Letter from a reader: “Is there anyone looking out for the interests of the general public here???”

Catching up on the emails from my contact page here on the site today, and received this letter from a reader in Delta, who has cancer and is forced to travel to Surrey for treatments – via transit. I rarely post letters from people here, but this one really struck me.

He has noticed something that needs some attention in the city of Surrey, and he is not happy about it. And although I have noticed the sidewalk had been out for a very long time as well, I did not think of the impact it would have on those going to and from the many health care resources located just a couple of blocks down by the hospital, in particular as he writes, you are not aware of this in advance.

He makes some excellent points.

Your Worship Ms. Linda M. Hepner
And Members of Surrey Council
13450 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC V3T 1V8

Coast Capitol Credit Union
Board of Directors
4th Floor, 15117 101 Avenue
Surrey, BC V3R 8P7

Hon. Tod Stone
Minister of Transport
PO BOX 9055
V8W 9E2

Dear Madams and Sirs

For the Last Month I’ve had the Curse of Cancer and the Treatments to Battle the disease .

Which take me unfortunately to Your Community .

I’m forced to travel by transit to the Surrey Cancer Centre .

The curse has robbed me of a portion of my sight my ability to drive!

What I’ve found that is absolutely amazing is that the whole time period that I’ve been attending the Cancer Clinic and BEYOND THAT I’ve Been reliably informed .

There has been a EXTENSIVE closure of the Side walk along King George Highway STARTING on the Eastern Side of the Roadway for what appears to be Several Blocks Heading to the South . Thus Blocking off Pedestrian access to the King George Skytrain Station from the South for a Prolonged Period .

Forcing Hundreds of Pedestrians SOME Of Whom are Elderly and Infirmed , On Wheel chairs, with other Health Issues that are using this Route to get to the Main Hospital in the area .

One would THINK that the Developer Especially a ” Community Oriented Organization LIKE Coast Capital Credit Union Would Put the Interests of the Members of the Public FIRST and foremost ??? And expedite repairs and construction that Interfere with the Use of a IMPORTANT PUBLIC ACCESS ????
This incident further confirms a pattern here in the Lower Mainland Where DEVELOPERS and Speculators seem to have FREE Rain with are PUBLIC STREETS and Access they seem to have e NO PROBLEM blocking off roadway and public amenities and denying access to Public Properties at Will THIS is a Prime Case in Point .


We have all sorts of Contractors and Business organizations Lobbying for the Industry’s WHOM is Looking after the Interests of the PUBLIC HERE ???

During My frequent passes of this sight I have YET to see anyone actually WORKING to resolve this Blockage of a Important safety and access route for Pedestrians .

There is a Problem here as This Creates a Long and Laborious detour to Infirmed People Especially IF they are Not aware of the Detour in advance .

It forces people to make long waits on NUMEROUS Traffic control Lights and pass over a Major Highway several times Depending on How they Make there approach .

For Healthily Individuals with TIME on there hands No Problem !

For the elderly and sick it is a Impediment to access.
Just WHOM is looking after the interests of the PUBLIC when it comes to these Projects ? WHY has this been permitted to continue ??


Yours Richard Swanston

Delta BC V4M 2H2

I’m sincerely hoping Coast Capital as an involved community member, can address this situation. Richard is but one person who took the time to write- how many others have been in this situation but have not been able to do the same?

While ambulatory patients can use the Fraser Health employee shuttle, it is only if space allows and you have a doctors note- employees etc are given preference. And, I’m not entirely sure how many people are even informed this exists. http://www.fraserhealth.ca/your-stay/amenities-and-services/shuttle/

That shuttle however,doesn’t help people who are not patients,but simply needing to get to the doctors office,have tests, visit patients etc. who still may be elderly or infirm.

**Update. Coast Capital has advised they are looking into this and speaking with the developer and the city to see what can be done. I will keep this post updated as I learn any new information.

If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone in the city hear? * UPDATED April 3/2015

* Update April 3rd,2015

I received a reply from Jess Dhillon, head of Acquisitions & Development at Redekop Development  Corp and I followed up with a phone call where we talked more in depth.
This is his response:

“Hi Laila,

Regarding your comments, in response to neighborhood complaints, we received a notice from the City of Surrey on March 9th, stating that the Premises at 5750 Panorama Drive, did not meet City property maintenance standards; “Surrey Property Maintenance and Unsightly Premises By-Law, 2007, No. 16393”.

More specifically, household garbage, glass, syringes and other debris throughout the property.  We were asked to remedy the Property within 14 days.

The City was notified that the site was being assessed for clean-up, after reviewing an arborist report that had already been written up and submitted to the City.

Work commenced on March 24th to clean out excessive blackberry bushes and all small growth trees, defined by the caliper size and height, maintaining that no trees noted in the report were damaged.

The goal being to clean the site up to make it undesirable for trespassers to dump garbage, inhabit, etc.

We would preferred to leave the site as is, until we had met with the City to begin the rezoning process for Development, as we would then have had a chance for our first Public Meeting with the local Community.

Typically, we would wait till we are ready for construction before we do any site clearing, which we estimate to be in the Winter of 2015.

On a side note, our communication has been limited to the Panorama Neighborhood Association, until we can reach out to everyone in Public Hearing. Feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns. “

In speaking with Mr.Dhillon, he contends the development company thought they were operating within the parameters of the city of Surrey’s requirements,but should have had an arborist on site during this clearing. He reviewed the site with the arborist yesterday and is waiting for the arborists report and recommendations.

He also stated that this was not how the company intended to introduce themselves to the community but had to respond to the cities cleanup order within 14 days,leaving very little time to notify local residents.  When asked if he felt that the order to clean up the property required the removal of so many trees, he maintained much of the undergrowth could not be removed without taking trees as well, and that none of the trees taken were identified by the initial arborists report as ones to save.

Mr. Dhillon also expressed a great challenge in connecting with residents of the area not involved with the Panorama Community Association and I again, direct residents of the area to sign up at the link in the story below, to receive updates and get engaged in the process moving forward.

~ LY


Back in 2012, the province announced it was going to sell several public assets in order to ‘balance’ the budget. Among the properties in Surrey to be sold, was one the province had set aside for future health care expansion in the region: 

“In February 2012, the provincial government announced that it would sell off 15 acres of prime land in Sullivan, at Highway 10 and 152nd Street, which had been earmarked for health-care development under the Surrey Official Community Plan’s South Newton Neighbourhood Concept Plan.

At the time, Ralston likened it to selling the family’s jewels to buy groceries.”

A more accurate description for this particular lot of land couldn’t be found. Thick with blackberries,a forest of trees covered most of this land and residents were happy to have the green space in the interim,with the knowledge it would go to health care for the region at some point- a good use and vital infrastructure.

There was significant disappointment when the property was finally sold to Fairborne Homes, a developer with townhome projects in the Sullivan area. Concern the sale was extremely shortsighted in light of the tremendous growth in the South Surrey region, neighbourhood residents began to think forward to what kind of development might occur in the area.

With a glut of townhomes currently on the market in Sullivan/Panorama, and some developments not able to sell the current new stock off  completely, the news Fairborne had sold the property was not surprising, although residents were not informed of the sale.

What tipped the neighbourhood off, was the week long clearing that has been going on, unabated,unchecked and with not a rezoning or development application in site along any portion of the property.

The property in question is at 5750 Panorama Drive, and runs nearly the entire length of the drive to the north, bordered by 152nd to the east and a strip mall to the south and west.

I spoke with the planning department and the new developer intends for approximately 200 townhomes to the north of the property, a 4 story low-rise apartment building to the south and commercial along 152nd.
The planning details are in it’s very initial review,nothing has been submitted or gone to council at this time:
The developer however, is already promoting construction starting in the winter of 2015:


Concerned at what appears to be very extensive clearing of the property, I made some calls to both the tree permit/landscaping department and the building permit department of the City of Surrey – at the time of this posting,neither department had called back.

The planning department however,has received several calls on this clearing. While some trees remain, the use of an excavator to tear trees down has also damaged remaining trees, as shown in the photos below.

The city of Surrey’s commercial development information for tree cutting and permits gives the following info for developers putting forth applications for development : http://www.surrey.ca/community/16198.aspx

It would appear that before anything substantial could even be done with regards to clearing the property, a permit would be needed,trees designated to be saved would have to be surrounded with plastic barriers etc. In a full walk around this property, none of this has been done, nor is there any signs or permits posted.

While there is great concern among the neighbourhood residents that some trees that have been cut are of a bylaw protected size, it is extremely alarming that such an extensive clearing could occur before anything has been put before council,without any community consultation and prior to any rezoning or development application approval.

It is not just undergrowth and vegetation that has been removed- a reasonable course of action and one no one could complain of- but trees of many sizes and heights.

In December of last year, a report commissioned by the city itself detailed how much of the tree canopy the city had lost, and how hard they would have to work to turn that around:

“In 2001, 33 per cent of Surrey was covered by trees, the report shows. By 2009, that dropped to 30 per cent, and four years later the figure had sunk to 27.17 per cent.

The numbers represent a decline in tree canopy of 17.66 per cent over those 13 years.

Surrey is aiming to be at 40 per cent by 2058, but it will require some significant changes to turn things around.

New developments are a large contributor to canopy loss, according to figures in the report.

The average existing single-family residential development (city-wide) in 2009 had 23.5-per-cent tree canopy. Now, the  average new home construction has a 2.6-per-cent tree canopy.

The figure is even more stark in South Surrey, where it dropped from 47.8 per cent in 2009 to 7.7 per cent for new developments.

Similar drops occurred across the board when comparing existing developments to new ones.

“With current practices, the tree canopy will continue to decline and it could fall to somewhere between 21 per cent and 27 per cent over the next 50 years, depending on the development practices,” the report states.

The report indicates Surrey needs to set tree-canopy targets in each type of land use and fix decade-long targets with an aim to reach 40 per cent by 2058.

It also recommends updating existing bylaws to place more emphasis on tree canopy.”

Clearly, when 15 acres of land can be cleared extensively in a week, without anything being rezoned, or approved. something has gone wrong.

From the shortsighted sale of provincial land, to this devastating cut that no one seems to have answers to, it’s a bit of a mess. There is a process and bylaws in place,but in this case, perhaps one needs to question the process itself when something like this can occur on such a large block of land. Residents I’ve spoken with are not opposed to development in general, but in favour of viable, well-planned and well-paced development.

I was at the site this morning, and many of the trees left standing in these photos, are now gone. As the excavator was clearing one stand of trees, rabbits were running crazy down the sidewalk,nearly into my feet in confusion, trying to find a place of cover where all the cover was gone.

There wasn’t much I could do,but watch.

The time to get engaged is now, if you aren’t already- If you live in the Sullivan/Panorama area and wish to keep updated and get involved in the process of this development as it progresses, please check this link,and get engaged in the future of your community:


* City update: Following several calls by myself and area residents,bylaws and an arborist are attending the site today, and I will update this story as it develops. An email has been sent to the developer asking for comment, but this was taken late this afternoon as a city staff person was on site documenting the clearing and remaining trees.

2015-04-01 022

Click on each photo below for a larger view.

Countdown to Surrey Votes 2014: “The only people truly bound by campaign promises are the voters who believe them.” ― Christopher Hitchens

I admit it, I’m more than a bit cynical when it comes to elections in general. Why? Because while countries overseas will riot,march by thousands in the streets and overthrow governments simply to have a free election and exercise the right to a free vote, here in Canada many can’t even be bothered to make time for that right.

It drives me nuts. It really does! People will make time to get a DVD from the Red Box, sit and get their nails done, watch a hockey game… all on voting day… but they ‘don’t have time to vote.’  Having a busy schedule was a reason cited on Stats Canada 2011 report. No kidding! Well guess what. If you are too busy to vote, I am too busy to listen to your whining about the results of the election. Don’t talk to me. Same goes for those of you who don’t like the choices and spoil your ballot, or again, refuse to vote. Guess what? Your non-vote just made someone else’s vote more powerful.

As long time readers know,I’ve been a Surrey resident for over a decade and have been blogging about life here for a good portion of that time. I’ve seen some good changes in some neighbourhoods and some not so good changes in others. I’ve been challenged on many stories by developers and others whose interest in the city is less altruistic and more profit driven. In a city with one of the largest land areas that is yet to be developed, there is a lot at stake here. We are on the cusp of transition on an unprecedented level, but with that transition comes challenges and issues,many of which have simply been moved from one area to another.

While Newton and Whalley, aka City Centre have gained much of the pre-election press- and deservedly so – what has emerged in media coverage by our local press in their neighbourhoods series, is that these two communities are not alone in feeling under-appreciated or neglected. The strategy of the city has been to focus on one town centre of a time, whereas a cohesive strategy of small gains in every town centre simultaneously is what residents are asking for, and deserve.

Unlike many pundits and commentators who have openly endorsed slates or recommended who they will vote for, other than the prior post on the under-recognized independents, I don’t feel it’s right to tell you who to vote for. In fact, I feel so strongly about this that although I was asked to join the Surrey Citizen Leaders group, I declined because I felt it was inappropriate given some members had already publicly endorsed mayoral candidates.

That might seem at odds with pushing for change on council, which I think is desperately needed. It’s been ruled by one slate for so long, the record of votes of each current council member is public, and at times has been at odds with the cities own policies.

I will tell you that my votes will go to candidates who have a proven community track record and who I feel will represent every area of Surrey with as much dedication and equality, in the areas of crime, development, ALR protection,sustainability and employment. There can be no favourites. Newton has suffered long enough. So has Whalley.

Many voters tend to be single issue voters – whichever candidates successfully address that issue is who they tend to vote for. It might crime, which is a very big reality in many areas, not just a perception as some incumbents continue to claim.  It might be sustainable development as clear-cuts devastate many neighbourhoods in favour of high density housing. It might be the inability to commute due to lack of or limited transit. It might be the slowing disappearing farmland, or food security.

Whatever your issues are, I strongly feel every resident in this city knows what hasn’t been working, and what has, along with who on the current council is engaged with residents from across the city, and who isn’t. That was starkly clear during this campaign when one Mayoral Candidate,Linda Hepner, failed to attend 4 separate resident hosted candidate events in different areas. Doug McCallum failed to attend one, held in Strawberry Hill by Newton residents.

I do not encourage people to vote by slates, in fact if I could, I would abolish the putting of slates besides candidates names on the ballot. Without that slate name, voters would be more likely to research and find out about the candidates than they do with it. Slates make it easy for lazy voters to vote, and allow candidates who shouldn’t be elected, to slide through based on connection.

There are several mayoral candidates and a large group of contenders for council:many have both a strong track record of service and engagement in the community along with business experience, some do not. But regardless of who you vote for, the entire community will  live with the consequences for the next 4 years since the term for service has been extended by one year. Look not at just your own neighbourhood,but what has happened to others, and in others. Next time, it could be yours.

Voters often forget about the school trustees as well, and if you are a parent with children in school, or soon to enter school, you need to do your research. There are vastly different groups of candidates running that are diametrically opposed in terms of inclusiveness and diversity-one candidate has still refused to answer my question asked on twitter,as to whether he supported or opposed the strict anti-homophobia policy the Surrey School board has instituted. This matters to me, that school is a safe place for every single student, free of bullying or discrimination. Ask questions. Be informed. This particular vote will impact your childrens school directly.

Take a half hour to do your research, mark the names down and make sure you have your identification when you go and vote.

We are at a crossroads in this city, and we need to get this right. Voting is the easiest way for you to directly impact what happens in the next 4 years, and I am hoping for a change that brings some sunshine to everyone living in Surrey, rich,poor or in between.

Here are some links to candidate and voting information:

City of Surrey candidate informationhttp://www.surrey.ca/election2014/candidates.aspx

Vancouver Sun candidate surveys ( not many participated!!http://www.vancouversun.com/news/municipal-election/candidatesurvey.html?appSession=017480892246981

Voting locations: http://www.surrey.ca/election2014/how-to-vote/where-to-vote.aspx

Good luck and hopefully by tomorrow night we are walking into a future that shines.



Update: The Little Pop Up Soup Kitchen…that couldn’t

An update to the story I posted yesterday that warmed everyone’s hearts is developing.

In speaking with Erin Schulte just now, she said a member of the group received a phone call from Fraser Health this morning to contact them.

Erin did call back and spoke with a Fraser Health Inspector, Nimret Rai, who said a complaint was received about the food service and the group would have to stop serving food completely, unless it followed Fraser Health guidelines and was all prepared a Fraser Health approved facility.

Erin said she questioned if the complaint originated with the Whalley Legion, and was told no, it was the city bylaw department. When further questioned, she was told she would have to speak to the media department.

I’ll post further updates as they come in, but one thing I know is true, is that these are amazing people whose only intentions were not to create trouble or break any laws, they simply want to feed people who are hungry, good,wholesome, nutritious food.

In my view,it’s like sharing your lunch with a homeless person on a larger scale.  They don’t have the funds for a professional facility and all the required amendments ( if there is someone out there who can assist, please get in touch)

The bigger question to me is, if the city bylaw department has indeed filed the complaint as Erin Schulte was told, why did they tell Global last week they welcomed their work and would work with them to a solution?

Life on 135A street, or, The little Pop-up Soup Kitchen that could

Compassion is not just feeling with someone, but seeking to change the situation. Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action!”
Desmond Tutu

The story last week that bylaw officers from the city of Surrey had told a group of volunteers who have been running a pop up soup kitchen on 135A street every other Sunday they weren’t welcome anymore, left many with a bad taste in their mouths, including myself.  http://globalnews.ca/news/1617246/organizers-of-surrey-soup-kitchen-given-the-cold-shoulder-over-thanksgiving-weekend/

I’m ashamed that I only recently discovered this little strip of Surrey after being told about it by a reader, who said what was happening on King George in Whalley was nothing in comparison to what happens a block away.

Hidden from public view, the people of 135A street left an impression on me the first time I travelled the short couple of blocks that is essentially Surrey’s smaller DTES. As you turn off 108th avenue and head south, the first thing you see is a stunningly beautiful Ukrainian church to the right. Pristine and respected, it stands sentinel as though watching over those that call the sidewalks home, despite the appearances all have been abandoned by any higher power.

People are everywhere among these streets.

There is a small tent city in one empty lot at the end of that strip of 135A, and the sidewalks have a tent or two as well. A drive around the area that also houses the BC Lions facility, a recreational centre and the Legion will show you the harsh realities of many peoples lives – sleeping under trees, plastic bags housing all their worldly possessions… it’s a reality many don’t want to-or can’t- confront.

The juxtaposition between this world and the architectural jewel of Central City rising in the sky mere blocks away, is stark.

I contacted Erin Schulte, the organizer of Pop up Soup Kitchen, to commend her on her work following the Global story. She invited me down today and so I arrived with a case of apples knowing they provide good pocket food to carry along in ones bag or  jacket when the food is gone.

I went looking for answers, but left with my heart full of emotions from the experience, the people I met and those who shared some of their stories.

Some were homeless, some were not.

Some were clearly and admittedly struggling with addictions, but many were not.

I met a former rampie who used to work at Vancouver airport, a former construction worker who was injured and left on disability ( not a workplace accident). They shared some stories with me and I look forward to more. The conversation was quick,witty and full of insight, peppered with a heaping dose of reality.

Everyone was exceptionally polite and incredibly grateful for the hot nutritious food on the very long tables set up.2014-10-19 001 This isn’t the typical, very basic kind of soup kitchen fare being served by far.Erin has a policy that she wouldn’t serve anything she wouldn’t serve her own family and you can see the tremendous effort everyone put into presenting food that is not only nutritious, but beautiful as well.

Salads, roasted meat, casseroles, the aromas were not only satisfying for the stomach but food for the soul as well. Gloves are worn for service, hair is kept back, everyone wears a name tag and clearly the volunteers are all loved by the locals. many who have become regulars.

2014-10-19 002This fellow simply couldn’t stand anymore, and flopped  down on the grass, I stood in line to bring him his food, another volunteer gave him a blanket. People take care of each other here. He and his companion sat and ate together – she was most gracious to everyone, although as hard as I tried, I never saw her eyes because she never looked up.

Soft spoken, there was defeat in her rounded shoulders, a tentativeness about her that one finds with those who have learned being quiet means no harassment, no abuse. Both ate slowly, savouring every bite.

This touching scene was repeated all over the empty lot where Erin and her team now set  up.

2014-10-19 003I talked with these gentlemen for a bit, Girard is in the middle with his fork in the air. He lived in Prince George for a while years ago which resulted in a lively conversation about prairie chickens and the war plane left abandoned in a lake up there- that’s an entirely separate blog post!

Girard unfortunately has no bottom teeth and was terribly sad he couldn’t eat an apple so I promised  next time that I would bring some already cut up for him and others in a similar situation. When you have good teeth,you often forget there are many who don’t have the same luxury. Just thinking about Girard makes me smile now. Simply click on the photos below to see them in a larger format.

I don’t have all the solutions for homelessness and poverty: some people make choices in life that lead down this path, many do not. I met some of both today. What I do know is  that feeding people without judgement of choice or circumstance isn’t a bad thing – it’s the right thing.

I learned who the local dealers were, driving fairly nice cars – one showed up to eat- and what’s not working in the area.It’s a tough place where a lot of violence still happens. I have been told by several people that bylaw officers have been moving some street people’s possessions and moving them along, ‘sweeping’ the area-hardly a solution to what ails this area.

I talked to a young guy the same age as my eldest son-21- who’s into hard drugs. He told me he see’s people start to walk down this street and then turn around because they are afraid.

“Of what?” I ask.

“Ha.Reality. They don’t want to see this.”  Truer words were never spoken, but let me share this:I never once felt unsafe in the midst of all these street people during this food service, in fact I was embraced as all the long time volunteers clearly are.

They are loved. There was no feeling of despair immediately evident- this bi-weekly meal, served by those whose compassion spurred them to action- is an act of community, of coming together, of being able to simply do something for someone else because you can.

And by the grace of something wonderful, the storm held off and the sun shone and at least for a while everyone had full stomachs, warm companionship and a dry place to sit and relax. I would say upwards of a hundred people were served today.

Some people,when confronted with a difficult reality, turn and run in the face of such overwhelming obstacles. Others do what they can, with what they have.

This is what they look like.

2014-10-19 006

* Everything served is either paid for by the volunteers themselves or donated. They are looking for a couple pop-up tents to shelter the food with fall and winter weather coming. There is a go fund me page that hasn’t been utilized much but would greatly help offset costs  http://www.gofundme.com/9qc7ks

Volunteers and donations of good, nutritious food are always welcome, Erin Schulte can be contacted via their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/695846520466061/

Newton residents left in the dark over proposed community court in Surrey with no response from Attorney General Susan Anton

It was back in January 2014, following the death of Julie Paskall, that both Mayor Watts and the NDP renewed calls for a community court in Surrey.

Watts met with Attorney General Susan Anton in February, where it was agreed that a steering committee would be set up to gain input from the judiciary, the province and city staff.

However, the prospect of a community court greatly concerns many Newton residents, who worry about the impact this would have on a community already ‘overloaded’ with social services.

They’ve been asking for answers as to whether or not members of the community will be included in the consultation process, but to date, have not received any response.

This is a copy of the email sent to Attorney General and cc’d to NDP MLA Harry Bains on July 10th:

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2014 03:41:37 -0700
To: suzanne.anton.mla@leg.bc.ca
From: Liz Walker ( email removed for privacy)
Subject: Community Courts in Surrey
Cc: Harry.Bains.MLA@leg.bc.ca

9 July 2014
Attention: Hon. Suzanne Anton
Minister of Justice
Room 232
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4
Dear Ms. Anton,
RE: Community Courts in Surrey
Earlier this year Mayor Watts alerted Newton community members to an Advisory Committee meeting regarding the proposed Community Courts expected to locate in Surrey’s Newton community. We are concerned about this initiative as our community has not yet received any formal notice from the City about it. To our knowledge there have not been any open houses or other avenues of consultation regarding it.
The Newton community has suffered a serious decline, both economically and socially, for more than a decade. Newton has come to be described as the new “Whalley” or Vancouver DTES of Surrey. Our community continues to observe this decline as we are either disregarded or excluded from decision making processes.
Many perceive Newton to be the low income, socio-correctional component of Surrey. With the concentration of social services that have located in the Newton area we have concerns that those, serviced through the community court, will be directed into Newton for its’ availability of services. This will add more troubled individuals to our streets and transit services without the stabilizing effect of an increased police presence.
We would like to see local citizen representation on committees/task forces related to proposals with the potential to directly impact our communities. We believe the Surrey specialized court task force is such a committee, as you have stated in a Hansard, CSC debate, “they are determining the needs of Surrey, because there is no cookie-cutter approach on courts. It’s to determine the community needs and do a needs assessment”. Newton is only one community in Surrey yet we have been encumbered with the responsibility of providing the bulk of correctional services to all of Surrey’s other communities.
We did ask our MLA, Harry Bains to determine why there was no invitation to the local community to be part of the task force and he did present the question to you, “I would like to ask the minister why any member of the community was not appointed on that”.
Unfortunately he did not receive an answer so we are left to ask the question again, and request local citizen representation on the task force/advisory committee for the Surrey specialized courts.
We welcome your reply. We hope that you will be able to provide us with a “Terms of reference” for the Surrey Specialized Court Task Force and a task force structure that recognizes the importance of local citizen involvement, i.e. citizen representation.
Yours truly,
Liz Walker
Newton Community Association

nb: copy of letter also included as an attachment for your convenience.

This same email was again forwarded to Attorney General Susan Antons office for response yesterday:

Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:15:53 -0700
To: suzanne.anton.mla@leg.bc.ca; harry.bains.mla@leg.bc.ca
From: Liz Walker
Subject: Sending again for response 

Dear Ms. Anton,

Members of the Newton Community Association would truly appreciate answers to our questions posed in the following/attached correspondence.

Thank you.

Yours truly,
Liz Walker
NCA Chairperson

I think all residents understand that there may at times, be delays to response from city or government officials due to holidays, vacation or other important events.

However, one would think that with all that Newton and other areas of Surrey have endured, and continue to endure, the respect would be given to respond accordingly to the very real concerns of local residents.

Once again, Newton appears to be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to consultation on the issues directly impacting our community.

The only indication I can find in the city of Surrey references to this agreement to form a steering committee was in this document, which is quite the read and worthy of a blog post in itself, is copied below.

Newton residents deserve to know one way or another:

1)  if indeed the province is genuinely engaged in this effort as both our mayor and Attorney General announced earlier this year, or if this was just noise to soothe worried residents

2) if the province and city indeed are engaged in such consultation on a steering committee, whether or not the community will be consulted and engaged as part of the process.



From Page 43/44, April of this year :

Specialized Courts in Surrey


A means of addressing the inherent delays in the existing Court system would be the establishment of a

Community Court, Drug Treatment Court, and Night Court in Surrey. The idea of establishing a

Community Court and Night Court was raised in the City of Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy in 2006

[Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy (2006) Section 2.3- Prosecuting and Sentencing Offenders- pages


This issue received some media attention in late January following the PASKALL Homicide with Mayor

WATIS stating her support and offering the former Surrey City Hall as the location for a Community

Court. Mayor WATIS made a significant push for a Community Court in 2011 and indicated that she will

continue to champion this initiative.






Bringing community pride and respect back to the streets of Newton.

The wonderful Jude Hannah of ReNewton Nation posted a blog post recently that has been picked up by the Surrey Now and run as a column: “Newton’s crisis is now an opportunity” . In her column, Jude speaks to the horror and outrage every Newton resident felt, and the small beginnings of hope and change that residents began to make happen for themselves, without waiting for anyone else to do it.

” However, amid all the sadness, frustration and acrimony of this dark time, a little ray of sunlight began to emerge in the Newton community. We realized we are just that – a community.

We came together and decided we weren’t going to allow some punk’s violent act define us. We are so much more than that.

Like many parts of Surrey, Newton is a neighbourhood undergoing changes. We are on the brink of creating a new and vibrant downtown core.

When you walk along 137th Street between Starbucks and the wave pool, past the Espresso Café and the ethnic grocery shops, you can see that this street and surrounding area has really good “bones.”

Great things are going to happen here in the next few years. In fact, if you frequent the places around the recreation centre and bus loop, you may have noticed neighbours getting together and creating happy, surprising and whimsical displays of hope, resilience – and most of all fun.

It is that vein I make a suggestion that I think might help honour and celebrate the spirit of what many of us know is wonderful and great about Newton, and what potential Newton has.

Last year, the city of Surrey held a combination Newton Community Festival in conjunction with their Open Doors initiative, where residents of Newton ( and all of Surrey) could take a trolley to various locations around the city to explore the many venues the city has to celebrate.

It was without a doubt, a successful festival,barring one point many people pointed out was a bit of downer : the location.

A large part of the festival was held in the back alley/parking lot located between the Newton ice rink and the mall right beside it. It worked… but it was a very visually undesirable location and instead of a feeling of pride, it felt rather shameful that Newton was relegated to a back alley/parking lot for a festival location, when others in the city are held on streets closed for such a purpose. ( Cloverdale does this every year)

It’s well-known that the pay parking on 137 st. in Newton has had an adverse impact on local businesses. Drive or walk the street as I recently did and you will see nothing but vacant parking spots and vacant rentals for businesses. We need to do something to revitalize that area. We need to bring people into it!!

Ironically, the city’s plan for Newton had included 137 st. as a location called Festival Street, for exactly that purpose: To hold events and festivals to bring people into that area!

It’s the perfect venue for a festival, with a wide street, angled parking spots and large sidewalks.

This is where a large part of the Newton Festival was held last year. It’s always dirty, always run down looking, always with plenty of garbage dumped. It is, what it is: a back allegy/parking lot meant for that purpose only. ( photo courtesy of Renewton Nation )





This is what the Newton Town Centre Plan, created by the city and delayed by the city, had envisioned for Newton’s troubled 137 st. :  Festival Street !!! ( photo courtesy of Renewton Nation )


The city has been planning for this years Newton Festival, which is once again, being held in the parking lots in between and behind the Newton Rec Centre and the Ice Rink.


With all that Newton has gone through in the last year, and with all the efforts local residents have made to fight for and create change in the area, it would be such an honour and show of good faith on the city of Surrey’s part, to host the festival on 137 st.,in the manner in which the city had originally intended that street to be used for.

I’ve spoken to several of the businesses along 137 st. and they welcome the idea of a festival along this area!!  And has been done in Cloverdale where festival venues were held on both sides of the very very busy Highway 10, there were signs directing festival goers across the highway safely at crosswalks. It was a win-win situation all around!

I sent this idea to the city of Surrey and it has been forwarded to festival organizers. It is not too late to change the location, since it is hosted by the city itself.

The community of Newton has shown tremendous interest and effort to make the community a safer, more inclusive, caring place for families and businesses alike.

Holding the Newton Community Festival on the street designed for that purpose honours everything, and everyone, that’s working to make Newton a place to be openly proud of. Time to take Newton out of the back alley and onto the main stage.

So you agree? Then come meet us in Midtown…. http://renewtonnation.blogspot.ca/2014/05/whats-in-name-meet-me-in-midtown.html


With more opportunity, comes more opportunists… ~Amy Gardener

I know many of you are waiting impatiently for my new post on a major issue involving one of my favorite contractors, but after reading something in a news story here in Surrey, I couldn’t let this pass.

Former Liberal MLA and frequent political candidate Brenda Locke, has announced that she is going to run for city council in November. Although she claims right now to be an independent, she has been asked by current controlling slate Surrey First to run with them – she denied – and says she has been in talks with others.

But it was a quote in an interview with the Leader that really raised my eyebrows and generated conversation online:

“Locke is concerned about how the city appears to be separated into “geographic silos” where each community feels totally separate from the others.

“One thing in Surrey that we desperately need  is one big central arena or…. large public gathering place,” Locke said. “I can’t think of a city that doesn’t have that one big stadium place.”

To be honest, I had to double check if Ms. Locke actually lived in Surrey, because the outrageousness of that statement on so many levels blows my mind.

She is quite right that we are a city separated into many town centres, in essence small cities within the city. But the assertion that the city desperately needs a stadium or an arena had me questioning whether or not Ms.Locke gets out much.Of course, she does indeed live in the city, but the last thing this cash-strapped city needs right now is a stadium and Holland park has served as our large public gathering place for years.

One has to wonder, with former mayor Doug McCallum suddenly appearing and making noises about the state of the city – he’s rumoured to be a potential candidate – and now Ms. Locke espousing that a stadium will connect the community, will the coming election amount to anything more than a re-run of years gone past?

Ms Locke of course,most recently made the news last year after resigning as the president of the Surrrey-Fleetwood constituency Association – athough rumours were flying it was in response to the embarrassing Ethno-gate leaked memo scandal, she has denied this on twitter, saying  she resigned because of a very busy personal schedule.

Locke has run twice for the Federal Liberals in Surrey- losing both times – but before she was an MLA, she served more than 15 years as the executive director of the BC Liquor Licensee and Retailers Association. In that position, she advocated for liquor licensee’s on a number of issues that would impact their businesses, including gaming, smoking laws, and tougher drunk driving laws, which did not go un-noticed by the press when she was subsequently became the new Mental health and Addiction Minister during her only term as MLA.

A lovely person, and respected by her friends and colleagues, but can she bring a breathe of fresh air to Surrey? Unlikely. The federal Liberals have been very busy in Surrey,getting ready for not only the municipal election but next years federal election as well. If Locke were to lose the municipal election this fall, it would certainly still provide her with enough name recognition to try another run federally if she were inclined to do so.

McCallum of course, well what can I say about his sudden media return except that it speaks to opportunity. It has been said by many a Surrey resident that McCallum’s “willy-nilly” approach to development is very much part of the reason we have such a disconnect between town centres -among other issues very much still plaguing the city – and what he could possible offer should he seek a return to civic politics, is anyone’s guess.

Call me a cynic, but I have a hard time finding anything palatable with any potential candidate who suddenly becomes concerned with the state of the city mere months before an election.. but then again, when opportunity knocks,it’s usually a politician who is the first to answer the door.





City staff recommend third reading be granted to draft Official Community Plan Monday March 31st as development continues at a breakneck pace.

City staff have now completed the corporate report Surrey council asked for following the recent public hearing of the Official Community plan (referred to as the OCP) , and are recommending that council grant third reading. http://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2014-R048.pdf

While city staff acknowledged merit to many of the speakers comments and suggestions at the public hearing, regarding concerns on many aspects of the draft OCP, no significant changes have been suggested or made. This is likely to result in growing discontent in many communities represented by community associations and groups at the public hearing, as breakneck development continues to outpace school capacity, parking, street upgrades and amenities.

None of the community associations, groups and just regular residents are opposed to progress. Change is born of progress. However, one common thread being voiced by every group is that development needs to slow down in some areas, or the unintended consequences mentioned above prevent communities from being able to flourish as they should. Residents become stressed, overwhelmed and angry as they deal with impact of poor planning decisions made in recent years.

While the city has committed to focus on a few town centres in the coming years,it is this disconnected approach to rejuvenating one area at a time,that has contributed to many town centres issues. It just makes sense to develop a cohesive strategy where small but consistent changes and efforts are made in rejuvenating all the town centres at the same time, to avoid what has happened in Surrey time and time again. Communities shouldn’t have to wait years for ‘their turn’.

In response to a call from a resident in South Surrey last week who was alarmed to find some clear cutting having been completed along with new development application signs going up in a completely rural location, I took a drive out to the area to see exactly what they were talking about.

The first set of photos were taken off 168th st, just south of 24th avenue, between about 21st and 22nd ave. They show a new development site of estate homes which was nearly completely clearcut, with the exception of a few large trees along the back of the site. Hover your mouse over the photo to start the slide show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Further down the street is another very large acreage which has yet to be fully cleared and appears to be in the process of having trees chosen for retention.

The properties in question are currently undergoing a development proposal, with an OCP amendment from suburban to urban, and a NCP amendment to redesignate the site from a school site to medium density residential!!!

One site is proposed to have  min. 39 townhomes, the other min. 19 single small lot homes. In the middle of what is more rural and farmland than suburban in the first place. A farm with pasture sides the property, currently accessible by a single lane road.

What is most striking is the juxtaposition of having a min. 39 townhomes, and 19 small lots homes, plunked down in the middle of rural area, with a single lane for access.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yes, if you build it, they will come… and in the next set of photos you see the massive clearcut that occurred recently along Hwy 10, just east of King George. I also discovered another large cut of trees on a lot just off King George right below it as well, that’s quite new.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I don’t know how where any of the children and youth who will eventually move into these particular developments will go to school, because despite having a new school in the Sullivan Heights area, all the schools are still far over capacity. Yet even in the following proposal, the city is likely to ok the increase in townhomes- it happens all the time. http://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/PLR_7912-0155-00.pdf

Last, but certainly not least, a look at the now more than half empty strip mall where the Newton Bingo Hall is located. After having written extensively about this bingo hall and slots for years, I was ecstatic to hear BCLC was pulling the slots, but immediately wondered what the impact would be on the proposed redevelopment of the site, which had to be done in order to keep the slots.

Sure enough, Gateway wouldn’t commit to continuing the redevelopment, despite having given notice to several businesses in the mall -there are only a couple that now remain. It would be incredibly tragic and would very visibly demonstrate Gateway as a bad community neighbour, in particular because of businesses having left so this redevelopment could occur.

The following photos show the current state of the strip mall housing the Newton Bingo Hall, one portion of the mall has already been demolished and another fenced off. The last photo is of one of the working girls who regularly work along the street right behind the mall.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While the still controversial build outs of the Grandview Heights NCP Area 4 begin,the rest of Surrey is left wondering how sustainable this is, when we aren’t keeping pace with policing and other vital infrastructure. While these photos tell the story of the impact of just three developments, there are hundreds of other clear cuts that have occurred just like this all over south Newton and south Surrey.  It would be telling to see a comparison of the city from an aerial view, taken 5 years ago to now. Vast tracts of forest are being cut constantly.

As the community of Newton and others continue to struggle on a daily basis with serious issues and growing pains that have no end in site, council will again be faced with making a decision at Monday night meeting that voters are not likely to forget by the municipal election in November.

You can find the schedule for Mondays full council and committee meetings at this link, and it will be the first meeting in the new city hall. Pay parking only in the parkade, unfortunately,


RCMP take lumps along with praise at community meeting – Newton residents look forward to next step.

I apologize for the lateness of this post – it’s been a hectic week with back to school, followed by immediate return of stomach flu as a result. I still haven’t posted my weekly 24Hrs column here yet – which was published Monday – and I’m not nearly caught up on emails.I’m hoping this quick post will answer a lot of questions many are asking about the meeting, how to get in touch with the association and what comes next.

Many have been asking for my thoughts on the meeting and why I wasn’t tweeting or live blogging it.

First of all, I wasn’t there as media, I was there as a resident. ( I’ve received some flack for being in the room from those who don’t know I live in Surrey) Many long time readers know that for many years I lived very close to Unwin Park which is a couple of blocks from the bus loop. After a series of shootings happened right around the corner from my old house, a move to another area of Newton further from the town core was in order, but the Newton core is still very much a place I’m in frequently. My youngest attended pre-school last year at the Newton rec centre, in the arena building outside of which Julie Paskall was killed.

Every morning I would bus into the Newton bus loop, drop him off, head over to Safeway Starbucks to grab a coffee, then head over the Newton Library to work for a couple of hours until it was time to pick him up and head back home. The Dollarama is there, Greco’s deli, Lucky Horse restaurant, among a variety of other great businesses. For all the problems of the town centre and surrounding areas, it’s full of hidden gems that don’t get to shine like they should because of those issues.

Since I’ve been helping the Newton Community Association with their press releases, there has to be a bit of a separation there.  You can’t live in a community for years and not have an attachment to it,despite its issues.

Now for my personal thoughts on the meeting.

I’ve been very critical of Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy’s statements to the press in the past regarding public safety, and it will likely not be the last time that occurs. His public relations comments on gang activity not impacting the safety of regular law abiding citizens was brought up by one Surrey resident to applause from the audience.  But I have to say this. He took some harsh lumps on issues relating to policing in the city firmly on the chin, and made no attempt to spin, deflect or otherwise. No excuses were given, just an apology and comment that it was unacceptable, in instances where policing failures had been made.

It was also clear that residents have a clear appreciation and respect for the officers working the streets- something that was voiced several times. They know the officers work hard, that they are inundated with nearly nonstop calls and residents appreciate the work they do in the community-they just want more of them.

Newton residents brought up so many great ideas, many of which would be relatively low cost to initiate, others with more planning but still excellent ideas. Kevin Diakiw of The Leader seemed to have snuck into the room and has an excellent report, so I won’t rehash it here. http://www.surreyleader.com/news/239139271.html What I will say is everyone was so proud of the residents who showed up, who shared stories, who cried tears and brought excellent, excellent solutions forward. Newton is far more than the crimes and social issues even I have reported on, Newton is every person that showed up, and I guess that’s really why I’ve been so angry over the years at nothing being done. They deserve more. We all do.

One of the items brought up at the meeting and one Liz has been talking about for years – is an online reporting form for Surrey residents to report petty crimes such as thefts. I hope to see the RCMP implement this soon.

After the meeting, I did a walkabout with the mayors executive assistant, Judy Mann,from the seniors centre, to the bus loop, at nearly 10pm at night, and her teenage daughter accompanied us. We didn’t take security nor RCMP, but went on our own, as women walking in pairs for safety would do. It didn’t take Judy long to understand why residents feel unsafe in the area, particularly after dark, and what issues transit and rec centre users experience commuting and walking in the area.

We noted very dim lighting, a light out, lack of lighting and ample places to conduct criminal activity on or around city property. Those issues and the accompanying photos she took, were passed on immediately to staff in charge for review and/or action. The light was immediately replaced and an electrical problem with the light standard was being investigated.

City facilities must be safe facilities, because so many families, singles and seniors use them – the city could find itself in a position of liability if things like lights are not changed quickly. Translink could find itself in the same position for not providing adequate security for the bus loop, or allowing clearly criminal activity to continue without regard to public safety. The RCMP are now well aware of several issues they need to address.

Now that everyone is at the table, it’s important for everyone to keep the focus and pressure on until solutions are enacted – not merely promised. Every level of government must work cohesively with resident support and participation. There is, without a doubt, a lot to fix : immediate safety issues like security, policing,lighting, landscaping changes, and longer term solutions for a plethora of social issues.

Newton is a huge area within Surrey that includes both Panorama ridge, Sullivan and Strawberry Hill – a lot of people don’t realize that.  While Newton town centre ( which is a very small area) has received the bulk and focus of attention, the issues discussed at the meeting extend far beyond that.Residents from all areas of Newton attended, each concerned about what they could do in their particular neighbourhood and its important for each of you to get involved.

I have received a lot of emails and contacts from people who attended the meeting trying to find the Newton Community Association online somewhere.

Quite honestly, the group was still in its formative stages when this tragedy occurred and found itself thrust into the public eye far sooner that anticipated – they are working on a facebook page and a website right now, in addition to working hard on phone calls, meetings etc to get ready for the next public meeting that takes place in February. They work, they have families, and they all live in some part of Newton.

The committee is a super group of people, many of whom I have known for years like Liz Walker and Cindy Law. Most of them have been in one group or another for some time before this new effort was started. Honestly Liz Walker deserves a superwoman’s cape for all the years of work she has done in Newton, as does Cindy, but every committee member is dedicated to a safe,livable community for all of Newton.

To get in touch with the Newton Community Association, or to become a member, please email newtoncommunityassociation@gmail.com

There is also a twitter handle now too, no guarantees how often it will be tweeting, likely only major updates for now, while there is a lot of work going on : https://twitter.com/NewtonResidents

All Newton residents are invited to join the association, and there are other associations cropping up within Newton as well, in addition to many across the city.  ( I couldn’t find a current list of community associations for the city at the time of posting, but this is a good start http://www.surreyasc.com/members.htm)

One thing is clear. Newton residents have finally found their voice…In hindsight, it was more like a roar.

***In addition: it is very clear that only by adopting the Delta police standard of “No call too small”, will residents accurately reflect the real picture of crime in our city RCMP stats.RCMP stats are used to facilitate and justify funding for many resources including policing. The RCMP are aware that timely waits are happening and that at times, callers who report crime often, have on occasion, been told they are a nuisance ( this actually happened to a neighbor of mine as well, who called me the next day). That was addressed at the meeting, but it was made clear that those calls of thefts,vandalism etc must be made.

Newton(and all of Surrey) residents, please call and report crime when you see it happening: 911 for emergencies and 604-599-0502 for non-emergencies. Hearing impaired line is 604-599-7602.

It’s important to remember that Julie Paskalls killer is still out there. Somebody knows something. Even if you think you might have seen something, but think its not important, it might be. You can be anonymous by calling Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or their website http://www.solvecrime.ca/

One thing is clear. Newton residents have finally found their voice…

In hindsight, it was more like a roar.