White Rock to temporarily close one lane of Marine Drive for restaurant patios

May 11 2021, 2:33 pm

One traffic lane of Marine Drive along White Rock’s waterfront will be closed to allow businesses to spill out onto the street with patios.

During a public meeting on Monday evening, White Rock City Council voted 6-1 in support of a motion put forward by councillor Scott Kristjanson, with councillor David Chesney opposed.

The motion’s approval provides city staff with the permission to install temporary water-filled traffic barriers separating the north lane from the south lane, at the cost of $50,000, plus $40,000 for maintenance such as staffing costs.

The north lane of Marine Drive next to the retail strip of businesses — from Vidal Street to the Pier Parking Lot, and from Balsam Street to Maple Street — will be closed and repurposed as patios. The segment from the Pier Parking Lot to Balsam Street will be a two-lane eastbound road, while the road east of Maple Street will remain as a two-way, two-lane road.

This configuration will remain in effect until the end of summer.

Chesney argued the traffic disruptions and financial costs of the configuration would be too great and asserted that it is “not the job of the civic government to ensure the profitability of restaurants.”

He believes the federal and provincial programs in place are sufficient to support businesses, and that the two dozen businesses along the waterfront should not be treated any differently because of their location.

“Yes, we need to create an environment where they can excel and operate a successful business, but this has nothing to do with the City of White Rock,” said Chesney.

But Kristjanson said the COVID-19 recovery funding provided to the municipal government from the provincial government will cover the costs, and is intended to support such situations.

“Last year, we thought this thing was only [going to] be a few months. We have no way of knowing when COVID-19 is going to be over. We’re in the third wave right now. We might have a fourth wave,” said Kristjanson.

“If we do this, the worst that will happen is it’ll help make businesses more money and survive, and there’s no downside.”

marine drive white rock waterfront closure

Marine Drive temporary configuration, Summer 2021. (City of White Rock)

Alex Nixon, the executive director of the White Rock Business Improvement Association (BIA), says the reconfiguration of the roadway is far from ideal, but his organization will work with the city to make it work.

Describing the dire situation of many restaurants that have taken a hit from the public health order banning indoor dining, Nixon said, “an extra five seats does pay the lease.”

“We’re looking at some short-term pain of traffic aggravation and cost to ensure a long-term gain. And that long-term gain is ensuring our neighbours continue their livelihood. The largest source of employment in White Rock will continue to be the largest source of employment; we won’t see mass layoffs.”

City staff, the BIA, and emergency services will now collaborate to work out a plan that mitigates traffic impacts and the risk of reducing emergency response times.

The changes could come into effect over the coming weeks. Westbound traffic would be redirected to Victoria Avenue and Columbia Avenue to the north. Both see up to over 250 vehicles per hour during peak hours.

The approved configuration is a substantial downsize from the options presented last month and rejected by the city council, which called for lane closures of the length of the street on the waterfront. City staff also did not support the options.

marine drive white rock waterfront closure

Marine Drive temporary configuration, Summer 2021. (City of White Rock)

marine drive white rock waterfront closure

Marine Drive temporary configuration, Summer 2021. (City of White Rock)

marine drive white rock waterfront closure

Marine Drive temporary configuration, Summer 2021. (City of White Rock)

marine drive white rock waterfront closure

Marine Drive temporary configuration, Summer 2021. (City of White Rock)

marine drive white rock waterfront closure

Marine Drive temporary configuration, Summer 2021. (City of White Rock)

marine drive white rock waterfront closure

Marine Drive temporary configuration, Summer 2021. (City of White Rock)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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