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

By GHSA Board Member Alisa Wilson


‘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:

‘…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


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.





GHSA “Virtual” Non-incumbent Council Candidate Forum

City Councillors deal with a wide variety of issues in their position as a community liaison between the residents of their municipality and the City government. Much of the discussion during the Surrey election 2014 has focused on crime, and rightly so. However, land use is also a central topic in many minds because good development,  infrastructure, and environmental stewardship creates sustainable and safe communities. City councillors vote on land use issues routinely and are involved in planning and development initiatives.

Recent articles by Daphne Bramham in the Vancouver Sun and by Amy Reid in The Now have stressed the importance of choosing councillors wisely; its not just all about the Mayoral vote. Since currently-sitting Surrey councillors are already on record about their views about land use and development AND since we really haven’t heard much from non-incumbent council candidates about land use, the GHSA Board decided to hold our own “virtual forum” to ask new council candidates their views on land use and more specifically, land use in Grandview Heights.

To be completely fair and transparent, here is how we conducted our “virtual” forum.

Every non-sitting council candidate was contacted by email on Friday, Oct 31 either by their personal/party email or by the contact form on the City of Surrey website. All but one candidate supplied an email contact on the COS website or had an email address.  We asked each candidate the same question, framed by a statement, and requested their responses by the morning of November 4th.  Although we gave this deadline to give readers more pre-election time to read them, of course, as other replies are emailed, they will be posted as received for a day or two. Some candidates chose to include a bit of general platform information so answered more than our five questions, but because that was their initiative, we have not edited their answers to delete those “extra” statements.  The responses were then converted into a PDF file.


The email request for forum responses we sent to the candidates is below. This includes a “context” section for five questions we asked.

Below our logo are the links to the forum participant’s answers: the name of candidates who responded, in alphabetical order. Click on the name and the linked page will take you to a PDF of their answer which will open in a new window. As always, the GHSA presents this information as a resource for readers to read and form opinion.


Dear Candidate,

The Grandview Heights Stewardship Association ( is hosting a “virtual forum” to find out more about non-incumbent Council Candidates and their views about Grandview Heights. To be fair and inclusive, we are asking all potential council candidates to participate.

This is your opportunity to share with Grandview Heights/ South Surrey residents your thoughts and principles regarding development planning and environmental sustainability. We view this as a promotional opportunity for you as well as a way for residents in our area to find out what you may bring to Council regarding select land use/sustainability issues of neighbourhood concern.
Please address your reply to the following questions below (no longer than 500-700 words).
Your submission will be posted on our website in a special blog section. Please email your answer to by 9 am Tues Nov 4th to enable responses to be posted asap and viewed well in advance of the election.
Thank you in advance for participating! Our Association feels that the voice of Council is so important and we appreciate your personal commitment to building a better Surrey.

Social research puts great importance on community design and ongoing resident-driven evolution as the major factors in the livability, sustainability, crime level and happiness and health of it’s residents.
Grandview Heights was, and still is, as much-loved as any area in Surrey. Long-time residents treasure Grandview’s forested areas, wildlife, large mature trees, and wooded roadways and pathways. New residents in recent more urban developments tell us they love it for the exact same reasons: that there are still trees, space and character all around them.
Residents are concerned that we are experiencing unsustainable growth and urban sprawl, at the expense of quality re-development that respects healthy existing neighbourhoods and a variety of lifestyle and residence choices, and genuine preservation of the natural environment.


How well thought-out do you think the current Grandview Heights General Use Plan (GLUP) is?

What do you think about the extensive density increases that often occur at the Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) level?

NCPs are “guidelines” not by-laws. What do you think of the ability of developers to apply for amendments to zoning and other NCP elements?

What does ‘good environmental and social stewardship’ mean to you in relation to city planning?

In your opinion, who ‘owns’ a neighbourhood? How do you weigh the ‘ownership value’ of long-term residents and new residents who plan to stay, over other, shorter term interests such as political pressures and the development industry?



Click on the name of the candidate to read their answer

Maz Artang – One Surrey

Merv Bayda – One Surrey

Michael Bose – One Surrey

Darlene Bowyer – One Surrey

Cliff Blair – Independent

Nav Dhanoya – Independent

Shawn Francis – Independent

Laurie Guerra – Safe Surrey Coalition

Brenda Locke/Stephen Gammer – Team Surrey

Jim McMurtry – Independent

Martin Rooney – Independent

Beau Simpson – Safe Surrey Coalition

Rick Scorsese – Independent

Brian Young – One Surrey

 Thank you Council Candidates for the time and thought you gave to these questions. We look forward to hearing from more Candidates soon to both help further your message and help residents understand your ideas about land development in Grandview Heights.

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: 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.


Notions of Stewardship

Stewardship is a call to action for all who value their quality of life while taking responsibility for establishing future legacies. At this point in time, the challenge remains to safeguard the “green fields” in Grandview Heights.

The current Mayor and Council for the City of Surrey have discarded stewardship in favor of a strategy of “build it and they will come.”

There is a better way.

As a “green field”, the opportunity in Grandview Heights is spectacular but the risks of getting it wrong are huge.

Much has been said about our City’s “Sustainability Charter” and more recently, our “BioDiversity Charter”. Both are high-minded documents speaking to you, your neighborhood, and how you live.

Read more