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'This is going to cause a riot': Paid parking could come to Vancouver's Spanish Banks Beach

Spanish Banks is the only beach in Vancouver with free parking
The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation is considering implementing paid parking for Spanish Banks beach.

Staff from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation are taking another look at an idea that was put on hold following public backlash in 2018: Paid parking at Spanish Banks Beach.

Currently, there are 744 free parking spaces at the beach spread out over four parking lots; there's also nearby street parking that's free as well.

During the parks board meeting on April 8, staff brought forth the idea that it was time for paid parking at the lots; a city staff member was also on hand who explained the city would implement paid street parking at the same time at the same rate.

Staff were only updating commissioners that a report on the matter is forthcoming; when the report comes later this year, commisioners will have the opportunity to vote on it.

While no details have been set at this stage, it was noted during the meeting that the minimum the city has for paid parking is $1 per hour, as set by a bylaw.

The earliest paid parking could come to Spanish Banks is June 2024.

Paid parking at Spanish Banks not a new idea

In 2017, the idea was brought forward and the commissioners of the day approved implementing paid parking in 2018. However, in 2018 the plan was put on hold due to the public's reaction. An online petition against paid parking garnered more than 13,000 signatures.

At the April 8 meeting, staff brought forward the idea again as an update to the previous plan; in the presentation to the board, it was noted "earlier plans to implement paid parking in 2018 were delayed."

Why implement paid parking now?

There are several reasons given for bringing in paid parking, notably that during peak months the beach is quite busy.

"This causes a serious impact to the road network on Northwest Marine Drive and also the surrounding neighbourhood," strategic operations director John Brodie told park commissioners.

Seasonal paid parking is an option, he added.

Additionally, Brodie said, paid parking would help visitors find parking.

"The introduction of paid parking is intended to help visitors find parking close to their destination," he said, adding: "Not only does this support activity at the beach, it also minimizes unnecessary searching for parking."

Searching for parking, he explained, leads to safety risks and pollution.

Paid parking at Spanish Banks would also help the park better align with other beaches around the city, he added.

Another reason for the proposed change stems from a new component of the parks board budget this year.

"In our 2024 budget, as part of the initiation to increase revenues across the city, the city had tasked park board with increasing parking revenue by $500,000, if you recall," director of financial planning Natalie Froehlich told the commissioners.

Adding paid parking to Spanish Banks is one of the strategies being considered to meet that goal.

Commissioners' response

Some commissioners expressed uncertainty about reviving the idea.

"This is going to cause a riot, right, if this comes down?" asked Commissioner Tom Digby.

He also thanked the presenters for the update months before it could come to a vote.

Commissioner Angela Haer noted during the meeting she's unlikely to support the idea. She brought up issues of financial accessibility and the impact paid parking would have on the broader neighbourhood, as people may seek out more creative parking options in West Point Grey.