British Columbia

North Vancouver considering open streets plan, allowing drinks outside

Councillors in North Vancouver will consider staff recommendations on Monday that would open up street space for gathering and dining outside as well as allowing for drinking at some outdoor public spaces.

Like other cities, North Van trying to find ways to help residents, businesses work and live amid pandemic

Councillors in North Vancouver are considering opening up more space along streets in the city's core for street patios like this one. (City of North Vancouver/Twitter)

Councillors in North Van will consider staff recommendations on Monday that would open up street space for gathering and dining outside as well as allowing for drinking at some outdoor public spaces.

The plans are similar to what other cities around the world, including Vancouver, are doing to help with physical distancing during the pandemic and allow businesses to offer services, such as dining, in safer outdoor spaces.

In North Vancouver that would mean taking up space on roads meant for driving and parking for expanded sidewalks, patios, and small parks.

City staff have identified 12 kilometres of streets starting in Lower Lonsdale, and branching out to the west, north and east.

"The goal is to create comfortable space for both people to move and businesses to operate in ways that meet physical distancing guidelines," said a report from staff.

On-street parking and local vehicle access for residents, deliveries, and visitors will be still be allowed on the streets involved in the plan.

Staff are recommending that councillors make available $150,000 to implement the changes, which would involve putting in barriers and signage.

Councillors will also consider spending $80,000 to help retailers, restaurants, craft breweries and pubs push out onto sidewalks or streets, while making sure there's room for pedestrians to walk.

North Vancouver already has some open street spaces in place at West Grand Boulevard, the Shipyards, the Lonsdale Avenue Corridor.

Vancouver is already considering 50 kilometres of so called 'slow streets.'

Some of the extra 12 kilometres in North Vancouver of space could be in place by the late spring or early summer and will remain until the province reduces or removes its guidelines for physical distancing.

City staff said all final modifications to streets and blocks will be reviewed by TransLink and the fire department to minimize impacts on transit service and emergency access.

The city will also launch an online website so that residents and business owners can provide feedback on the changes.

Councillor Tony Valente said on social media that the plan, which he supports, will be a big change for the city.

Valente also said that data shows that when more space is made for bicycles on commercial streets, businesses do better.

Plein air potables

Council will also vote on Monday on a pilot project to allow for alcohol consumption at patios or parklets set up for businesses along Lonsdale Avenue.

The pilot would run until Oct. 15 and allow for the consumption of liquor between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., seven days a week.

A report prepared by staff says that opening up outdoor spaces that allow people to safely gather, dine and even have drinks will help dampen some of the negative consequences of staying close to home during the pandemic such as social isolation.

"When used in moderation, liquor consumption can be enjoyable for people and facilitate social interaction," it said.

Provincial liquor laws allow municipalities to designate a bylaw that allows liquor to be consumed in a public place as long as there are designated hours, boundaries and signage.

So far no municipality in B.C. has enacted a bylaw like this, but elected officials in Vancouver are mulling two motions that would allow for drinking in public places such as beaches.

Staff have consulted with RCMP on the idea. The force says it is supportive, but the move will most likely result in more calls for service.

North Vancouver City council will meet on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

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