Residents of Victoria Avenue on White Rock’s hillside are up in arms about the current lane closure and eastbound one-way on Marine Drive – and they’re petitioning the city to end it.
Christie and Sean Graham, who live at Victoria Avenue and Ash Street, say they are outraged by a change in the traffic system that is sending an estimated 250 cars-plus per hour, in diverted west-bound traffic, down their quiet street.
White Rock council voted May 10 to go ahead with the temporary one-way – a plan aimed at supporting Marine Drive restaurants by providing more outdoor patio room to compensate for table space lost through provincial anti-COVID-19 measures – after initially rejecting it.
The couple, who have two young children, say they are concerned about ongoing potential danger to pedestrians, who include elderly neighbours and many seniors from other areas of the city who walk daily by way of Ash and Victoria, both of which lack sidewalks, to get to the beach.
They’re also concerned about the challenges for fire, police and other emergency vehicles in accessing the waterfront area.
And they’re disturbed that White Rock council made the decision on what they say is an “ill-conceived plan” without due consultation with members of the public who would be most affected, and that there was inadequate notice that the measure – put in place June 7 – was actually going ahead.
Their concerns – which they say are vociferously shared by neighbours – will be brought to council on Monday (June 14) in a petition they’ve organized.
It reads: “We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to Maintain Marine Drive Safety and are opposed to the Westbound Lane Closure.”
Thursday they told Peace Arch News they had gathered at least 70 signatures by simply physically canvassing the area (with pandemic-appropriate distancing) within a block and a half of their home – and more signatures are coming in daily.
“We even had people coming to our doorstep to sign the petition last night,” Christie said.
The couple – long-term White Rock residents – note that their petition is not intended a hit at restaurants on Marine Drive.
“We are fully in support of the restaurants,” said Sean. “We support them by visiting them and giving them our patronage. We just want it to go back to the status quo.”
Visits to favourite Marine Drive establishments over the last few days have indicated that not all of the businesses are enthralled by the plan, they added.
Christie also noted the May 31 amendment to council’s decision which says the measure will last only until full capacity is allowed in restaurants again – which could only be only a couple of weeks away if the province hews to its plans for re-opening B.C.
“It’s not fair to some of those restaurants – they’ve made a lot of investment in this,” she said.
Christie said she has consulted with several White Rock councillors who noted the decision to introduce the one-way was swayed by an emotional plea on behalf of restaurants by White Rock BIA director Alex Nixon, and also spoken with city engineering and operations director Jim Gordon, who, she said, told her the decision was not recommended by city staff who had reported on the numerous challenges involved.
Gordon also told the Grahams that having Victoria Avenue signed as “local traffic only” – which they had suggested – was “not possible” for the city to put in place.
Sean added that an additional safety concern is that any traffic tie-ups on Victoria Avenue may lead impatient drivers to use adjacent laneways, where residents – and their children – are not conditioned to expect the sudden appearance of cars.
While the Grahams said they recognize the step was taken as “an emergency measure” by council, they say the lack of consultation and advance notice is distressing.
“The first notice we had that it was going ahead was a letter we received on June 3,” Christie said.
“It was really shocking, the lack of proper notice. There was absolutely no consultation with people directly affected by the move.”
“We’re supportive of a democratic process,” Sean said. “If there had been consultation with all the businesses and residents, if this had been discussed last summer, or over the last six months, we might have said, OK, that’s the decision as a result of the process.
“But that’s not what happened here.”
Sean encourages those who wish to add their signatures to the petition to email him at email@example.com