Clayton residents threaten protest over parking crisis

CLOVERDALE — A simmering battle over street parking in a Clayton neighbourhood is in danger of bubbling over as residents are threatening to hold a "park-in" protest to block a construction project.

Local homeowner Scott Anderson, who lives on 72nd Avenue, said the City of Surrey has unexpectedly announced plans to widen the road, which would remove the already scarce street parking on the gravel shoulder.

Anderson said when Surrey Council approved seven-bedroom houses with limited street parking it should have known it would create issues when people moved in.

"People are parking their car and walking three blocks home after work in the pissing rain," he said, adding the situation will get worse when the parking disappears from 72nd.

Anderson said there’s already no parking on the side streets, so when people begin looking elsewhere it’s going to pit neighbour against neighbour.

Like many residents in the Clayton neighbourhood, he purchased three years ago after checking with Surrey’s planning department. He said he was told there were no plans to widen 72nd in the five or 10 year capital plans.

"People purchased on the information the City of Surrey provided. And then three years later they give us seven weeks notice that they’re widening the road and removing all of the parking along 72nd Ave. Which I think is the straw that broke the camel’s back out there."

Anderson launched the website on Sunday, offering residents the opportunity to sign a petition calling on Surrey to put a stop to the construction. As of Tuesday afternoon, the website had received nearly 50,000 visitors and the petition had been signed by 308 people.

Given the number of complaints to the city, Surrey Council decided at Monday’s meeting to defer the issue to the transportation committee. Coun. Tom Gill, chair of the committee, said they plan to look at the specific issues related to the complaints and try and offer solutions for the neighbourhood.

His suggestion would be to allow residents to park on both sides of 72nd on an interim basis, but said construction will go ahead as planned.

Gill blamed the parking problem on the city’s expectation that TransLink would service the area better. Residents have complained that buses are infrequent and unreliable.

"What needs to change is the philosophy of being able to have appropriate transit available frequently," he said.

One solution being proposed is to limit the number of secondary suites in the area that has contributed to the volume of parked cars. Surrey Council has put a hold on coach house development and Gill said they will support bylaw enforcement to crack down on illegal secondary suites in the basements.

"I think it would be fair for me to state that generally the enforcement in the past has always been complaint-based. And again I think what has been the unfortunate issue is that I don’t think people are having such a difficult time in terms of the conflict of having one suite or two suites but it’s the parking that is aggravating individuals."

But Anderson said the city is to blame for allowing housing developers to make homes without driveways. And cracking down on illegal suites won’t help the situation now.

"Obviously, people are still going to stay there, whether it’s family, extended family, friends. They need cars, so removing the secondary suites I don’t think is a solution to the parking problem," he said.

Anderson added that it would just remove affordable housing from Clayton and force the problem somewhere else.

The Parking for Clayton group is planning to meet with the city on Thursday evening to work out a solution. Should those negotiations fail, Anderson said the group is planning a protest this Sunday, Dec. 21 that would block 72nd Avenue and 192nd Street.

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