Waterfront redos seem to be in vogue these days, and the article in the Vancouver Sun by Kent Spencer describes the City of White Rock’s proposal for the city’s waterfront, complete with a seaside walkway and amenities. If you know the City of White Rock which is surrounded on three sides by the City of Surrey and is situated on Semiahmoo Bay,  space between the beach and the road is-well, sparse, and replete with railroad tracks. To remedy this, the City is planning on reclaiming 6,500 square metres of land from the ocean to create a waterfront park. The cost of the reclamation is $15 million dollars, with another $15 million being proposed for a marina expansion, a memorial park, seabed dredging, marine buoys and…wait for it…$5.5 million dollars for a waterfront parkade.


The Vancouver Sun article focuses on the fact that this $30 million dollar proposal is just as much as the City’s budget of $35 million dollars.  Comment also centres on the proposed public art, the environmental impacts of a raised sea wall, and whether the local residents will have to pay through taxes for these improvements.  I was curious about the $5.5 million dollars for a waterfront parkade. This would of course house the vehicles of visitors coming from outside White Rock to enjoy the new waterfront, and stop those people from parking on streets. With a population of 20,000, White Rock has a high percentage of restaurants per capita, and the article suggests people from Metro Vancouver will come to use the new  park, park their car in the parkade, and utilise the restaurants. It would be so much more fun to be able to train to White Rock, or  take transit and  find a way to bring a bike to go along the seawall.

The intent is to make White Rock a “year-round destination”. It appears that Council has committed financing to its five-year plan.  Time to fire up that vehicle and make plans for lunch in White Rock.



  1. That sort of raises the question of whether White Rock should be trying to be a “destination”.
    It’s on the periphery, and won’t be served by rail-based in the near future (the SoF Rapid Transit Alternatives Study only had BRT as options to White Rock).
    There are so many other beaches and restaurants in the region, why DRIVE all the way (out of the way for most) to White Rock?
    Should it just cater to the local South Surrey and White Rock markets?

  2. For those not familiar with what’s actually happening in White Rock right now, nobody’s trying to make it a destination. They don’t have to. It’s already so busy that all parking that is not reserved for residents is metered and full, virtually all the time in half-way decent weather. Last time I went to eat there on a Friday night, I finally gave up trolling for a space, dropped my friend off at the restaurant, and drove more than 2 km to the first available parking space, also metered, and walked back. If you’re not going to eat, just a walk on the beach costs about $3 in parking, something people would probably revolt over on Spanish Banks, but even with those parking costs the spaces are all full.

    Everyone I know out here (I live in South Surrey) would love to have a commuter train. How about down the median on the highway and over the middle two lanes of the new too-wide bridge?

    1. John, you are in deep BC Liberal territory. Gordon Hogg is the MLA. You and others will have to lobby the MLA and the premier for rail, or ANY improvement to transit. The chances of them listening to their own constituents in the periphery are orders of magnitude greater than listening to anyone north of the Fraser.

      1. Let us not forget that it is TransLink’s board that: “The Mayors’ Council appoints the majority of members on the TransLink Board of Directors. It approves transportation plans prepared by TransLink, which deal with transportation service levels, major capital projects, regional funding and borrowing limits. It also performs regulatory oversight functions related to short-term fares, customer survey and complaint processes, sale of major facilities and assets, and director and executive compensation levels.”

        Who is the Chair? Gregor Robertson, the Mayor of Vancouver.

        and, …

        Metro Vancouver provides input to TransLink on its long-term transportation strategies and 10-year transportation investment plans.

        The Chair of Metro Vancouver is from Port Coquitlam, Gregor Robertson is also on this board, as are six other Vancouver city councillors.

        1. Let us not forget that TransLink is a much manipulated invention of the province. Like the mayor’s council has any sway over the politicos in Victoria.

        2. That is to say, the BC gov’t invented and contorted the TransLink structure several times, the latest iteration with a toothless mayor’s council to give the impression the local talking heads have any power. It’s an illusion, a smoke screen, a protective device that insulates the gov’t from the public like a barrier reef that protects an island.

          This is political genius, and it has worked magnificently.

          But one day a real threat to provincial power may arise when the metropolis realizes the huge economic power at its fingertips. Nothing will threaten provincial power more than an elected and fully accountable regional government with a modicum of control over 51% of the provincial GDP.

        3. Yes, one day the metropolis may well rise and decide to merge to consolidate the power that you correctly point out it would have. The new mayor after amalgamation might be a resident of one of the glorious ‘burbs. Perhaps not exactly like that esteemed leader from Etobicoke, maybe even less sophisticated than he.

          I agree that it’s time to remind the Mayor’s Council that they are toothless. Even though there are 23 board members. They certainly outnumber the TransLink Board of only 11 members. But, we must remember that Metro Vancouver has 38 Board members. I wonder how they all arrange to meet at the same time? Then again, we must remember all the 15 committees. The Regional Planning Committee has 13 members, which is more than double the mere 5 councillors and mayors on the esteemed Federal Gas Tax Task Force.

          Is it reassuring to know that the delightfully named Zero Waste Committee has 13 members too?

          I’d be willing to bet serious money that they’re nowhere near Zero Waste.

          Maybe we should strike another committee to see if we need more committees and more boards and more members, so we can become more powerful, as a region.

          The trouble is that right now the only place large enough to get all these people together is probably one of the big resorts in Vegas and when you get a whole bunch of free-loaders in Vegas with all that free booze all hell can break loose.

        4. A good model would be the Greater London Authority, which has only 25 elected members for a population of ~8.5 million, 32 boroughs and the main city.


          Your knock against the notion of local democracy is noted, as is the warning to not follow the Harris government’s greatly flawed and highly-ideological model to restructure governance in the GTA.

  3. How interesting that White Rock planners can get it right by planning a boardwalk/seaside promenade and seawall at the actual seaside and next to commercial stores for obvious reasons, whereas Vancouver planners opt for a non-seaside boardwalk/promenade on Point Grey Road, a 100% residential local road with houses on both sides of the road and no commercial businesses. Are White Rock environmentalists not concerned about the foreshore wildlife, or is it only in the City of Vancouver that seawall extensions at the seaside are too dangerous for sealife although they prevent foreshore erosion, which is also dangerous for sealife?

    1. As for expanding the seawall, Vancouver is more politically correct – it would have a dozen complaints about crushing some barnacles or encroaching on clam habitat. i.e. new extensions of the seawall must be a deck built on piers, rather than building a wall and backfilling.

      Unfortunately, Vancouver also tends to favour passive uses on its seawall, rather than a waterfront “promenade” lines with shops and restaurants. The only recent example is a short strip on Marinaside Crescent. Other retail/restaurants uses on the seawall are much more piecemeal.

  4. No matter how you look at it, that railway is problematic to barrier-free access to the beach. It’s been discussed to no avail before, but moving it inland should be on the agenda for long term planning.

    1. The railway at Ambleside beach in West Van is not a problem Why would it be problematic in White Rock ?

      1. Good question. Three reasons:

        1) the railway at Ambleside has a tiny fraction of the number of trains that go through White Rock in a day;

        2) the Ambleside parks are completely on the water side of the railway whereas the park at White Rock is split in two by the train tracks so people are constantly walking back and forth across the tracks,

        and 3) the parks at Ambleside are about 200 feet deep (one road width and one lot depth) from the tracks to the water so there is no need to be close to the tracks but the park at White Rock is only about twenty feet deep on each side of the rails so people are up against the tracks the whole time. That’s why widening the park on the water side will make a big difference, making it more like Ambleside.

        1. White Rock could easily create far deeper park space on the west side of the railway in the tidal flats. Moving a functioning railway ain;t happening. Far too expensive especially in a steep hillside location like White Rock. Assume railway won’t move. So, EXPAND THE PARK. or build over the railway, say housing, like New West.

          How about a walk-bike way all the way to Crescent beach ? How about housing and park in Boundary Bay ? The bay could be filled 50% by a new Richmond type or Yaletown like city with subway connection to CanadaLine. Or is this too bold and too upsetting for the bird lovers and critter protectors ?

          Lack of affordable housing, especially land for it, in MetroVan is all man made.

  5. Bravo !

    Loads of room for improvements here indeed. I have been to WR many times and never seen a train. The train is a non-issue. Parking and traffic is. Where is the train from Vancouver to WR for passengers ?

    1. It’s called the Canada Line and the 351 bus. Lots of people take them and walk down.
      As for passenger rail, there’s been no shortage of local effort to make it happen and dismay that it hasn’t. Blaine has also tried mightily. Customs is the main issue as I understood it previously. I’d also guess Amtrak would consider it more trouble than it’s worth re lengthening trip times to Seattle. Maybe the much-loathed (by commenters here) waterfront parkade (park and ride) might actually improve the odds for a passenger train stop.

    2. The main problem with having a commuter train along this line is that it is single track. There is not enough double track to go around the freight trains and create a reliable regular schedule that would attract riders because commuters are creatures of habit.

  6. The Parkade a Travesty?
    Attending the public hearing re the $11.4 million Parkade project (now to include a reported additional $3 million!) I was very dismayed by the fact that only one business took the time to attend! Where were the actual retail buildings owners from Marine Drive who hope to benefit most from this project? (many of the actual property owners are off shore so perhaps not available?)}

    Where were the retail/restaurant owners who see the parkade as the saviour of their livelihoods? (remember that over 93% of all the businesses rent!) Do both the property owners and their tenants know something the taxpayers do not know ? E.g. is this already a done deal and the public hearings and now the one week delay in a vote to approve same a farce?)

    City Council make no secret of the fact that the project is a last attempt to save the retail strip on both east and west beaches, lobbyists from the property owners and merchants supported by the BIA have apparently persuaded a majority of City Council that additional parking shall keep them open! So taxpayers are being ask to build a $14.4 m parkade!

    This begs the question if the parkade is vital to their survival then why do the property owners not build the parkade themselves?
    The public must be reminded that the parking situation today has not changed much in 10 years so retail property owners and the many restaurants and merchants who rent from them were aware or should have been when they bought! Did any have a business plan based on potential customers with the available parking? a 60 seat restaurant/customers has to do 400 covers a week! just what did the plans of the many now closed restaurants call for?

    Many attending had indeed done their homework! Providing figures supported by photos proving parking is not the problem with the exception of around 10 days a year between noon and 9pm {Council staff did not dispute these figures!}
    This leads to the obvious question why have so many businesses closed over the last 10 years on marine drive? Could it be they had the wrong concept! wrong location or poor operators? I go with wrong location, the fact that only one major restaurant {the Beach house} is located on marine provides the proof for the vast majority of concepts Marine Drive just does not work! Consumers shall no longer pay $125 for two to dine out with a view fuel spewing vehicles and the constant noise from bilker!

    The City can build three parkades but cannot offer any guarantee that businesses shall thrive nor should they! Most properties on Marine shall eventually be demolished and existing or future developers/ property owners shall apply for planning permission for up to 4 level condos and if it is ever build the parkade shall be demolished and sold to a developer!

    One local resident asked Council to think out of the box, I agree and ask that all taxpayers do the same!
    My proposed plan would be to remember it is 2017 and we have waterfront based on an English seaside town from 1930! Reclaim enough land from the water to build a hotel and casino {providing guaranteed income to the City of$ 25 million plus a year!} with a marina and parking for 800 vehicles and a sea wall …….investors would be lining up! and Marine would become 80% residential again as it was originally build for!

    Am I a restaurant professional? Yes and that includes the IVY Restaurant in London, I have spent over 40 years and have located /build /operated over two hundred restaurants for major companies in Canada, the US and in the UK…..Remember three words LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION!

    1. You had me until the second last paragraph. The quaint little sea/lakeside “resort” villages that used to attract large numbers of weekend motorists as a destination are obsolete. But the casino with 800 car parkade will be just as obsolete tomorrow.

      It certainly isn’t worth the environmental impact of “reclaiming” land from the ocean even if rising sea levels weren’t a factor.

      Success in such a narrow awkward stretch of land will be difficult because it will be very hard to get enough walkable density in the small strip before the hill deters human power.

      You said location was the problem. I agree. Inventive slopeside density could create a unique environment if supported by a funicular railway or two rather than oceanfront parking lots.

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