Frustration with parking infractions by construction workers in the uptown area boiled over at White Rock council’s Monday night (June 8) special meeting.
Couns. Scott Kristjanson and David Chesney, in particular, expressed anger that construction workers are continuing to park in business street parking areas on Johnston Road – and the adjacent city parking lot at Johnston Road and Russell Avenue – in spite of parking plans registered in the application process by the development companies for ongoing projects in the area.
Kristjanson underlined that the problem with policing construction parking for the current spate of uptown development is a long-standing one for the city.
“I remember being in these council chambers five years ago telling Mr. Baldwin (former Mayor Wayne Baldwin) that he should get his act together,” he said. “Now I’m asking us, as a council, to get our act together, because I’m – frankly – pissed.”
“The frustration level is through the roof on this one in our community,” Chesney commented.
While councillors hastened to add that they were not assigning blame to two of the newest members of staff – financial services director Colleen Ponzini (whose portfolio also includes parking enforcement) and chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero – they were not satisfied with explanations that bylaw staff are currently working at maximum capacity to solve the problem through existing two-hour limits.
Both Kristjanson and Chesney argued for further steps to be taken by the city that would specifically target non-compliant construction workers and their employers, after Coun. Erika Johanson pointed out that re-opening of businesses on Johnston Road had resulted in a new rash of parking complaints.
Ultimately Ferrero promised an interim report to council, prior to a scheduled review of parking priorities, that would outline possible actions the city could take for cracking down on offenders.
Ponzini and Ferrero had also suggested that council might have to mull increasing enforcement resources to address the issue.
“We need to do something,” Kristjanson said. “These businesses are struggling and there are construction workers parking in front of their businesses. That’s wrong… I’m concerned about the impact on our businesses, because they’re screaming at us, and they should be screaming at us.
“I need signs or something that says ‘no construction worker parking’, period. What we’ve done instead is told residents they have to buy parking passes to park in front of their own homes. That’s wrong. We’ve heard about seniors carrying groceries down steep hills getting injured. That’s wrong. We’ve heard about people – seniors – who couldn’t go to their churches because the construction parking is there. We’ve all seen them at five o’clock, six o’clock in the morning going to construction and at four o’ clock going home.
“I’m also concerned about COVID. I am disgusted that construction workers have an exemption to this and they are allowed to gather and build. I’m OK with them if they stick to their site plans and keep to themselves, but when they’re parking in our neighborhoods, they’re spreading that here and risking our residents, and that’s not acceptable to me.”
“I shake my head why we can’t put a stop to this,” Chesney said. “This has been going on for months and months and months. It’s just a giant game of ‘whack-a-mole.’
“I’d hate to stop commerce, but I’ll tell you one thing, if you put a shot across their bow that says ‘if your people are parking on the street, you will suffer a 10-day shut-down…hit them in the pocketbook, do something, because whatever we’ve done now to date has not done jack.”
Coun. Helen Fathers, who is also manager of the White Rock Farmers Market, noted that the lack of business parking has been a major weekly topic of discussion by patrons of the market.
“When you get that much feedback and that much comment from many people, there’s an issue,” she said.
Planning and development services director Carl Isaak told council the city is continuing to communicate with the development and construction companies, who have promised, in turn, to speak to both their direct employees and also subcontractors and workers in the construction trades.