Public safety is on the top of everyone’s mind this election and I assure you that the Surrey First team has an excellent plan in place to address today’s needs and requirements, and to proactively look at future public safety needs. In this post, I will conclude my list of ideas and initiatives which I bring to the Surrey First team and hopefully to a seat on Surrey City Council.
Our Senior Citizens
As the Fire Department liaison, I sat on the Seniors’ Advisory and Accessibility Committee (SAAC) from February 2013, until my recent retirement. This Committee is made up of City staff and community groups and advocates who have a passion for ensuring our Seniors have a voice in our City.
Our Seniors are one of the most cherished resources we have in our community. They are our pioneers and historians and they should be respected and honoured for what they have achieved and contributed.
We need to ensure that our Seniors have access to resources to keep them physically and socially active. The SAAC focuses on safety, health and wellness, transportation and mobility, housing, buildings and outdoor spaces, as well as legal issues such as power of attorney, living wills and estate planning.
To educate our Seniors and the public, forums are conducted four to six times a year, in our City facilities. Speakers are invited to deliver short talks on subjects such as personal safety, elder abuse, wills, power of attorney, fire safety and financial abuse, to name just a few.
There are also resource tables set up, that provide informational handouts and other resource information for those in attendance. There are also some light snacks, beverages and a lunch provided for those who are there for these six-hour sessions. The forums are presented in different locations throughout the City and delivered in different languages to suit each community.
In addition to the forums, the Committee has created a successful Community Outreach Program for our Seniors. This program is mobile and delivers two-hour programs in locations for those who are not always able to attend one of our larger forums.
The Committee worked for a number of months with staff and the public in creating an “Age Friendly Strategy”. In May of 2014, the SAAC made a presentation to Council on the results of this work and submitted a 38 page document for their consideration. The document can be found at:
My goal is to ensure the vision of the Committee is preserved and the work continues, as our Senior population continues to grow. I look forward to working with this Committee and the Chair, Councillor Barb Steele, in the years to come.
Secondary suites have multiple issues that need to be addressed. There needs to be a more consistent By-Law developed and applied. Clayton Heights and the Janice Churchill areas are examples of how the By-Laws are not enforced and/or silent. Fortunately the zoning rules that created the issues surrounding coach houses, have been changed to ensure the garage sizes were increased to allow for parking.
With more people living under one roof in a residential home there is a larger demand on the City’s infrastructure and services. While there are fees attached to a residential home with a secondary suite, the communities were not properly designed to handle the additional population and the problems created by the addition of many secondary suites. Our streets, schools, recreational properties and other services were not developed to accommodate the increased population due to homes with multiple suites.
There are five main factors when looking at the issues around secondary suites:
- Number of suites
- Safety for those residing in these suites
- Demand on City resources
The City permits one suite in a house and is taxed at that rate. Additional suites are not permitted, in accordance with our By-Laws, and infractions are rarely enforced.
Parking becomes an issue for the residents who may have mobility issues and for those who need to use the roads for access, including our emergency services.
Affordability refers to the owner of the home who invests in the property, and for the tenant who is looking for a place to reside in the city at an affordable price.
Safety issues can arise when home owners create these suites without a building permit, and therefore are not inspected for safety according to the BC Building Code and BC Fire Code requirements. I am all too familiar with suites that have no egress in the case of a fire and in some cases, no working smoke alarms.
Demand on the roadways, schools, parks and other city services are not easily planned for, without the population numbers of these suites being taken into account.
The City should consider adding to the By-Laws, the requirement of a business licence, at a nominal fee, which verifies there is one suite. The business licence could also address street parking. There should be an incentive for those homeowners to create parking on their property to hold all vehicles respective to that address. The purpose here is to ensure the streets are open enough for all emergency response vehicles, and for homeowners who have visitors from time to time.
If a business license became a requirement, annual inspections from the fire department would be required to ensure general fire safety conditions are being met for those who reside there and the Fire Code is being upheld. Both the Fire Services Act and the City of Surrey Fire By-Laws, permit access to businesses by the fire department for inspections without notice. Homeowners who have suites, in addition to the one permitted, would be required to close the additional suites through a process of attrition. We need to ensure we aren’t displacing those who are in those suites without ample time to find other suitable accommodations.
The ability to offer an incentive for creating off-street parking could alleviate the issue of access for emergency vehicles and for those just trying to navigate the cluttered streets. The next steps could include street parking passes, to motivate the creation of off-street parking spots. This would not affect a low income earner who uses transit but would affect those with multiple illegal suites with vehicles.
I hope these blog posts have provided you with an understanding of who I am, where I came from, and where I want to go.
When you are at the polling station this November, please remember Mike Starchuk and the Surrey First Team.