When development is allowed to continue solely because of immediate economic benefit, I can tell you what happens, because we see it every day. Without restrictions, checks and balances, and rules to guide economic growth, infrastructure can’t keep up.
I’ve been reading a lot about overcrowded schools in Surrey and Langley. My school will have six new kindergarten classes next year but it’s already past capacity, two years after it was built. Next month we’ll probably hear about the healthcare system again, and after that it’ll be another spate of shootings in Newton. Traffic is getting worse and worse, too.
As they sandwich houses into Clayton way beyond the capacity of schools, while hospitals are still overcrowded and congestion is awful (lack of public transit), they look to the future and set their sites on the next obvious target, Grandview Heights in South Surrey.
Grandview Heights has historically been one of the most treed, greenest areas of Surrey. Many residents, including GrowingUpGrandview and members of the Grandview Heights Stewardship Association have been astonished at the inability of Surrey to leave forests intact and increase density around forests instead of clearcutting everything.
We’ve seen that when immediate economic benefit takes top precedence, public services rapidly become inadequate to support residents. Surrey school trustees pleaded with City Council to mitigate development and allow funds to grow enough to meet residents’ needs. The mayor’s reply means that the “robust economy” is more important than helping people be educated, healthy, and safe.
All this is really a reflection of what’s happening to the ecology itself. Animals, birds, and butterflies (and other beneficial insects) are forced out of their homes as urban hubs and corridors are replaced by high-density housing. Water quality plummets as road runoff increases exponentially without mitigation measures in place. Pollution levels rise as cars pack overcrowded roads, and air quality suffers. What happens to the earth reflects what is happening to the people who live on it.
The city says it can’t afford to put mitigation measures in place. Higher density means more money, which it desperately needs, at the expense of leaving forests and parks for human and plant/animal residents. By the time they’re done with Grandview Heights, it will be completely unrecognizable.
Can’t we build high density developments and surround them with parks and forests within walking distance? Every half-kilometer should have a significant public park, so people can exercise and kids can play. Healthy residents means less burden on the health system, so the city saves money. Long-term benefits of city planning for the people means a city is liveable, economically strong, and desirable.
And with more parks, there will be more room for native plants, animals, birds, and insects, while the enormous amounts of rainfall we see here in this temperate rainforest will be filtered better, to keep salmon-bearing streams clean and productive.
But that’s not a priority in the Vancouver-area. Take a look at this graph I just found from 2004: