Aaron Hinks photo                                Helga Egger, 82, makes her way to Save-On-Foods.

Aaron Hinks photo Helga Egger, 82, makes her way to Save-On-Foods.

UPDATE: Walking White Rock streets now a danger, senior says

White Rock mayor says his council could not ‘hold back’ previously approved developments

An 82-year-old resident, who moved to White Rock from South Surrey two years ago because of its walkability, says she can no longer safely manoeuver the city’s streets due to construction.

“I’m cheesed off,” Helga Egger told Peace Arch News last week.

Egger – who walks with either a cane or walker, depending on the day – said it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt.

The danger, she said, is gravel patches along Johnston Road between her condo in the 1400-block of George Street and Save-On-Foods (1641 152 St.), and she usually walks the route twice each week.

She said she takes extra caution when travelling near the loose gravel, as her cane or walker could slip, and she already has one bad knee.

“There’s rough patches with gravel… How are old people supposed to get around?”

Egger says she understands the work needs to be done, but she took issue with the city for approving several construction projects at the same time and impacting both sides of Johnston Road.

“They have too many things going on all at once. It’s crazy. Driving is a nuisance, too. Too many projects all at once.”

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin told PAN he walked Johnston Road Friday evening, and found two areas where it would be difficult to walk with a cane, walker or wheelchair.

“That is not acceptable and I will send a message to staff about dealing with it ASAP,” Baldwin said via email.

Between Egger’s condo and the Save-On-Foods, there are currently two residential developments taking place (a 14-storey building at 15241 Thrift Ave., and a 23-storey building at 1575 George St.), with another 26-storey building coming in at Royal Plaza (1588 Johnston Rd.). Built by RDG White Rock, the Royal Plaza building is to include 178 apartments and at least four commercial shops.

All are on the east side of Johnston Road, however, the city is also currently in the process of its Johnston Road Streetscape Revitalization project. The Johnston Road “beautification” project includes new sidewalks, “convenient” crosswalks, rain gardens and treed seating areas, as well as “the gateway into our beautiful City by the Sea.”

Last week, the city abandoned its planned gateway archway project – budgeted at up to $1 million – after spending months drafting plans, and after its gateway committee heard last month that there was little negative feedback received on its public-feedback questionnaires.

Joined by a reporter for a walk on Johnston Road on Friday morning, Egger was critical of the mayor.

“I think ol’ Baldwin should walk here,” Egger said, noting she had previously “cornered” him and asked: “What have you done?”

“He said ‘it wasn’t me,’” she said, noting the mayor said it was a previous council that was responsible for the number of construction projects now taking place. “I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me….’ It’s too late now, he buggered everything up. I did tell him and I felt a lot better after I did.”

Baldwin – first elected in 2011 – told PAN that two major projects (Miramar and Semiah) were approved in 2005 and 2007, respectively. He said the developers evidently held off on construction until market conditions were right.

“It’s got nothing to do with this council, we could not hold them back,” he writes.

Baldwin said reconstruction of Johnston Road; the new water mains on Thrift Avenue, Merklin and Oxford streets; and the Oceana Parc (1575 George St.) tower were all approved by the current council.

“The roadwork has to get done. There is no choice in that. Just like the Fortis project in Vancouver (which closed streets all summer for a natural gas project). The city does not want to inconvenience anyone, but sometimes there is no choice in the matter if you want to make things better in the long run,” Baldwin said.

Egger said she moved to White Rock – after spending 30 years in Ocean Park – because she wanted to be self-sufficient.

“I get really angry. They closed the Buy-Low. That was so terrible for the older people here,” she said.

Buy-Low Foods – White Rock’s only large grocery store – was closed last fall to make way for the second phase of Miramar, two 15- and 16-storey apartment buildings at the northwest corner of Thrift Avenue and Johnston Road, bringing in another 229 apartments.

“They did a number on the White Rock people, especially the older ones,” Egger said.

Earlier this month, White Rock resident C.S. Nichols wrote a letter to the editor to PAN and expressed similar concerns as Egger. Nichols took issue with the North Bluff Road and Johnston Road intersection, due to construction.

“The southeast corner of North Bluff and Johnston is uneven and laden with gravel,” Nichols wrote. “For seniors and those who are disabled – using canes and walkers – or who have low vision, this important crossing is now not only difficult but dangerous.”

Susan Kandborg Field commented on Nichols’ letter, adding that her neighbour recently had a “horrible fall” at the same intersection.

“The workers immediately gave him First Aid, pulling 18 little rocks out of his knee and bandaged them up. His forearms were also bloodied. This all occurred when he was confused by a stop-sign-holding person’s directions,” she wrote.

By 2021, there will be at least 732 apartments constructed along a 600-metre stretch of Johnston Road between Roper Avenue and North Bluff Road; the majority are to be multiple-bedroom suites.

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