Daycare ? You bet.. just don’t put it where the people are !

Full disclosure, if it isn’t obvious – I think the idea of a daycare in the 2nd storey of the office space in Suterbrook is a great idea.

Putting daycare near where people live and where they work is where daycare’s should be… I believe this application meets all of the goals of our Strategic Plan, supports our OCP and provides service our residents are requesting. (see comments below , from City planning staff) In fact, the majority of respondents to the public hearing were in favour of the application. (Tally below 25 supporting, 11 opposing) – and I suspect there are many others we did not hear from that support this application. Much of the opposition had nothing to do with the daycare in particular, but frustration over the parking situation that currently exists.

So – last night the City hosted a Public Hearing for an application by Onni to allow for a daycare to be included in the office/commercial building recently approved in Suterbrook. The office ‘tower’ (9 storey), replaces the originally approved Hotel , where the rather large ‘hole’ has existed for a few years. We heard from 7 residents of Suterbrook (2 supporting/5 opposing), 3 residents of Moody Centre(1 opposing/1 question/1 commenting on traffic impacts), 1 resident living outside of Suterbrook (opposing) and 1 resident of Vancouver (supporting). We received written feedback from 4 opposing and 22 supporting. See the video on the City Website.

As everyone should be aware , we have an ongoing need for daycare space in Port Moody, and we have previously amended our zoning bylaw to allow daycare in all commercial zones – in fact, a daycare use would be allowed in this space except that because of the mixed used development in Suterbrook , it is governed by a land use contract that spells out specific land uses on this building. Onni has requested the amendment to allow a daycare on the second floor, although in zoning terms, they have requested a change from office space to office and/or community/commercial space.

The legal uses in the community/commercial definition are: assembly use, child care use, civic use, congregate care use, hotel, liquor primary establishment, multiple family residential use, public service use and retail service use. Onni has indicated they are working on a long term lease (15 + 5 years) with Kids and Co Daycare that would accommodate about 150 kids.

At the public hearing we heard from some residents of Suterbrook who had concerns, specifically : – impacts on traffic (congestion) and parking – described as a ‘massive influx of vehicles at peak times. – parking is already a huge problem at Suterbrook, nobody does anything about it, it will get worse – and there is commercial unloading taking place on the streets. – parents dropping off kids at daycares and schools have proven to behave dangerously and will impact the residents coming and going, and possibly endanger the kids. – noise from the outdoor patio space where kids will play, and will echo off the buildings. – a daycare was never contemplated in this space when it was designed – there are opportunities for daycares to be established in other areas of the city per the new OCP.

While I understand that people have concerns, the concerns noted at the meeting are not specific to a daycare, and in fact, would be minimized with a daycare. It seems highly unlikely that those opposed to the daycare use would support ANY use in that space, as the concerns seemed mainly about existing/current conditions for parking and traffic management. Suterbrook is an Urban village design, it is a mixed use village that encourages live/work/play and locating amenities close to where people need them. It is intended to be a vibrant village, which we hope is pedestrian oriented, but the reality until we have skytrain and amenities, like daycares, is that people need to use their cars.   Cars needs streets and parking spots… What we know, in response to the concerns noted, and why I continue to support this daycare use:

– office use will attract many in and out movements during the day as the businesses receive visits from with their clients, or leave to visit their clients. Daycare use generally generates a drop off and pickup – 2 vehicle movements per day.

– There are parking issues in Suterbrook – as there are in Newport Village or any other urban style commercial development. We also have parking issues on Queen’s Street, Newport Village, and Rocky Point Park.

The issues in Suterbrook, like most areas, are generally associated to the short stay commercial uses (Coffee shops, grocery, drycleaners, etc). I think most of us agree, the majority of parking lots built in the last 10-15 years are horrible, but they are built to the specifications of the engineers and the City and approved by the City.

– It was stated that there are over 200 spots in Newport Village for surface parking. Newport Village has about 65 surface parking spots, plus about another 20 behind the office building. Including Heritage Mountain Plaza parking in your count, will likely end with your car being towed.  Many of the spots in Newport are used by patrons of Browns, Nagano, St James Well, Vera and other longer term uses (1-2 hours). The spots are generally full most of the time, and the City does significant ticketing on Newport Drive, particularly during the summer months. Businesses in Newport Village sight lack of parking as hurting their business. In contrast, most of the surface parking at Suterbrook is restricted to 30 minutes or less, at the request of the businesses, as they have longer duration commercial parking underground (as does Newport, although fewer spots)

– There is enforcement of parking rules in Suterbrook. Brew Street is a private road (not a city street) and as such is not patrolled by the City, but a private company contracted by the management. The private contractor doing parking enforcement at Suterbrook issued 140 tickets in the past month.  The PMPD and City Bylaw do significant parking and other enforcement at Suterbrook, on Capilaino and Morrissey Streets which ARE city streets. I receive complaints from residents who receive tickets and store owners who feel their customers are being driven away. There is definitely enforcement and ticketing going on there.

– Kids and Co has similar daycares in New Westminster and Richmond, and they report that they draw about 70% of their ‘clients’ from parents who work in the attached office buildings. It is anticipated that 20% of the clients will be residents who live in Suterbrook. If those targets are met then 90% of the clients will be ‘zero traffic’ generators as they are already in the village.

– Two different traffic consultants advised that impacts on traffic impacts would be negligible, and a daycare would support the other uses in Suterbrook (other businesses and residents).

– Traffic consultants state 25/30 vehicle trips per peak hour from office space – 85/90 vehicle trips per peak ‘period’ from daycare space – unlike office use, the ‘peak period’ is not an hour, but is at least 2 hours 7-9am and 4-6pm, and that the vehicle traffic tends to be a ‘steady trickle’ rather than a ‘sudden rush’. This is described as a ‘worst case’ scenario, and would be substantially reduced if local families were walking to the daycare, on their way to the skytrain station.

– The final design includes a drop off area off Brew Street, in front of the building, that is not currently in existence as it is part of the building design. 17 stalls in the underground adjacent the elevator core are dedicated for short term drop/pick parking for the daycare. – Could the space be used for a pub or restaurant instead ? Yes, it could – but Onni clearly has a daycare operator that they brought to the meeting eager to move forward with their business. The ground floor space allows community and commercial use. In fact, most of the commercial space in Port Moody allows daycare use, and that includes Newport Village where a daycare operator is operating with NO dedicated parking and only ONE or TWO parking spots immediately in front of their operation. A food or pub use would require some substantial modifications to the building that are not contemplated in the design and I’m sure Onni would want that on the ground floor where the building is designed for that use. (Someone at the public hearing noted that Suterbrook has a pub – it does not.)

– Can anything be done about the traffic issues ? Yes. People could behave better. Or we could write tickets and respond to the complaints I receive daily that we are harassing Port Moody residents who are just trying to grab a coffee or some groceries. Urban style living brings density of people, dogs, buildings, cars – everything. This is a lifestyle choice when you move to an urban village. It’s Suterbrook Village, a high density mixed use comprehensive development. As the village completes and residents become accustomed to the lifestyle, many of these issues will fade away, but the poor behaviors of some people will likely remain.

At the end of the day, nothing in the concerns brought up at the public hearing can’t be addressed as the majority are not specific to the daycare, or any other specific use. They represent a clear frustration with the current conditions of parking and traffic in Suterbrook village, which is likely never going to go away, but efforts can be made by all parties – the businesses, Onni, the residents and stratas, and the City, to make improvements.

I do hope Onni is able to bring this application back in a form that Council will support.

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Mike Clay

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