The prevalence of “residential only” parking areas has some local politicians concerned, and at least one Victoria resident calling for a review of rules that restrict parking in areas where small businesses may be impacted.
Jennifer Iskiw recently attended a hairdresser in the Moss Street neighbourhood in Fairfield.
“I like supporting local businesses in the pocket neighbourhoods around Victoria. It’s part of what makes the City great,” she said.
When she left and returned to her vehicle, she discovered a $60 ticket for parking in an area posted as residential only. “If I can’t park near the small business in a neighbourhood setting, I guess I’ll have to take my business to a mall or somewhere where I can park nearby.”
City of Victoria spokesperson Ryan Shotton explained that residential parking areas are not initiated by the City, but are posted when a group of residents band together and generate a petition to City Hall. Ninety per cent of the residents on the street must be canvassed and 80 per cent of those canvassed must approve of the application.
The process, he said, is to protect residential streets bordering on commercial areas from becoming congested. Those who live on the street have their license numbers registered with the City for identification purposes, but fines to anyone else are only generated when a complaint is registered by a resident.
Coun. Chris Coleman, whose ward contains several residential parking only areas, expressed his concern regarding the system.
“To begin with, I’m uncomfortable with a system that essentially has some residents pitted against other citizens,” he said. “And it can impact businesses. We know, for example, that 88 per cent of the businesses on Cook Street are accessed by customers in their cars. But with a lot of the streets in the area marked as residential parking only, it can become a problem for people wanting to use those businesses, particularly if they have mobility issues. Asking someone with a walker to park 300 metres away is like asking them to run a marathon.”
Coleman said residential parking only areas tend to multiply because, as one street gets the designation and cars attending businesses are forced onto an adjoining street, residents on that street then petition for their own restrictions. If they are successful, vehicles move to the next street and the cycle continues, he added.
At present a little more than 33 per cent of the City’s total parking (outside of parkades) is designated as residential only, an amount that spans 111 kilometres of roadway. By comparison, the City has 143 km of unrestricted parking, 62 km of time-limited parking and 25 km of metered parking.
Another issue raised by Coleman is that, beyond the customers of local businesses, others may also be unfairly affected.
“What do you do for the home care nurse who is looking in on a client in the neighbourhood, or someone delivering meals or simply visiting a shut-in?” he asked, noting that he’s heard about such situations.
When tickets are issued and those ticketed feel they are undeserved, citizens can dispute the ticket at the City’s parking office in Centennial Square. “We currently forgive about 20 per cent of all the tickets we issue,” said Shotton.
Mayor Lisa Helps is sympathetic to those who have issues with residential parking only areas.
“I think it’s wrong for residents to see public rights-of-way as a place where they can store their personal vehicles. The roads are there for the common good, so this is obviously something that needs to be looked at,” she said.