It could soon be even harder to find a parking spot in Yaletown.
Annette O’Shea, executive director of the Yaletown Business Improvement Association, told the Courier this week that the city is planning on removing about 100 street parking spots from Mainland and Hamilton streets.
City staff met with O’Shea and the association’s board of directors in mid-January and to advise the association of the plan to remove the parking spots by March 1 in order to open up those streets to allow easier access for fire trucks.
“We get that. We fully support fire trucks getting to where they need to go, of course we do,” O’Shea said, adding the association has come back with suggestions on other ways to configure the parking, or removing other spots.
She said removing the parallel parking spots on the east side of the streets instead of the diagonal parking on the west side would still open up access and would result in fewer parking spots being lost.
There are currently about 202 parking spots for non-commercial vehicles in Yaletown. The city is planning on removing 100.
“We have the highest demand parking in the entire city,” O’Shea said.
The day before the meeting with the city staff, she said, the association received a letter from a different department stating that parking spots in Yaletown have a 92 to 97 per cent usage rate. Parking meters in Yaletown see between five and seven uses a day.
“Which means it’s very difficult to find parking here. So then the plan is therefore we’ll remove it?”
O’Shea said the association has a number of concerns about the plan, including what the change will mean for people who drive into the area for medical appointments.
“There are 900 businesses in Yaletown,” she said. “Most people think of us as restaurants and boutiques, but that’s just street front. We have eight storeys of businesses upstairs. A lot of them are medical practitioners, a lot of them are professional practitioners, some are software and gaming. Those people have customers who drop in on them or who have appointments and then move on to the next thing they’re doing that day.
“We all have customers, employees and suppliers who are using those spaces. Well now the fight for those spaces is going to go up hugely. That’s unfair.”
O’Shea said there is also a concern about the effect the reduction in available parking spaces will have on businesses.
“It’s a huge hit for small business. They just got hit with the highest tax bills in the city’s history and a month later they’re going to lose 50 per cent of their parking. That’s a big hit,” she said.
“My businesses are very, very worried. When you have a thriving business district you shouldn’t break it.”
Paul Storer, manager of transportation design, said the city was first approached by the fire department last year with concerns about accessing the area. He said there have been a number of incidents where fire trucks had difficulty getting onto Mainland and Hamilton, and once they were able to get through, there was not enough room to set up to fight a fire.
“There just isn’t enough space,” he said, adding that it is a concerning safety issue.
He said some of the issues are still being worked out and the city is working with the business association to address its concerns. Storer added that the city owns a few parking lots in the area where parking is sold on a monthly basis, and that staff is looking at the possibility of increasing the amount of customer parking in those lots. As well, he said staff is looking at some of the surrounding streets.
Storer estimated the loss of parking spaces would be in the range of 60 to 80.
He said the aim is to increase safety in the neighbourhood and the loss of parking is “kind of the unfortunate side effect.”
“It’s really the fire access issue,” he said. “We really need to address it.”
Storer also said the city is planning a public information session later this month to connect with businesses and residents.
Dr. Stephanie Bonn, who owns Bonn Chiropractic Wellness, has run her business in Yaletown for 16 years. She was on Homer Street for 10 years and moved her office to Mainland six years ago.
“Parking is an issue already,” she said, adding that many businesses are concerned that if people can’t find parking in the neighbourhood they will take their business elsewhere.
Bonn said she supports the fire department and understands the need to ensure its trucks can access the streets, and hopes a solution can be reached that increases access without losing as much parking.