White Rock residents with parking decals will now be allowed to park their cars free of charge in street spaces on the south side of Marine Drive – west of Oxford Street – for up to four hours instead of the 15 minutes previously directed.
That move – which applies to 43 on-street parking spaces on that stretch of the waterfront – was endorsed by city council Monday night, with only Coun. Scott Kristjanson in opposition.
Also endorsed – unanimously – was a recommendation from staff to extend free parking times on the north side of Marine Drive (east of Oxford) from 15 minutes to 30 minutes during the current COVID-19 restrictions to allow more time to access businesses still operating there.
Kristjanson said that, in light of no changes in social distancing directives from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, he had “concerns about opening up more parking” on the south side of Marine Drive.
“As much as residents, myself included, would love to have more access to the beach it seems contrary to what Dr. Henry is telling us so far – it just seems too soon,” he said.
Council was voting on recommendations in a report from financial services director Colleen Ponzini and engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon.
“As we continue through this pandemic and we get direction from the health authority to start to ease up on the social distancing requirements, we would revisit the parking restrictions and seek different solutions at that time,” Ponzini said.
That could include opening up parts of the parking lots adjacent to the Cypress Street and Bay Street crossings to access the beach, she added.
But Ponzini and Gordon said doing that at present during weekdays (as suggested by Coun. David Chesney in his original call for a report) would be hard to manage under current provincial health restrictions.
“Providing additional parking opportunities, even if they are during weekdays, while trying to create spaces that would support social distancing, may be difficult to achieve,” the report said.
“Restricting parking along the south side of Marine Drive west of Oxford Street to White Rock residents who have a pay parking decal should serve to address residents’ concerns about beach access without affecting current social distancing requirements.”
Coun. Helen Fathers sought – and received – clarification that “anybody who parks in (that) area who does not have a White Rock decal will be ticketed.”
The changes would also be in effect seven days a week, Ponzini confirmed.
Anyone parking in the 30-minute area on the north side of Marine Drive will have to abide by those restrictions, regardless of possessing a parking decal, chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill said, noting he was changing a previously stated opinion following legal advice to the city.
Gordon and Ponzini’s report also noted that businesses still open on Marine Drive have expressed concerns that 15-minute parking does not give enough time for patrons to order and be served at these establishments, and that extending the time limit to 30 minutes would provide more access to these businesses.
They commented, however, that now that the community has become more accustomed to regulations at the waterfront, normal parking enforcement measures – relaxed initially during the early weeks of the pandemic – will be resumed.