table of contents

Summary of Presentation to Surrey City Council, October 16, 2000
Patrick Condon, James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments

Figure 4 - a unique 4-day charrette involving appropriate City, private, and povincial interests, created the East Clayton Land Use Plan

Figure 5 - Kyoto Agreement target vs. 5-year trend

Figure 6

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9 - East Clayton in relaion onto the ALR and the surrounding stream systems

Figure 10 - East Clayton Land Use Plan (approved Nov. 22, 1999)

Figure 11 - Principle One

Figure 12 - Principle Two

Figure 13 - A diverse neighbourhood comprised of mixed densities and housing types.

Figure 14 - Principle Three

Figure 15 - Principle four: A streetscape free form the face of garages

Figure 16 - Principle Five

Figure 17 - Principle Six

Figure 18 - Principle Seven

Figure 19 - This drawing, produced at the beginning of the first design charrette for the site (Spring 1999), shows the East Clayton Plan taking shape around existing green corridors and riparian areas.

Figure 20 - East Clayton is an integrated part of the larger Clayton area. The Main Street Commercial area is shown virtually in the centre (north of Fraser Highway) of this approximately 800 acre area.



(1) there would be 40 percent fewer cars on the road;

(2) the air would be 40 percent cleaner;

(3) our region's contribution to global warming would be cut by 40 percent;

(4) salmon would thrive;

(5) the expected doubling of our population could be accommodated without destroying our environment;

(6) public expenditure per resident for maintenance and replacement of infrastructure would be cut in half; and

(7) average wage earners could own their own homes and gardens

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It is a great honour to be here speaking to you today about the Headwaters Project. First I would like to congratulate Surrey Council on the leadership you have shown in addressing problems ranging from air that is hazardous to our health to housing prices that are beyond the reach of our average families. You were the first city in British Columbia to require retention ponds for stream protection, the first city to systematically adjust street standards for reduced costs and for enhanced pedestrian and bicycle comfort as shown in the 1997 Surrey Local Road Standards Review. You were also the first BC municipality to propose a Small Lot Zoning bylaw. Surrey leads the region and even Canada and North America in these initiatives; and other communities, such as the City of Vancouver, the City of Burnaby, and the City of Coquitlam are following Surrey’s lead.

In December 1998, the City of Surrey Department of Planning and Development agreed to enter into partnership with our research group, a team of consultants, and a multi-constituent advisory committee (involving various levels of government) in order to produce a model capable of applying sustainable principles and alternative development standards “on the ground”. The model that developed is the East Clayton Neighbourhood Concept Plan (Figure 2). The basis for developing this model was a set of seven principles for creating sustainable communities that had emerged from previous joint projects between Surrey and the James Taylor Chair. The first of these joint efforts was the first James Taylor Chair Design Charrette for Sustainable Urban Landscapes, held in South Newton area of Surrey. The design brief for this was developed using existing local and regional policy directives for sustainable development, such as the Growth Strategies Act, the GVRD Livable Region Strategic Plan, and other local policies guiding more concentrated growth. Each of the charrette teams were required to accommodate a community of approximately 10,000 (similar to the projected population for East Clayton) in ways that provide a variety of housing, commercial and work places, while also preserving, or even enhancing, the sensitive stream systems that surround the South Newton area (Figure 3).

This project led to the 1998 Alternative Development Standards for Sustainable Communities workshop and publication, in which the James Taylor Chair undertook research to demonstrate the costs and benefits of alternative development standards, with a specific focus on green infrastructure. Among other things, this research demonstrated that incorporating stormwater management within the rights-of-ways of an interconnected street system could reduce infrastructure costs. It also demonstrated how alternative developments could result in an up to one-third reduction of infrastructure costs for a single-family home over the same unit in a conventional cul-de-sac development. In January 1999, Surrey City Council authorized planning staff to explore the application of seven principles that emerged from these projects as the basis for developing the Neighbourhood Concept Plan for the community of East Clayton. Together with City staff, the James Taylor Chair and Pacific Resources (guided by the Headwaters Advisory committtee), undertook an extensive democratic design process that produced the East Clayton Land-Use Plan and NCP (Figure 4). The Land-use plan was approved in November, 1999, and staff have been finalizing the NCP, which, we anticipate, will be presented to Council sometime in December. Even at this stage, there is remarkable interest in the Plan, both from within the region, and throughout North America.

Before speaking directly to the Plan and the seven principles, the following provides a brief summary of a few of the issues that precipitated this initiative.

Currently, Canada is not making its commitment under the Kyoto Convention to reduce greenhouse gases in order to improve air and water quality (Figure 5). As a partial consequence of the way we build our communities, people are being forced to drive more than they need to or even want to. As the graph shows, the closer we move to the target date, the bigger the gap becomes between the target and our actual performance. Land-use regulations and road engineering standards are often at fault, creating communities that separate homes from commercial centres and schools, fragmenting natural areas, and developing road infrastructure that favours the most efficient movement of the automobile at the expense of pedestrian movement.

The environmental impacts of such development include loss of fish habitat, dramatic reductions in water and air quality, and downstream flooding of precious agricultural lands, to name just a few. New research from the Center for Urban Water Resources Management at the University of Washington suggests that, when as little as 10 percent of the watershed is covered with roads and roofs (impervious surfaces), the fish decline. This is very bad news, because our research shows that even low-density suburban development has 40 percent to 50 percent impervious cover (Figure 6). By reducing the amount of pavement on road surfaces and yards, the impacts on streams and downstream agricultural lands can be dramatically reduced. In our region, the majority of rainfall comes from very small storms (less than 1” per storm, representing 54 percent of all yearly rainfall). In this scenario, natural infiltration becomes a very practical, realistic, and economic way of managing stormwater, as the majority of water that falls can actually be absorbed into the ground and returned to the aquifer and streams at rates that maintain their natural function (Figure 7).

Economically, the costs of conventional suburban development are becoming increasingly high, both to the municipality and to the region. This includes the alarming costs of flooding and erosion that have taken place in past years on the agricultural lowlands due to increasing urbanization of the uplands, and the replacement costs of infrastructure when engineered systems fail. Our studies show that per unit cost of alternative development (wherein for instance, streets use less pavement, and natural drainage systems are used) can be up to one-third cheaper than conventional development (Figure 8).

The East Clayton NCP:

The East Clayton NCP was initiated in response to many of these issues. The 250-hectare East Clayton site is located on the eastern border of Surrey. As the map shows, the site is situated upland of the region’s Agricultural Land Reserve and drains into three of the region’s most significant water bodies (the Serpentine, the Nicomekle, and the Fraser Rivers) (Figure 9). The NCP was conceived with this regional context in mind. This mixed-use plan supports enough of a variety of land uses and residential/community types to maximize affordability, sociability, and availability of commercial services within easy walking distance for the proposed population of approximately 13,000 persons (Figure 10). East Clayton has narrow streets; roadways throughout the site use one-third less blacktop than do status quo suburban sites. Stormwater management, consisting of yard, street, and larger open space infiltration devices, will eliminate nearly all downstream consequences of development. What is particularly unique about this project is that no other initiative either here or elsewhere has shown how a combination of efficiencies can dramatically decrease site infrastructure costs while also reducing dependence on the automobile. Due to the absence of examples that remotely comply with these policies, it was important that the seven principles provide a model that could be applied in other areas of Surrey and in other municipalities in the region. Thus, Surrey City Council endorsed the principles on January 25, 1999.

The Seven Principles:

1. Increase density and conserve energy by designing compact walkable neighbourhoods. This will encourage pedestrian activities where basic services (e.g., schools, parks, transit, shops, etc.) are within a five- to six-minute walk of homes (Figure 11).

Studies show that if it takes longer than five minutes to reach basic services, most people will choose to drive. But in order for a store, even a small convenience store, to be both viable and within a five-minute walk, it needs to be surrounded by streets containing about 10 units, or twenty-five people, per acre. The average overall density of East Clayton will be between 9 and 10 units per acre (over twice that of conventional suburbs). The density also seems to be the minimum for a viable transit system. Eventually, a rapid bus will serve East Clayton, providing connections (at 7-8 minute intervals) to the larger municipality and region.

2. Provide different dwelling types (a mix of housing types, including a broad range of densities from single-family homes to apartment buildings) in the same neighbourhood and even on the same street (Figure 12).

Zoning has been the single greatest instrument for segregating the North American landscape according to class and income. We realized that change could be brought about quite simply by allowing different size parcels on the same street and different family numbers and arrangements on each parcel. With this in mind, the NCP provides a range of densities and housing types. Housing will consist of low, medium, medium-high and high density forms in detached, semi-detached, fee simple row housing and town housing, and apartments in the same neighbourhood and, where possible, on the same street. A feature of most desirable neighbourhoods (Figure 13) is the tremendous degree of variety provided by houses that address the street and that, by virtue of the size of the lots on which they sit, and the diversity of tenure type they provide, accommodate a mixture of family types. Lots in East Clayton will be about one-half to one-eighth the size of a typical suburban lot. In addition, secondary dwelling units and suites, a feature of many of North America’s older neighbourhoods, will be encouraged. The rental income provided by the secondary unit will make homes affordable while providing good housing in pleasant surroundings for people who are beginning their careers, who don’t have sufficient equity to buy a home, or who have other places in which they would like to invest. Thus renters have a place to live that is far more suitable, attractive, and integrated than is the all-too-common and ever-increasing alternative: being segregated by income into vast and featureless garden apartment complexes, townhouse complexes, or low-income projects.

3. Communities are designed for people; therefore, all dwellings should present a friendly face to the street in order to promote social interaction (Figure 14).

Adhering to this principle means never having to see a three-car garage eating up the whole front of a house. Blocks in East Clayton are to be proportioned to create a fine-grained, interconnected network of streets. This interconnected network is fundamental in reducing traffic, congestion, and allows as many homes as possible the opportunity to front directly onto the public street. The Plan inherently ensures more eyes on the street, while creating a larger backyard for private outdoor space. Tree-lined boulevards, infiltration devices and on-street parking will buffer the pedestrian from passing traffic.

4. Ensure that car storage and services are handled at the rear of dwellings (Figure 15).

Where possible, lanes will be provided at the rear of dwelling units in response to existing site conditions, community structure and lot size. This will ensure building fronts are not consumed by garages and front yards consumed by concrete, contrary to a pedestrian street which acts to engage the resident. Again, the lanes allow cars to gain access to units from behind, ensuring a minimum setback and a larger private backyard area

5. Provide an interconnected street network, in a grid or modified grid pattern, to ensure a variety of itineraries and to disperse traffic congestion; and provide public transit to connect East Clayton with the surrounding region (Figure 16).

Interconnected street systems ensure that every trip may follow the shortest possible route. Having a store within a five-minute walk of your home is of no benefit if the five-minute walk requires you to cut through three backyards and jump over five fences. Yet most of our newer communities are designed to ensure that virtually all trips are longer than they need to be. Interconnected street systems (see Principle 4), can and should give way to natural systems without compromising the interconnected tissue of the local street system.

6. Provide narrow streets shaded by rows of trees in order to save costs and to provide a greener, friendlier environment (Figure 17).

‘Lighter, greener, cheaper, smarter infrastructure’ is the opposite of the ‘heavy, grey, expensive, and stupid infrastructure’ we have now. The gradual increase in the amount of pavement per person, leading to the fact that the average suburban dweller now has four times more pavement than does the average urban dweller, has led to a corresponding increase in the impact, per person, on both the environment and the public purse. The way to save the environment, and money, is to pave less, not more.

7. Preserve the natural environment and promote natural drainage systems (in which storm water is held on the surface and permitted to seep naturally into the ground) (Figure 18).

If we want to urbanize an area without destroying its streams (and every last fish in them), then we must drain new neighbourhoods in the same way that the original forests were drained: through infiltration and evapo-transpiration. When rain falls on a forest it adheres to the leaves, branches, and trunks of trees. The precipitation that doesn’t evapo-transpire on the trees flows into the ground. Virtually none of the water runs over the top of the forest floor to the stream. In a mature forest, about 70 percent of all the rain that falls on it returns to the ground. Once in the ground it either seeps slowly into the deep aquifers far below the surface or into the shallow water table, where it flows horizontally to the stream bank. This process of infiltration may take a week, or a month, or six months to enable water to through the ground and recharge the stream.

If you cut off this shallow subsurface flow, then you cut off the lifeblood of the stream and, consequently, destroy all the fish. To protect the stream, and the fish in it as you develop an area, you must find a way to maintain virtually all of the infiltration naturally occurring in the watershed. All streams are simply the manifestation of the infiltration performance of the soils in its watershed. So a city, as it builds, must respect these soils and their streams by allowing them to continue to perform together in the way they always have. Green systems are an essential part of the East Clayton Plan. The initial 4-day charrette process -- held in the spring of 1999 and used as a means of gathering all interested parties around the same table to establish a shared vision of the site -- resulted in a land-use plan that used existing ecological systems as the plan’s basic armature.(Figure 19). Streets, neighbourhoods, and land uses were structured around this green framework. The Larger Picture: It bears discussing how the East Clayton plan fits within the process of planning for the larger Clayton Area. In 1998 Surrey Council adopted the Clayton General Land-use Plan. As Figure 20 shows, the plan for East Clayton was conceived with the entire Clayton area in mind; East Clayton would be the most concentrated portion of this approximately 800 acre area. The primary commercial area is located so as to create a true “centre” for the Clayton community — at the corner of 72nd Street and 188th Street. This area is envisioned as a Main Street area, with street-oriented commercial, store-front offices and services, and parking on the street (as opposed to on large paved parking lots). Housing is also proposed above commercial locations so that the area will remain lively and populated. At a finer grain, neighbourhood commercial locations are proposed throughout the community as a way of providing local, every-day services for residents within a five-minute walk of their homes. A total of five neighbourhood commercial locations a proposed throughout the community. These locations are considered essential to providing easily accessible and walkable services for local residents; they are also key to achieving significant reductions in automobile use.
In closing, it is important to re-emphasize that the East Clayton NCP doesn’t exist in isolation; rather, its success is dependant upon a coordinated and consistent approach to planning in adjacent areas. One of most unique elements of the plan is the level of integration that exists among the elements; eliminating one or two of the elements results in a plan that is far less than the sum of its remaining parts. Your original authorization to your Planning Department in 1999 was to “explore” the application of the seven principles to East Clayton. This they have done, and done well. So if this Council, in full recognition of both the opportunities and challenges that lie before you, cannot support this sustainable approach, then the exploration you authorized will have produced a useful result. You will have discovered that the political and social costs of sustainable development are too high for your city to pay. But we have every reason to expect this Council to continue to lead the region. If we had doubts we would not have worked with you for so long. Since 1995, UBC and its partners have provided nearly 10 person years of effort for your various sustainability initiatives, all at no cost to the City. We have been honoured to participate. As long as your commitment to sustainable development remains as strong as ours, we see no reason to stop. In our view, the East Clayton project is the most advanced undertaking of its kind in North America, and offers hope that we can create more affordable, livable, and sustainable new communities.