British Columbia

Paved paradise lost, as Victoria building boom claims 100s of spaces

'People driving around trying to find spaces ... then I guess they either go home or go to the mall.'

Employees, shoppers frustrated as parking lots become condo developments

Councillor Geoff Young says incentives to attract customers to the city's five parkades, including this one at City Hall, have been too successful. (Deborah Wilson/CBC)

Victoria used to be a paved paradise, with so many street-level parking spaces that the downtown parkades stood half-empty.

Now, shoe store owner Ian Appleton says the situation is reversed, as construction cranes mark the places where parking lots were torn up for new condos and office development.

"Everybody complained about parking in the past and that meant that you couldn't park at the block you wanted to shop in," Appleton told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

"But now when they're complaining, it means there is no parking. It's all gone."

This office tower development across from Victoria city hall is rising on a site that included about 120 pay-parking spaces. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

In the past year and a half, 400 parking spaces have disappeared, Appleton said. "And we're slated to lose 350 more next year."

Five city-owned parkades with more than 1,800 parking spaces were underused for years, but not anymore.

Before the building boom began, city council introduced reduced rates for its parkades and a "first hour free" offer as an incentive to free up more street parking.

Parkade promotion 'too successful'

Those incentives, according to Victoria Councillor Geoff Young, "have simply been too successful."

Young said the best short-term solution available is to cut back on incentives, starting with the "first hour free'" offer during the mid-day hours when the lots are full.

Young doesn't expect the downtown building boom, which includes nearly 1,000 condos and rental apartments, to generate a significant amount of new public parking spaces.

Store owner Ian Appleton says customers and staff can't find parking downtown. (Google Street View)

"We don't want to see developers over-provide parking downtown; it just drives up housing costs," Young said.

Appleton, who owns The Cobbler shoe store, said the prospect of increased commerce from new residents and office workers downtown doesn't offset the current problems. 

"The people that work in the stores can't find parking, and the customers that come downtown from Vancouver or from up-Island, can't find anywhere to park," he said.

Parkades full by 10 a.m.

"The parking lots are full by 10 in the morning, so then there's people driving around trying to find spaces, which there aren't and then I guess they either go home or go to the mall."

"Some of my staff live way out of town," he said. One who lives in Lake Cowichan has no access to public transit.