File photo Parking could be free on White Rock’s waterfront during winter months, according to a bylaw scheduled for adoption by council on May 27, but the cost would be a higher hourly rate during summer.

Free winter parking, higher summer rates eyed for White Rock waterfront

Councillor calls for more hard data on the impact of trial free parking on Marine Drive businesses

Parking on the White Rock waterfront could be free on weekdays during the winter season, if new rates being considered by council are implemented.

But no-charge winter parking would come at the price of a higher hourly rate during the summer in ‘high-demand zones’ closer to businesses and Memorial Park.

In a bylaw amendment, which was given three readings at council’s May 13 regular meeting but is – as yet – not adopted, parking from November through February would be free Monday to Friday, and cost $2 per hour on Saturday and Sunday.

For the ‘shoulder season’ months of March and October, on-street and waterfront-lot parking would be $2 per hour, seven days a week.

The contemplated rates would also apply to the Montecito parkade and the newly-opened West Beach parkade.

Under the same bylaw – drafted following recommendations of the city’s Parking Task Force – parking would rise to $4 per hour in the high-demand zones (all lots east of Oxford Street to the Hump, including the parkades) between April and September.

During those months, the parking rate for a ‘value-priced zone’ (lots west of Oxford) would be set at $3.50 per hour.

Also under consideration is a daily rate for the Montecito and West Beach parkades of $15, from April through September.

As proposed in the bylaw, the daily rate for the parkades would fall to $7.50 during the shoulder season months of March and October, and the same price on weekends during winter months (with weekdays free).

There would also be a maximum four-hour stay in the high-demand zone, with the exception of the parkades.

The bylaw is scheduled for final reading and adoption at council’s next regular meeting, on May 27.

At last week’s meeting, Coun. Christopher Trevelyan, who chaired the Parking Task Force committee, countered two of its recommendations in an amending motion, which was then supported by the majority of council.

Trevelyan said he could not endorse the committee’s suggested blanket rate of $20 per day for the parkades (“I thought that $15 in the summer and $7.50 in the winter would be a good starting point,” he said), nor its suggestion that pay parking should start at 8 a.m. year round (rather than the 10 a.m. to midnight time period currently in effect). Coun. Helen Fathers also voiced opposition to an 8 a.m. start time.

In presenting the task force recommendations, Trevelyan noted that, while one argument is that the city should optimize parking revenue during the summer to pay for free winter parking, “as a council, we may want to consider carefully when these rate changes happen.” And he acknowledged that no one knows, at this point, how the public will respond to parking offered at the new West Beach parkade.

In supporting the suggested changes to parking rates, Mayor Darryl Walker suggested that pay parking on the waterfront must still be considered “a pilot project,” subject to further adjustment as more information is gathered during the year.

The sole vote against the amended bylaw came from Coun. David Chesney, who said he wanted to see hard data on the effects of this year’s trial of free parking on the waterfront during February and March before voting on further pay-parking changes.

“We have a giant new equation in pay parking on the waterfront, called the parkade, (and) no idea what the revenue is going to be generated off that, and you’re trying to make decisions on the future without that,” he said. “I can’t even find a word to describe it without being disrespectful…

“We, as elected officials, have a duty to the citizens of White Rock for fact-based (decisions),” he said later.

In a motion made by Chesney, and passed on Feb. 25, council had asked staff and the White Rock BIA to provide a facts-and-figures overview on Marine Drive businesses’ take during the free parking period.

As recalled by Chesney, it was to have been based on a sample of two businesses on West Beach and two on East Beach.

Chesney described as “anecdotal evidence” information offered by the BIA – via Trevelyan – that seven retail, restaurant and service businesses on West Beach and two on East Beach had reported their revenue numbers were up between 20 and 26 per cent during February and March, adding that he needed to see the report as originally requested.

Chesney’s call for data was supported by Fathers and Coun. Scott Kristjanson, who said more numbers might have enabled council to find a “sweet spot” which would have balanced parking revenue against the need to support business.

Although Trevelyan noted businesses were sensitive about divulging their numbers, Chesney countered that he would have no problem with figures submitted anonymously.

“We don’t have to see the business name. I would like to see the books, February and March, year to year,” he said. “Let’s find out if this (suspension of) pay parking really does increase revenue to our businesses.”

Trevelyan promised to provide the information to Chesney before the final vote is called.

Financial services director Sandra Kurylo estimated the loss of revenue to the city due to free parking during February and March at $182,000.

But she also told council it is difficult to predict how potential parking revenues for the rest of 2019 will offset free parking and ongoing operation costs, due to changes in rates and parking supply.

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