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Infrastructure lagging! Can Grandview function?

This blog piece, by GHSA board member Ted Willmer, focuses on the growing congestion in and around 24th Ave, the crucial highway of Grandview Heights, and the lack of necessary new infrastructure causing the problem.

Below is his letter to the Editor (Peace Arch News, January 27, 2017} and below that, his views on the issues in a letter written to Councillors Starchuk and Woods.

http://www.peacearchnews.com/opinion/letters/412014876.html

Dear Councillors Starchuk and Woods,

A sincere thank you for taking the time to respond to our letter about the urgent infrastructure improvements needed in Grandview. We moved to Surrey in 1994 and have been proud to call Surrey home. The rapid and seemingly unmanaged building boom particularly in Grandview is taking a lot of joy out of our retirement years. We thought we were moving to an area with a well thought out OCP and were looking forward to enjoying the new Grandview pool facility. The deterioted infrastructure we now are being forced to live in is not enjoyable.

What we need to see from the City are actual dates for specific improvements for Grandview.

There are numerous roads that should have been upgraded prior to the massive building spree that has been happening in Grandview since we moved in 4 years ago. None of the main arteries or collector roads have been upgraded and yet thousands of new citizens are now living here with thousands more on the way. We have focused in our previous letters on what is the one area most in need (24th Ave between 161a St and 168 St) which also affects us directly. I truly believe if you saw what we had to endure on a daily basis you would order immediate improvements. 24th Avenue is our and many citizens main arterial road. Our strata is in the unique position of being on the border of the original Grandview town center area built over a decade ago part way down 24th Ave. and the WAR ZONE that 24th avenue starting at 161a street has now become. We lived in the hope that once the several projects were approved/underway (Breeze, Smiths, Soho, Morgan plus others that we would finally be in line for upgrades to 24th Avenue. Sadly nothing you have told us gives us any comfort that improvements will happen this year or any sooner than within a decade. This area of 24th is not driveable many times daily due to the crumbling road surface pounded by dump trucks. All of my neighbours are inconvenienced daily by traffic control stops for the multiple construction sites. (24th Ave., 160th Street, 164thSt, 168th Street) We are constantly forced to deal with severe darkness due to no street lighting and the danger of trying to access 24th street with large construction vehicles parked on the sides of 24th blocking oncoming traffic. This is extremely dangerous for drivers, pedestrians and the occasional cyclist that dares this obstacle course. We currently have put up with construction noise and constant dust in the air due to the extreme volume of construction.

If this part of 24th avenue had been upgraded to 4 lanes we could navigate our area much more conveniently while providing room for the numerous construction vehicles. You are telling us that we might get a small improvement as you are going to find a consultant for a small part of 24th avenue. There is no timeframe for this modest start and the general theme still is significant improvements along 24th avenue for a decade. 24th avenue between 161a street and 168th street should be upgraded this year complete with lights and sidewalks.

Grandview area’s has major infrastructure needs:

The massive building boom in Grandview over the past 3 years has serious consequences. These consequences include the almost total lack of infrastructure improvements and road maintenance. While I have focused my letters on this one area of 24th, it is but one of numerous main arteries and collector roads in Grandview that require improvements. It is the huge number of completed and approved building projects that have exasperated the lack of infrastructure improvements. I list for you Grandviews needs in no particular order of need which all should be completed in the next 5 years not ten.

  1. 24th Ave between 168st and 176st.
  2. 32nd Ave between 168 st and 176 st.
  3. 160th street between 24th and 32nd avenues
  4. 168th street between 24th and 32nd avenues
  5. 168th street between 24th and 16th avenues
  6. 164th street between 26th and 32nd avenues
  7. 16th Ave between hwy 99 and 176th
  8. Croyden is a dysfunctional mess for the completed projects and now multiple large high rises are proposed! Does anyone at City Hall look at the traffic mess we live with?

In addition to these upgrades lets also add to the list 2 seemingly updated arterial road areas that are already deeply congested. It is hard to believe that any quality and accurate planning was completed prior to their build.

  1. 24th street at Croyden Road. This is a complete dysfunctional mess.
  2. 32nd avenue which congests back across 152 street because the freeway entrance is completely dysfunctional.

All of the public services for Grandview are in serious shortcoming due to the massive building boom. The Surrey School Board has been vocal about the infrastructure short comings due to the massive building boom. The Province has only recently recognized the error of not building schools based on reality rather than some out dated modelling.

Councillor Starchuk and Councillor Woods with your backgrounds in Fire Security and Policing we would hope you can recognize the importance of proper infrastructure for Fire and Police to be able to do their jobs safely for themselves and the citizens they serve. Are the modest fire stations at 32nd and Croyden and the one at 176th and 20th avenue sufficient for the existing Grandview citizens not including the thousands of new citizens coming? These have been there for years with no expansion, in fact the fire stations at 32nd and Croyden have had their expansion eliminated due to a recently completed townhouse project surrounding it Are there any policing increases planned for Grandview, there currently is low visibility?

My Grandview home is in crisis. We can not emphasize strongly enough that we need urgent help.

We invite you to meet with us and let us show you the unliveable conditions we have described.

Ted Willmer

 

 

 

“The mosaic of little places”: what do neighbourhoods and residents add up to?

By GHSA Board Member Alisa Wilson

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‘You would need a very big map of the world in order to make Port William visible upon it. In the actual scale of a state highway map, Port William would be smaller than the dot that locates it. In the eyes of the powers that be, we Port Williamites live and move and have our being within a black period about the size of the one that ends a sentence. It would be a considerable overstatement to say that before making their decisions the leaders of the world do not consult the citizens of Port William. Thousands of leaders of our state and nation, entire administrations, corporate board meetings, university sessions, synods and councils of the church have come and gone without hearing or pronouncing the name of Port William. And how many such invisible, nameless, powerless little places are there in the world? All the world, as a matter of fact, is a mosaic of little places invisible to the powers that be. And in the eyes of the powers that be all these invisible places do not add up to a visible place. They add up to words and numbers.”
Wendell Berry,  from his novel, Jayber Crow

Congratulations to Surrey’s new Mayor, Linda Hepner, and new and returning Council members.
Development applications stalled for a bit in the fall, leading up to the election, reportedly now are on a faster track than ever. Existing City-approved Land Use Plans do not provide much visible guidance to further densification applications and lack resident support.
Does Surrey Council feel that Grandview Heights residents deserve no more than 3 weeks notice prior to the City giving first and second reading to controversial development proposal 14-0225? Why is this happening just 10 days before the Christmas holiday?

Development application numbers and even addresses mean little when you glance over them in the media. I’ll try to bring this one to life, if I can.

Development proposal #14-0225 is located at the corner of 28th Ave. and 164th St. in the RA-1acre zoned area east of 164th St in Grandview Heights. RA  means Residential-Agricultural, and this much-loved and very beautiful area still has the grassy fields and tall fir, cedar, birch, maple and other trees that make it a paradise for raising kids, and a refuge for every kind of living thing that we love to see around us when we walk through our neighbourhood. The trees filter pollutants from the air, and the grass and soil hold the rain, reducing flooding and storing fresh water. The tall mature evergreens air condition the area from summer heat, and insulate homes from icy winter winds blasting across the flats.

These remaining semi-rural areas are a precious natural reserve for nearby townhouse or apartment residents whose yards aren’t big enough to sustain robins, owls or deer or a tree of any size. These larger properties allow all nearby families a share in the daily experience of nature that all kids deserve, and give everyone lovely, shady, low traffic routes to walk the dog or the baby.

The Mayor and Council have yet to show how much value they attach to these things, and to their resident citizens – that they mean more than just cash in the bag. Agreed, it’s a hard job to properly monitor the way our city develops.

Why should anyone living elsewhere in Surrey worry about this one little area, if they haven’t got a development on the doorstep? Because you may be next… and will be too, before long. Whether you like rural or urban living, you’d probably like to see a few big trees near enough to walk under, and a bit of nature to enjoy in the spring, without needing a car to do so.

If you too wish to see more sensitive development practices in your Surrey neighbourhood, it might be worthwhile to join together with the many Surrey residents who would like to have their choice of neighbourhood and lifestyle respected and valued. Why should we have to keep moving on? – it’s our neighbourhood!

It’s clear we need to support each other, neighbourhood supporting neighbourhood, or residents get ignored. We can help each other out by letting Council know that we care about development applications in and around our own town centre, from the core to the rural surrounds that all contribute to a wonderful, joyous place to live, or give us a concrete jungle.

The holiday season is a terrible time to worry about this, but it only takes 5 minutes to send the Mayor and Council a note.  On January 12th, this application will go to Public Hearing and then, once more, residents will see urbanization creep into an area that does not have an NCP, does not want urban development, and that has been ignored.

Tell them ‘NO’ to development application #14-0225. See details at:

http://www.grandviewstewardship.org/application-14-0225-in-non-ncp-area-5-28th-ave164th-st/

‘…for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things….
…if we can’t live together, we can’t live at all. Did you ever think about that?’

Quotes are from the book Jayber Crow by the Guggenheim Fellowship winner Wendell Berry

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and are presented here by the GHSA to encourage healthy debate. The GHSA Blog exists as a resource to enable members concerned with the environmental and community stewardship of Grandview Heights to voice perspectives. When directors of the Association contribute to the blog, they do so as private citizens, not as officers representing the Association. The GHSA reserves the right to edit, condense or reject any contribution.

 

 

 

 

Invasive Species and Humans: Lessons from nature about building Communities

By Alisa P. Ramakrishnan, PhD

Diversity, communication, and power! My research on invasive plants makes me think that we could learn a thing or two from weeds about building communities and solving problems. Great weeds often come from lots of different places (diversity), then they hybridize with each other (communication), and then they take over (power). We can use those principles to strengthen our own communities. Let me go over a few things about invasive plants to show you what I mean.

Invasive species come to a new place, and then suddenly they take over. Blackberry has done a good job here in BC – you see it everywhere, especially if you’re trying to traipse through overgrown woods. Kentucky bluegrass is another invasive species. You plant your lawn in one spot and it creeps away from you, sneaking into your rose beds and bulbs. It’s everywhere in our nearby pocket forest, beating down the seedlings of native plants that have to struggle through its thick turf to grow.

1 invasive ivy and suchlike

Invasive plants can have difficulty establishing in a new area – they might not have the resources they need, and they often confront new challenges. Most plants introduced to a new area do not survive. The only way to keep those populations alive is to keep adding more and more plants, trying to keep them from dying out.

But every once in awhile (about 10% of the time), something happens. A plant species that has never been in a new area suddenly takes off running and in a few years it seems you can’t get away from it. Scotch broom on the Island, for example. Those yellow flowers are everywhere! What gives?

The grass that I studied (Brachypodium sylvaticum, or false brome) is invasive in Oregon, Washington and California. But not always. New populations often struggle to survive, and plants there grow slowly. Plants in the main source region, though, grow fast and furious, and make so many seeds that it’s easy for them to stick in people’s socks and take the fast road to new horizons and new possibilities. They have the chance to start their own little invasion.

2 false brome

Why do some areas of false brome struggle while others pump out seeds like mad? The answer is integration (“admixture,” in population genetics talk). The areas that drive the whole range expansion are those that have a lot of different plants with different ways of life, all living together, talking, playing, having fun, making babies…oh, sorry, I forgot which species I was discussing. But yes, when genetically different plants get together and make seeds, the grandbaby plants have an astonishing array of traits. Tall, short, big leaves, small leaves, flower early, flower late, germinate immediately, wait to germinate – anyway, you get the idea. (We’re still working out the details on this for false brome but the overall concept is solid.)

Here’s a possible example – when a problem comes along, like a late freeze that kills lots of young seedlings, there are late-germinators waiting in the soil to pop up anyway, and we humans never notice that there was a major challenge in that patch of false brome this year. The areas of grass with lots of different kinds of plants have an easier time surviving and sending out seeds to new populations.

How does this relate to humans? It seems to me that diversity is a good thing. If I were going to use invasive species biology to run a human community, the first thing I’d want is diversity. Diversity can make up for a severe lack of resources, because people from different areas will be able to combine their ideas (assuming they manage to work together) and come up with completely novel solutions to difficult problems.

3 world map

The second thing we’d need is a common language, or at least some really good translators. Everyone has to get the same information in a way they can understand it, and they need the opportunity to contribute their ideas to the community, and to discuss potential solutions together.

They’d also need the power to bring about the solutions they come up with. You can’t take a diverse community, get everyone talking, come up with solutions, and then shut them down. That seems to not be the point, right?

Let’s say a lot of people go to their local government and say, “We like green space, we like parks, we like huge old trees, eagles and animals, and we like to live here.” The government (hopefully representing the people) can guide the process, helping people talk to each other, come up with solutions, and make cities beautiful, or it can shut them down, catering to only a small group of people.

4 houses by south surrey athletic park copy

If the government manages to bring people together and help them communicate to come up with novel solutions, they can create a community where everyone has the resources they need – jobs, houses, green space to run around in, dog parks, natural areas with old trees for birdwatching and all sorts of little creatures and plants, stores in walking distance, everything! But it takes communication and a willingness on all sides to listen.

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Let’s take a lesson from invasive plants – let’s talk together, work together, and make things beautiful for everyone.

 

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and are presented here by the GHSA to encourage healthy debate. The GHSA Blog exists as a resource to enable members concerned with the environmental and community stewardship of Grandview Heights to voice perspectives. When directors of the Association contribute to the blog, they do so as private citizens, not as officers representing the Association. The GHSA reserves the right to edit, condense or reject any contribution.

 

Guest Blog by Bob Ransford: “Multi-generational Community Planning”

I’ve been attending public meetings about community planning and development for more than 35 years. I’ve sat through more than 300 public hearings about rezonings, community plans and development projects in municipalities throughout the Lower Mainland.

I have attended probably double that number of open houses, planning committee meetings, design panels, neighbourhood planning workshops and charettes.

No, I’m not looking for expressions of sympathy. I’ve been there willingly. Often, I’ve participated as a concerned citizen and almost as often, I’ve been there because it’s part of what I’ve been making my living at for the past 25 years.

I’ve learned a lot observing or participating in the process that shapes our neighbourhoods, towns and cities. I’ve witnessed what works and what doesn’t work in planning and designing the housing that we live in. I’ve learned that planning and building a town or city is not easy. It’s all about balancing a wide range of interests and making a series of trade-offs. I’ve learned that most people don’t initially engage in the tough issues about community building to seek compromise. Compromise comes after a lot of discussion.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t assume that everyone comes into the room with the same level of understanding and knowledge. I’ve learned that it takes a long time to move people from focusing on their self interests to focusing on the community’s interest. I’ve also learned that when you spend the time trying to do this and you are successful, often people will realize that their own interests can best be accommodated on that common ground that they’ve discovered.

But the most profound thing I’ve learned is that too often, the wrong people are in the room. That has led to long and non-productive processes. It’s led to unreasonable expectations and plans that fall far short of what’s really possible.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve scanned a room full of people who are voicing their concerns about a long-term community plan and have seen nothing but people like me — those of us with a lot of grey hair.

I’ve sat through too many public hearings on new housing developments where speaker after speaker objecting to a developer’s plan were people much older than the demographic cohort that the project was designed to accommodate. Far too often, those participating in planning and influencing the important decisions are not the people who will be most impacted by those decisions over the long term.

There are 2.3 million people living in Metro Vancouver today. By 2041, less than 30 years from now, there will be another million people living in the region. Most of the housing we are building today will be no more than halfway through its lifespan 30 years from now. A lot of that housing will be occupied then by people who are less than 30 years old today.

That demographic cohort — young people 10 to 29 years of age — represents about 26 per cent of our current regional population. You don’t see many of them at public hearings and planning workshops. They aren’t tweeting about housing developments and most of them aren’t reading community newspapers every week to find out what’s happening in their backyard. Most simply aren’t engaged in civic issues.

Another demographic cohort that isn’t deeply engaged today are the people who will be occupying the homes we are building today as retirees and in the golden years of their lives. Those who are 30 to 54 years of age today — representing 38 per cent of today’s population — are simply too busy to be involved in civic issues today.

They are raising families and working hard, trying to earn a living. In our connected and fast-paced modern world, their lives are busier than they ever expected when they were young. They can’t find the time and energy to attend public meetings.

So who is in the room? Who is packing the public hearings and lining up at the speaker’s podium to try to convince municipal councils to slow the pace of change? The majority are usually people 55 years of age or older. Today, this group represents just over a quarter of the current population. In 27 years, when the housing we are approving today is just short of halfway through its life span, the youngest of this demographic cohort will be 82 years old.

I am not saying the voices of these people shouldn’t be heard. But their voices need to be among a whole chorus of collaboration that includes the people whom the change we are planning today is meant to accommodate.

We need to find new ways of reaching out to the people who are going to be living 25 and 30 years from now in the housing, neighbourhoods and towns we are planning and building today.

We need to engage them in the discussion, trade-offs and decisions that are the key ingredients of good long-term plans. They are the ones who are going to live with what we plan today.

 

Bob Ransford is a public affairs consultant with Counterpoint Communications Inc. He is a former real estate developer who specializes in urban land-use issues. Email: ransford@counterpoint.ca or Twitter:@BobRansfordThis opinion piece was originally published in the Vancouver Sun, March 21, 2014

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and are presented here by the GHSA to encourage healthy debate. The GHSA Blog exists as a resource to enable members concerned with the environmental and community stewardship of Grandview Heights to voice perspectives. When directors of the Association contribute to the blog, they do so as private citizens, not as officers representing the Association. The GHSA reserves the right to edit, condense or reject any contribution.

 

The Gift of Trees

From the beginning of life on our planet, animals, including the human, has sought a place in the shade in the heat of day. Look at the cows clustered together under the trees. Watch your dog in the summer out on the deck. He will have a sunbath, then move to a shady spot under your umbrella table, which you are sitting at yourself for protection from the heat.

We have all heard of their ecological importance, and take it very much for granted. But do we know that trees are as important to human beings as food and water? To keep city air cool and clean, trees should cover at least 40% of city land. This is the canopy we hear about now and then, and pay so little attention to. One tree can clean the toxic emissions from the dirty air exhausted from an average car driven 4,000 miles.

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