My Blog

I primarily write about current major political issues in Richmond BC, my community, that interest me. Discussion of the issues is entirely from my own point of view. Others see them differently.

I try to make constructive suggestions, but sometimes there is nothing like a good old rant.

For entries more than a year old, the blog archive is here.

Nov. 22, 2021. Why Our Flood Planning Is Inadequate.

Dike Height and Sea Level Rise

Richmond dikes are presently an average of 3.5 metres above the current sea level. This is not to provide for sea level rise, but rather for King Tide storm surge and wave runup that can total 3.5 metres.

The rate of sea level rise is accelerating so it is difficult to project future sea levels. As the level increases at a faster rate, it becomes much higher much sooner. It is therefore prudent to look at the high end of previous predictions.

The City of Richmond uses predictions of sea level rise by 2100. That is not as far in the future as it seems. Most children born today will be alive in 2100 so it is more prudent to plan for 2200. Although the average of previous predictions was 1 metre rise from 2000 to 2100 and 2 metre rise from 2000 to 2200 (linear rate of rise), the high end predictions were 1.3 metres by 2100 and 3.4 metres by 2200 (accelerating rate of rise).

The current Richmond plan, based on the following chart, is to raise the dikes by 1.2 metres (from 3.5 to 4.7 m.) by 2100. The plan includes the possibility of raising them by a further 0.8 metres after 2100.

Note that the recommended use of linear progression of sea level rise (red line showing 1 metre rise by 2100) was devised in 2010. We now know that sea level rise is accelerating at a rate not imagined in 2010.

In addition to the sea level rise, Richmond has been sinking. Historically, that would add 0.2 metres by 2100 to the necessary height of the dikes. However, it does not take account of the increased weight of the dikes as they are raised which will cause the land to sink faster by 2100 and much faster by 2200.

As dikes are raised, the width at the base increases. Increasing the width on the seaward side often negatively impacts fish habitat while increasing the width on the landward side encroaches on private property and structures.

Major earthquakes add another dimension. The possibility of liquefaction underneath the dike means that the dike could deform and sink. Current planning assumes that a major earthquake would not occur at the same time as a King Tide storm surge so the existing 3.5 metre freeboard for the latter would also be adequate for damage from an earthquake. This is similar to our recent erroneous assumption that rare torrential rains wouldn’t happen right after exceptional wildfires had loosened the soil making landslides more likely. Sections of the dike that could be impacted by liquefaction need to be built higher and wider.

Water Table Rise and Salinity

Sea level rise also causes the water table to rise on land inside the dikes. The land is less able to absorb heavy rainfall and large pools of water form on the surface. We already see that frequently on Richmond farmland. Major investments will be required in drainage infrastructure on both private and public land.

One way of coping with the rise in the water table is to increase the height of the land. Richmond has committed to raising the Flood Construction Level (FCL) for new construction and to allowing the raising of farmland with appropriate soil. Ideally there would be a plan to raise all of the land inside the dikes to the future level of the dikes to create what is known as “superdikes.” Since the cost of that is astronomical, we are left with a plan that creates islands of high ground. In times of torrential rainfall, the rain landing on the high islands flows onto the surrounding lower land creating greater flooding.

As sea level rise causes the water table to rise, there is also increased salt incursion both into groundwater and into the Fraser River causing the “salt wedge” to move upstream. This can have a devastating effect on farmland making it impossible to grow some of the crops that are grown now. For example, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, onions, carrots and potatoes have a low tolerance for salty soil and irrigation water. Adapting our irrigation systems will be very expensive so there may be dramatic changes to Richmond’s agricultural profile.

Emergency Preparedness

With the very best planning for sea level rise, we are only as protected as the weakest spot in our dikes. If that spot fails, Richmond is underwater. While there has been a lot of emergency planning by various agencies that tell us to have sufficient supplies to shelter in place for three days without power, that is not always the best option and residents have not been given an orderly evacuation plan.

The Message

Richmond’s dikes must be raised much higher than currently contemplated and the flood protection planning must be about much more than raising the dikes. In a nutshell, it is going to take a lot more effort and be horrendously expensive, but we can do much better.

Oct. 28, 2021. Why Councillors Vote for Strata Condos.

Re: “Tweaking won’t solve housing crisis,” Richmond News Editorial, Oct. 21, 2021.

Eve Edmonds, Editor of the Richmond News, gets it. So do other municipalities that take the rental housing crisis seriously and create rental only zoning areas with major financial incentives for purpose-built rental. Most Richmond councillors refuse to go beyond adding token amounts of rental to major projects building large amounts of strata condos for sale to investors. Why do councillors who say we need lots more rental housing vote for lots more strata condos instead?

Multi-family housing construction in Richmond has been dominated by developers of strata condos, and the real estate agents who sell them, for the simple reason that it is the most lucrative type of housing construction. These are the same people who show up on the list of donors to the election campaigns of many of our councillors. Purpose-built rental housing construction is less profitable and does not generate real estate sales commissions. Rental housing gets built when councillors demand it and provide generous financial incentives. It attracts a different type of developer.

For many with funds to invest, rising prices make condo investments seem attractive. Some of our councillors believe that if these investors rent out their condos, it is as good as purpose-built rental. However, CMHC data shows that the investors will rent out an average condo for about $5,000 more per year than a comparable purpose-built rental unit. Despite that, they will lose money making them want to minimize maintenance expenses and sell as soon as the market rises, evicting their tenants. On the other hand, developers of purpose-built rental housing have on site maintenance staff and are financed by pension funds that want long term tenants who provide steady returns. Profits and stability come from professionally managed buildings that are 100% rental and benefit from economies of scale, not from renting 15% of the units in a strata building run by amateur owners.

There is a limited amount of land in our City Centre that is suitable for constructing large rental projects, close to public transportation, that will benefit from economies of scale. Instead, Council has been approving large strata condo projects on that land and is about to approve the Polygon Talisman project with 1,284 housing units, 12% below market rental, 9% market rental and 79% strata condos for sale.

Some of our councillors say that their good friends, the developers, won’t build anything if they are required to build rental. Harold Steves points out that they will be replaced by purpose-built rental developers who are building in Vancouver and places like Kelowna. Vancouver Council approved more rental units than strata condo units in 2020. Kelowna allows purpose-built rental developers to keep paying real estate taxes on the land and not start paying taxes on the buildings they construct for ten years. These cities are the leaders.

Many of our councillors praise City staff for including phrases in their reports like, “In 2020, the City of Richmond continued to play a leadership role in the affordable housing sector.” In their dreams. Try telling us that at election time when we have a shortage of nurses and other first responders because they can’t find affordable rental housing here.

May 21, 2021. Coping with Climate Change.

If Richmond does little on climate change then it is only a matter of time until we are short of imported food, need to consume lots of energy for cooling and disappear beneath the waves. We need to produce and market much more local food, protect and plant many more large trees, build much more rental housing in the City Centre for the 30,000 people, including first responders, who work in Richmond, but can't afford to live here, and promote electric vehicles to reduce our GHG emissions and slow ocean rise.

May 17, 2021. Mutual Respect.

No matter what you do, everyone in Richmond is not going to become like you whether in appearance, preferences, beliefs or thought. The choice is between the stress of fighting it or the peace of mind in accepting it and promoting mutual respect. City Council has a role to play.

May 14, 2021. By-Election Early Voting.

Whether you are voting for me or another candidate, PLEASE VOTE!

There are advance voting polls Saturday, May 15, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at:

Cambie secondary, 4151 Jacombs Road

McMath secondary, 4251 Garry Street

McNair secondary, 9500 No. 4 Road

Richmond City Hall, 6911 No. 3 Road

The City Hall poll is also open on Wednesday May 19 and Thursday May 20.

You can also apply for a mail ballot here.

May 12, 2021. Social Justice Issues.

I spend a lot of time researching a limited number of issues in order to propose solutions based on fact. The issues I have been working on are the environment, particularly the impact of climate change on Richmond, and the basic human needs of food and housing. Once informed, I collaborate with community groups interested in these issues to lobby governments and bring about change. For other equally important issues about which I know little, I listen to what others who are well informed have to say and support them in whatever way I can.

It is important to know what powers the City has and which potential actions must be taken by other levels of government. In the latter case, I have been struck by how many letters Council writes to other levels of government, how long it takes to get a reply, and how rarely councillors meet with government ministers to lobby for action and find out what the obstacles to action are.

In fact, Council has several important powers on housing and taxation that it has refused to use. For example, the City has the power to designate a property as entirely or partially for rental housing. Council refused to use that power on land owned by developers, ostensibly because that would reduce the value of the land. Reducing the value of land suitable for housing is precisely what we need to do to make housing affordable.

The easy answer is that the City can raise property taxes and spend the money on social justice issues. I am interested in the more difficult process of re-directing existing revenue that is being spent less effectively elsewhere or where spending elsewhere could be delayed. I opposed the 5.68% tax increase because we will not need more RCMP officers and firefighters for several years as explained here. Council nevertheless unanimously approved the tax increase, I would re-direct that increased revenue to social justice issues.

May 7, 2021. Richmond Council can assist small businesses struggling due to Covid.

Council has the power to issue Revitalization Property Tax Exemptions to small businesses in particular locations which significantly reduces their rent. My interview with Nono Shen in the Richmond News explains how this will help small businesses struggling due to Covid. Further details in April 29, 2021 blog post below.

May 6, 2021. Increase rental housing significantly.

We need thousands of new rental housing units, particularly in the City Centre, close to mass transit. This will meet demand and create a balanced market which results in more reasonable rents. Large developments of purpose-built rental housing benefit from economies of scale on construction and rental management that enable lower rents. Rental housing developments are profitable to the developer, just not as profitable as selling condo units to investors. We must demand that developers build what we need, not what brings them the largest profit.

April 29, 2021. Financial help for small Richmond businesses impacted by Covid.

Rent is a major expense for most small businesses in Richmond, especially those in Steveston. I spent several years working in a native art gallery in Steveston owned by a very smart young woman who had the ideal business in the ideal location. However, the very high rent meant that the landlord was the one taking home a large share of the profits. With Covid reducing revenue, those high rents are sinking small businesses.

The federal rent subsidy program for business offered partial help, but it is ending. Small businesses will still need rent assistance for the next year or more while they recover. A significant portion of the rent covers the municipal business property tax. BC legislation allows Richmond to provide an exemption from that tax for a period of time for businesses which meet conditions specified by the City for the purpose of “encouraging investment and employment.” The conditions can restrict eligibility to particular types of business in specific locations.

It is time for the City to step up and provide meaningful financial relief to small businesses impacted by the Covid pandemic. Help is desperately needed if we are to preserve the small businesses that are an essential component of the environment in Steveston and elsewhere in Richmond.

April 9, 2021. Richmond’s taxes are already higher than the City would have you believe

The City of Richmond states, “Richmond continues to be one of the cities with the lowest residential property tax rate in the Lower Mainland.” However, BC Government statistics show that, with the exception of Vancouver, Richmond’s taxes on a typical single family detached house are actually higher than those in the surrounding cities:

City Taxes & Charges
Vancouver $7,548
Richmond $6,240
Burnaby $5,863
Coquitlam $5,851
Surrey $5,297
Delta $5,239

Charges include annual fees like garbage collection whether they are included in taxes or charged separately.

The 2021 tax increase of 5.68% is the last straw. More officers for the RCMP when Richmond has the lowest case load per officer of 31 municipalities served by the RCMP. More firefighters when an independent report says they aren’t needed until 2027. This is shameful in the year of Covid when many are struggling financially.

April 1, 2021. Save our large trees.

Submission on amendments to the Tree Protection Bylaw being considered by the Planning Committee on April 7, 2021 from Michelle Li, Laura Gillanders and myself:

While we support the tree bylaw amendments in the staff report, we believe they do not go far enough. In particular, there should be much higher application fees and penalties for the removal of very large healthy trees and staff should have greater discretion to specify all replacement tree characteristics and location depending upon the individual site.

Very Large Healthy Trees

The bylaw requires a permit to remove trees 20cm caliper or larger. There should be additional provisions for the removal of very large healthy trees 30cm caliper or larger which average 75’ in height and provide our community tree canopy. Removing such a tree provides only one benefit – a larger footprint for a structure. What is lost is shade to cope with global warming, oxygen production, carbon storage, bird and animal habitat, and natural beauty that makes Richmond a better place to live. The proposed bylaw changes ensure that there is at least one replacement 6 cm tree. Unfortunately, that tree will provide no meaningful shade and carbon storage and no bird will build a nest in it. It takes on average more than 35 years for the new tree to grow to the size of the removed 30cm tree. In the meantime, it is the community which suffers the loss, not just the property owner more interested in a larger house.

Application Fees and Penalties for Removal of Very Large Healthy Trees

The staff report gives excellent examples of the installation of new infrastructure near a tree while protecting it. Clearly staff will spend a disproportionately large amount of time on an application to remove a very large healthy tree to seek alternatives. A $75 application fee does not cover the time involved nor the far larger cost to the community of losing the tree.

We suggest a $5,000 application fee of which $4,000 will be refunded if the application is refused. The retained $1,000 covers the staff time involved. The additional $4,000 covers the loss of benefits from the removed tree over 35 years and should be used to help offset the cost of an additional City arborist to review tree removal applications.

The current fine for removing a tree without a permit is $1,000 which makes it easier and cheaper to simply remove a very large tree. The fine should be increased to $10,000 in the case of removal or damage affecting the health of a tree 30cm or larger and $5,000 in the case of unwarranted damage affecting the benefits provided by such a tree.

Greater Discretion for Staff

As the staff report points out, replacement trees can be the required size, but if they are an inappropriate species, not properly planted or not cared for, the survival rate and benefit to the community is poor. In many cases, the survival rate is much better on public property such as parks, schools and boulevards. It is not sufficient that the applicant can request that a tree be planted on public property. City staff should have much wider discretion to specify the species of tree, how it is planted and where, including on public property. Staff should also be able to direct that City staff plant the tree with the cost borne by the applicant.

March 23, 2021. Our pension money at work building the rental housing we need in Toronto rather than here

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board announced a partnership with developer and property manager Tricon Residential to build 3,000 rental apartments in Toronto for $500 million, 70% from the CPPIB. Instead of passively waiting for developers to propose large City Centre projects which maximize their profits by selling strata condos to investors, Richmond Council should be actively promoting a partnership between the CPPIB and a developer of rental housing for young people and families working in Richmond. It’s our pension money. Let’s put it to work building what we need here, not just in Toronto.

March 17, 2021. By-election Cost

BC legislation requires the same in person voting opportunities for a Richmond by-election for one Council seat with a one year term as it does for Richmond's local general election for eight Council seats with a four year term. The result is the most expensive Councillor in Richmond's history at $716,000 for one year. Richmond should request a change in the legislation to allow Council to provide only mail in voting for a by-election.

March 11, 2021. Property Tax Increase

Open Letter to Richmond Mayor & Councillors

Dear Mayor & Councillors,

As a BlockWatch Captain, I have a major interest in community safety and am a strong supporter of our highly skilled and dedicated Richmond RCMP officers and firefighters. However, when police and fire services eat up about 44% of the City’s budget, we need facts and figures when senior RCMP and Fire-Rescue officers say that isn’t enough and ask Council to provide millions in new funding for more officers and firefighters.

Here are the facts and figures:

The almost 2% tax increase for an additional 16 RCMP officers, 11 RCMP municipal employees and 12 firefighters.

The consultant’s report which recommended the additional firefighters said that they will not be needed until 2027. The BC Government provides comparable police service statistics for the 31 municipalities with a population over 15,000 served by the RCMP. The 2019 report shows that of those 31, Richmond has the lowest case load per officer and the fourth lowest crime rate. With the third largest population, our cost per capita for police services should be one of the lowest, but it is higher than 40% of the other municipalities. Yes we will need more police and firefighters as the City grows, but we don’t need them now.

The 1% tax increase for future large capital projects

The City’s Uncommitted Capital Reserves already stand at $166.5 million. Yes there is the Steveston Community Centre and other upcoming capital projects, but the existing reserves are sufficient for those. There is no need to replenish them now.

If you postpone the addition to Uncommitted Capital Reserves and the additional RCMP staff and firefighters, you reduce the 2021 tax increase from 5.68% to 2.69%, a far more reasonable figure in the present circumstances when the Covid pandemic has caused severe hardship for many taxpayers.

I’m not sure that the staff reports on which you based the tax increase included all of this data. There is still time to reduce the increase based on new information.

Thank you for your consideration.

February 4, 2021. Update: Richmond planning committee keeps market rental zoned at 10% at Polygon development

Article in the Richmond News by Kirsten Clarke

The planning committee voted to have a covenant put in place that would ban restrictions on rentals. A housing advocacy group was unable to convince Richmond’s planning committee to increase zoning for more market rental units at a proposed development near Capstan Way. However, the committee voted to ban restrictions on rentals at the proposed Polygon development at Garden City and Cambie roads — although it will be up to city council to make a final decision on the issue next week.

On Tuesday, the planning committee voted to have a covenant for unrestricted rentals on all of the units, in perpetuity, registered on the development’s title with the land title office. The committee also voted that rentals would not be age-restricted. This means future stratas wouldn’t be able to vote to restrict rentals. But John Roston, co-ordinator of the Richmond Housing Advocacy Group, said the move was “ridiculous” and compared the covenant to passing a bylaw saying that “everybody has the right to ride a bicycle.” While the covenant would allow all condo owners to rent out their units if they wanted, Roston pointed out that in B.C., owner-developers can file a rental disclosure statement to allow rentals in strata units for a specified period of time, for example, 100 years. Rather, Roston said that only through zoning can the city be assured that a minimum percentage of the units will be rented.

In total, Polygon has proposed 156 affordable or low-market rental units, 120 market rental and 1,014 strata units for sale in the planned development. Currently, the city requires 10 per cent of units in new developments be designated for market rental. Roston and the advocacy group, however, had wanted to see 65 per cent of the development zoned for market rental to help make Richmond more affordable.

“Why has council been requiring market rental housing in new developments if it’s the same as (renting) strata condos?” What the city is doing, Roston added, is “creating an army of amateur landlords.” He explained that condo owners who rent out their properties would also have higher maintenance costs – and therefore higher rents – than market rental properties, where rents are 20 to 25 per cent lower and under the care of a management company. “From the point of view of the market rental landlord…they want the tenant to stay for as long as possible, because that minimizes their turnover costs,” he added. Condo owners, on the other hand, are interested in “ensuring that the tenant has a very short lease. And from the tenants’ point of view, as far as they know, the unit could be sold at any time and they could get kicked out.”

The committee also made a referral back to staff, to look at applying the covenant policy to all future developments in the city, to require them to not have any restrictions on rentals in perpetuity. The Polygon application will now go to city council.

January 30, 2021. Richmond housing advocacy group pushes for more rental at Polygon development

Article in the Richmond News by Kirsten Clarke

The city currently requires 10 per cent of new developments to be designated for market rental units. A Richmond advocacy group would like to see 65 per cent of a proposed large residential development in Capstan Village turned into rental housing. When the rezoning application for the Polygon development at Garden City and Cambie roads – which will have nearly 1,300 residential units when complete – first came to council for a public hearing last fall, council asked that more rental housing units be added. The developer has added six more affordable or below market rental housing units, for a total of 156, and an additional 55 market rental units, for a total of 120 units, according to a revised rezoning plan, which will be discussed at Tuesday’s planning committee meeting.

Conceptual design for the Polygon development in Richmond's Capstan Village area. The developer has put forward a rezoning application to the City of Richmond, which is on the agenda for next week's planning committee meeting.

But that’s not nearly enough rental housing for Richmond’s city centre, according to John Roston, co-ordinator of the Richmond Rental Housing Advocacy group. “Whereas our need is huge for market rental units, it’s miniscule for condos for sale to investors. So this really is the problem.” Roston pointed out that, when combined with the 200 market rental units approved for the Richmond Centre development, there’s only 320 new market rental homes coming to the city centre area. In comparison, the two developments will result in a combined 2,864 condos for sale.

Currently, the city requires 10 per cent of units in new developments be designated for market rental. But Roston said he would like to see the city zone 65 per cent of the project for market rental, along with 10 per cent for affordable or below market rental, and cap the total amount of condos for sale at 25 per cent. He argued increasing the rental stock, and placing those units under the care of a central management company, would help lower rent prices and ease the burden on, for example, young families, rather than having individuals rent out their condos as they wait for land values to increase.

“What they’re really doing with those buildings that are zoned for rental is that they’re limiting the rapid increase in the price of those buildings,” said Roston. “And by limiting the rapid increase in the price, then we are preserving lower rents in the future.” It’s a scenario that’s directly comparable with what happened with Richmond’s farmland – before council put in size limits for homes in the Agricultural Land Reserve, mega-mansions drove up the price of farmland, said Roston. “With farmland, they (council) finally bit the bullet and they said it’s the right thing to do for future generations ... And that’s what we want them to do here.”

October 18, 2020. Demand rental housing now in Richmond

Published in the Richmond News.

There is a very limited amount of land in downtown Richmond that can be used to create market rental housing and once city council allows it to be used to sell housing units to investors, it is lost forever. The Polygon Talisman Park proposal at Cambie and Garden City would create 1,226 residential units, of which 150 are below market rental units. Ideally, 80 per cent of the remaining 1,076 units or 860 units, should be market rental. Instead, there will only be 65 units or six per cent, a ridiculously small number.

To prevent that happening, concerned citizens can submit written comments to in advance of the public hearing on Monday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. Attendance in person is discouraged, but you can participate by phone at

May 30, 2020. I have trust issues with Vancouver Coastal Health

Published in the Richmond News.

While I’m firmly in the camp of those inclined to trust the advice from COVID-19 disease specialists, the explanation given by Dr. Meena Dawar for not testing asymptomatic people because of false negative results left me wondering about the logic being applied by Vancouver Coastal Health to the scientific facts. While the number of false positive results is known to be very low, Dr. Bonnie Henry has explained that, “We now know that the false-negative rate can be as high as 30 per cent early on in infection.” While missing 30 per cent of asymptomatic infected people is definitely a concern, it’s hard to fathom how that means we shouldn’t bother finding 70 per cent of the asymptomatic infected people who can unwittingly pass the infection on to others.

While we didn’t have to worry about them while they stayed at home, some asymptomatic infected people now want to ride public transport, dine in restaurants or play sports where players get close and touch the same ball. Why not publish a list of such activities and ask those playing to voluntarily get tested? We would find at least seven out of each 10 asymptomatic infected people and eliminate 70 per cent of potential disease transmission. The argument against asymptomatic testing seems to be that the other three infected people would think they are not infected and act irresponsibly in a manner that would maximize the number of people they infect.

If so, it is because they have been told their test result is negative. They could instead be told their result is undetermined, which is what an unreliable negative result is. The number of asymptomatic positive test results would also tell us how concerned we ought to be about asymptomatic disease transmission in Richmond. The mayor and Coun. Au have protested the lack of information on COVID-19 transmission in Richmond being provided by VCH. The reason given is that Richmond specific information might lull us into a false sense of security. It’s hard to imagine anything short of a vaccine would give us a sense of security.

For entries more than a year old, the blog archive is here.

Plug-in Richmond

Plug-in Richmond

Founder and coordinator of Plug-in Richmond which provides information for drivers interested in switching to an electric vehicle.

Working with the City of Richmond, Emotive BC and the Richmond School District on teaching materials about electric vehicles to be used in Richmond schools.

Issues That Interest Me

There continues to be an acute shortage of market rental housing units in Richmond's City Centre and yet Council only makes feeble token efforts to do something about it. It is important to require substantial rental housing in major new housing developments.

Read more here.

Our supermarkets are importing food rather than buying food produced locally. There are steps Council can take now to turn that situation around.

Read more here.

In this time of financial hardship due to Covid, property tax increases should be kept close to the rate of inflation which is forecast to be 1.6 – 2% in 2021.

Read more here.

Most existing commercial and residential buildings use fossil fuels for heating which produce greenhouse gas emissions. Richmond should join other municipalities in providing top-up cash incentives to make it more attractive to switch to an electric heat pump.

Read more here.

Non-farmers have been buying up Richmond farmland in order to build mega mansions that make it difficult to farm the land. Farmland prices are beyond what any farmer can afford.

Read more here.

Both immigration and housing prices have increased dramatically. Foreign language signage has been an issue. These have resulted in inter-cultural isolation and mistrust.

Read more here.