Mayor Malcolm Brodie 2016 Annual Address
Richmond: An Evolving City
Presented on January 26, 2017
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Following Richmond’s success in 2016, this year promises to be another special year for the City and the country as we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Locally, we are pleased to feature many great community events and programs.
Our History Shaped Us
Incorporated as a municipality in 1879, Richmond’s history is truly a Canadian tale. Let’s pause to reflect briefly on our history – see how the past has shaped the City of today as well as the road ahead.
Over the years, the “Child of the Fraser” slogan on Richmond’s Coat of Arms has remained the most appropriate as our city is comprised of 17 islands created over thousands of years from soils washed down the long Fraser River to its mouth. In the 1860s, immigrants from Europe were attracted by some of the most fertile farming soils in the far-flung British Empire. In order to take advantage of these rich delta lands, clearing, diking and draining often had to be undertaken before crop farming. The early settlers petitioned the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council in 1879 for municipal status.
Richmond’s abundant fishery also attracted many to our shores. From the early 1880s, our fishing fleets returned with their catches to be processed in the many canneries that dotted the river. Among those so attracted were Japanese fishermen, such as Gihei Kuno, the first Japanese immigrant who arrived in 1888 and was quickly followed by thousands from his home country. The burgeoning cannery and boat-building industries drew many more workers to the area, including First Nations people as well as Chinese contract workers who originally came to Canada as labourers to build the railway. The cultural diversity we reflect today was actually established in the late 1800’s.
On March 25, 1910, an important event occurred when the first powered flight in Western Canada took off from around where our Cultural Centre is today. The first commercial airport was later established near what are now the Garden City Lands before moving in 1931 to its permanent home on Sea Island.
Over the ensuing 85 years, the international airport has grown to become a world-leading enterprise. 2016 was a record-breaking year hosting more than 22 million passengers. Many thousands of people work for the airport or in locally-based, airport-dependent transportation, distribution or technology businesses.
In the middle of the 20th century, Richmond’s rapidly-growing population began to urbanize. City Councils of the day recognized this trend and sought to carefully control urban growth. An example of this was the purchase of the 600-acre Brighouse Estates in the heart of today’s City.
In the late 1980s, political and economic changes in Asia led to the emergence of new patterns as many immigrants chose Richmond as their new Canadian home. With this growth, Richmond officially changed its status from a Township to a City in 1990.
As we entered the 21st century, two major changes shaped Richmond and supported its continued growth. First was the long-awaited arrival of the Canada Line rapid transit rail connection in 2009 which opened up our City Centre for planned, transit-oriented development. Centred on Canada Line stations, our new mixed residential and commercial developments feature higher densities surrounded by neighbourhoods that are livable, walkable and less car-dependent. The Canada Line has been a huge success, spurring record-setting levels of new building across the city while providing a reliable, efficient rail link to downtown Vancouver and the airport. Service is expanding as the result.
The second major change was the direct consequence of Richmond being a Venue City for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games as we hosted the long-track speed skating at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Besides fulfilling a major sports and recreation role in its legacy phase, the Oval has been the catalyst for the creation of a new urban waterfront community along the Middle Arm. The Games and the Oval also encouraged expansion of our tourism industry, promoting Richmond as a distinct tourism destination.
Through all the change, our two founding industries, farming and fishing, have continued to be a constant – Richmond remains a significant agricultural centre, internationally renowned for the production of crops such as cranberries and blueberries, while Steveston remains the largest commercial fishing harbour on the Canadian West Coast of North America.
Celebrating Our Heritage
With our history in mind, Richmond City Council has placed great importance on heritage preservation and protection.
Among all communities in BC, Richmond showcases one of the largest collections of heritage sites. This includes our two national historic sites, Britannia Heritage Shipyards and the Federal Government’s Gulf of Georgia Cannery. Our strong commitment to heritage was celebrated last year when Richmond received the Prince of Wales Award, one of Canada’s highest honours for heritage. This recognized the City’s comprehensive heritage programs together with our ongoing mandate to protect, preserve and celebrate our community’s history.
One of many factors in winning this prestigious award was the restoration of Branscombe House, an historic Steveston home, located along the Railway Greenway. During 2016, it was home to Richmond’s first artist-in-residence, Rhonda Weppler, who has now been succeeded by Barbara Meneley.
Opened a few years ago, the Steveston Tram building has become a popular attraction, annually drawing tens of thousands of visitors. It is home to an original Interurban Tram, a priceless reminder of the beloved commuter rail service extensively used in daily life by Richmond residents until the service was discontinued in 1958. With the assistance of volunteers, this restored tram should be open for extended hours in time for Canada Day.
With input from the Friends of the Richmond Archives, the City implemented a Memorial Street Sign Program. A poppy is depicted on the signs for over 60 streets where the roadway is named for a Richmond soldier who died in service to Canada in World Wars I or II. A new section of the City’s website now provides more background on these soldiers so honoured.
The importance of the Britannia Heritage Shipyards National Historic Site cannot be overstated. Located on a waterfront site with more than a dozen historic buildings, one can enjoy numerous permanent exhibits to remind us of daily work and life in the West Coast fishing industry during its heyday.
In 2016, the restored Seine Net Loft opened as part of the Britannia Site. Five permanent exhibit zones within the building’s 13,000 square feet contain vivid examples of innovation and human ingenuity within the fishing and boat-building industries. New research is also showcased with interactive exhibit components. For Canada’s anniversary year, Council has arranged to fully open the site to the public year round.
Richmond also takes pride in its urban heritage. For instance, with the re-development of the McDonald’s restaurant site on No. 3 Road, care is being taken to preserve the original golden arches. These will remind that this was the first McDonald’s restaurant in Canada.
Richmond Canada 150
Being proud of our community and our past, we are also proud Canadians. Canada’s 150th anniversary offers a unique opportunity to celebrate our Canadian heritage. Council earmarked extra grant funding to encourage local Canada 150 events throughout the year. Yesterday, we officially launched our Canada 150 program with a special event at City Hall.
One major highlight will be the visit in May of Japan’s Kaiwo Maru, a majestic four-masted tall ship, one of the largest sailing ships in the world. This visit honours the long history and friendship between Canada and Japan, as well as Richmond’s strong Japanese connections. Planned celebrations will include a festival for the entire family, free vessel boarding, fireworks and an open-air concert in Garry Point Park.
Plans are underway to expand the annual Canada Day celebrations to encompass the entire Steveston Village. In addition to the ever-popular Salmon Festival, Ships to Shore maritime displays and Canada Day fireworks, events include a party on all the village streets.
Another exciting new event is our Home and Native Blooms. Imagine a springtime giant floral installation on the City Hall Plaza, one that will use only native Canadian plants in a scene celebrating our 150th anniversary. We will also have a number of public art projects together with our popular Street Banner program featuring a “Canada 150” theme. Those banners, designed by local residents and artists, will soon fly over City streets to honour the occasion.
For the first time, the award-winning Richmond World Festival will be held over two days of the Labour Day weekend while it celebrates our cultural diversity through music, food and more. This is in addition to a Music On The Plaza series hosted on the City Hall and Cultural Centre plazas, a new Harvest Festival to celebrate our agricultural heritage and another Pioneer Tea on May 27 recognizing long-time residents.
Richmond Today and Tomorrow
Though the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary reminds of us of our past, Richmond City Council works very hard to ensure current and future success. We are constantly seeking opportunities to enhance our delivery of services to our residents and businesses.
As the home of many leading international technology firms, we harness new technologies and innovation to achieve our goal to improve customer service and efficiency. This leading, civic technology edge is created by our Digital Strategy, aimed to capture the benefits of the information revolution by translating them into service improvements. In addition to improving the City’s website which saw over 2.3 million visits in 2016, examples of resulting initiatives include:
- 20 civic facilities offering free Wi-Fi, with an additional 14 sites to be added this year;
- New technology to provide access on a desktop computer, mobile tablet or a smart phone to our revamped Geographic Information System (GIS). This system includes street maps, property information, locations of important civic services and infrastructure as well as aerial photography. More than 100 layers of information are included;
- Online accessibility for many development-related forms and maps. This will eliminate large volumes of paper;
- Credit card payments for property taxes and utility fees to broaden payment options;
- Online access to an array of archival records and corporate information dating back to 1879. This adds to thousands of digitized photographs, Council minutes, bylaws and other City records now available online;
- An online Museum Collection providing digital images of 2,100 artifacts;
- Upgrades to the Richmond business portal at www.businessinrichmond.ca to increase engagement and service information for businesses;
- An updated version of the RichmondBC mobile app to enable local residents to access information on programs and events as well as personal recreation sessions; and
- To expedite timing, results of building inspections will be automatically updated in our systems through smartphones.
Thanks to our many environmental conservation programs, the City has significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions despite population growth. One component is Richmond’s international leadership in the development of district energy. This provides reliable local energy for customers seeking to reduce such emissions through an alternative to fossil fuels.
Last year, the Alexandra District Energy Utility (ADEU), using thermal energy to reduce emissions, completed its 4th phase expansion in the West Cambie area. Now, over 1,100 residential units and 280,000 square feet in other buildings are connected. This includes Richmond’s new Cambie Fire Hall, as well as North America’s first Walmart using district energy.
In addition, over 1,100 residential units are now connected to the Oval Village District Energy Utility which utilizes heat captured from the regional sanitary sewer line as an energy source. The next initiative is to launch a district energy system in City Centre North to connect 9 million square feet of additional buildings.
With such a strong emphasis on environmental issues, Richmond City Council has voiced many concerns over the Provincial Government’s plans to replace the George Massey Tunnel with a massive tolled bridge connecting to a 25-lane freeway and 3-tiered ramps, as well as its support for tankers laden with jet fuel plying the South Arm of the Fraser River. Council has also expressed warnings about the Port of Vancouver’s inevitable wish to eventually expand its operations onto adjacent farmland. These projects will permanently change the face of the southern perimeter of our City and affect the eco-system in the river.
One of the most pressing and difficult issues faced over last year by our City resulted from the need to deal with the overpowering odour often being emitted by a composting facility located on Port of Vancouver land in south-east Richmond. This is the facility for a number of cities in our region following the regional ban on organics entering the solid waste stream. With responsibility for air quality delegated by the Province to Metro Vancouver, Richmond City Council continues to take many steps to force this plant to stop causing this odour because of its negative impact on local quality of life.
To ensure a safe community, Council has added 22 RCMP officers over two years. Long-time O.I.C. Rendall Nesset has now retired and recruitment for his replacement is underway. We created a Community Response Team, being a 20-person community outreach team of specially-trained volunteers. Team members provide advice about security and crime prevention programs to home owners, businesses and individuals. Also initiated was Project 529 to register bicycles into a secure database to assist with recovery after being stolen.
2016 was the second consecutive record breaking year for film and TV production. Filming took place in the City on three out of every four days, for a total of 276 filming days. Extended production of such offerings as the latest “Planet of the Apes” and “Power Rangers” motion pictures, along with the continued success of ABC’s popular “Once Upon a Time” series will ensure that Richmond continues to be featured on both the small and big screens in 2017.
The City successfully assisted Tourism Richmond and local hotels to obtain an increase in the local hotel tax from 2% to 3%. Over the next five years, this agreement promises to generate approximately $4.2 million annually for the City, Tourism Richmond and the hotels to support community tourism development.
To add to our hotel night stays, Richmond Sport Hosting helped secure a total of 73 sport events in 2016 bearing an estimated local economic value of over $9 million, including over 20,000 hotel room nights. A few examples of the many 2016 Sport Hosting event highlights held at a number of venues are:
- Peter Bakonyi Fencing World Cup;
- Western Canada Ringette Championships;
- IIHF World Women’s Ice Hockey Championships training camps;
- Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament;
- International Futures Tennis Tournament held at Richmond Country Club; and numerous conferences, the largest of which was the Coaching Association of Canada’s Sport Leadership Conference.
Many similar sport hosting events are already secured for 2017.
The Richmond Olympic Oval continues to be a prominent asset. It has now become the official training site for Canada’s National Women’s Volleyball Team. Our Oval has a reputation as a world-class, year-round training and competition centre which generates important economic benefits for the entire community. With about 6,000 members, 81% are Richmond residents. A wide variety of groups have used the Oval for official events. In addition, the Olympic Experience at the Oval celebrated its first year of operation. It has become one of the region’s top tourist attractions, complete with state-of-the-art Olympic sport simulators.
Oval-trained athletes who went to the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games include:
- Tessa Popoff and Felicia Voss – National Sitting Volleyball Team;
- Mo Zhang and Stephanie Chan – Table Tennis Canada;
- Jonathan Dieleman – Swimming;
- Men's National Field Hockey Team; and
- Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Team.
2017 promises to remain very busy with a long list of events already set to take place at the Oval.
To ensure that Richmond remains a leader in service delivery while meeting community needs, several major strategic development projects were recently launched or completed, including:
- An update of the City’s Affordable Housing Strategy, to address the important need for an increased local supply of affordable housing;
- A Child Care Needs Assessment and Strategy Update, promoting available, adequate child care opportunities for our growing community;
- A new Arterial Road Land Use Policy, promoting a greater variety of housing options on arterial roads;
- The Police Service Review, ensuring Richmond has the optimum police service model for future generations;
- Our Seniors Service Plan Update to determine we have adequate service levels to meet the needs of the seniors population;
- The Richmond Food Charter, enabling us to guide future food system policy and planning;
- Consideration of regulation on house size and placement in the Agricultural Land Reserve; and
- A regulatory and enforcement program to prohibit most short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods.
In Richmond’s civic buildings, Council also approved its next phase of Major Facilities construction, which will include an expanded Steveston Community Centre and Library, replacement facilities for the Animal Shelter as well as the Lawn Bowling Clubhouse, a second community centre for the City Centre, and restoration of the Phoenix Net Loft and other buildings at Britannia Shipyards. This is in addition to the significant infrastructure projects completed in 2016 or on target for completion this year, including:
- Construction is nearly complete on the Cambie Fire Hall No. 3, the facility to jointly house Richmond Fire-Rescue and the BC Ambulance Service. This 26,000 square foot building is built to LEED Gold and post-disaster construction standards. Occupation is set to take place soon;
- For completion this summer, construction is well underway for Brighouse Fire Hall No. 1, a LEED-certified 25,000 square foot building;
- For intensive training nearby, the first phase of the long-awaited Fire-Rescue Training Centre in East Richmond is now open;
- Construction continues on the 110,000 square foot Minoru Complex, soon to be home of both an expanded aquatics centre and seniors centre. Occupancy is anticipated for the end of this year;
- Also set for completion soon is the Storeys affordable housing project on Granville Avenue east of City Hall. 129 units of subsidized rental housing for adults at risk will be augmented by office and program space operated by a number of community social service agencies; and
- The care of Richmond’s youngest residents also remains important to City Council. Construction was recently initiated on new childcare centres on a number of sites. This includes the 37-unit childcare facility soon to be underway in the Coevorden Castle located on the former Fantasy Gardens site.
The City continues to expand its network of cycling infrastructure to increase community sustainability and enhance recreational opportunities. Recent projects included the initial phases of the Parkside and Crosstown Neighbourhood Bike Routes; further upgrades to the Railway Greenway and a complete rebuild of the Shell Road off-street bike path from Westminster Highway to Alderbridge Way. This year, new cycling lanes will be included in the Lansdowne Road extension and the upgrade of No. 2 Road from Steveston Highway to Dyke Road. Sections of River Drive and Westminster Highway will also be improved to fill in gaps in the existing cycling infrastructure on those roadways. Other components of the cycling network are being reviewed to ensure rider safety.
Grant funding from senior levels of government is always important. As flood-proofing networks are needed, Richmond secured a $16.6 million contribution from the Province to upgrade four pump stations and sections of the North Arm dike.
The City has also secured significant infrastructure funding from the Government of Canada for a variety of projects. This includes $1.4 million towards the soon-to-be completed extension of Lansdowne Road from Minoru to Alderbridge Way. Once complete, Lansdowne Road will be a new east-west connector route in the heart of our City Centre improving traffic flow from Garden City to Hollybridge Way. The realignment of the next section of Lansdowne Road west of Gilbert is expected to be completed by March.
$500,000 in federal funding was also committed this week for upgrades to the fitness centre and mechanical systems at the South Arm Community Centre. Additional applications are pending with both the Federal and Provincial Governments.
Implementation of the Garden City Lands Legacy Landscape Plan is now well underway. With the completion of many studies including an examination of the site’s hydrology and ecology, construction of the initial phases began last September and will continue throughout this year. Work on the perimeter walkway should start in March.
Along with members of City Council from Wakayama, our Japanese Sister City, the Steveston Town Square Park on Moncton Street was opened last October. The site includes a fascinating suikinkutsu stone water basin feature imported from Japan for all to enjoy. This new park provides a welcome addition to all in Steveston.
In the private sector, development in Richmond continues to be strong. This is always a good indicator of economic activity in the City. The total permit value of new construction for 2016 was approximately $715 million, our third highest year. These projects, all of which have affordable housing components, include:
- Polygon’s multi-family development on the former Steveston Secondary School site – a 133 unit townhouse project that includes the dedication of almost 6 acres of parkland to the City, construction of a childcare centre and 12 affordable rental housing townhouse units;
- Multi-family developments in the City Centre, including:
- Oval Village – developments by Aspac, Intracorp and Cressey;
- Lansdowne Village – projects by Onni, Amacon and CCM Investments;
- West Cambie – projects by Am-Pri Developments; and
- Capstan Village – projects by Concord, Pinnacle, Polygon and Yuanheng, all of which contribute towards the $27 million needed for construction of the future Capstan Village Canada Line rapid transit station. The City is now well on its way to generating the funding required to build this important project;
- Final phases of Townline’s Gardens project on the former Fantasy Gardens site are under construction including the previously-mentioned childcare facility in the Coevorden Castle building; and
- Redevelopment of the Rod’s Lumber site in Steveston into a mixed-use commercial and residential development.
Many other projects are in the midst of the approval process, such as:
- Ecowaste’s Industrial development in south-east Richmond which potentially may provide over 3.0 million square feet of industrial warehouse/logistics space over 20 years;
- A master plan for the potential redevelopment of the Lansdowne Mall – the site may ultimately transition into a high-density mixed-use area including areas for office, commercial, residential and parkland;
- A master plan for the south end of the Richmond Centre site to add significant new commercial and residential development; and
- Work with stakeholders on the Duck Island development west of the River Rock to realize a complex involving 4.0 million square feet of commercial, office and hotel development along with parkland and public open spaces.
Our Commitment to Excellence
One meaningful measure of civic success lies in the number of awards Richmond receives. In 2016, the City received a number of significant awards, including:
- The previously-mentioned National Trust for Canada Prince of Wales Award for Municipal Heritage Leadership;
- The 2016 Richmond World Festival was named as one of three finalists in Special Event magazine’s prestigious international awards competition for Best Fair Festival;
- The Maritime Festival received an honourable mention in the Cultural Events category at the Creative City Network of Canada Awards of Excellence;
- Richmond’s district energy implementation initiatives received the Union of BC Municipalities’ Community Excellence Award in Best Practices, Excellence in Action category;
- The Alexandra District Energy Utility received the System of the Year Award from the International District Energy Association;
- The E3 Fleet Certification – Platinum Level Certification Award provided by the Fraser Basin Council. Richmond is the only City in Canada to have received this award which honours environmentally-friendly practices in managing large vehicle fleets;
- Canadian Wood Council Award for use of sustainable materials on the Mary’s Barn project. A 3,500 square foot barn located at Terra Nova named after community leader, Mary Gazetas, Mary’s Barn supports the Sharing Farm Society’s mission to provide fresh, sustainably-grown produce for local low-income families;
- For public financial reporting in our 2014 Annual Report, two awards from the Government Finance Officers Association: the Canadian Award for Financial Reporting for the 13th consecutive year, along with the Association’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting for the 6th year;
- Our Ecological Network Management Strategy received the Silver Award for Excellence in Policy Planning from the Planning Institute of BC. This Strategy is our guide in preserving and protecting Richmond’s natural areas; and
- In a record-breaking year for filming in the City, an Award of Recognition by Creative BC for “outstanding contributions to the success and sustainability of British Columbia’s film and television production industry.”
This has been just a small snapshot of our past, present and future as well as the work of Richmond City Council. The celebrations to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary remind us that Richmond is well-served by thousands of dedicated volunteers and partners we count on daily to support events and improve the lives of others. It is this individual and collective effort of so many that makes such a difference in the level of programs and services offered by the City.
With a wide range of activities, programs and initiatives, 2017 will definitely be a remarkable year in which everyone will want to participate.