British Columbia

'Storefronts will darken:' Yaletown businesses slam city decision to remove parking spots

Dozens of Yaletown business owners say they're angry with the City of Vancouver for not consulting with them before drawing up plans to remove dozens of parking spots from two of the neighbourhood's streets.

Owner of new restaurant feels 'blindsided,' fears losing quarter of customers

The Yaletown BIA put up crosses on parking meters in the neighbourhood to symbolize the end of small businesses in the area if the parking spaces are removed. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

It's a big day for Ivo Staiano.

The owner of Meet restaurant is celebrating the grand opening of its Yaletown location on Mainland Street. 

But the special day is masked with uncertainty. 

After he signed a 10-year-lease, Staiano found out that the city would be removing dozens of parking spots along a five-block stretch of Mainland and Hamilton streets to create better access for fire trucks.

"We did feel blindsided. We put a lot of money in this business," he said.

The city said it was approached by the fire department about the access issue last year, but the Yaletown Business Improvement Association said it wasn't informed of the plans until mid-January.

Ivo Staiano, the owner of Meet restaurant, said if he loses 25 per cent of his customers, the business would go under. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Staiano said if they had known of the city's plans while they were doing months of research, they may have chosen another location. 

He estimates 25 per cent of his customers will be driving in from areas like Surrey and North Vancouver. 

"I know I make my choices based on how easy it is to get in and out of the business. When it's pouring rain I will choose one business over the other," he said.

"We have two kids — herding them two to three blocks is usually a poor option," he said. 

With restaurant profit margins so narrow, losing a quarter of their customer base could put them under, said Staiano.

During a public open house at the Roundhouse community centre on Thursday, business owners voiced their anger over the city's lack of consultation. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Dozens of other Yaletown business owners expressed similar frustration during a public open house held by the city at the Roundhouse Community Centre on Thursday. 

"It just ticks me off that there is no conversation. It's just: 'this is what is going to happen,'" said restaurant owner Iani Makris. 

While the business owners say safety is their first priority, they argue there are other ways to free up space.

The City of Vancouver plans to get rid of angled parking along a five-block stretch of Mainland and Hamilton streets to make room for fire trucks. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

"We've proposed a couple of solutions to the city," said Annette O'Shea, executive director of the Yaletown Business Improvement Association. 

The BIA has put up white crosses on parking meters in the neighbourhood to symbolize the threat to small businesses in the area.

"The city engineers, quite bluntly, are not listening. They're not willing to change their plan even a little," she said. 

O'Shea suggests removing the parallel parking spots instead of the angled spots, or narrowing the sidewalks. 

Annette O'Shea, executive director of the Yaletown BIA, said removing that many parking stalls means the end of businesses in the area. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The city says neither of those solutions are viable, but it is in discussions with the BIA to reduce the number of spots being lost from 80 to 54.

It also has plans to add new spaces on other streets.

But parking spots blocks away aren't going to cut it, said O'Shea, especially for the 800 small businesses in the area — and services like medical clinics — whose customers may not be able to walk long distances, ride bikes or take public transit. 

"If the parking leaves, the businesses will leave and the storefronts will darken. Nobody wants another dark street in Vancouver," said O'Shea. 

Vancouver Fire and Rescue said removing the parking spots will improve access for fire trucks and other equipment on the narrow roads of the neighbourhood, which is seeing an increase in density and emergency calls. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

With files from Jesse Johnston


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