, and tasted good. The fries were also good, crisp outsides and nice soft innards. They came unseasoned, but the tables have plenty of salt, pepper and vinegar so you can get them right to your liking.
While I can’t say it was an extraordinary meal, I can say it’s a big step up from anywhere else at the same price. Burger fries and coke came to $5.97 with tax – basically the same as McDonalds, and a world apart in quality. So the next time you’re craving a burger Uptown and are feeling drawn to a fast food joint, walk just two more blocks and grab a Burger Burger burger instead.


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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rapid Transit - Time to Implement Continuous Growth

With a lot of jubilation, tremendous public interest, and a big final sigh of relief, the Canada Line of Metro Vancouver’s Skytrain system finally opened on August 17th. . Early reports were ridership was even higher than expected. While a lot of the media has focused on those people who have been inconvenienced by the new line, I think the numbers speak for themselves – the line appears to be meeting or beating expectations.

Supposedly next on the list of rapid transit projects is the Evergreen Line connecting Burnaby (Lougheed) to Port Moody and Coquitlam. The tale of this line is almost epic, started, stopped, and made the number one priority so many times it would make your head spin. For brevity, the last few things to happen were

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Letter From the City


The other day we received a letter from the Utilities Department of New West.  “That’s odd,” I thought; we rent so the only bill we get is for electricity, and I was very certain our payments were up to date on it. 

Turns out it was a letter to inform us (to paraphrase) “you seem to be making payments on the wrong account number – please make payments to this number instead,”  all written in very nice bureaucratese. 

I appreciated this letter for two reasons.  One was the fact they even sent it.  Someone picked up the fact we were paying on an old account number, corrected the payments and sent us a note with all the information we need to avoid the problem again.  Almost every other time I’ve had an account number change (not just with utilities, also credit cards and other accounts), no one told me.  I just noticed that a month or twos worth of payments were missing, and had to sit on hold for 30 minutes to talk to someone and then wait for three weeks for the payments to get moved around.  So to get a courtesy letter saying this is happening is much appreciated. 

But what really struck me about the letter was it was hand signed.  Not just printed off and mailed, not just a photocopy of somebody’s signature, but someone actually signed the thing with their own hand before sending it off.  Maybe it’s just me, but I appreciate the fact that even for something as trivial as this, someone has put their name down as responsible for the matter.  I would thank them by name, but I can’t read the signature.  So I will give my thanks to the New West Utilities Department as a whole – little gestures are appreciated. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vision and Service

Who has heard the expression "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain."  I would modify that slightly to "If all you do is vote and then complain, shut up and go do something about it."  Voting in the elections for which you are eligible (municipal, provincial, federal) is the absolute bare bones minimum level of participation that should be expected of a citizen of our great nation.  When there are still countries this day where citizens cannot freely vote for the person of their choice, it is pure negligence for us to let that opportunity to go to waste. 

 

I hear people complain "well, I don't agree with any of them," or "I'd just be picking the lesser of two (or three or four) evils."  These are just lazy, whiney excuses for not doing something you should.  Politicians are human, and as we see in the news nearly every day, imperfect.  Until God himself decides to run for office, you will ALWAYS be voting for the lesser of two evils.  Unless you start your own political party where you get the final say, no party's ideology will perfectly match yours. 

 

Since you will never agree with a politician or party on every issue, focus on the big picture.  Find the one whose vision most closely matches your own, and go with that.  Accept the fact that they will screw up, make decisions you don't like, compromise, and do a whole lot of other things you don't agree with.  But trust in the fact that they are attempting to build a city in the same direction you are.  The details may not be quite the way you hoped, but the big picture should be close. 

 

What is your vision for New Westminster?  What does the city look like five, ten, twenty, one hundred years from now?  The quote at the head of this blog is my vision for New Westminster.  What specifically that looks like are things that I touch on here in this blog.  And more importantly, what are you putting your time, money, energy and relationships into to move to this vision?

 

The city is calling for volunteers to serve on a variety of committees and commissions, as reported by Tenth to the Fraser and the New Westminster Record.  I put my application together a few weeks ago, but forgot to send it in – thanks to their reminder now it will be in the mail later today. 

 

Democracy is about more than just putting a tick in a ballot box.  It's about building the community you want to live in.  Whether you serve at a local non-profit agency, a city commission, donate to local charities, gather friends together to clean up the neighbourhood – it doesn't matter what you do, just do something to help create the city you envision.  Because if you don't do that you have no right to complain when it all falls down around you. 


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Parking - How Much to Pay?

There has recently been a lot of fuss over City Council’s decision to require paid parking at meters on Sunday.  Opposition to it garnered a petition, and was significantly opposed in the city’s survey on the issue.  Perhaps to make the issue go down a little easier, the funding from Sunday metering will be used to fund local daycare and environmental grants. Presumably this will take some budgetary oversight as I’m sure the parking meter money all just ends up in the general revenue stream. 

This got me thinking back on some articles I had read about market demand based parking meter rates.  The theory is parking meters are meant to encourage turnover of parking spaces to allow a greater number of customers to access local business and services.  Too low a rate, and people will park all day, reducing the number of people coming through.  Too high a rate, and no one will park in the area.  Having appropriate levels of parking available also helps reduce congestion by reducing the need for drivers to circle endlessly looking for space. 

According to studies, having the parking spaces 85% full is the magic number.  This leaves room for more people, but does not forgo revenue by having too many unused spaces.  There is often a fear amongst businesses that raising the rates will discourage traffic, and lowering the rates will encourage people to stop and shop.  This is only true if the parking is not full.  If, like in New West, the parking spaces are fully used through most of the day such that parking is difficult to find, reducing rates will not increase customers as it will only increase demand for a commodity that is already fully sold out. 

A few years back, San Francisco (Redwood City) started testing such a program.  According to the Downtown Development Manager, the program has been successful.
Initially, I thought  the program actually varied the rates in real-time, but looking at what’s been done, it seems as though the rates have just been optimized to produce an average 85% occupancy rate.  However, there is no reason (well there are some reasons, primarily logistical) that rates couldn’t be changed in real time. 

Picture it – when the meters on 6th Street turn on early in the morning, rates would be cheap to encourage people to stop and run their errands, say $0.25 and hour.  As workers come in and the city awakes, spots fill up.  As blocks get full, the rates rise, $1.00, $2.00, or higher as people come in.  Mid-morning, rates dip a bit as fewer people are shopping.  Lunch time, rates ramp as people come in for food.  Rates would then drop after lunch and continue down throughout the afternoon until 5:00, when everyone is returning from work and running their afternoon errands. 

The main challenge with pricing in real time is the uncertainty.  Are you willing to drive downtown not knowing what the price of parking will be when you get there?  In New West it may not be as big a problem, at least for the downtown area as the parkade could take the load from anyone not willing to pay the street rates – perhaps this would even improve use of the parkade.  Some method of pushing current pricing information to interested people would need to be included. 

Another issue is getting business onboard with potentially higher rates.  Where other cities have seen success is by using the increase in parking meter revenue to provide other improvements to the business areas affected to encourage activity there (sidewalk benches, tree planting, etc.). 

Without minimizing the challenges to overcome, given the parking situation in New West (and Vancouver in general), I believe it would be worth trying such as system here.  It contributes to a number of the business and environmental goals the city is aiming for, and potentially increases revenue as well.  New West is small enough that even if it turned out badly, it wouldn't be a major disaster for the area.   If we are going to change how we handle on-street parking, let’s set it right. 

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

NW Fire and Rescue Open House!

The New West Fire and Rescue Department is putting on its annual open house October 3rd, 10 AM to 2 PM. It sounds like there will be lots going on including displays and demonstrations on how to improve fire safety in your house. My son (and his dad) love looking at the fire trucks - if we weren't going to be in Portland that weekend, we would definitely be there!

Donations are being accepted for the food bank, and based on the news it is in serious need of those donations, so be sure to bring some non-perishable food to give to them. If anyone goes down, I would love to see some pictures of the event. It will be at Firehall No. 1, at McBride and 6th Ave. Parking is available at the Canada Games Pool. Hope you have a great time!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Online City Budget Survey

I just saw this over at Tenth to the Fraser. The city has set up an online survey to get guidance from the citizens on the direction to take in addressing its budget challenges. It will only take you about ten minutes, so be sure to take the time and complete it. While the survey is pretty self-explanatory, the city also put together an overview of many of the issues. If you're not up to speed on what is going on with the budget, definitely have a read of the overview first.

The Deal

The other night I left my apartment to walk over to Dairy Queen for an evening blizzard run for my wife. I was walking down Ash Street, and at the end of the street behind the library, I saw a car stopped in the middle of the street, with the driver talking to a guy standing at his door. I didn’t hear anything, but I assume some pleasantries were exchanged, then the guy standing reached in his pocked, pulled out a little goody bag, and passed it over.

One of the things I love about this neighbourhood is how family friendly it is. There are always parents out and about with kids, gaggles of teens around, and the playground half a block away at Moody Park is packed whenever the sun is out. So seeing this going on in the area I am raising my children and so many others are too pisses me off.

Getting rid of the drug problem will take a lot of people doing a lot of things, but I think one of the main things we need to do as a community is stand up and say we will not allow this in our neighbourhood. By this I don’t mean marches and rallies, or groups claiming to ‘take back our streets,’ though those events do have their place. What needs to happen is all of us in the community need to stand up – alone, with a friend, with neighbours, building managers, and stop this from happening whenever we see it.

This means moms calling 911 on their cell the minute they see a deal going on. This means recording license plates, getting descriptions and passing them onto police. This means telling them to their face they are not welcome to ply their trade here, and we will take every legal recourse available to ensure they cannot.

So it is with a lot of embarrassment I admit that as I walked by the deal that night, I did not call 911. I did not get a good look at the dealer or the buyers. I did not remember a license plate, make or model of car. And I did not tell the dealer to stop what he is doing. That night, I was part of the problem. But from this point forward, I will not have to say that again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

New West - Centre of the Universe?

Or at least Metro Vancouver. New West is in a unique and somewhat odd position. Historically, it was one of the major urban centres and the first colonial capital of B.C. However, as development focused in on Vancouver, New West seems to have lost its way. Now, as part of Metro Vancouver, it is in the middle of the pack as far as population goes, but sandwiched between the big cities of Burnaby and Surrey.

The geographical benefits of New West
o 10 minute drive to Central Surrey,
o 15 minutes to Surrey Docks, Newton, Metrotown, Coquitlam Town Centre
o 20 minute drive to Central Richmond
o 25 minute drive to YVR, the US Border, Cloverdale and Langley
o 30 minute drive to Downtown Vancouver
o 35 minute drive to Deltaport.
o Two rapid transit lines connecting to Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey
o Reasonable bus schedules (through Uptown/Downtown at least)
o Easily walkable neighbourhoods
o On the North/West side of the Fraser (Crossing the Fraser is a major psychological barrier the further you get away from it, and depending on traffic a major physical one as well)

The geographical challenges of New West
o Sandwiched between Burnaby and Surrey, attention is drawn away from New West to the bigger cities
o Hilly terrain, affects mobility, particularly in winter.
o No port facilities within the city

While it is mentioned in passing in places like the Official Community Plan (OCP), I don’t see how we are really leveraging our position. This is just a quick list of potential businesses types and agencies that could potentially benefit from locating in New West.

Businesses
- Distribution centres
- Couriers
- Shipping
- Sales
- In-home services (cleaning, cooking, nursing)
- News reporting
- Private investigators
- Trades (Plumbers, electricians, etc)
- Construction Management
- Consulting Firms
- Auto parts
- Pilot Car Operators
- Movie Servicing
- Construction Supplies and Equipment

Civic/Government
- Regional policing
- Taxis
- Postal Centre
- Corrections/Probations
- Hydro/Utilities
- Revenue Canada
- Children’s Ministry
- Metro Vancouver Parks

Essentially any kind of business or agency that needs to work throughout Metro Vancouver or needs decent connections to major transportation infrastructure (highways, docks, airports, border crossings) could potentially benefit from locating in New West.

In addition to location, New West has a number of other positives that make it attractive for business, including

Land Costs – Low office rates compared to region. Lower land costs than Vancouver, higher than south of Fraser
Taxes – comparable with the region.
Labour availability – local labour is available, however New West is a job neutral-job creating city, so immediately local labour may be lower than average. However, strong transit connections should mitigate this somewhat. Another issue identified in the background of the OCP is the average education of the local area is below the regional average. Along with being distant from the two major post-secondary institutes, this can make attracting high-tech business more difficult.
Image/Prestige of Area – Downtown is negative due to crime
Parking and accessibility – generally cheaper and more available than most of the region.

(http://www.newwestcity.ca//cityhall/dev_services/livable_city_strategy/pdf/state_of_econ_final_report.PDF)

Under the OCP, Uptown is meant to be the Professional/High Tech centre, Downtown is the historical tourist and retail (maintaining some office and professional), Sapperton/Braid the Manufacturing centre and Queensborough the heavy industrial site. However, it is not just enough to designate certain areas for certain types of development, and restrict that through the development process. How are we encouraging business in general and the specific types of businesses we want to start or move to New West?

Two of the items identified in the OCP:

Promote new office development – this puts the cart before the horse. Construction follows demand. We need to promote professional and office based businesses to locate within New West, as they require more office space construction will follow to meet the needs.

Vibrant streetscapes – badly needed downtown to improve the perception of the area
Industrial – just platitudes on supporting and promoting for more jobs, consolidated facilities, and specialized areas.

To their credit, the city is working on some of the foundational type work such improving transportation infrastructure. However, this is moving very slowly and there appears to be little support outside of this. Business services consist of Initial Building Consultation, which is only for construction. Very little is on city website about business development or support for business, just a hard to find reference to BIA and Chamber of Commerce. While I have not spoken to them, from all accounts city staff are very helpful when calling, but who will call if they can’t get the information they need beforehand?

Despite all our benefits, the city seems content to do some of the work identified in the plan, put out less information and let the business community find us. The biggest problem New West has is being found amongst the other bigger cities. The city needs to take on a strongly active role in promoting itself to business, lest we lose our position as a job creator and settle into being just another suburb.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Where are the Community Gardens

The Record has an article about the Port Royal Community Garden, located in Queensborough. By all accounts, the garden has been a smashing success, and representatives will be attending the Queensborough Urban Farmers' Fall Fair. The 25-odd plots are full, and there is a waiting list of another 25 people. The garden is basically doubling in size to address the large demand.

For some time now I have been wanting to grow a small vegetable garden, for a number of reasones that basically boil down to it is better, cheaper and healthier for you. When we moved to New West, I started looking for an Uptown community garden, and was disappointed that the only one I could find was the garden in Queensborough.

I decided to check with New West Parks, Culture and Recreation Board to see what their plans are for community gardens. Interestingly, it is hard to find good information from the Parks Board. They have a reasonable site detailing facilities and activies availabe, but I haven't found any information detailing the back end of the board. For example, questions I could not find answers to on the Parks or City websites are

- Who is on the board?
- When and where are the public meetings?
- Minutes from previous meetings
- Any kind of long term vision, goal or strategy

What I did find is the New Westminster Environmental Partners seems to be taking the lead on the community garden issue. It sounds like the have had some success in moving this forward, with a presentation to the City in September. The also put on occassional public meetings, including one tonight (7:00 PM at CAW Union Hall, 326 12th Street). Other groups, such as the New West Downtown Residents Association seem to be deferring to them.

While I am glad the NWEP is pushing forward on the community garden issue, I am concerned with the lack (or at least very hard to find) of information from the Parks Board. New West is blessed with a number of great parks, and with its small size, it feels like there is an abundance of parks available for the public. This is a large strength for the city, and we should be discussing how we can improve on that strength and use it to build strong communities. To do that we need to make the discussions, plans and meetings of the Park Board more visible.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A year in New West

My wife, kids and I have been living in New West just over one year now. It was almost by accident we ended up living here, but am I ever glad we did.

We rent, and for the past five years have gotten itchy feet pretty much every year whenever our lease was up. First we were living downtown, and had a great spot down in Yaletown. For a variety of reasons, we decided to move out to Surrey from there. We tried two places in Surrey, one in Fleetwood, and one closer to Guidlford, but with Gill unable to drive it never worked well for us.

So last September our lease was coming up, the landlord was trying to sell the house, we wanted to live somewhere not in Surrey and cut down our rent if we could. The main feature we were looking for in a place was somewhere close to shopping, parks and amenities so Gill could get out during the day and do the things she needed to do. Access to transit was important as well for the same reason.

We were looking at places in Vancouver and Burnaby mostly. Jocye-Collingwood, Brentwood, Metrotown - we mainly focused on the major town centres. New West never even crossed our minds. I don't remember how or why, but somehow I found myself in uptown New West one day during this time. I noticed the mall and shopping along 6th Ave and 6th Street, Moody Park, and all the low rise apartments in the area. The area seemed to be busy with lots of people around, lots of kids at the park and just generally pleasant.

We dug into the area further, and quickly decided it was where we wanted to be. We rented a one-bedroom apartment there, and thanks to a friendly building manager we moved over to a two-bedroom not long after.

What we like
- all our daily needs are within easy walking distance. While Royal City Centre is not the hub that so many other malls here are, along with the local shops along 6th and 6th, it has all the things we need on a regular basis.
- decent transit connections. Between the 106, 123, 154 and 155, there is generally a bus coming soon, and it's only a few minutes to the skytrain
- great parks - Moody park is fantastic for bringing the kids to, or just relaxing on a nice day. Queens park is a reasonable walk, and there are several smaller parks and playgrounds nearby too.
- the people! everyone here is so friendly - even after a year I am still suprised at how many people will greet you just walking down the street.

What we don't like
- 6th Ave frequently seems dirty or grimy between 6th and 8th streets.
- Almost all the buildings have stairs to navigate to enter or exit - pick your building carefully if you have a stroller
- Inconsistent transit - busses don't follow the scheduel well, and and I regularly find trips completely missed.
- Highway access - while I take the skytrain to work, and Gill doesn't drive, we still use our car few times a week. Going south is great, as we can hop onto the Queensborogh or Pattullo within minutes, but getting to Highway 1 takes a lot longer than we would like.

On the whole, we have been very happy with our move to New West. If anyone on here is from there, drop me a line - I'd love to hear from you and what you like about the city.