City leaders appear to be have wedged themselves firmly between a rock and a hard place in their planning of a multilevel parkade a stone’s throw from White Rock’s waterfront.
If they proceed, they will anger those who complain the $9- to 13-million project will sit vacant most of the year, serving as a proverbial white elephant in a neighbourhood where the focus, clearly, is on views.
And if they abandon it, they will anger business owners whom they have too often disregarded and who have long complained there is no room to park during peak tourism season, pushing potential customers further afield.
Sadly, for those elected to make the decisions, there appears to be no middle ground.
There are, however, specious arguments both pro and con that should be dismissed.
Those who think that a parkade would mean free parking on White Rock beach are fooling themselves – notwithstanding the city manager’s suggestion Monday that the parkade could mean a new pricing structure and, possibly, even converting existing parking to linear parks. The city leases the BNSF land where most of the pay parking sits currently; the safer bet is on the city being unwilling to give up a single nickel of this income in the years ahead.
As well, anyone accusing the city of making this decision behind closed doors hasn’t been paying attention. A year-and-a-half ago, the city announced it had purchased, for $1.4 million, former councillor Al Campbell’s hillside home for this very purpose. This isn’t to suggest leaders should expect taxpayers to hang on to their every word, but it certainly hasn’t been going on in secret, solely behind closed doors, the way some of council’s earlier decisions have been.
The onus now is for civic officials to show taxpayers – their employers – how this is a good plan both financially and for their community’s betterment. They should explain in detail how a multi-million-dollar investment can pay for itself, and they should explain how they plan to increase tourist traffic year-round so that parking spots – ergo, businesses – don’t sit vacant.
Presumably, the math and arguments have already been calculated, for their plan to get to this late, public-hearing stage.
If not, any discomfort felt by civic leaders is self-inflicted.