An open letter to White Rock council.
I’m glad to hear that the uneven sidewalks on Johnston Road are slated for repair. I understand other maintenance to the street will be conducted at the same time as the sidewalk repairs – which is understandable.
However, what is not understandable is how routine upgrades turned into a full-blown structural change. I would like to understand how the maintenance work turned into a planned full-scale transformation of Johnston Road, from Thrift Avenue to North Bluff, without any community or business consultation.
Since the open house (Pedestrian-only uptown ‘a non-starter,’ July 1), I have walked up and down Johnston Road several times. These are the conclusions I have drawn:
• I don’t believe removing the existing trees will provide much extra sidewalk space. If the trees have to be removed, they should be replaced tree for tree.
• Many pedestrians were using all the crosswalks.
• The left-hand lane into Central Plaza is constantly used.
• At least four of six parking spaces were full at all times.
I believe there is a complete contradiction of options being implemented.
Option 1 is to create a vibrant, warm community with lots of foot traffic, with benches and café patios for socializing, a street where people can happily mingle, shop and easily move from the east to west sides of Johnston Road. In my opinion, the ideal small-town, community setting – the perfect White Rock Uptown.
This would entail repairing the sidewalks, maintenance to sewers, etc. as needed, trimming trees or replacing them with a more appropriate species and improved maintenance on the garden areas to make an impressive first impression upon the entrance into the city.
Option 2, in my opinion, is “the Kiss of Death” option for White Rock’s uptown retail businesses.
This removes six parking spaces, eliminates the left-turn into the Central Plaza, moves sidewalks to where no one even wants to cross, totally eliminates another, puts up a barrier down the middle of Johnston Road to prevent the spontaneous movement of pedestrian traffic and creates a second southbound lane to encourage traffic to get through Johnston Road more quickly.
So what you are creating is not a pedestrian-friendly environment. It is a traffic movement pattern, with lots of barriers, lots of cement and very little warmth or greenery. Not an inviting community atmosphere.
Central Plaza will be a vibrant mall again one day, and for that to happen, the left-turn lane from Johnston Road needs to remain. With an active mall, the customers will shop and park and walk down and across Johnston Road to further support local businesses. The historic “crosswalk” needs to remain, as it is the route the customers take travelling from Central Plaza to the Royal Bank Mall and up and down Johnston Road.
I know you have stated there are safety issues. We have never had a customer complain about any safety issues as a pedestrian on Johnston Road, other than the bumpy sidewalks. No one has said, “Get rid of the trees, they’re in my way when I come to shop at your store.”
We do get constant complaints about the lack of parking spaces available on Johnston Road.
If you support Option 2, you should just bite the bullet and tell retailers that you are not supporting a vibrant, White Rock uptown business community.
You want to control all movement, keeping cars heading in straight lines north to Surrey or south to the beach, quickly and efficiently. Maybe White Rock businesses should all move to Grandview Corners/Morgan Crossing, and the large welcome banner across Johnston Road could re-direct the traffic to our new locations and the people-friendly shopping atmosphere?
I think we merchants deserve better. Maybe you could come and talk to us? Or send out a questionnaire? Or do crosswalk-traffic counts? Or traffic-movement records? Or parking-spot usage counts?
If you really feel that Johnston Road isn’t safe, we need the facts!
Laura Shaw (Laura’s Fashion Fabrics), White Rock