Following the blocking of a parking lot nearest to the waterfront pier, operators of businesses on Marine Drive have signed an open letter to “demand accountability” from the City of White Rock and local business groups.
The letter – citing the city’s planning department, White Rock Business Improvement Association and the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce – takes issue with the temporary closure of the parking lot east of the pier as contractors use the space to prepare for a water-main replacement from Martin Street to the White Rock Museum and Archives.
“The lot will be closed for the entirety of this week, despite the fact that at least half the spots are viable, and there is no work being done at this time,” the letter, written by Primos Mexican Grill general manager Samantha McQuade, states.
Nearly 20 managers or owners of Primos Mexican Grill (15069 Marine Dr.), Five restaurant (15047 Marine Dr.), Dew Drop Inn (15065 Marine Dr.), Kyou Sushi (15019 Marine Dr.), Charlie Don’t Surf (15011 Marine Dr), Oceanside Public House (14995 Marine Dr.) and Localz (14981 Marine Dr.) have signed the 233-word letter.
“Our businesses are suffering greatly, there is now no available parking accessible for our restaurants. We pay significant fees to operate on White Rock Beach, including Patio taxes for tables that are sitting empty. While trying to rally during the incredibly lengthy construction period already in effect here in White Rock, unnecessary and avoidable issues like this one are completely undermining our ability to operate successfully,” the document says.
The letter was circulated to Marine Drive businesses after the city issued a notice May 8 stating that city contractors will be disrupting traffic on the street, and closing the parking lot, from May 14-25. The city issued a new notice May 10, saying that contractors will now be able to complete the work by May 18.
City director of engineering and municipal operations Jim Gordon told Peace Arch News Thursday that the city decided to accelerate the work so that it’s completed before Victoria Day (May 21) long weekend.
The May 10 notice states the parking lot east of Memorial Park “will be temporally closed between May 14 – May 19, 2018 as this location is where equipment machinery will be stored.”
“It is planned that the contractor will demobilize and return the parking lot to the public by the end of Saturday, May 19.”
However, McQuade and Primo’s Mexican Grill co-owner Joel Villanueva told PAN that access to the parking lot had been blocked since May 9.
Despite there being more than half of the parking spaces sitting empty, Villanueva said, heavy machinery has blocked access to the parking lot during evening hours.
Describing the culinary industry on Marine Drive as seasonal, Villanueva said this part of the year is “the most important time.”
“We only have five months a year, and they just took a month away, including Memorial Park. We don’t even have access to the pier anymore, this has just killed us,” he said.
Villanueva expects the parking lot to be closed this weekend, and during Mother’s Day May 13.
“I had people cancel yesterday because they didn’t have anywhere to park. I had a to-go order yesterday, she couldn’t even pick up her food,” Villanueva said.
McQuade said their concerns are not related to how they feel about the construction projects, but rather how city plans are being communicated to the local business owners.
“If this is the direction they’re going in. We at least deserve some transparency, some forewarning,” McQuade said.
McQuade said that if they were told beforehand the parking lot would be closed May 9, restaurant staff could have warned customers and either provided a shuttle service or noted the city-provided free Marine Drive shuttle bus option.
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