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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

 

 

 

A Case for Pocket Parks in Surrey

By Gary Cameron

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With some parts of Surrey experiencing dramatically increased densification as they transition from suburban to urban neighbourhoods, one of the side-effects of this development is the lag time between new homeowners moving in and services like police, schools and parks finally being provided. In many neighbourhoods the city has promised parks will be built eventually but often residents in the interim are just looking for an open space with greenery and a bench where they can go for some fresh air and a break.

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One way to provide parks at a reasonable cost that will meet the immediate needs of neighbours is through pocket parks (also known as vest-pocket parks or mini-parks), a concept that has been proven effective all over the world and that I believe makes sense for some areas of Surrey as well.

There are some parks that will eventually come on line, for example the recently acquired horse stable at 168 and 28, but although the city has acquired the land already it’s unclear how soon the park will be built. As an interim solution to the pressing need for parks in Grandview Heights, it would be relatively simple to create a pocket park on the north side of his property with perhaps a gazebo and some benches while awaiting the completion of the rest of the park. For more:

In 2008 the City of Surrey came up with a report entitled “Proposed Mini-Park and Plaza Designations” that is an excellent blueprint for “the introduction of small “pocket” parks in higher density neighbourhoods on the basis that the current approach to providing parks is not fully meeting the needs and demands from the public. The intent of this report is to provide a set of draft classifications and guidelines for new types of small parks for Council’s consideration and approval.”

From speaking to Parks staff recently, it is clear that there is an urgent need for pocket parks, and they are attempting to address this need if funding is forthcoming.

What are pocket parks?

Allison Blake describes pocket parks as “urban open space at the very small scale. Usually only a few house lots in size or smaller, pocket parks can be tucked into and scattered throughout the urban fabric where they serve the immediately local population. These diminutive parks tend to act as scaled-down neighborhood parks, but still often try to meet a variety of needs. Functions can include small event space, play areas for children, spaces for relaxing or meeting friends, taking lunch breaks. etc. They can be a refuge from the bustle of surrounding urban life and offer opportunities for rest and relaxation.”

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To make my case for pocket parks in Surrey I’m  going to explore this subject in three sections:

– First I’ll briefly discuss how pocket parks have been utilized in Surrey in the past

– Then I’ll  propose how and why they could be implemented in conjunction with development as well as illustrate some of the elements I think could be included in a typical pocket park built in the midst of a typical Surrey urban development.

– Finally, I’ll include a comprehensive look at pocket parks in general, providing links to projects from all over the world that will show how and why they were built and explain why they are so popular.

1. HISTORY of POCKET PARKS IN SURREY:

When there is a subdivision that creates three or more new lots, City of Surrey Parks can, through the Local Government Act, require the developers to contribute 5% of their land towards Parks or 5% cash in lieu of their land that goes towards parkland acquisition elsewhere. In a lot of the older neighbourhoods in Surrey there are plenty of these small parks that were acquired through the subdivision process. That 5% contribution has been a significant source of income for decades, although it is getting smaller each year as more and more townhouses are constructed because they don’t create new lots, just strata units.

In the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s Surrey usually chose to take the 5% requirement as land instead of cash in lieu. That has protected some lands in older areas of the City, but it has at times caused problems because all too often they have proven to be challenging to maintain and operate. These pocket parks (also referred to sometimes as ‘tot lots’) are often too small to provide any real amenities like playground equipment. Some examples:

Tom Thumb Tot Lot (from the 70’s) 6703 – 141 Street:

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Jack N Jill Tot Lot, 12852 – 68 Avenue:

 

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There aren’t many pocket parks in South Surrey, Alexandra Tot lot being one of the few.

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(For more, click here. )

Here are a few discussions culled from various city meeting that dealt with pocket parks in various areas of the city:

Newton is the site of a number of pocket parks, as discussed at the meeting mentioned above under the section entitled: Parkland Contribution. “There is currently a shortage of a neighbourhood-level “pocket” park in the South Newton NCP area, particularly west of 142 Street and south of 60 Avenue. Each development application proposing an increase in unit density over and above the NCP designation exacerbates the need for this park space.”

There was a useful discussion of pocket parks at this city meeting regarding the East Clayton neighbourhood on Page 9-11: “Pocket parks will be neighbourhood destinations with amenities to create more neighbourhood interaction” “Pocket parks require community buy-in and ownership. Have canvassed neighbourhoods to discover needs and address these through design.” “Staff have visited other similar sites and looking in from the streets and houses the pocket park is small and good and open. From a security perspective, this is quite desirable.”

As well, there was a good discussion at a 2009 meeting about park construction by the development sector” on Page 1:

“This site is ideal for a pocket park for the following reasons: it is centrally located and within walking distance of the high residential densities.”

Judging by the photo, this may not be the best example of what a pocket park should look like:

wade_park

Hint: just a bit of grass, no amenities, not a welcoming gathering space …

There are admittedly potential challenges to pocket parks. Because they are usually surrounded by single family houses, they often have problems with dumping of yard waste (that leads to invasive species taking over), graffiti, maintenance, and other issues like people loitering after dark.

Currently, the City often takes cash in lieu instead of land because the available money to acquire land is being stretched more and more, so they try to be very strategic about what land they acquire with their limited funds, hence the movement towards larger parks. I witnessed a meeting where the city was offered a piece of land with several desirable mature trees as a potential park in the midst of a crowded new subdivision and, for a variety of reasons, parks rejected the offer. I’d like to see City Council push for more pocket parks using land contributions from developers.

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2. Why Pocket Parks should be considered for typical Surrey developments:

  • They can be created on land of any size or shape donated as part of the development process at no initial cost to the taxpayer in order to serve the local population.
  • Although they are too small for the usual park facilities like playing fields and playgrounds, there could be provisions for some very basic workout activities as well as child play areas and pet-friendly facilities.
  • They would provide a limited amount of open space, greenery and a comfortable place to sit down.
  • There are studies that show “Open spaces such as parks and recreation areas can have a positive effect on nearby residential property values, and can lead to proportionately higher property tax revenues for local governments.”
  • They are a perfect place for neighbours to gather for informal conversations, to play games, to walk their dogs and generally to get out of the house for a breath of fresh air.
  • If the neighbours approve of the project (and they should be consulted about their ideas well ahead of time) it is hoped they will take long-term ownership of the pocket park concept by pitching in to help keep it a clean, quiet and safe asset to the area under the overall management, of course, of the city.
  • Although Pocket Parks are inherently small in area, they would still contribute to increasing the amount of permeable surface for drainage purposes. Their greenery would contribute to the tree canopy and they could also function as a home for some wildlife such as birds.
  • Having Pocket Parks scattered throughout the city would mean residents would not have to get in their car and drive to some of the larger parks, thus limiting vehicle use, traffic congestion, and taking some pressure off those already crowded major parks.
  • They would be useful for staging small neighbourhood events such as block parties and Block Watch gatherings.
  • The park should be accessible to children and people with disabilities.
  • Creating mini-parks  increase physical activity. For more click here.

Some elements to be considered for a prototype Surrey Pocket Park, although obviously no single Pocket Park can incorporate all of these elements:

  • Low fencing on all sides except the street to separate from adjacent neighbour’s yards, high enough to keep visitors inside park limits but low enough that neighbours can easily monitor activity in the park for security reasons.

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  • A Toter curbside garbage collection cart for dog waste, dirty diapers and litter, to be picked up twice monthly in conjunction with the regular neighbourhood collection run. image-broker
  • There would be no access after dark, and of course no overnight camping as is the case with most parks, and the city would ask the RCMP and the By-Law Enforcement folks to commit to strictly enforcing these regulations in order to ensure peace and quiet for neighbours at night.
  • A Pocket Park could incorporate a small sculpture or monument for place making elements.images-1 images
  • An all- seasons drinking fountain for people and dogs would be practical. Photo_120907_006
  • A Gazebo structure with protected seating because of the rainy season on the west coast. Pisa stone or concrete steps could be used for sitting and relaxing in addition to getting from one elevation to another.hjn052913armstead-1p

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  • Landscaping: Minimize grass area, and maximize paving stones, pathways, trees, shrubs, rock gardens and planted garden areaspocket_park02
  • Lots of seating, shaded and unshaded. Sell_park_bench_seats_urban

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  • Built in game seating with two fixed chairs facing a game table suitable for board games like chess or checkers or card gamesimages

 

  • Bike rack

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  • Bench suitable for tanning, sit-ups and push-upsfitness-sports-equipment
  • Simple, maintenance-free outdoor workout equipment

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  • Simple concrete stairs (5 steps up, a landing at top that can double as a kid’s fort, and 5 steps down the other side, with railings and no-skid treads) to use for fitness training

Tips-For-Using-Stairs-To-Create-A-Total-Body-Workout

  • Picnic table

hughes-avenue-reserve_2(or if in a wooded area, the imagination could take hold!)

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  • Sandbox for little kids

images3. A comprehensive look at pocket parks in general

Still curious about pocket parks? Here are some links that provide overviews, details, and more.

A brief Wikipedia definition of pocket parks.

A comprehensive overview of pocket parks

13 of the best pocket parks in New York City

Inner Suburban Pocket Parks in Melbourne, Australia

Pocket Parks Blossom to Create Shareable Spaces

A great overview of Pocket Parks in urban areas

Copenhagen – Pocket parks, a drop of urban green

 

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.