British Columbia·In Depth

Amid parking mess in East Vancouver, locals give up on city response

Every day, twice a day, parking chaos explodes on a particular stretch of Franklin Street in East Vancouver. Though residents and businesses have complained to the city several times, they say their concerns have gone nowhere and there's no solution in sight.

Locals describe the situation as a 'spectator sport' but say the city doesn't respond to complaints

Cars can often be found parked on the sidewalk during peak times on the 1300-block of Franklin Street in East Vancouver. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Every day, twice a day, parking chaos explodes on a particular stretch of Franklin Street in East Vancouver. 

Cars are parked on the sidewalk, triple parked on the street, blocking intersections and hampering the many delivery trucks trying to get through the industrial area. 

"It's actually dangerous some days. You can't walk on the sidewalk and you're forced into the middle of the road and there's cars going in both directions," said Carmen Buchmann, a local resident who walks by the area on her way to the gym.

Franklin Street is a busy industrial area. During peak parking times, delivery trucks often have trouble getting through. (Submitted)

Locals in the area say that, during peak times, fights routinely break out, cars are often damaged and traffic is at a standstill in one of the busiest industrial areas of the city.

The primary cause of the problem sits in the middle of the block: a large blue building, home of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association dispatch centre. 

There, twice a day, hundreds of longshoremen show up to swipe their cards and get on the list for work on the next 12-hour shift. It's a first come, first served system and not everyone gets assigned a job.  

But the parking lot in front of the building only holds space for about 100 cars. 

The Maritime Employers Association dispatch centre sits in the middle of the 1300-block of Franklin Street, near Clark Drive. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

The parking problem occasionally leads to skirmishes, leaving many in the area feeling intimidated by the longshoremen. 

And though residents and businesses have complained to the city several times, they say their concerns have gone nowhere and there's no solution in sight. 

Locals say this is a decades-old issue recently made worse by new developments popping up nearby — the building sits in one of the city's most up-and-coming neighbourhoods

It's also a problem sustained by a reluctance to digitize and upend years of tradition. 

Parking mayhem in East Vancouver

CBC News BC

3 years ago
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Cars triple parked on the street make it tricky for traffic to get by on Franklin Street in Vancouver 1:00

'Spectator sport'

After a particularly close call nearly getting hit by a car last summer, Buchmann phoned the city to complain. 

"I don't feel like the longshoremen parking in the street should be cause for me to lose my life, or anyone else's for that matter," she said.

But Buchmann discovered the city only sends bylaw officers to the area in pairs or with a police officer for safety — a fact the city confirmed was due to an incident in the late 1980s. 

Even the parking lot in front of the dispatch centre is chock-a-block full of misparked cars. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

In a written statement, the city said it's aware of the issue and has been working with local businesses and residents towards finding a long-term solution.

Taryn Scollard, the city's director of streets, says the city received 36 complaints in the past year and bylaw officers responded to 25 of them, issuing 20 tickets. 

Scollard said the city couldn't send bylaw officers to respond to complaints during rush hour because staff weren't available.

Other businesses blame the worsening situation on a new nearby Canada Post facility built in 2015, which has no parking for its 200 employees. 

Others blamed new condo developments in the up-and-coming neighbourhood centred around the Waldorf Hotel. 

Harry Stryer runs the Antique Market on Franklin Street. He says the parking situation has gotten worse since Canada Post opened a new facility nearby. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Opposition to digitization

The sole activity at the dispatch centre is, well, dispatch. 

So one logical solution could be to switch to a digitized system that would allow the longshoremen to clock in and check their assignments from the comfort of their homes. 

But the longshoremen CBC News spoke to — none of them on the record for fear of provoking the union — said they don't want it.

They say coming to the building in person means they can make sure the lucrative jobs are fairly distributed. 

Because Franklin Street is nestled between the busy thoroughfares of Powell and Hastings streets, it's often used by cyclists. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Rob Ashton, president of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union Canada, wouldn't share the union's official position on the matter.

But he did say it's a collective bargaining issue, and negotiations are coming up next year. 

The B.C. Maritime Employers Association also refused to comment. 

If the business does digitize its dispatch system, the large blue building in one of Vancouver's hottest neighbourhood could be up for grabs. 

But for residents like Carmen Buchmann, trying to get to the gym every other day, the parking problem points to a bigger issue with the city. 

"It bothers me that the city seems to be impotent in enforcing its bylaws," she said. "This is our community, we should all have access to the streets."

Editor's note: Due to a misunderstanding, a previous version of this story included the name of someone who spoke to CBC News for background purposes.

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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