Looking back, looking ahead – Part II By Ray Hudson
Career high points for Delta’s Mayor Jackson
During last week’s interview with Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, we talked about many of the developmental achievements around transportation infrastructure, growth of the business community, the purchase of Burns Bog and other achievements.
In this week’s final segment we look back over her twenty years as the Mayor, talking about the major residential section of the city, North Delta.
Ray Hudson: The original housing in the north is now getting into the fifty plus years of age, and some of it is becoming quite tired. Many new-comers are replacing the Delta Boxes with what are often larger homes. How do you view these changes?
Lois Jackson: As far as North Delta area is concerned it’s still a family area, and from my perspective it always shall be. We were delighted to see the old North Delta Inn demolished at last, and we’ll see what happens next for that site. The Delta Rise at 80th and Scott Road seems to have been a success and my feeling is, if we need housing, we don’t have any more land, so we’re going to have to go more dense.
All of the housing we’re creating has to be done right. It has to be what people want, not just because the developer wants to do something. With the Delta Rise, we found families were interested, but there were only small units left. This tells me that there are many people now starting their families, have one or two children, and are in a situation where they can’t buy or even rent a house. It’s taking so much of their income. So, if we’re going to provide that kind of high rise for families, as opposed to singles and couples, then let’s make it a forever home so you can move into a space that’s big enough and raise your family right there. Some of the developments I’ve seen, with all due respect to the development community, which I used to be a part of, are understandably trying to create as many units per development as they can. But is that what we really need? If you have two or three children, they have a lot of needs as they grow, places for bikes and books, all kinds of things, so there have to be larger units, in my opinion.
Looking into the future, I think people are going to have to speak more loudly about the type of housing they want because I’m very concerned about the size of the houses. It’s one thing to split a lot in two and make two homes, with room at the back to play. But I don’t believe families want that kind of living. We’ve always had green space in North Delta. But if you use every square inch of that lot for a house, plus put another family downstairs, there’s not much green space left.
The other thing I’ve brought forward to my council, and they haven’t bought into it yet, is the fact that if you have a five-thousand square foot house, it’s going to be even more costly than a three-thousand square foot house. So you’re exacerbating the problem of people being able to get into the market. There won’t be any medium income families able to buy or build those houses, period. If you have a smaller home, it’s going to cost less. The lots will probably cost the same, but you’re going to have a yard for children or a garden area to retain the quality of life that we have here. That is really important to me.
Ray Hudson: I’ve noticed a land assembly going on along 72nd Ave from Scott Road to the Alex Fraser Bridge. What’s happening?
Lois Jackson: Years ago, 72nd Avenue was a dead-end road. It was not intended as a feeder for the bridge, so the neighbourhood was designed, and the houses built to reflect that. But over time, understanding that it will take a long time to accomplish, we’ll reconfigure the traditional lot. We’ll locate the housing to the front of the lots, such as in England where homes are closer to the road, with the yard and laneway access behind. So if we can gradually convert the properties along 72nd Avenue from the bottom of the hill to Scott Road, we could then four-lane that street quite easily.
Ray Hudson: Something that fits well into the Delta lifestyle, is the service concept that Delta’s Police and Fire Department exhibit in their interactions with the community.
Lois Jackson: The members of these two departments are second to none. The fire department is probably one of the highest trained in Canada. The firefighters are qualified paramedics, and we did that because people were on the ground for a long time (awaiting ambulances) and I said this is not on for me, and I’ve got to do something. The fire halls in Delta are maybe four minutes away from everybody in the municipality and they’re on scene first. So get them there, do what we can until the ambulance gets there, then stand down and give the ambulance crew the vitals and the paper work from the time of arrival. It just makes good common sense for us to do that. It might be different for Port Moody or New Westminster or other cities where the ambulances may be closer, but it made sense for us and we did it. Our guys work hard and they just want to help people.
Our Delta Police is one of the best departments anywhere. They’re the best equipped and the best trained. We have a wonderful new Police Chief in Neil Dubord, and I was absolutely delighted when Norm Lapinsky, one of the highest ranking RCMP members in BC, wanted to come and be a Deputy Chief for Delta. That spoke volumes to me. What a tribute to our police force. “No call to small” everybody said we were crazy to do that, but it does us in good stead. We work hard to make the people of Delta feel safe and be safe, which is a challenge across the street from our huge neighbour, Surrey. But our two forces work well together with those from Surrey, and that’s very important.
Ray Hudson: Finally, there has been a great deal of buzz about changing the community name to the City of Delta. Why is this so important?
Lois Jackson: I think the greatest value from my point of view is in a business context. Every time we attend a conference or convention and people from other countries who want to find out about us or do business with us can’t find us listed under government. It really hit me in Rotterdam when we were dealing in the international market with governments and companies. Because we were listed as “the corporation of” people assume we are a company, and not a level of government. That really leads to a lot of problems. People who want to come here to invest, to work, to do business or to start a business, can’t find us because we aren’t listed under cities. So it’s really quite important on that level. And for those who have raised an issue about the cost of the change, it’s minimal as, for some time now, we’ve not been using “corporation of”. Our signs simply say “Delta”. We expect to receive the official “City of” designation very soon now.
Mayor Jackson will continue to be working on her “to complete” list until the next municipal election which will be on October 20, 2018.