White Rock council has decided to permanently widen a section of sidewalk in East Beach.
The widened sidewalk will be on the north side of Marine Drive between Ash and Balsam streets where, a city staff report says, unauthorized expansion of business patios has impeded pedestrian traffic and created safety issues.
The measure, approved at council’s June 13 meeting, will cost $55,000 for reconstruction of the sidewalk – and will also impact city coffers, to the tune of some $35,000 due to the closure of 10 revenue-providing parking spaces.
However, there are compensatory benefits, according to the report from former acting director of planning Eric Shaw.
The widened area, in addition to making the sidewalk safer, would allow for larger patios which could prompt higher fees for patio licences, Shaw pointed out.
“We’re going to lose parking revenue, but we’re going to gain revenue from patio rental,” Mayor Wayne Baldwin noted.
In addition, preparation of an amendment to the licensing bylaw will include clearer regulations for sidewalk patios citywide, after more than 20 years of inconsistency.
Since the original licensing bylaw was adopted in 1993, enforcement has been spotty at best, which has led businesses to make further encroachments – including umbrellas, chairs and displays of goods for sale – into pedestrian walking areas.
“We’ve never enforced the rules,” Coun. David Chesney said.
“They (businesses) have gotten away with murder for years.”
During discussion of the report, Couns. Lynne Sinclair and Megan Knight expressed interest in an alternate option mentioned – a temporary wooden ‘parklet’ that could be placed over the existing sidewalk, extending out into the current parking area.
While such a structure would provide a certain eye appeal, council members heard, the construction price tag would be $40,000 for an impermanent seasonal addition.
Chesney wondered whether trucking in some planters and furniture would not be a cheaper temporary alternative, but city manager Dan Bottrill suggested that this might simply add to the dangers of the current situation.
“One of the most important pieces here is safety,” he said.
Coun. Helen Fathers said the measure would go “a long way to beautifying long-forgotten East Beach,” but wondered whether patio licences would be compulsory for business owners who decided not to participate.
“No one will be forced to have a patio,” Shaw said.