A White Rock property owner says the city’s decision to remove street parking on McDonald Avenue puts his tenant at risk of being struck by a vehicle.
Alex Schulz, who owns a 90-year-old “cottage” on the 14700-block of McDonald Avenue and rents it to Joe Zucchet, said he was given one year to build a private parking stall for the home before the city was going to terminate permit street parking. The grace period expires Jan. 6.
After spending $6,000 on surveys and learning that the project could cost up to $50,000 – including up to $21,000 on tree removal deposits – Schulz said he could not afford to do the work.
The city’s action to curb street parking, Zucchet said, will force McDonald Avenue residents to walk up the street – which has no sidewalks, no shoulder or streetlights – to access their homes.
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In emails exchanged between the city’s director of engineering Jim Gordon and Zucchet, Gordon said the city conducted an engineering review of the street after a neighbour filed a complaint about parked vehicles blocking driveways and emergency vehicle access.
“We recently advised the owner that, for safety and emergency access reasons, we would be removing the street parking,” Gordon wrote to PAN, adding that McDonald is also an emergency route during the winter when Oxford is closed due to snow and ice.
When asked via email if the city considered the safety of residents who will now need to walk up McDonald Avenue to access their homes, city communication’s manager Donna Kell responded that the city wants to ensure it’s a pedestrian-friendly city and addresses climate change.
“There are city streets, including McDonald Avenue, that do not have a sidewalk and are therefore a challenge for pedestrians,” Kell wrote. “The City will take a careful look at sidewalks as part of the community consultation in 2020 on the upcoming Integrated Transportation and Infrastructure Master Plan study.”
Gordon wrote that the city’s review found that the road is approximately 4.8 metres wide, allows for two-way travel and allows street parking along a section of the north side of the street.
He explained a fire truck is 2.895 metres wide and a recycling truck is 3.11 metres wide, which doesn’t take the side mirrors into account.
Gordon noted that “Transportation of Canada standards require” six-metre road width for two-way travel or 5.4 metre width for one-lane travel and one-lane for parking.
However, Schulz said the TAC sets guidelines, not standards, as stated on the TAC website. Schulz also noted that the city’s solution still doesn’t meet the TAC guidelines cited by Gordon.
“If you’re going to penalize me by using a guideline and saying it doesn’t meet the guidelines, well then sure as sh– your solution better meet the guideline,” said Schulz.
When asked if it’s correct that the city’s solution will still not meet the TAC guidelines, Kell said removing parking is “something we can do today to improve safety for our drivers, make more room for local residents and City service vehicles, and proactively plan for emergency response.”
Lisa Wade, who lives in the neighbourhood, but on Roper Avenue, contacted PAN with similar concerns as Zucchet and Schulz, however, she said she doesn’t know either man.
Wade said she’s curious if removing street parking on narrow streets is going turn into a city-wide initiative.
“Is it going to be a universal decision? How are they making the decision to implement this standard on McDonald but they’re not considering… or are they considering other side streets in the city?” Wade said.
Wade said the decision seems like a “knee-jerk reaction” to a complaint from a resident.
“If there was a complaint about someone parking too closely to a driveway, why not just issue a ticket to the vehicle owner instead of eliminating parking on the entire street?” Wade said.
When told about the city’s concern regarding emergency vehicles, Wade said she phoned the city’s fire chief and posed the question.
“He said nobody talked to him and he has no concern with emergency vehicles,” Wade said.
PAN reached out via email to the fire chief, who has not yet responded. However, when PAN raised the issue to Gordon about a conflicting statement reportedly made by the chief, Kell responded that Chief Phil Lemire works closely with other departments to ensure public safety.
“The Chief said that, fortunately, there has not been an incident to date when parking has caused an issue but it has been an ongoing concern,” Kell wrote.
Meanwhile, Schulz said, the estimated $50,000 cost to build a parking pad is conservative, as it doesn’t account for relocating the city’s utility services, if that issue were to come up.
“There was no leeway given or any suggestion that leeway would be given to modify the requirements to put in a parking stall,” Schulz said. “The apathy I got from the city is basically, ‘we don’t give a flying…’”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have $50,000 to throw away basically on a temporary structure. We all know that that 90-year-old cottage, the next person who buys it or potentially myself, is going to tear that thing down for sure and put a house on it,” Schulz said.
Schulz, who lives in Alberta, says he rents the house for a net cash flow of zero. He expressed concern about his ability to rent the property to future tenants.
He also fears that Zucchet might move out due to the parking concern, exposing Schulz to a vacant property tax.
“Everybody’s crying about a housing shortage in the Lower Mainland, now you’re taking one more house off the market for one person’s complaint,” Schulz said.
Schulz said an option for the city would be to take back encroachments on the road and widen it to meet the TAC guidelines.
“If they made it a one-way and at least followed the guidelines and were honest about that, then I would be like, OK. They’re at least being serious about their safety concerns…. They’re quoting safety yet they’re exposing my neighbour and whoever else has to walk up that street,” Schulz said.