2021: Mayor's Year in Review
Happy New Year, everyone,
This Council is now into the last year of its term, and I’m sure that, when we adjusted our work plans in 2020 to address the impacts of COVID-19, we never thought that we would still be doing that in 2022. And yet, we still managed to accomplish an incredible amount of work in 2021.
At the beginning of our term, Council worked together to set its strategic 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 can live, play and work." We updated the Strategic Plan in 2020, and again at the end of last year.
This plan is our roadmap, and the start of the new year is an opportunity to celebrate some of the highlights, and remind Council, staff and the community where we are headed, and why.
Starting with Housing
Our goal is to “Significantly expand the diversity and supply of housing, including housing that is more affordable.” Why? Because the divide between incomes and housing costs, and the lack of housing diversity are negatively impacting West Vancouver.
We are losing the people we need in our community—seniors are struggling to stay due to a lack of accessible housing; workers such as police and fire, are commuting here from farther and farther away, adding to traffic congestion; and young families with children can’t afford to come back to the community in which they grew up, affecting the vibrancy of neighbourhoods, schools and businesses.
What have we done to improve that situation? Most notably, we advanced our workforce housing project at 2195 Gordon, which when completed in 2024 will include below-market rental units, as well as a much-needed adult day centre. Preliminary designs of the project are now up on our website, so we can begin to see how these homes will become a reality.
We approved the recommendations of the Neighbourhood Character Working Group to manage the scale and fit of all new houses, while enabling more coach houses and smaller lots in our residential neighbourhoods.
On the northeast corner of Marine Drive and Taylor Way we approved an eight-storey building with condos and rental units, and preserved the “Woyat-Bowie” commercial heritage building, which will definitely beautify that corner.
We completed the Horseshoe Bay Local Area Plan which will guide the business, recreational and residential enhancement of the area; and we completed the attractive upgrade of Royal Avenue.
Moving on to Local Economy
Our goal is to “create vital and vibrant commercial centres." Before COVID-19, we recognized the need to support and revitalize our business community, which was already facing the challenges of a diminishing customer base, and attracting and retaining staff.
So, we extended the very popular outdoor patio program until 2022, and approved a permanent outdoor patio at 15th and Bellevue.
And in Millennium Park, the ability to consume alcohol outside was so successful that we made it permanent.
The Ambleside Local Area Plan, which will be commenced this year, will play a significant role in improving commercial vibrancy. But in the meantime, Council took immediate steps to restrict the number of currency exchanges, nail salons, and real estate offices in our Town Centre.
Climate Change and Nature
Before the pandemic, climate change was top of mind, and in 2021, we were reminded of the extreme weather events we will face from rising global temperatures.
To reduce energy use and carbon emissions, we took a number of steps including launching an electric bike-share program on the North Shore; and updating the old energy systems at Municipal Hall which will reduce its GHGs by over 90%.
Traffic is the number one concern of most West Van residents.
I’m Chair of the North Shore Connects transportation partnership and we are working together to make it easier for people to get around—to live, work, and play without delay.
The Lower Lynn interchanges, and the new Burrard Chinook Seabus were opened in 2021, and we announced our plans to bring rapid transit across Burrard Inlet as soon as possible,
Together with our partners at Park Royal and the Squamish Nation, we completed safety and structural improvements to the Spirit Trail over the Capilano River, an important link for all users.
We are committed to delivering municipal services efficiently, and I want to recognize the efforts of our staff who were constantly adjusting, pivoting, and innovating to ensure continued high-quality service in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
Our staff are key, and Council is committed to making the District an employer of choice. We have adopted a Living Wage Policy, to ensure that full-time employees earn a fair wage to support their fundamental needs.
In 2021 our property tax increase was below the rate of inflation, as is the proposal for 2022. The asset levy in 2021 was a step towards recovery for our asset maintenance program; and in 2022 we are hoping to also allocate funds directly to combatting climate change and advancing environmental programs.
Council’s last goal—“to enhance the social well-being of our community”—is about improving residents’ quality of life, and helping them meaningfully connect, contribute, and feel a sense of belonging.
The one-time COVID Restart Grant from the province in 2021 allowed us to double our funding to non-profits that play a critical role in West Vancouver’s social, cultural, and economic vitality.
With this grant, Council also provided a one-time grant of $150,000 to the Kay Meek Centre, to minimize the impact of the pandemic.
Increasing access to quality childcare continues to be a priority for Council, and in 2021 we endorsed a new 10-year action plan that will provide more affordable child care spaces.
We are continuing to implement the Brissenden Park court judgement. Development lots on Rosebery are now for sale, and the proceeds will be used to acquire the two last properties on the Ambleside waterfront, a vision that began in 1976.
And finally, some wonderful news! After six years of fundraising, West Vancouver’s Armitage family made the largest donation to date towards the West Vancouver Place for Sport, bringing the total amount raised to more than $4.8 million dollars. This made it possible for Council to close the gap by using Community Amenity Contributions; and work will soon get underway on this community track and field facility.
I’d like to close my remarks with a quote from Nelson Mandela, who once commented that “sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does”. Well, that is certainly true in the case of the West Vancouver Place for Sport, which Council is delighted to announce will begin construction this year. This long-awaited and much-needed facility would not have been possible without the many partners who were determined to get it to the finish line:
- A dedicated volunteer fundraising committee;
- The more than 400 donors from across the community and the region;
- The legacy of Harry Jerome, and the support of his sister, Valerie;
- And, of course, the extraordinary generosity of the Armitage family.
When it opens to thousands of young soccer players, track and field athletes, and citizens of all ages enjoying physical activity, we have no doubt that it will serve as a lasting legacy of Council’s commitment to health and social well-being in this community.
Congratulations, and thank you to all those who joined us to help build what will soon be the finest sports facility on the North Shore!
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth