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2. Resilient 15-Minute Neighbourhoods

Vision for 2050

Residents can meet their daily needs within a safe and easy walk, roll, or cycle trip from home. Most neighbourhoods have a mix of housing types, with shops, services and inclusive public spaces. Lush trees and greenspaces provide cooling, beauty and connection with nature. Surrey’s actions set a path for many others to follow, and support a thriving, local green economy.

Planning our communities determines the distances we need to travel and the transportation modes we use to visit friends, shop, and commute to work or school. Vehicles are the leading source of carbon pollution and a major source of health-harming air contaminants in Surrey. The most effective way to reduce this pollution is to reduce the distance we need to travel in the first place.

Decades ago, Surrey was designed as a suburb, in a time when getting around by car was the norm. As a result, many homes remain far from essential services and amenities. Today, the City is focusing on creating complete neighbourhoods with mixed-use development, more affordable and energy- efficient multi-unit homes, and boosting employment opportunities in rapid transit areas such as City Centre. The City’s Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw are two key regulations that direct where new growth will occur and its forms. Pending and future updates to these plans provide an ideal opportunity to enhance livability and reduce carbon pollution as the city grows.

For example, the City can encourage infill development, which involves increasing housing density in existing single-detached neighbourhoods within walking distance of the Frequent Transit Network, such as laneway houses, multi-plexes, row houses, townhouses, low- to mid-rise apartments, etc. Concentrating growth in areas that are already serviced with infrastructure, instead of undeveloped areas, also helps to protect ecosystems.

Preliminary public consultation results for the Surrey Transportation Plan showed that residents prioritize access to frequent transit, groceries, parks, and schools within a 15-minute walk. Local jobs and a variety of civic facilities are important in Surrey’s context, especially in town centres. However, these destinations are not required in every 15-minute neighbourhood, as long as residents can reliably access them with transit. Through the pending update to the Official Community Plan, the City will conduct further analysis to define ideal destinations and distances and develop policies supporting 15-minute neighbourhoods.

A 15-minute neighbourhood offers daily necessities, such as shops, services, and transit access, within a short distance from home, typically equivalent to a 15-minute walk or less. The neighbourhood features safe and accessible routes for walking, cycling or using mobility devices. Transit connects these neighbourhoods and link with employment centres and other regional destinations.

For those who may still need or choose to drive, having more close-by amenities means shorter trips and the option to spend more time enjoying other activities. This type of neighbourhood is not new – in fact it’s how cities were planned and built for thousands of years. The concept can be reintroduced to help communicate the linkages between land use, transportation, and climate action, and measure the City's progress toward more complete communities.

The goals, shifts, and supporting actions for Resilient 15-Minute Neighborhoods can help to accelerate Surrey’s evolution from a suburban community to a more mature and well-connected mosaic of higher-density town centres, medium density urban villages, and other varieties of mixed-use and walkable neighbourhoods. By prioritizing intensification and infill development, more natural features in other less-developed areas can be preserved, and more residents can live closer to their daily needs. With less need for driving, there is less carbon pollution and more public space that support health, social connections, and prosperity, with features such as trees and gardens and play areas.

The City can proactively improve equity by directly involving equity-seeking groups and vulnerable individuals in planning processes and implementing programs to address concerns such as displacement. Engaging with Indigenous communities can also create opportunities for reconciliation, such as partnerships to develop and celebrate culturally important sites and features.

Measures and targets for Resilient 15-Minute Neighbourhoods will be defined through the Official Community Plan update process.