CREATING THE FUTURE IN THE TOWNSHIP OF LANGLEY: “Patrick Condon inspired me to think about HOW to implement a vision that would be self-fulfilling and self-sustaining over time,” stated Ramin Seifi, the Township’s General Manager for both Engineering & Community Development
Note to Reader:
The series showcases and celebrates successes and long-term ‘good work’ in the local government setting.
The purpose of the series is to inform and facilitate inter-regional collaboration in the Georgia Basin.
By telling the stories of those who are spearheading changes in practice, this helps other local governments eliminate the “disconnect between information and implementation” that may otherwise hold them back.
The Township has created a working environment which has resulted in a culture of doing that supports champions and encourages innovation. “Our success belongs to everyone,” stated Yolanda Leung, Landscape Design Coordinator in the Township’s Green Infrastructure Services Department..
“There has been an evolution in our thinking and in our approach as successive neighbourhoods have been developed.”
“The dual role played by Ramin Seifi is an essential ingredient in our success,” stressed Stephen Richardson, Director for the Township’s Development Services Division. “As General Manager for both engineering and community development, Ramin enables organizational integration, horizontally and vertically.”
Stephen’s perspective is echoed by Kevin Larsen, Manager for Water Resources and Environment. He too reports directly to Ramin Seifi. “The dual portfolio is a good thing. This works better than having separate general managers.”
A Conversation with Ramin Seifi
“A presentation many years ago by Patrick Condon put me on the path to integration. Patrick’s storytelling made me realize that everything we do has an effect somewhere else,” recalled Ramin Seifi.
“What Patrick Condon said in his presentation was eye-opening and oh so impactful. Patrick inspired me to think about HOW we could integrate departments and disciplines in order to have a holistic view of our community; and then, HOW to implement a vision that would be self-fulfilling and self-sustaining over time.”
NOTE: Patrick Condon is the former James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments at the University of British Columbia.
Growth is a Driver for Integration
“At an average rate of between 2.5% and 3% per year, the Township is the fastest growing municipality in the Metro Vancouver region. As currently projected, Langley’s population could potentially double within the next 30 years,” explained Ramin Seifi.
“While exciting, this rapid rate of growth creates ongoing challenges in trying to mimic nature when we are developing new neighbourhoods.
“We have learned from our past experiences, as we implement new measures, and the Township is still very much on the Harmony & Integration path.
“It will take decades for this way of thinking to be instinctive and accepted by everyone in the community, not just the development industry and Township staff.”
Making the Case for Integration
Ramin Seifi is an integrator. He has been with the Township since 2000.
“When Colin Wright retired in 2011, our Chief Administrative Officer listened when I presented the case for doing both jobs. The Township needed more integration to respond to the demands on infrastructure and the risks to the environment resulting from rapid population growth. Achieving integration depended on the Township having a better structure,” explained Ramin Seifi.
“A benefit in having a single individual responsible for both the engineering and community development portfolios is that I do not have to argue with myself to get buy-in for implementing a necessary change in standard practice,” chuckled Ramin.
“Replacement of curb-and-gutter with a blue link rain garden is a perfect illustration of integration in action. Everyone could see that it made sense. Because I could see the need from all angles, I said to staff ‘just do it’. Integration helps everyone get it.”
Going Beyond Staff
“The adaptive process for implementing green infrastructure is ongoing. Each time we learn. We strive to find better ways to mimic nature and protect the natural water balance in Langley’s watersheds,” continued Ramin Seifi.
“But the public does not see integration. This means the next step is to educate the community as a whole so that everyone understands the importance of green infrastructure and protecting the water cycle. Buy-in has to be from everyone.
“Time is of the essence to get buy-in, especially with the population currently projected to double. People are attracted to Langley because it is a community of choice. Protecting the natural values that make Langley attractive underscores the importance of going beyond staff to inform and educate homeowners. Achieving this outcome will require that we go door-to door.
“The Township’s Subdivision Control Bylaw has been updated over the past 10 years. The tree replacement requirement is a notable addition and illustrates the educational goal. We will be successful when homeowners understand the need for and the benefits of trees, and will therefore value them,” concluded Ramin Seifi.
To Learn More:
To read the complete story, download a copy of the Watershed Case Profile. Click on Green Infrastructure Innovation in Langley Township, released in October 2017.
The Table of Contents below is a synopsis. It distills the essence of each section into a succinct statement. These create a storyline. Readers are asked to pause and reflect on them before reading the story itself.