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Richmond council considers wider sidewalks but turns down U.N. sustainability goals

Councillor-turned-MLAs initiated two motions before she left city hall for Victoria.
Richmond-Steveston MLA Kelly Greene Photo submitted

Two initiatives from former city Coun. Kelly Greene came back to council this week – after she stepped down to serve as MLA for Richmond-Steveston – and one was supported by council while the other wasn’t.

Council tied 4-4 on integrating U.N. goals for sustainability into Richmond’s reporting – a tie vote means the motion fails – while they decided to move forward with looking at the width of sidewalks in the city.

The 17 U.N. sustainability goals, which Greene had suggested could be included in Richmond’s Annual Report, have been adopted by other cities and organizations, pointed out Coun. Michael Wolfe, for example, Kelowna in 2018.

“I’m very certain that we’re leading in many ways, but this will help us align the same globally recognized indicators that translate into all the languages in the world,” Wolfe said.

While Coun. Linda McPhail said they were “great goals,” she said she didn’t think they fit with city-level government.

“Most of them, as I can see, are at the national, provincial and regional level,” McPhail said. “It was very hard to find things that were actually targets for a municipal government.”

Brodie pointed out the city has already declared a climate emergency and its annual reports outline energy performance, sustainability and the environment.

“I’m unconvinced that by having staff go through this laborious process of analyzing all these that we’re going to end up any farther ahead than we are now,” Brodie said.

The motion was defeated with Brodie, McPhail, Coun. Bill McNulty, Coun. Alexa Loo voting against it.

Sidewalk width reconsidered

Greene’s second motion, on sidewalk widths, did move forward with council support.

In her rationale, Greene claimed sidewalks are getting narrower with new developments, and wider ones are needed for safety, accessibility, gender equity, active transportation and the environment.

Staff is currently looking at bike lane infrastructure in the city, including separated bike lanes, Loo pointed out.

“It seems to me this makes sense to talk about together and not separately – not as two separate pieces,” Loo said.

Wolfe said the motion meets a goal of his and the city’s, namely, “having a walkable neighbourhood and trying to optimize services like sidewalks.”

“The phrase I just used there is directly out of the sustainability goals, which we apparently didn’t need to support because we wouldn’t learn anything from it,” Wolfe added.

The city’s current sidewalk standards date back more than a decade.

Council voted in favour of having staff look at sidewalk widths throughout the city, not just arterial and minor roads as was the original intent.

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