Sleepy Cedar Hills has been a giant killer in the search for Metro Vancouver's best neighbourhood

·4 min read

CBC Vancouver is highlighting different parts of the Metro Vancouver region as part of the search for Metro Vancouver's best neighborhood.

David beat Goliath. Mike Tyson knocked out Buster Douglas. Ross married Rachel on Friends.

We've seen stunning upsets before but the victory Cedar Hills scored over City Centre in last week's battle of starkly different Surrey communities may put them all to shame.

City Central consists of shiny, glass skyscrapers and two spectacular buildings, a library and the SFU tower that were designed by world-renowned architect Bing Thom.

Cedar Hills is a sleepy, residential neighbourhood that's biggest attraction is the strip malls on 96 Avenue and 128 Street.

Clearly, however, there must be something special about Cedar Hills that explains why 56 percent of voters chose it over City Central.

A quick visit revealed the people who live there, not just the neighbourhood itself, have a lot to do with it.

Pipe band

Garth Newlands has lived in Cedar Hills since 1976 and he's the Pipe Major of the Cedar Hills Caledonian Pipe Band.

The original name was the Whalley Legion Pipe Band, but Newlands says when the neighbourhood was rebranded as City Central, the group decided to do a little rebranding of its own.

"We actually held a contest over a three month period and had people submit suggestions for different names and Cedar Hills Caledonian was the choice we came up with," he said.

"People are very inquisitive about where Cedar Hills is because it's not a well known community in the area but it's starting to gain some more popularity and notoriety."

Newlands, who plays the same 106-year-old set of bagpipes that his grandfather played during the First World War, says his family has close ties to the community and he doesn't plan to leave anytime soon.

"There are a number of smaller, quaint houses that are still available that were built in the '60s and '70s that will get people into the area with large yards for kids to play in quiet streets," he said.

"It seems you can't go more than three or four blocks in any direction without a park."

Jesse Johnston/CBC
Jesse Johnston/CBC

Snow angel

A few winters ago, Mark Kang and a friend saw that other communities had programs to shovel snow for seniors.

Surrey didn't have anything like that at the time, so he started one himself.

"It seemed like a lot of injuries happen when elderly people are shoveling their driveways or sidewalks," he said.

"We thought why not just try to start something in our community and then, slowly, we started getting volunteers in other areas as well."

Kang started off shoveling driveways for his neighbours in Cedar Hills and as his volunteer base expanded, the program grew into other parts of Metro Vancouver.

Like Newlands, he loves that there seems to be a park on every other corner.

"Playgrounds, fields to play in, you name it," he said. "You never get bored."

Amrit Bains/YouTube
Amrit Bains/YouTube

Cedar Hills star

Perhaps the most famous resident of Cedar Hills is Amrit Bains, who gained quite an online following by singing to his passengers while driving a bus for TransLink. He also writes and records his own music.

People tried to convince Bains not to move to Surrey seven years ago, telling him it had a bad reputation for crime, but his wife convinced him to give it a try.

Now, he loves his community so much that he wrote a song about it called Super Sweet City.

"When I came to Surrey and people started treating me in a friendly manner, I said, 'Man, I like these kinds of surprises,'" he said.

"It's something beautiful, you know? So, I said it's a super sweet city."

Not an upset after all?

Cedar Hills doesn't have a beautiful waterfront like Crescent Beach or a golf course like Morgan Creek.

It's mostly a residential neighbourhood — the kind of place you wouldn't drive into unless you're visiting someone who lives there.

In the next round, Cedar Hills faces Cloverdale, which will be a tough opponent with its historic downtown and rodeo that draws more than 100,000 people every year.

It would be a mistake, however, to underestimate Cedar Hills. It's already defeated Bridgeview and City Central and the people who live there believe their neighbourhood stacks up well against everything else the region has to offer.