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Mayor's Annual Addresses

Mayor Malcolm Brodie 2012 Annual Address

Annual Address
By Mayor Malcolm Brodie
Theme: 2041 OCP Update and the Future of Richmond
December 10, 2012

After the first year of Richmond City Council’s current three-year term, it gives me great pleasure to outline a few of the many ways in which the City has thrived. The residents of our City now enjoy an outstanding quality of life. You can be confident that Council will never relax its efforts to pass on that high standard to future generations.

Achieving our vision of community sustainability is City Council’s primary goal. To that end, the focus of this presentation will include:
  • City Council’s recent accomplishments; and
  • Our vision for the City of Richmond in the near and more distant future.
OFFICIAL COMMUNITY PLAN 2041: MOVING TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY
Recently, City Council gave final approval to our updated Official Community Plan 2041: Moving Towards Sustainability (OCP). A number of years in the making, the OCP charts the City’s future course. As our most comprehensive Plan yet, it examines land use and the City’s vision to address economic, social, cultural and environmental challenges.

The OCP projects population growth of 40% to 280,000 residents by 2041. Most of that growth is expected to occur in the next 20 years when employment should also rise by 33%. Thus we can expect balanced growth and increased population, as well as enhancements to our economic base.

Under our innovative and widely-acclaimed City Centre Area Plan adopted in 2009, most of Richmond’s growth will occur within the heart of the City. A new Richmond City Centre is now starting to emerge, where we are mostly building upwards rather than encroaching on valuable agricultural areas or single family neighbourhoods. Transit-oriented development will take place in a series of new urban villages near the Canada Line. We will enlarge building designs that integrate with the streetfront without large-tract asphalt parking lots. Walkable, lively and inviting environments will be created in shorter city blocks.

Prominent in the growing City Centre will be new public amenities. Set to open in late 2014 are the new City Centre Community Centre and a Trinity Western University campus. To further open the waterfront on River Road, the City has been planning a large new park integrated with the existing Middle Arm Greenway. To ease traffic congestion, we are adding to our City Centre ring road network. This promises to provide even more alternatives for the area’s vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Next year, we expect to complete the final segment of Lansdowne Road to run continuously from the Garden City Lands to the Richmond Olympic Oval.

As part of our transportation network, the City executed an agreement with TransLink to construct a new Canada Line station at Capstan Way. As part of development within the Capstan Village area, new owners will pay a levy dedicated to station construction. Earlier this year, Council approved rezonings to permit construction of about 1,500 new units in that area while more high-rise rezoning applications will follow. The Capstan Station promises to be a reality within the next decade.

Richmond’s growth is being carefully monitored by City Council to ensure it is reasonable, sustainable and well-managed. At our maximum growth in the City Centre, the ultimate density of the area will only be half that of Vancouver’s West End today.

Outside the City Centre, changes will be realized in a few selected areas of Richmond, such as some of our major neighbourhood shopping centres – Hamilton, Broadmoor, Blundell and Garden City. Redevelopment of the Broadmoor Shopping Centre is already well underway, as is the planning process for the Hamilton area. Of course, any new development will involve public consultation and incorporate designs compatible with surrounding single family neighbourhoods. We will preserve those neighbourhoods and avoid urban sprawl while we protect industrial, agricultural and environmentally-sensitive areas.

Embedded within the new Plan are the City’s extensive sustainability commitments, including aggressive targets for fighting climate change, reducing our environmental footprint, embracing the use of alternative energy, promoting energy conservation, and supporting food security. Thus, our residents can look forward to living in a community that is healthy, safe, naturally beautiful and sustainable.

Under the OCP, if we are to meet our sustainability goals, we must reduce our reliance on automobiles. By 2041, the City aims to substantially increase the number of trips our residents make on foot, bicycle and public transit. With reduced automobile reliance, our environment will improve through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate the need for more environmentally-destructive transportation infrastructure. Healthier lifestyles are also encouraged. The next step to better public transportation should come in 2013 when TransLink has promised to start reviewing the local Area Transit Plan.

The updated OCP also recognizes how Richmond’s population is aging with our fastest-growing population segment being older adults. The City is planning to meet the resulting challenges. For instance, to enable our older residents facing mobility issues to age in place without facing onerous costs, Richmond must plan a suitable mix of affordable housing options.

BENEFITS OF SUSTAINABLE GROWTH & CITY INITIATIVES
Richmond accrues many benefits as the result of growth. Increased commercial development provides a broad array of services and amenities for consumers, all of which create economic spinoffs. Growth also helps fund improvements to our civic infrastructure such as upgrades to the roads, water systems, parks and civic facilities. The City also benefits from new child care spaces, affordable housing units, public art and community areas to name only a few.

For many years, the City has undertaken an extensive building program to renew and expand our civic facilities. A major emphasis has been community safety. We have rebuilt three fire halls and completed a major retrofit of a fourth. Within the next few years, we expect to build two more new fire halls, including the replacement of Richmond Fire-Rescue’s headquarters. We also acquired and upgraded the new Community Safety Building to be home to the Richmond RCMP, while we opened the new City Centre Community Police Office. Though City Council is pleased with the operational performance of our local RCMP detachment, we have also launched a complementary study to identify our best options for providing cost-effective police services for the community.

In addition, major projects have included partnerships which led to a $5 million expansion of the Hamilton Community Centre, completion of the new Thompson Youth Park and ongoing improvements in Terra Nova Rural Park, including a new children’s play area now under construction. Of course, we also completed our largest infrastructure project ever, the Richmond Olympic Oval. Following post-Olympic conversion, this helped us to meet long-standing community needs by dramatically expanding our residents’ access to sport, recreational, health, wellness, cultural and other services.

City Council is now finalizing a major facilities capital plan to meet in the coming years the most critical needs of our growing community. Among other projects, the plan will likely fulfill Council’s top priorities: replacing the aging Minoru Aquatic Centre plus an expanded Older Adults’ Centre.

STRATEGIC LAND ACQUISITIONS FOR FUTURE NEEDS
In addition to new civic buildings, a critical need for our growing population will be new parks and recreational areas. Over the past few years, Council has invested about $80 million in a series of strategic investments to support our community’s emerging needs for land.

A key acquisition was the purchase of the Garden City Lands, a 55-hectare (136-acre) parcel adjoining our City Centre. Council recently approved a planning process to determine by 2014 the future uses for this property. An extensive public consultation process will assist in formulation of our plan.

Earlier, in partnership with Ducks Unlimited, Richmond acquired the 51-hectare (127-acre) Grauer lands outside the dike along our western foreshore. This important habitat will ultimately become a natural reserve and park. It complements the purchase of the last privately-owned remnant of our Northeast Bog Forest, also slated to be a park.

The City recently conducted public consultation on the future of the Railway Avenue Greenway. The resulting plan is before Council later this evening. Previously a railway corridor, this north-south pathway through West Richmond was purchased from the CPR and should remain a vital recreational link within the heart of our City.

As part of the rezoning for development on the former Fantasy Gardens lands, the City acquired the site’s original botanical gardens. Council earlier approved a plan to greatly enhance park access for residents and others in this increasingly busy area.

CIVIC STRATEGIES FOR SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
Supporting Richmond’s OCP are a number of other City strategies. For instance, our Long-Term Financial Management Strategy has real importance. Now a decade old, this plan ensures we have the funds needed to sustain both existing service levels and future expenses, while limiting the burden on our taxpayers. Richmond has aggressively pursued both alternative revenues and efficiencies in our business approach while improving customer service and limiting tax increases. This provides taxpayers with some certainty for future years and allowed us to increase our financial reserves for the timely replacement of our civic infrastructure.

In 2013, we expect to update our Economic Development Strategy, as well as continue to implement the new Business Retention and Expansion program. This will ensure Richmond remains an attractive place in which to invest and carry on business. A major focus will be development of the Pacific Gateway to open further trade with the emerging economies of the Asia-Pacific. We continue to work closely with partners such as YVR and Port Metro Vancouver to further develop our local infrastructure. This should encourage the flow of people and goods throughout Richmond. This year, Canada Post began construction on its new 2,000-employee Western Canadian distribution centre to be located at YVR. The new Highway 91 interchange at Nelson Road was also opened to improve the movement of goods and traffic safety for area residents.

The City, Tourism Richmond, local hotel operators and the Province of BC recently announced a five-year agreement to renew the Richmond hotel room tax. Besides helping to better establish Richmond as a major tourism destination, these tax funds are important for the 2014 completion of the Richmond Olympic Experience. This exciting new tourist attraction will celebrate our Olympic history as well as tell the story of local sports. Richmond thus becomes the first official North American member of the worldwide Olympic Museum network.

In 2010, Richmond launched its Sport Hosting Office and has already generated significant new economic activity. This includes more than 20,000 hotel room stays in 2011 alone, as well as expanded competitive and developmental opportunities for local athletes. For instance, we welcomed national championships in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, table tennis, badminton, and fencing. Five consecutive national karate championships will be held here starting in 2014. This year, our City hosted the first Canadian Sports Events Congress held on the West Coast. This gave us an unprecedented opportunity to market our City as a venue for sport hosting.

Our Film Office is also growing in its activity. City revenues from filming projects have increased by over 20% since 2011 with numerous TV series, movies and commercials being filmed here. The hit TV series Once Upon A Time has become a fixture in Steveston and we are beginning to enjoy increasing numbers of tourists seeking to visit Storybrooke.

City Council will soon consider a new Social Development Strategy. This 10-year strategy is designed to ensure the social needs of our residents are met in these difficult times. While most social issues remain the responsibility of senior governments, Richmond needs to integrate with local service providers and other stakeholders.

Access to affordable housing is one of the major concerns of our residents. Through our Affordable Housing Strategy, we have secured agreements for the construction of many hundreds of new affordable housing units. Work is now underway on the replacement of Kiwanis Court – almost 300 units of affordable rental housing for older adults. The City and its partners are also planning a new tower on Granville Avenue with over 100 units of affordable housing together with office and other space for local agencies.

A pressing need across the Province is safe, regulated child care. Through development agreements, Council has secured an estimated 139 long-awaited child care spaces to open within 2 years in the Hamilton and West Cambie areas. Additional new child care spaces are expected in other developments, thus leading to the need for a Child Care Co-ordinator.

New census figures have shown that the majority of Richmond residents speak English as a second language. Our Intercultural Advisory Committee published a new edition of our Newcomers Guide in English, Chinese and, for the first time, Tagalog.

To help build upon the many economic, social and cultural benefits the City receives from the arts, City Council recently approved an updated Arts Strategy. We will continue to expand the range of local arts and cultural events together with development of local arts and artists. This year, for example, we saw continued growth in our major events as both the Maritime Festival and Ships to Shore set new records for attendance.

The Richmond Cultural Centre continues to be at the forefront of our expanding arts scene with the New Media Lab, Rooftop Garden and its first ever author-in-residence. Richmond’s Public Art Program continues to grow as there are now over 90 permanent and temporary works in the City’s impressive public art inventory. 2012 also marked the first year of our new arts grants program.

The first Richmond Celebrates Hockey Day In Canada was a resounding success. Plans are underway for a second Hockey Day event on the new BC Family Day long weekend in February.

As we move forward, we need to protect Richmond’s environment. The City is currently consulting with the public on a new Dike Master Plan which proposes innovative steps to improve flood protection around Steveston. This year, we also secured an additional $3.5 million to continue upgrading our major drainage pump stations. There will be a major extension of our food scraps collection program for townhomes which promises to divert thousands of tonnes of organics from the landfill. In addition, Richmond will soon have several new plug-in stations for electric vehicles.

The City was also pleased to support the first REaDY conference organized by local youth. This brought together hundreds interested in learning about environmental conservation and stewardship. A second conference is now being planned for the new year.

SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS
It is always difficult to balance the expansion of City services while holding the line on expenses. We do this best through innovation and the use of new technology to improve customer service within existing budgets. During 2012, we were able to introduce a number of such improvements using new technology, including: 

  • Online business license renewals;
  • Online viewing of traffic congestion using cameras;
  • Upgrades to the City’s website including our newly-revised customer feedback form allowing residents to request a service or report a problem;
  • Inclusion of Richmond’s parks on Metro Vancouver’s popular iParks mobile application;
  • Online reminders of garbage and recycling pick-up;
  • A City YouTube channel to support civic services and events; and

At the Library, there’s now access to free music, magazine downloads and eBooks, plus a popular iPad program for pre-schoolers.

KEY PRIVATE SECTOR DEVELOPMENTS
The private sector ultimately initiates much of the new growth within Richmond. More than $4 billion of new development is currently in process or under construction within our City Centre. This includes up to 12,000 new residential units, 2,500 new hotel rooms as well as 1.5 and 2.4 million square feet of office and retail development respectively. In 2012, the 28,000 square metre (300,000 square foot) IKEA store and the $26 million Ocean Spray cranberry processing facility were completed. We also see positive growth in Richmond’s building activity. Housing starts and building permits to the end of this November were up considerably from last year.

Earlier, YVR announced a new $1.8 billion program of airport improvements to be completed over the next decade. While adding to our community, this promises to reinforce the airport’s status as one of the primary gateways for the transport of people and goods to and from destinations in the Asia-Pacific as well as the rest of the world. However, Richmond expressed concerns when YVR announced plans to develop a major new retail mall on Russ Baker Way. The City questioned its location as a commercial centre, its potential to cause traffic congestion, and its location away from the Canada Line commercial corridor. City Council was pleased that YVR took these concerns into account. They have now decided to relocate that development to a more suitable location on the northern rim of Sea Island.

PLANNING CONCERNS
Unfortunately, the City cannot control all of the planning decisions which may impact our future quality of life. City Council continues to closely monitor the environmental assessment process for a proposed new jet fuel pipeline and off-load barge facility. Council is adamantly opposed to the current proposal or any option requiring jet fuel to be shipped through the sensitive Fraser River Estuary. Though the final approval for this project may be made by senior governments, Richmond Council will insist that our community concerns be taken into account.

Similarly, Council fears that Port Metro Vancouver may use local farmlands for industrial expansion. Our concern was triggered when the Port purchased a farm in East Richmond. The City is adamant about protecting its remaining farmland. We have strongly advised the Port and federal agencies of our concerns.

IMPORTANT MILESTONES
The past year has included many significant milestones for our City. In addition to the fact that our residents live on average to age 84.9 years, the longest of any city in Canada, Richmond is proud to be seen as a leader among governments. This is reflected in the many awards received for excellence in service delivery, management, innovation and leadership. The awards received by the City in 2012 include:

  • The prestigious World Leisure Organization Innovation Award for development of Terra Nova Rural Park, its sixth major award;
  • 2012 National Urban Design Award from Architecture Canada for the Garden City Park’s design that encourages children’s physical and explorative activity;
  • A Regional Honour Award from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects for the new Middle Arm Waterfront Greenway;
  • The Alexandra District Energy Utility was honoured by the UBCM in their Leadership and Innovation category among the 2012 Community Excellence Awards;
  • A Leadership Excellence Award in BC Hydro’s annual Power Smart Awards;
  • Project of the Year Award from the Public Works Association of BC for the unique design and construction of the new No. 4 Road Pump Station; and
  • Two awards for financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association – this marks the ninth straight year Richmond has been recognized by this association.

In 2012, Richmond took the important step in our economic and cultural development by formally becoming a Sister City of Xiamen, China. This relationship has already provided significant benefits for Richmond in strengthening our ties with China, the ancestral home of many of our residents. Next year, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of our Sister City relationship with Wakayama, Japan.

CONCLUSION
As always, our accomplishments and our planning involved hard work by so many talented people including members of City Council and staff, in addition to our community partners and stakeholders. Special thanks must be offered to the thousands of dedicated Richmond volunteers who support every facet of civic life and make such a difference in the lives of so many.

Richmond is proud of its rich cultural heritage and the strength of its diverse population. By working together and through strong, focussed planning, we shall enhance the quality of life for residents of our Island City while preserving the foundation of a vibrant, dynamic business sector. We will offer personal, economic, recreational and cultural opportunities for people of all ages who wish to live, work or invest in a safe and healthy community. Growth will bring added dimensions to Richmond as it will be managed and balanced. The future remains very bright for the City that has been called the healthiest in Canada.