Leon Zetler stands outside his Fernwood food store Aubergine Specialty Foods on Gladstone Avenue. Zetler started a Facebook group to lobby the City of Victoria to add more public parking on Gladstone. The city

Leon Zetler stands outside his Fernwood food store Aubergine Specialty Foods on Gladstone Avenue. Zetler started a Facebook group to lobby the City of Victoria to add more public parking on Gladstone. The city

Fernwood businesses score parking win in Victoria

Local merchant wants more done to encourage more visitors to the area

Fernwood’s urban village is known for its thriving arts scene, bustling restaurants and unique shops.

It’s also unfortunately known as one of the biggest parking headaches in Victoria, where relatively few drivers are lucky enough to score on-street one-hour spaces during the day or extended parking after 6 p.m.

But after a decade of frustrating negotiations between merchants and nearby residents, City of Victoria staff have approved new public parking in the 1300-block of Gladstone Ave.

The changes will add about 14 new public spaces east of Fernwood Road, but some merchants still feel it’s not enough to entice regular customers to the area.

“The city’s trying to encourage these urban neighbourhoods outside the downtown core, but they’re not encouraging people to come when they’re not creating any room for parking,” said Leon Zetler, owner of Aubergine Specialty Foods.

Three months ago, Zetler grew tired of the lack of action around parking and started a Facebook group, Open Up Gladstone Ave. Within a week, he had more than 350 page likes.

“This neighbourhood, we get hundreds of people coming during the evenings. The Belfry Theatre attracts so many people, the (Fernwood) pub is always busy,” he said.

While the parking changes aren’t going to solve all of Fernwood’s parking problems, it represents a good compromise of commercial and resident needs, said Coun. Geoff Young.

“There’s almost no change one can make in parking that will not be controversial to some degree,” he said. “It’s not ideal the way it is, but we think this change is one that will produce, on balance, more benefits than inconvenience.”

Tony Sprackett, Fernwood Community Association president, said most of the residents on Gladstone Avenue do have off-street parking options, and the street is often void of residential vehicles during weekdays.

“The change seemed to me like a reasonable compromise,” he said.

Facebook comments on Zetler’s Facebook page were overwhelmingly positive about the news.

“We have a beautiful vibrant corner at Gladstone and Fernwood with amazing restaurants and shops, but those who don’t live close by are often unable to visit our treasures due to lack of parking. I’m sure most of us don’t mind sharing our street with visitors,” wrote Analiise Salo, who identified as a Gladstone Road resident.

Zetler said he’s not done fighting yet, as the city seems to be “stuck in limbo” about how to fix Fernwood’s parking difficulties.

“These parking laws are archaic. They were done many years ago and haven’t allowed for future development,” he said. “It’s still not enough.”

The new signage is expected to be installed in early May.

dpalmer@vicnews.com