A quick look at Sunshine Hills

This is a perfect suburban neighbourhood in conventional terms: single-family homes distributed along nested crescents, tall trees, tranquility. Watershed Park sits on the southern edge, a wide patch of rain forest with a fine network of trails. There are no hills in Sunshine Hills, but the park slopes down to the coastal plain and provides a buffer against the noise from Highway 99, the route to Seattle (south) or Vancouver (north).

You can walk from most of Sunshine Hills to the shops at Scott Road and 64th in 20 minutes or less.  The area plan, published by the municipality of Delta in 2015, makes it Sunshine Hills Centre reducedclear there is no intention to create a more explicitly walkable ring of medium-density housing around the commercial area. The residents seem to like things as they are. We did not see a single “For Sale” sign during our visit.

I walked through Watershed Park and along the Sunshine Hills streets with our friend Robert Smarz, who used to live in the area and has a keen eye for lot sizes and likely values. He praised the range of services available at the Sunshine Hills Centre, a busy shopping mall that offers a supermarket, a fruit and vegetable market, a liquor store, a popular restaurant, and veterinary, insurance, dental and financial services. There are more shops and services on two other corners at the Scott Road/64th intersection, although these malls are not as busy.

Apartment housing on the Surrey side of Scott Road

East of Scott Road you enter the City of Surrey, a municipality that has made different zoning decisions leading to the construction of apartments and townhomes. I will return here in the future to see if we can cobble together an “urban village” by putting together the housing choice on the Surrey side with the shops and services on the Delta side. As a side note, you are in the outer ring of transit service here; a trip to the Scott Road SkyTrain station to the north requires a transfer, and the direct bus to SkyTrain in New West takes 35 minutes.

Bob and I ate lunch at the Sundowner Pub, which has no craft beer but serves a $5.00 breakfast on weekends.

Sunshine Village, a shopping mall just south of 64 Avenue, with a retro look suggestive of the 1920s Cloverdale uban village further east

Steveston village: this ain’t Manhattan


The neighbourhood business association promotes Steveston as a place to visit, with its waterfront, cafes and gift shops. Co-tourist Robert Smarz and I walked the  ocean-facing pathway on the west side of the community and enjoyed lunch at the Shady Island pub on the boardwalk; we didn’t have time to stop at the Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, so there’s more to see.

development-reducedBut the designated core is attracting new residents as well as visitors, part of a general upscaling of Vancouver-area real estate. Postwar bungalows on the back streets are disappearing in favour of low-rise apartment buildings of three and four storeys. There are now enough essential services in place — such as food markets and professional offices — to make this a livable urban village with an affluent tinge. Rapid transit to downtown Vancouver is about 20 minutes away by bus, and bus service is frequent. Continue reading

A Queensborough-Annacis Island walking loop

Rosedale reduced

Annacis Island, an all-industrial zone located in the Fraser River, is noted (if at all) for its large wastewater treatment plant and worsening traffic congestion.

The five-kilometre long island is a less-than-obvious place to walk; co-tourist Robert Smarz and I went to find out if it is at all tolerable for humans. We were lucky to arrive on a Friday morning before a long weekend, when traffic was light, but we had to stay alert nonetheless, as the trucks are large and there are no sidewalks. Continue reading

The village at Ladner

Ladner docks

If you decide to live in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, you may as well orient yourself to water or mountains.

You might choose the old fishing village of Ladner, in the south part of the municipality of Delta, because the weather is relatively dry (despite the snow on the day we visited.) Or because residents have worked to develop a prosperous, safe sense of community. Continue reading

Tsawwassen’s “small town” centre

A restaurant fronting on mall parking, Tsawwassen, B.C.

A restaurant fronting on mall parking, Tsawwassen, B.C.

Tsawwassen is a cluster of neighbourhoods in the affluent municipality of Delta, in Greater Vancouver. It sits on a peninsula in the Pacific Ocean, warm and dry, getting half as much rain as many other parts of the region. As our waitress said, Tsawwassen lives in its “own little bubble,” away from the big-city mainstream.

Oceanfront housing, Beach Grove, Tsawassen

Oceanfront housing, Beach Grove, Tsawwassen

Newish housing, English Bluff Road, Tsawassen

Newish housing, English Bluff Road, Tsawwassen

The local government’s official plan describes Tsawwassen’s character as “semi-rural”  (schedule D1-6); in fact, it’s a 1960s-style suburb with mostly quiet streets and average-sized lots. Construction activity is brisk, though, as the original 60s and 70s homes are knocked down and replaced. Continue reading

The plan to grow Richmond Brighouse

Saba Road, Richmond

Saba Road, Richmond

We visited Richmond to see the Brighouse district, tagged by local government as an emerging urban village. We parked on the mall roof, an unvillagey place to start. After a walkabout of the area, our friend Bob Smarz decided that this is a real neighbourhood,  judging from the vitality of the Asian shops and the Public Market. I am undecided.

Richmond Centre mall

Richmond Centre mall

In its 2011 census, StatsCan put Richmond’s population at 190,000, with more than 40 per cent of residents speaking a language other than English at home.  Richmond city officials want to focus future population growth in the central area (see page 2-3 of the 2009 Central Area Plan), mostly in six designated urban villages. As I said in my previous post, I find the “village” vision difficult to grasp: the same six precincts would see significant growth in commercial, industrial and public-sector employment, and would also provide cultural and entertainment services on a regional scale. Continue reading

A wider definition of “urban village”

Behind the Public Market, Brighouse Village, Richmond City Centre

Behind the Public Market, Brighouse Village, Richmond City Centre

We launched the Fraseropolis Urban Villages project in March 2012, six months after opening this site. Our amateur definition of “urban village” focuses on places where residents can find everyday services, transit and housing choice within easy walking distance. Not everyone wants to live in a village; but a successful village attracts enough people that business and community life flourish.

Richmond City Centre

Richmond City Centre

The City of Richmond, British Columbia, in its 2009 whopper of a City Centre Area Plan, looks at the urban village in an expanded way. The Plan describes villages as a key part of the City’s City Centre development strategy, and identifies six of them. (“Candidate villages” might be a better name, since most of them exist only on the drawing board.) The Plan says that “‘Urban village’ is another name for the type of compact, walkable, transit-centred community encouraged by Transit-Oriented Development.”  Page 1-10 lays out a grid of required or encouraged village features. Continue reading