Petition opposing pay parking at Spanish Banks gaining traction

Spanish Banks is the last beach in the city that still has free parking, but that could be coming to an end as the Park Board reconsiders implementing paid parking at the beach’s 744 parking spots.

A petition against implementing pay parking at Vancouver’s Spanish Banks beach is gaining steam this week, with more than 2,000 signatures as of Saturday.

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation presented a report on April 8 with a recommendation that pay parking be implemented at the popular beach, saying it is currently the only beach in the city not to charge for parking.

The report says the free lots cause disruption to the neighbourhood, especially in the summertime.

But charging for parking at the beach could be a barrier to access the area, particularly for those with lower incomes, according to the petition’s page, which is organized by a group that calls itself “Vancouver Beach Lovers 2.”

“We, the undersigned, urge the Park Board to reconsider this means of revenue, which has never been there before,” the petition reads.

“We feel that the parks budget should be maintained on the same basis it has been for all the years Spanish Banks has not had parking fees.”

The petition says accessibility is a key reason Spanish Banks has free parking.

“Spanish Banks is long and has a great deal of parking. People come to Spanish Banks by car because it is by far the easiest way to get there, especially for large families, the elderly, disabled or people with bbq’s or other beach gear,” it says.

It also questions how the Park Board has been able to manage the operation of Spanish Banks “all these years.”

“But we are told that the Park Board needs to raise money to pay for upkeep and they rely on these fees. Then the question is, how on earth has the Park Board managed for all these years while Spanish Banks has been free?” the petition says.

“Is there some other reason their budget requires this new source of income? Could it be poor fiscal management or simply a matter of priorities?”

The petition says the outdoors is what Vancouver has to offer to people, and charging them for parking could make people less inclined to go, especially those with lower incomes.

“Where we do have to pay for parking in Vancouver, we have seen considerable increases over the last ten years. Many street parking meter rates have more than doubled and now extend to 10 p.m. instead of eight. We don’t need another parking fee increase like this,” it says.

But not all Parks Board commissioners are in favour of the change.

“I live there, so I’m [probably] not going to … support this,” Commissioner Angela Haer said. “I’m just letting you know right now.”

Haer, speaking at a park board meeting last week, says she thinks implementing pay parking in the area would backfire.

“Neighbours are not able to find parking in front of their houses, etc., so that’s already an issue,” she said.

“My concern is once you introduce pay parking, that’s going to be even more of a concern.”

Haer isn’t the only commissioner to speak out.

“This is going to cause a riot, right?,” Commissioner Tom Digby said.

“Is there any way you could charge like a buck for three hours, or does it have to be $5.75 for the first hour?” he said.

Haer says the cost of living is already too high, and this won’t make things any better.

“Prices have gone up; people can’t afford to live,” she said.

Some visitors at Spanish Banks told CityNews that they are not happy about this decision because it affects their mental health.

“I wouldn’t feel very happy about that at all. I think this is a beautiful place used by many people and our mental well-being. So I think paid parking would be counter-productive,” one visitor said.

Another visitor at the beach said it is normal for a beautiful place like this to be congested.

“Wherever you have the beauty that we have here, it’s going be congested. So what are you saying, we’re going to congest it with those who can afford to pay? I use this beach quite often and I park right down there,” he said.

He also added that the city’s happiness relies on this beach.

“The city gets far more out of this from the happiness quotient of the people that come here and the tourists. The city and park board would get far more than the funds,” he said.

“This is the only spot that we could drop off our cars, and then go cycling or go hiking… if there was paying parking, I just wouldn’t come here.”

In the report, the Parks Board asks city staff to respond to their request to add pay parking to Spanish Banks by 2024’s second quarter.

Parks Board staff will present a full report to the board in the coming weeks, and if greenlighted, pay parking at Spanish Banks could come into effect as early as June.

-With files from Cecilia Hua.

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