Victoria mayor seeks expedited patio permits, permanent ban on vehicles in Beacon Hill Park
VICTORIA -- Victoria city councillors will vote on a motion this week to permanently ban vehicles from Beacon Hill Park.
The motion will be tabled by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Coun. Jeremy Loveday at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting. It asks council to direct city staff to “implement the pedestrian-only approach to Beacon Hill Park on a permanent basis, seven days a week.”
Vehicles were temporarily restricted from the park ahead of the Easter long weekend as a measure to encourage outdoor physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The motion will also recommend that council direct staff to seek further opportunities to allocate more outdoor space to pedestrians in the city’s downtown core and village centres.
Helps told CTV News on Friday the city would be looking to take aggressive moves to open up public spaces to pedestrian-friendly businesses around the city.
“I hope that council will make some quick decisions next Thursday,” Helps said Friday.
“We’ll react as quickly as possible – as proactively as possible – to get some of those measures in place," the mayor said.
"We’re not going to be doing a whole bunch of public consultation. We need to act quickly. We’re coming out of an emergency situation.”
Helps and Loveday will also table a related motion at the committee calling on staff to look at expediting patio permits for restaurants and other businesses in public spaces.
Helps said Friday that opening public spaces to Victorians will be crucial to bringing life back to the city as residents emerge from isolation into a city that will be largely devoid of international tourists this summer.
“Victorians are going to be the tourists, we’re going to be the ones on Government Street, we’re going to be the one’s coming downtown,” Helps said.
“It’s quite heartbreaking actually to think about what the summer will feel like without a festival every weekend, what the summer will feel like without visitors from Canada and other parts of the world. And so we are going to have to do our part as a city to make Victoria special this summer – by Victoria, for Victoria.”
Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, says struggling restaurants need immediate help getting back on their feet and expanding into public spaces would provide more room to serve customers safely.
Vancouver city council is also preparing to debate the issue of making more room for restaurants and Mayor Kennedy Stewart has said the city must think creatively to help spur recovery.
Restaurants Canada, a not-for-profit industry association, says a recent survey of members finds that seven out of 10 owners fear they won't have enough money to pay their expenses over the next three months.
With files from The Canadian Press