2018 local elections: backlash, reform, status quo

Coquitlam Central, 2014

October’s local elections in urban southwest British Columbia showed no clear trend. Each of the more than 30 municipal jurisdictions has its own political cycle, based on local history and personalities. In Surrey and Maple Ridge we saw a return to the past; in Coquitlam, New Westminster and North Vancouver, something like the status quo; and in Mission, Port Moody, City of Langley and elsewhere, the rise of a new generation. Continue reading

Planning for renewal in Chilliwack

Dom 1

Vicki and I are loyal to Chilliwack. We worked with the City on community planning  projects in the 2000s and were impressed with Council’s vision and respect for citizen participation.

So on a recent Saturday visit with co-tourist Dominic Kotarski, I was saddened to see a downtown core on hold, with vacant lands, empty storefronts and few people on the streets. Continue reading

The village at Harrison Lake

Dock 4 reduced For the visitor, the impressive view of the lake and surrounding mountains is a big part of the experience — and a dip in the hot pools, of course.

The resident has access to the same views and the poetic cycle of a climate that is on the soggy side*– 69 inches (175 cm.) of annual precipitation through the late 20th century, including the occasional dramatic snow event. There’s also the opportunity for regular visits to Agassiz, a larger hamlet about 10 minutes away in the District of Kent, since Harrison has no supermarket, drug store or bank. The BC Transit bus runs to Agassiz nine times per day. [13 times per day as of 2019.] Continue reading

Fraser Canyon hamlets and one-dollar houses

One-dollar houses 4

From downtown Vancouver, it’s an hour’s drive in mid-day traffic to the edge of the Metro regional district. It’s almost twice as far again to the edge of Fraseropolis, the larger region that overlaps and interacts with Metro Vancouver.

The Fraser Canyon hamlet of Boston Bar shares a health authority with the City of Burnaby, at the border of the City of Vancouver. Its small public library is part of a system that stretches into the middle ring of Metro Vancouver suburbs. Continue reading

In pursuit of Fraser Valley wine

Tanks, Mt Lehman winery

As mentioned previously on this site, Fraseropolis — the sometimes quarrelsome  liaison of Fraser Valley County and Vancouver County — produces two thirds of the agricultural wealth in British Columbia. This output includes wine grapes.

The Wine Institute of B.C. recognizes the Fraser Valley (including Metro Vancouver) as a wine producing region. There’s room for a little caution here, since most of our locally-produced wine isn’t produced from local grapes. Putting aside the industrial-scale use of Californian and Chilean product, the Vancouver-area wineries that want a “VQA” sticker (made in B.C.) truck in most of their grapes from the sunny Okanagan Valley, four or five hours away. The issue on the Pacific Coast, I think, is the relative shortage of hot, sunny days, combined with a fewness of vines. Continue reading

They’re spending money in Downtown Abbotsford

Montrose Avenue, Abbotsford Abbotsford is the largest city in the Fraser Valley Regional District.  It’s the product of a series of mergers, the latest being with the District of Matsqui in 1995.

The old Village of Abbotsford, like Cloverdale and Aldergrove, also described in this series, Montrose Avenue, Abbotsfordwas a stop on the vanished Interurban commuter rail line.  It’s been renamed Downtown Abbotsford, and the city government has taken steps to dress it up and attract customers… Continue reading

Mission City: small-town roots, suburban realities

First Avenue, Mission

In most of our cities, it’s too late to cry about the shift of commercial activity from high streets to asphalt plazas; the deed is done.  If the high street is going to survive, it must function primarily as the core of an urban village, and gather new residents around it, especially seniors, within a walkable area.

Mission City is an example: a townsite in the District of Mission, a Fraser Valley municipality with a population of about 37,000.  Mission grew up as a mill town, and is still home to the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau (“The Recognized Authority Since 1915”).  The premiere shopping venue is The Junction, a plaza constructed in the 1990s.  There’s a new neighbourhood shopping centre up by the high school, and another one in development on Highway 7. Continue reading