Surrey’s Clayton neighbourhood has been plagued by parking — or lack thereof — for years. (Now-Leader file photo)

Surrey cracks down on illegal suites in Clayton

City targeting 175 illegal suites in Clayton in an effort to relieve parking woes

Homeowners with illegal suites in Surrey’s East Clayton area best get them legalized, and quick.

That’s the message from Surrey City Hall, which says it is cracking down on the neighbourhood’s illegal suites in an effort to resolve parking issues that have plagued the area for years.

“This is a serious project, a serious initiative for us,” said Jas Rehal, Surrey’s manager of public safety operations. “If the property owner does not get into compliance, we’re prepared to take all the enforcement action, and we’re prepared to take it all the way to court. These issues, it’s too much now. It’s been a long time, and it’s time for people to enjoy their neighbourhoods.”

During the month of August, the city sent notices to the 175 illegal suites it is aware of, and owners have been given six months to comply.

From September to December, the city’s bylaw staff will be confirming owners have a plan to eliminate the illegal suite, confirm the date and “agree to a relocation plan if needed.”

Then, in February, the fines will begin if illegal suites remain, Rehal said. Those found in violation will face daily fines of $500 and possible legal action.

In addition to the illegal suites, the city has 125 legal suites registered in East Clayton.

“We’re going to make sure the 125 meet the bylaw requirements as well,” Rehal said. “We’re going to do a wholesome check. And we’re going to be looking for more (illegal suites) at the same time.”

While the city will give some extra time for people to find new homes, Rehal said “we’re not going to drag this on for a long time. We feel six months is adequate time and we’re taking enforcement seriously.

“It’s harsh removing people but at the same time the city has done a lot of reviews, looked at a lot of good options in that area, and we can’t relieve the pressures that exist there so we have got to go with enforcement.”

This is one in a long line of efforts the city has made to deal with parking in the community since it built out in 2012.

Soon after the area developed, the city heard complaints that parking demand exceeds supply and illegal suites are a main culprit.

Compact garage sizes have also pushed many vehicles to the streets.

And, while it’s only legal in the City of Surrey to have one suite if you live in the home, many of the homes were built with a suite as well as a coach home. The city allows homeowners to rent one or the other out, but some continue to rent both.

In the spring of 2014, the city held a multimedia campaign encouraging residents to clean out their garages to make room for cars, and submit a before-and-after photo, with Home Depot gift cards handed out to winners.

Later that year, information brochures were sent out by bylaw officers.

Then, the city looked at “queueing street conversion,” finding 228 additional parking spots through converting 20 blocks of narrow roadway from parking being allowed on one side, to both.

Other initiatives have included a lane parking pilot project and the city also looked at using school district parking, although that idea was ruled out due to insurance issues and potential increase in already congested pick-up and drop-off traffic.

There have been 298 parking complaints in Surrey’s Clayton neighbourhood so far this year.

amy.reid@ surreynowleader.com