A City of White Rock employee checks a water-filled barrier on Marine Drive last week, after the stretch of road was turned into a one-way street. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Victoria Avenue residents spearhead petition against Marine Drive one-way

Christie and Sean Graham say they support restaurants - but want a return to ‘status quo’

A petition from 88 residents to end the current lane closure and eastbound one-way on Marine Drive –organized by Christie and Sean Graham of Victoria Avenue – was received by White Rock council at Monday’s (June 14) regular meeting.

And Coun. Scott Kristjanson, who has championed the one-way plan – aimed at supporting Marine Drive restaurants by providing more outdoor patio room to compensate for table space lost through provincial anti-COVID-19 measures – said he was sympathetic to the concerns of the Grahams and their neighbours.

“They’re definitely not NIMBYs,” he noted. “They’re concerned about safety.”

The Grahams, who live at Victoria Avenue and Ash Street, say they are concerned by a change in the traffic system that is sending diverted westbound traffic, which an early estimate placed at, potentially, 250 cars-plus per hour, down their quiet street.

To allay neighbourhood concerns, Kristjanson launched a motion to have the city install a ‘local traffic only’ sign – something the Grahams had suggested – at the intersection of Maple Street and Victoria Avenue, where westbound traffic is most likely to turn onto Victoria.

The motion was passed by council on a split vote, with Couns. Helen Fathers and David Chesney and Mayor Darryl Walker in opposition.

City engineering and operations director Jim Gordon had recommended against such signage, which he said was “unenforceable” and is only, typically, installed under the Motor Vehicle Act, in the case of construction work, with flag people assigned.

He told council, however, “we want to do what we can to lessen the effect on Victoria (Avenue),” adding that he thought that the city could “improve some of the signage directing vehicles to Columbia Avenue” and increase communications advocating other routes.

In practice, he said, most of the westbound traffic is actually using Columbia Avenue.

White Rock council voted May 10 to go ahead with the temporary one-way, after initially rejecting it following an extensive staff report outlining challenges in implementing the move.

The Grahams, who have two young children, told Peace Arch News last week they are concerned about ongoing potential danger to pedestrians, who include elderly neighbours and many seniors from other areas of the city who walk daily by way of Ash and Victoria, both of which lack sidewalks, to get to the beach.

READ ALSO: White Rock’s Marine Drive one-way to take effect June 7

READ ALSO: PHOTOS: Marine Drive turned into temporary one-way street

They’re also concerned about waterfront-access challenges for fire, police and other emergency vehicles.

And, they’re disturbed that council made the decision on what they say is an “ill-conceived plan” without due consultation with those who would be most affected, and that there was inadequate notice that the measure – put in place June 7 – was actually going ahead.

Their concerns are vociferously shared by neighbours, they say, who have even come to their doorstep to sign the petition after they initially canvassed within a block-and-a-half of their home.

The petition reads: “We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to Maintain Marine Drive Safety and are opposed to the Westbound Lane Closure.”

The couple – long-term White Rock residents – note that their petition is not intended as a hit at restaurants on Marine Drive.

“We are fully in support of the restaurants,” said Sean.

Christie also noted the May 31 amendment to council’s decision which says the measure will last only until full capacity is allowed in restaurants again – which could only be only a couple of weeks away if the province hews to its plans for re-opening B.C.

“It’s not fair to some of those restaurants – they’ve made a lot of investment in this,” she said.

READ ALSO: One-way Marine Drive effort could end as early as July 1

Christie said she has consulted with several White Rock councillors who noted the decision to introduce the one-way was swayed by an emotional plea on behalf of restaurants by White Rock BIA director Alex Nixon, and also spoken with Gordon, who, she said, told her the decision was not recommended by city staff, who had reported on the numerous challenges involved.

Sean added that an additional safety concern is that any traffic tie-ups on Victoria Avenue may lead impatient drivers to use adjacent laneways, where residents – and their children – are not conditioned to expect the sudden appearance of cars.

While the Grahams said they recognize the step was taken as “an emergency measure” by council, they say the lack of consultation and advance notice is distressing.

“The first notice we had that it was going ahead was a letter we received on June 3,” Christie said.

“It was really shocking, the lack of proper notice. There was absolutely no consultation with people directly affected by the move.”

“We’re supportive of a democratic process,” Sean said. “If there had been consultation with all the businesses and residents, if this had been discussed last summer, or over the last six months, we might have said, OK, that’s the decision as a result of the process.

“But that’s not what happened here.”

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