Pitt Meadows 2 – Uptown (aka Downtown)

An apartment/commercial complex at Harris Road and Ford Road in Pitt Meadows. This was built in about 2010 on the site of a failed shopping plaza

Pitt Meadows City Hall, at the southern end of the commercial zone

Municipal governments in B.C. have a limited menu of responsibilities. They send delegates to regional bodies to haggle over various things, but their direct control is restricted mostly to fire protection, local streets, community recreation space and urban land use. And policing, in the odd handful of municipalities that have opted out of using the federal Mounted Police…

Anyway, the urban land use decisions have the most durable consequences. Each of the close to 30 cities and towns in the Lower Mainland has a slightly different look and feel, based on local council votes that took place 20, 30 or more years ago. This includes how much space to devote to pavement, but more important are the decisions around where to locate commercial development and how to connect it to neighbourhoods.

Pitt Meadows, with a population of 20,000, has an urban area that is bounded on the west and north by rich farming lands. Rhetorically, in my experience, Pitt Meadows councils have talked a lot about preserving a “rural feeling” and respecting the sanctity of the single-family lot.

However, the same councils have smuggled an urban village into place, very gradually, over a generation or more. This is despite the apparent lack of a detailed central area plan, or even a widely recognized name for the area. Town Centre? Downtown? Uptown? The 2009 official city plan uses Town Centre, and then devotes less than a page to the town centre’s function.

However, there’s a range of densified housing choice including a recent seniors’ complex, housing co-ops, condo apartments, and townhomes, and an interesting mix of retail services including a bookstore, independent travel agent and microbrew tasting lounge. The commercial area is split, inconveniently, by a busy rail line. To make the crossing, pedestrian visitors (and residents) are confined to Harris Road just at its noisiest stretch.

Co-tourist R.J. Smarz and I took a short walking tour south and east from City Hall that included a pleasant wooded trail. We had lunch on a Saturday at the Jolly Coachman pub, and it was very good.

[This is post #36 in our Urban Villages series.]

On 191B Street, a block off Harris Road. The tenants in this quirky shopping centre include Artista Pizza (recommended).

Ford Road east of Harris

Japanese restaurant, off Harris Road

A newly completed commercial/residential complex on Harris at 124 Ave.


In the shadow of Vancouver’s traffic viaducts

Vacant lands next to False Creek in downtown Vancouver. The city government’s plan will see the removal of two elevated roadways, the extension of a waterfront park and up to 20 new residential towers.

The first Georgia Street automobile viaduct was built in 1915 as a bridge over railways and industrial lands. The current Georgia and Dunsmuir Street viaducts are orphan remnants of a failed plan to run a freeway from Highway 1 into downtown Vancouver.

2011 study reported that the viaducts carry about 40,000 vehicles every day. However, Vancouver Council voted in 2015 to tear them down and tidy up the underlying street network. The viaducts are ugly, and they’re a waste of land: it’s estimated that their removal will enable the development of housing for as many as 10,000 people.

A photo of the Georgia and Dunsmuir road viaducts from the City’s January 2017 “Northeast False Creek Directions” document. An elevated SkyTrain guideway is to the right.

This land use concept is presented in the City’s March 2017 “Northeast False Creek Park Design” document

Public discussion around the City’s decision has focused on a “traffic chaos” scenario where unfortunate commuters will have no access to their downtown jobs. City Council is fortunate, in this context, that many affected commuters come from outside Vancouver and have no real vote in the matter.

In any case, the traffic concern is overblown, at least as it relates directly to the viaducts. I’m writing as someone who commuted over the viaducts in past years.

Carmaggedon” almost never happens, in Fraseropolis or elsewhere. In the weeks before the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver news media issued dire warnings about impending chaos related to Games events and street entertainment in the downtown. But as the 2011 study notes, the change in traffic volumes was barely detectable during the Olympics as motorists switched to transit. Motorists adjust; and they will need to continue to adjust, as tower development continues to the north, south and east of  False Creek over the next decade.

A different debate in the viaduct zone will take place around the sharing of land between park expansion and residential construction. Under an agreement signed by the Social Credit government of B.C. in the 1980s, the lands around the viaducts belong to Concord Pacific, a property developer that has completed billions of dollars worth of projects further west. The land use concept shown above shows a generous area of public park; some local residents say it’s not enough, but Concord obviously has an interest in getting a financial return from its property.

The next step, according to the City of Vancouver website, is a final Northeast False Creek area plan, to be drafted in summer and fall of 2017. There is no date provided for demolition and construction.

Co-tourist Morna McLeod and I walked around the viaducts on a Saturday morning, stopping for a chat at the Concord Pacific information office and enjoying a fine brunch at The Union, a bar-restaurant on Union Street.

New housing at the Main Street ramp off the Georgia viaduct

Looking from near the Dunsmuir viaduct to the International Village, an early 2000s development built near the Chinatown-Stadium transit station

The site of a former Jimi Hendrix shrine, Union at Main. The musician’s grandmother lived and worked near this corner.

Part of the space under the viaducts functions as a combination skateboard facility and refuge for the homeless

Pitt Meadows 1 — Osprey Village

The recently completed commercial core of Osprey Village. The brick-faced structure in the foreground was approved as a live-work development, with shopowners living above their businesses.

The city of Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, population 18,500, has shown how a small municipality can function effectively in a large urban region. Residents enjoy relatively low property taxes and much the same services as  Surrey, a nearby city with a half a million people.

Osprey Village, a Pitt Meadows neighbourhood overlooking the Fraser River, was built over the past decade with patience and (I think) good taste, at least compared with the competition in other Fraseropolis suburbs. The commercial zone pictured above is short on everyday services and heavy on dog spas and craft galleries, but it’s attractive and cozy, and is now a mini-tourism destination for cyclists and for families looking to walk along the river. (Osprey is at the western end of a regional pathway network, and not far from the Golden Ears Bridge; cycling links to Coquitlam and Langley are excellent.) The 2009 land use plan adopted by City Council in 2009 provides for up to 25 live-work units on the main street or immediately behind, and the community hall by the river park acts as a regional conference centres, so there’s continued pedestrian traffic in the Osprey village centre even on weekdays. Continue reading

Transit funding and election speculation

Focus on Surrey: the B.C. government’s $2.2 billion transit announcement, March 31, 2017. Transit minister Peter Fassbender, MLA for Surrey Fleetwood, is flanked by Marvin Hunt, MLA for Surrey-Panorama, first elected to Surrey City Council in 1988; and by technology minister Amrik Virk, MLA for Surrey-Tynehead, formerly a prominent RCMP officer in Surrey. The photo by Arlen Redekop is clipped from the Vancouver Sun.

British Columbia’s Liberal government took a surprising step late last week with a rapid transit announcement that exceeded most expectations.

The Province will match the federal government’s $2.2 billion pledge toward Phase 2 of the 10-year transportation plan put forward in 2016 by the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council. This phase includes construction of a Clark Street to Arbutus SkyTrain extension in Vancouver, and the Newton-Guildford light rail line in Surrey. Continue reading

They’re stackin’ ’em in at Brentwood

Space between apartment towers off Rosser Avenue in Burnaby’s Brentwood district, looking to Gilmore

A rendering of the Shape Properties “Amazing Brentwood” development plan as published in VanCity Buzz

The City of Burnaby is on track to win an award, if it exists, for the most extreme residential densification in western Canada.

Tower development at Metrotown has leapt into an affordable rental housing zone and displaced hundreds of long-term tenants. People protesting against these “demovictions” occupied the office of Mayor Derek Corrigan in early March. At Lougheed Town Centre further east, Shape Properties has set up a site office for “The City of Lougheed”, promising 23 or more “stunning high-rise towers” in close proximity, stretching as high as 55 storeys. The same developer has started construction on “Amazing Brentwood”, depicted here, to include 11 residential towers as well as a redeveloped shopping mall and street-facing retail space. Continue reading

Metro Vancouver’s homeless report: where to from here?


With a growing number of homeless camps (now estimated at 70) dug into Metro Vancouver communities, conversation on the issue has veered into a world of personal attacks and draconian proposals. One sample “solution,” endemic in community news chat threads, would re-establish the vast 1905-era asylum on its hillside in Coquitlam and lock homeless people inside.

This is a waste of time, of course. There’s no cheap or easy route to rolling back the homelessness problem. In fact, a new report from the Metro Vancouver regional authority is daunting in describing the actions that would be required even to hold the status quo. Continue reading

Riding the Evergreen Extension


My Facebook friend Trevor Batstone has posted a rider’s eye view from the front of the new Evergreen Extension elevated train through Coquitlam and Port Moody, stopping at Lougheed Town Centre.

We’ve reported in the past on Evergreen Line construction and anticipated effects, most recently in October 2016. The line opened in December. After a late reconfiguration, the track from Coquitlam City Hall (Lafarge Lake/Douglas) to Lougheed Town Centre has been renamed the Millennium Line, Evergreen Extension. The traveller gets a close look at the extensive high-rise development that has been mentioned on this site.

The train continues through Burnaby, (that is, beyond where the video takes us). With a transfer to the Expo Line at Broadway/Commercial the trip from Lafarge Lake to downtown Vancouver takes about 45 minutes.