Victoria city councillors have voted to delay a decision on whether to replace Clover Point’s parking loop with a new pedestrian public park.
Council spent almost an hour debating the issue Thursday, tossing out a variety of ideas on whether to eliminate, shrink, halve or retain the current loop of 90 parking spaces, before ultimately deferring a decision and asking city staff to develop new options by Feb. 25.
“I’m losing the plot,” Mayor Lisa Helps said at one point while trying to wrangle a variety of competing visions, amendments and sub-amendments on the park’s future.
“I think we are trying to design on the fly.”
Coun. Ben Isitt said he was in favour of the staff recommendation to eliminate the parking loop, create a new park and build 13 new parking spaces as well as four accessible parking spaces. But he asked staff to increase that to as many as 10 accessible parking spaces in future designs.
Isitt also proposed a 12-month review of council’s decision, which was later changed to a six-month review before council voted to make no decision at all.
“We’ve tried a certain design for about 65 years and I think trying a slightly different design for a few months or years wouldn’t be a bad thing for the community,” said Isitt.
“And if we find we’re unable to effectively manage parking issues with the proposed design there’s a number of options to address those.”
Coun. Sarah Potts floated the idea of a half loop, in which the west side was closed to vehicles but the east side remained open to waterfront parking. The proposal picked up some support, but Isitt and staff warned about potential safety risks of mingling cars and pedestrians so closely together.
Coun. Geoff Young suggested a smaller parking loop, which would still allow some cars but also have additional pavement available for cyclists and pedestrians.
Young also responded to public complaints about the often cold wind and weather making the park undesirable for sustained public gatherings by proposing an open shelter of some type to act as a windbreak.
“This park is not balanced now between pedestrians and automobiles,” said Young “It is far too automobile-oriented and I think we do need to restore the balance somewhat.”
Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she did not support the city staff’s idea to eliminate the parking loop, noting for many, including herself, the current design allows for people to drive up to the waterfront and sit and enjoy the ocean in a different way.
She said the staff idea “went a little bit too far.”
“There are so many reasons why people don’t get out of their car there,” she said. “But one of their joys is to enjoy the view.”
City staff told the council that a two-week delay to come up with new options that include a mix of parking, pedestrian space and more accessible parking stalls would not jeopardize any potential savings compared to making a decision Thursday.
The idea to permanently close Clover Point’s parking loop first came from city staff late last month with a report that recommended making the change during ongoing sewage treatment construction at the site.
Staff called for the elimination of 90 parking spots in favour of a community green space with seating, benches and public art, as well as 13 new parking spots at the top of the loop, four accessible spots and a loading zone for dropping off passengers.
The idea proved contentious, with disability and seniors advocates warning it might be harder for those with mobility issues to access the park without the ability to drive to the water. Others embraced the idea of transforming a parking lot into a more versatile gathering space for people, pets and families.
The loop parkway was created in the 1950s, billed as a way to allow drivers to park at the water’s edge.
The parking has been closed for the past year while the Capital Regional District upgrades the Clover Point pump station, located directly below, as part of the region’s new sewage treatment system.