Ambleside revitalization talk sparks parking debate

An artist
An artist's rendering shows pedestrians walking south on 17th Street in Ambleside.
— image credit: PW Partnership Landscape Architects

A revitalization plan for Ambleside calling for a focus on pedestrians, as opposed to cars, sparked debate at the last West Vancouver council meeting over whether enough parking spots are available near the waterfront.

“As much as I support walking and cycling, and do that a lot myself, I recognize that there are many residents of West Vancouver that have mobility issues and come from western communities and have to drive,” said Coun. Craig Cameron, referring to a detailed revitalization proposal presented to council.

In the plan for Ambleside Village, which extends six blocks from 13th to 19th Street along Marine Drive south to Bellevue Avenue, providing access for cars is less important than other modes of transportation.

“The public realm,” the proposal reads, “will give priority to the comfort, safety and accessibility of pedestrians, cyclists and transit users over the accommodation and convenience of private vehicles.”

The plan, titled Ambleside Village Centre Streetscape Standards Project, will be up for public consultation in early December.

Two festival areas along 14th and 17th streets would be pedestrian focused and would provide spaces for street vendors, performers, markets and festivals. The design allows these streets to be easily closed down for events and calls for reduction of road width and larger sidewalks along Marine Drive and Bellevue Avenue.

The author of the plan, PW Partnership Landscape Architects, was hired by West Van to find ways to revitalize Ambleside. Public art, new benches and drought-resistant trees are highlighted for the community, which hasn’t seen new streets or sidewalks for over 20 years.

“The public realm design,” the proposal reads, “will physically, visually and thematically reinforce the Village’s relationship to the waterfront.” Although the sense of community is appealing to councillors, for some the thought of losing parking spots simply won’t do, especially with West Van’s large elderly population that relies on their cars.

“We’ve got to ask, do we have enough parking? And how much parking do we need?” said Coun. Cameron during the meeting.

Coun. Bill Soprovich echoed his concerns.  “One of the big things is how do people get to Ambleside in outlying areas. Not all are going to walk,” he said. “We’ve lost a fair amount of parking… we’ve got to be very, very realistic in where future parking is going to come from.”

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