After waiting more than 20 months for the reopening of Memorial Park, a waterfront restaurant owner says the new park fencing removes the one reason he had for opening a business on Marine Drive: the view.
Gus Rachid took over ownership of FIVE Kitchen & Raw Oyster Bar, located across the street from the White Rock Pier, in 2015.
White Rock’s Memorial Park, situated at the base of the White Rock Pier, was recently reopened to the public after being behind construction fencing since September 2017.
The park’s washrooms are to reopen this month, and this week, city contractors began installing fencing surrounding the viewing platform above the restroom facilities.
The fence, which appears to be a metal sheet with holes punched into it, blocks the view of the pier from the FIVE patio, as well as other neighbouring restaurants, Rachid said.
Primo’s Mexican Grill co-owner Joel Villanueva also raised concerns about the fence to PAN. He said the style resembles that of a “cheese grater” – a sentiment echoed by Rachid.
“We’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting to see what happened. We’ve waited all of these years to find out they’re putting in a cheese-grater fence and hiding the view.”
The Memorial Park viewing platform also includes benches facing Semiahmoo Bay, but Rachid said the city has “contradicted themselves” because people sitting on the benches won’t be able to see the bay.
“Whoever did this design, they did it from behind a desk. They don’t even have a clue how it looks.”
Rachid said he would have preferred a fence made of vertical bars with four inches between each bar.
City of White Rock director of corporate administration Tracey Arthur told PAN via email that the guardrails are there for safety purposes.
“They are an important part of obtaining an occupancy permit that is required to open the washrooms. The guardrails must comply with the building code, meaning it cannot be climbable,” Arthur wrote.
She said that staff have heard from and spoken with some of the business owners who raised the issue, “and are working with a consulting team to address concerns considering guardrail options that would provide a more permeable opportunity to see the view, as well they are reviewing signage for Memorial Park.”
Rachid also took issue with the new Memorial Park sign, which he says reminds him of a “graveyard.”
He said he raised his concerns with the city and was told that any new fence design would have to go to a committee, then to council to seek approval, if the budget allows.
Rachid said he was told by the city it’s unlikely that a new fence could be installed this summer.
“We have to go through a lot of red tape,” Rachid said. “Basically, kiss the summer goodbye.”
Rachid’s landlord, Aaron Van Wachem, who also owns the vacant Sandbar Bistro building – located two doors east of FIVE – is worried about his ability to attract business owners to rent his waterfront properties.
“The only reason people come up here is to see the view,” Van Wachem said.
Rachid said he’s already lost customers due to the new fencing, and will be starting a petition.
“I’ll do anything, even consider suing the city, because I have nothing to lose anymore. I’m already going to lose some business anyway. At this point, they kind of cornered me into a corner and I cannot let it go.
“I’ve been waiting for this summer to happen and we got slapped in the face.”