media release

Degree helps New Westminster mayor solve real world problems

New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote says his newly minted SFU degree helped him clinch the mayor’s chair and develop key municipal policies

June 08, 2015
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Contact: Jonathan Cote, 604.527.4522, jcote@newwestcity.ca
Sharon Urquhart (to reach the mayor), 604.527.4522, surquhart@newwestcity.ca
Carol Thorbes, University Communications, 778.782.3035, cthorbes@sfu.ca

Photos: http://i.sfu.ca/odSfRa
Video: http://youtu.be/CYgn3RP9nOQ

Degree helps New Westminster mayor solve real world problems
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote says his newly minted SFU degree helped him clinch the mayor’s chair and develop key municipal policies

Jonathan Cote wasn’t even dreaming of becoming mayor when he enrolled in SFU’s Master of Urban Studies Program in 2011. He was seeking solutions to New Westminster’s rental housing and transit issues.

Yet today, at age 35, he is Metro Vancouver’s youngest mayor, and his rental housing innovations are capturing the attention of mayors across the region.

The former city council member was elected mayor in November 2014, two months after defending his master’s thesis on “Transit-Oriented Developments.”

He’s hoping he’ll have time to attend SFU’s June 11 morning convocation ceremony to collect his degree.

“Although I didn’t have a specific career goal in mind when I started my master’s,” says Cote, “I have often found in life that when you follow your interests and your heart, you rarely end up in the wrong place.”

His thesis explored land-use changes that occurred in close proximity to the New Westminster and 22nd Street Skytrain stations, and he discovered nine factors that precipitated opposing types of land development.

Over the past two years he has worked with the New Westminster city council to apply recommendations from another of his master’s projects—“Affordable Rental Housing.” The resulting rental housing policy has attracted development applications for more than 1,000 new rental units. Other Metro Vancouver cities and municipalities are now using the New West policy as a template to develop a regional rental-housing strategy.

“The previous economics didn’t work,” says Cote. “Developers could make more money developing condos. My project recommended changing those economics by creating a development system in which incentives such as increased density and reduced development fees are combined with restrictions on rezoning sites that have existing rental housing.”

Cote is also using his research to guide the council as it creates a new Official Community Plan.

“I am hoping to use the work completed in my thesis to encourage more mixed-use, transit-oriented developments in neighbourhoods with excellent access to the Skytrain network,” he says.

Cote’s thesis supervisor, professor Anthony Perl, says: “Jonathan knows what it takes to make real change happen and he’s going to go far in leading the way to a sustainable urban future in the Lower Mainland.”

As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement.  SFU was founded almost 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is a leader amongst Canada's comprehensive research universities and is ranked one of the top universities in the world under 50 years of age. With campuses in British Columbia's three largest cities—Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby—SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 30,000 students, and boasts more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.

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Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

 

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