Two dozen suggestions for improving White Rock’s waterfront pay parking situation – including tunnelling into the hillside to construct a parkade – have been referred to city staff for further input.
But it will be at least three more months before changes, if any, are implemented.
Following a lengthy presentation May 28, council voted to have staff review the bulk of recommendations from the Mayor’s Pay Parking Task Force for timeline and cost implications. Once that is received, council will hold a planning session before bringing the matter back for public discussion in September.
“I would like to see more and I would like to hear more from staff, and I would like to see cost, because cost is going to be the essential item in this,” said Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson.
The task force was established in February to look into the issues, following a call by the Business Improvement Association to eliminate winter parking fees.
The city currently charges $1/hour Nov. 1 through Feb. 28, and $3/hour for the balance of the year, with peak-season rates in effect until 2 a.m.
In presenting their findings, task force members suggested consistency in the seasons and hours would go a long way toward reducing the pay-parking angst currently experienced by merchants and visitors alike.
Tyler Blume, who took over Uli’s from his father 3½ years ago, said in the 20-plus years that his family has run the restaurant, there has been no such consistency. He asked council to consider implementing two six-month seasons, and rates that are effective from 10 a.m. to midnight year-round.
Such changes would help “take the ‘oh-the-parking’” stigma away, he said.
An increase in off-season rates to $1.50/hour would help offset revenues lost to shortening the peak-season hours, as would the sale of off-season, non-resident parking decals, Blume said.
BIA president and owner of Slainte by the Pier, Jack Sixsmith, predicted that if the task force’s recommendations were implemented, positive results would be seen immediately and jobs saved.
He described the parking issue as “certainly the most egregious” for waterfront businesses.
“There is not one business on Marine Drive that does not fear the off-season,” he said.
Coun. Louise Hutchinson, who chaired the task force, said a parkade would be one way to address a shortage of peak-season parking spots, and save the contentious tax charged by TransLink on non-resident parking.
It could be built at Martin Street and Victoria Avenue, to accommodate up to 800 vehicles, she said, noting the city already owns the majority of the land eyed for the structure. The task force will “strongly recommend council move forward in pursuing this,” she said.
Other task force suggestions included encouraging TransLink to improve the scheduling of its waterfront routes, and working with the Semiahmoo First Nation to make their parking lot part of the solution.
While the task force’s efforts were roundly commended, Anderson said she felt the suggestions were too much for the seaside.
“I don’t think this is the time to do it, quite frankly,” she said. “The report is good, but it’s far too extravagant, and it doesn’t suit, in my opinion.”
Coun. Al Campbell described the majority of suggestions as “very doable.” He saw “no advantage,” however, in adding the SFN lot to the equation.
“We have no control of it and I know it will become an issue later,” he said.
That recommendation, along with the suggestion council work with TransLink, was referred to the mayor.