Governance & Politics
September 25, 2018

Mayoral Exit Interview: Surrey (Part II)

There was a time when Surrey was the butt of jokes. No more.

As we read in Part I of our exit interview yesterday, the city is growing by leaps and bounds. New town centres, new towers, new parks, and of course, new bike lanes.

More tellingly, the next mayor will have at least as much influence over the implementation of the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy as any other mayor. ‘Cause Surrey is where it’s all going to happen —people, homes, transit and jobs. The big question though — in what order?

In our conclusion, Hepner addresses the role of the Province in accommodating that growth, why she feels women sometimes avoid politics, and what candidates should stay away from. (If you’ve been reading this Mayoral Exit Interview series, you may not need three guesses for that one). Plus, her immediate priorities upon leaving office.

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This year, despite the oxygen taken up by Vancouver’s municipal election, Surrey’s race is just as interesting — highly partisan, complex and crowded.

Six candidates for every available seat on Council, and eight mostly credible candidates for mayor.

And zero chance of Surrey First repeating its clean sweep of 2014, when Mayor Linda Hepner stepped in. It’s a tough act to follow. None of the candidates bring anything resembling Hepner’s experience and steady rise to power over the past 33 years — two decades as city staff, three terms as councillor, and now the mayoralty.

All this, right at the end mid-point beginning (?!?) of Surrey’s growth explosion; currently close to 550,000 people, the city tends to add the equivalent population of a Mission or Port Coquitlam every five years.

Thankfully, work on Phase 2 of the Mayors Plan for transit and transportation will bring a commuter rail system to Surrey’s bursting town centres; Hepner’s been fighting for light rail since her election in 2014, as the BC Liberal referendum plot brewed away in Victoria.

Despite the senseless delay, the plan is going ahead and the rail lines will be built — as will the new Pattullo Bridge. Just not on her watch.

Infrastructure is a funny thing that way. So are legacies — and Hepner has something to say about that.

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If you’ve ever travelled to India, Sri Lanka, Java or Myanmar, you may have stayed in a place that had peacocks. They look pretty magnificent, but you will find out why many people who keep these birds either get up early in the morning or wear earplugs at night.
Hear for yourself what a peacock sounds like in this YouTube video.
Imagine the noise (and the attendant excrement) of dozens of these birds living in a neighbourhood in Surrey B.C. 

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[Jenelle Schneider / PNG]
Golf and country-residential go together like bears and garbage cans. The Morgan Creek development of recent decades has pushed big house cul-de-sacs into rural land along 32nd Avenue east of Highway 99 – its accessibility to malls and commuting was made easier by the 32nd Avenue interchange that went in about 15 years ago.
Now there’s this, where the Hazelmere Golf Course on 8th Avenue east of 176th (the Pacific Highway which leads down to the truck crossing) has been the only non-rural incursion for many years. This article by Larry Pynn in the Vancouver Sun describes the latest attempt to push an “urban” use past the Metro containment boundary. (Thanks to David Riley for the tip.)

A planned residential development in rural Hazelmere in south Surrey was described Friday as both a dangerous land-use precedent and a boost to young farmers and the local environment.
The Metro Vancouver regional board ultimately decided that residents should have a say at a public hearing before a final decision is made on the project.
Regional staff had recommended against the City of Surrey’s request to amend the Metro 2040: Shaping our Future land-use designation map in order to accommodate the development proposal.
The amendment would create a “23.7-hectare non-contiguous extension” of the Metro 2040 Urban Containment Boundary, and redesignate lands from Metro 2040 Rural to General Urban.
The plan for a 145-lot single-family residential subdivision, housing about 450 residents, would require extending regional sewer lines to the site, which is part of the Hazelmere golf course development.
“The proposed amendment challenges the most fundamental elements of Metro 2040 – containing urban sprawl, focusing urban growth to support complete communities, and efficient transportation and infrastructure investments,” the staff report read.
“In addition, approval would set a clear precedent regarding the permeability of the urban containment boundary, and likely trigger additional land development speculation in the rural areas of southeastern Surrey and other similar areas of the region.”


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The Future Lives Here! – A Panel on the Future of Surrey as envisioned by UBC Master of Urban Design Program

  • Linda Hepner     Mayor, City of Surrey
  • Andy Yan           Director Cities Program, Simon Fraser University
  • Mike Harcourt     Former Premier of BC, Former Mayor of City of Vancouver.

Presentation of student proposals by Patrick Condon and Scot Hien, Professors, UBC Master of Urban Design Program.
What happens when the region’s largest “suburb” is the “centre city”? How does  the role of this huge and poly-centric city change? What does a city look like that grows not primarily from internal births but rather from wave after wave of immigration? How does an archetypal suburban city, one organized around the needs of baby-boomer era families, adapt itself to the wildly cosmopolitan demographics of today, of tomorrow, of four decades from now? And how does a city organized around the car become a sustainability leader,  where living, moving and working are all contributing to making a better world?
All of these questions and more were taken up, and in depth, by the students of urban design in the new UBC Master of Urban Design Program. For three years, and in partnership with the City of Surrey, UBC students explored what this city would look like when, by 2060, the city will house over one million souls; when English will no longer be the first language of most of its citizens; when most of the jobs in the region are to be found there; where housing is hopefully still more affordable and where large families are still the norm.
We are clearly looking at a different city, a different region, and even a different world.
Wednesday February 7
6.30 pm
Westminster Savings Theater, Simon Fraser University Surrey Campus, 13450 102nd Avenue,  Surrey BC. 

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Regret missing this lecture co-presented by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement, SFU Urban Studies, and SFU City Program.  Fortunately there’s a video.

Historically, Surrey has been talked about derisively and condescendingly as a suburb on the margins with questionable urban planning decisions. Visionary SFU honorary doctorate recipient Bob Williams weighs in on why the growth and maturity of Surrey represents a game-changing disruption to how we view the Metro Vancouver region in the future. He will argue that the centre of gravity in the region is already shifting to the south of the Fraser.

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Historically, Surrey has been talked about derisively and condescendingly as a suburb on the margins with questionable urban planning decisions.
Visionary SFU honorary doctorate recipient Bob Williams weighs in on why the growth and maturity of Surrey represents a game-changing disruption to how we view the Metro Vancouver region in the future. He will argue that the centre of gravity in the region is already shifting to the south of the Fraser.
Bob Williams is an urban planner and former provincial MLA and cabinet minister.
Wed, Oct 4
7 pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 West Hastings Street

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Back to the south side  of the Fraser River where positional information on the Massey Tunnel and Bridge appears daily.  The latest is reported in the Delta Optimist  where the Mayor of Delta has added another reason for the support of an overbuilt bridge on the sensitive Fraser River delta-it could have light rapid transit. But, just like the Mayors’ Council’s lack of support for this behemoth of a bridge, the rest of Metro Vancouver nixed that.
Here’s what the Delta Mayor said:  “I’ve been trying to press this with the mayors for a long time in that it makes sense to take the Canada Line and run it south, over a bridge, and it’s meant to do that, accommodates that. The idea being maybe go out to the ferry terminal, with stops in Ladner and Tsawwassen. Most importantly, it would go through all the southern area, as opposed to the northern area where the Expo Line goes through Surrey”.
We have to look ahead 75 years. It’s a great way to connect communities. I was pretty much poo pooed because they said they want everything on the table. They want, for instance, the Evergreen Line extended. They don’t want even a planning concept forward for a line that will pick up hundreds of thousands of people through that great burgeoning area of Surrey that travel by car everywhere because there’s no option”.
So why after the support of the massive ten lane bridge is the Mayor of Delta so bullish on rapid transit? Because if a bridge connecting Delta and Richmond is built, “LRT could run down the middle of the freeway”.
Meanwhile City of Richmond Councillor Harold Steves stated: “The 10 lane bridge is not designed for LRT. Under FOI (freedom of information) Richmond received 1400 pages of bridge plans and a special report on LRT on May 8th. The LRT report states that because of the scattered population LRT would not have enough ridership to warrant putting LRT on the bridge. That would certainly be even more true with a 10 lane bridge.”
Richmond Councillor Steves is getting a little miffed at the Corporation of Delta’s continued one side clamouring for a bridge. Even the  CTV is reporting on the “fake news” Delta is propagating with their $35,000 budget going towards advertising their point of view on newspapers and online. They have even bought the domain “” to garner support for their project. Full page newspaper ads tell readers that “the existing tunnel cannot be sufficiently seismically upgraded,” and would not be “physically capable of withstanding a moderate to severe earthquake.”
“This ad is a really great example of fake news. They’ve taken facts that aren’t in context and put them together to tell us something that isn’t real, Councillor Harold Steves said.”



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If you are an engineering type there are lots of interesting jobs out there. Some people get to drive all the roads in the province and grade them. The City of Vancouver used to have two people who walked and drove every street in the city once a year identifying deficiencies and needed road repairs.  And the Vancouver Sun reports through Matt Robinson that if this interests you, the City of Surrey is looking for someone to take photos every five meters of its road space to identify the condition of the road.
The point is to assess when the pavement is going to fail, and replace it before it does. Successful applicants require a vehicle kitted out with a high-resolution digital camera and laser scanners, as well as a detection system for bumps on the road. With the City of Surrey’s 1,500 kilometers of road, you will drive and photograph the street at 50 km/h, driving speed, as well as at 30 km/h.
The complete job will take about two months, and it is assumed the work will cost about $250,000. This kind of work is common across North America now,  and sensors and cameras have revealed that six per cent of Surrey’s roads are cracking. Proposals for this work are due at the municipality by May 11.


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Last Friday noted journalist Daphne Bramham wrote in the Vancouver Sun a very cogent article offering a  simple solution to pedestrians trying to navigate across streets in our low light and rainy winters-don’t wear black.  A lot of responders to her article bristled at the fact that Daphne was brave enough to state the obvious-vehicle operators often  cannot see pedestrians.
We live in a province where 280 people are killed annually and 79,000 people maimed in car crashes. This is a big number and serious enough that the Provincial Medical Officer wrote his yearly report on car crashes. What causes them? Dr. Perry Kendall surmised that speed (36%), distraction (29%) and impairment (20%) were largely responsible. Rates of crashes resulting in serious injuries have risen from 38 per cent in 2007 to 46 per cent in 2009.  Road design, distraction and speed are major contributors. I’d add visibility as well.
In October 2016, twice as many pedestrians died as were killed in the last six yearsThe Coroners Service of B.C. lists that from 2010 to  October 2016, 396 pedestrians were killed by vehicles in British Columbia. In B.C., Vancouver is the pedestrian death capital of Canada-it has more pedestrian deaths than any other city, and twice those of Toronto per capita. Sixteen per cent or 64 of those deaths were in Vancouver. Thirteen per cent or 50 deaths were in Surrey. Abbotsford, Richmond and Burnaby also had high percentages of pedestrians killed. Of those dying, 57 per cent were male. One third of those dying were 70 years or older. Forty per cent of pedestrian deaths happened at intersections in Metro Vancouver, with two-thirds crossing while the light was green.
But here is the statistic I found remarkable-61 per cent of all the pedestrians killed in British Columbia were over 50 years of age. That is a huge number and a worrying one. While we have focused our attention on road safety to school children, this suggests we also need to address the older part of the population who may not be as nimble or cognitively attune to the fact they are vulnerable. Of course there needs to be a sea change in driver behaviour and education, slower speeds, and municipalities that will redesign intersections to stop the carnage of their citizens. We as citizens also must get angry and insist that politicians pay attention to this  road violence needlessly yanking out lives.
In Finland every child going to school must wear three pieces of reflective items on their clothes and backpack. The safety reflector was developed in Finland in the 1960’s and it is the law that walkers wear reflective items in the dark. Wearing reflectors and reflective clothing is completely accepted as daily wear in Scandinavia which also has the lowest incidence of pedestrian accidents. A similar program in Great Britain reduced children’s pedestrian deaths by 51 per cent.
Studies show that reflectors increase the visibility of pedestrians from 25 meters to 140 meters, increasing the reaction time from 2 seconds to 10 seconds for a car being driven at 50 kilometers per hour. That’s eight seconds more for a driver to react, and a pedestrian to survive. We can’t pretend that this is not the wild west for road violence-it is, and in Metro Vancouver we are in the leaders of carnage in  Canada. Wearing reflective wear is quite simply the right thing to do, along with lobbying for slower speeds, more campaigns on driver behaviour, and redesigning street intersections as if walkers really mattered.


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