A Sidney staff report identifies the south side of Beacon Avenue east of Second Street as a pinch point that may begin repurposing of two or more on-street parking spaces for pedestrian and outdoor commercial uses. Council Monday will consider a staff report on balancing growing demand for outdoor seating with public health needs. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney staff recommends additional outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes

Report before council also leaves open possibility of closing a portion of Beacon Avenue

Sidney council has cleared the path for restaurants and patios to offer additional outdoor seating.

Councillors Monday voted unanimously to endorse staff recommendations that would see restaurants use parts of their off-street parking for additional seating and cafes extend out beyond the edge of sidewalks into street following a pending bylaw amendment.

Staff will also continue to monitor what the report calls “pedestrian levels, lineups for commercial businesses and demand for outdoor seating for food vending businesses” with an eye towards addressing so called pinch points. If necessary and only following consultations, Sidney may close streets to traffic or re-purpose entire blocks of on-street parking for protected pedestrian spaces or outdoor seating areas.

The approved measures try to balance growing demand for outdoor seating with public health needs in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While council’s support for the measures were unanimous, the public also heard some concerns about the effects of the measures on residents with mobility issues, with Coun. Scott Garnett fearing that even a small loss of on-street parking could harm citizens with mobility issues.

It is not clear yet when Monday’s approved recommendation might come into effect.

Speaking with the Peninsula News Review after the vote, Coun. Peter Wainwright said the municipality has to carefully think through these measures. “At the same time, there is some urgency to dealing with the pinch points,” he said.

One such pinch point is the business frontage of Beacon Café, Sidney Bakery, Style Coast clothing store, Canada Post Office, and Quince Café along the south side of Beacon Avenue east of Second Street.

Alison Verhagen, Sidney’s senior manager for current planning and recovery director in the emergency operations centre (EOC), said in her report outlining the measures that they would allow food service businesses with off-street parking spaces to repurpose some of those spaces for outdoor tables and chairs as commercial life resumes following the lifting of some restrictions by the provincial government.

“Not all downtown restaurants and cafes have off-street parking spaces but some do, and this change may alleviate some demands for use of public space,” she said, adding that the change could happen in a single council meeting because no public hearing would be required.

Wainwright pointed to several local restaurants that could use their off-street parking to expand seating including Good Fortune Restaurant among others.

As for allowing sidewalk café areas to expand beyond sidewalk edges into the streets, Verhagen said that the change would give staff the option to issue a license allowing tables, chairs and portable planters among other items in a repurposed on-street parking space.

RELATED: Pedestrian counters in Sidney pick up increased activity

The report also contains three other recommendations that could eventually find their way into practice, including the use of on-street parking to create more space for pedestrians, outdoor restaurant seating and customer line-ups for businesses.

“At the present time, while pedestrian volumes are still relatively low compared to normal, staff see only a few locations where this may be warranted, that being in areas where several food service businesses are ¡n close proximity and the existing sidewalk is not very wide,” said Verhagen’s report.

One such location — or pinch-point as described elsewhere — is south side of Beacon Avenue east of Second Street as described earlier.

The report also lists the option of closing a portion of Beacon Ave to traffic (while still allowing emergency vehicles) either at certain hours of the day, certain days of the week, or on a limited basis.

While this option would also create a “significant expansion” of pedestrian space and allow businesses more space to expand onto the streets, the report recommends more engagement with business community before exploring this option in detail.

RELATED: A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

“If pedestrian levels, business activity, and requests for outdoor restaurant and café seating all increase significantly while physical distancing orders are still in place, closing a greater portion of the street(s) to traffic may be warranted to optimize community safety,” said Verhagen.

If so, staff would have to make sure that the public is well aware of the reasons behind such a move.

“In that case, the reasons for changing street use would have to be made clear to the community in order to prevent a misunderstanding that it was done as a community event or tourist attraction, since the (provincial) restriction on gatherings over 50 people is still in place,” she said.

The report also lists the option of allowing any business including retailers to expand onto sidewalks. While such a move holds the promise of leveling the playing field for all downtown business, the report strikes a questioning tone.

“There may be concerns that allowing more types of businesses to extend out onto the sidewalk and potentially into the repurposed street areas would add to pedestrian congestion and would not aid in improving physical distancing,” said Verhagen.

The report notes that any pending changes would only be temporary, only in effect for the provincially designated restart phase. Once social distancing requirements are lifted, staff would repeal changes, she added.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Driver slapped with $483 ticket for excessive speeding in Saanich construction zone

Police traffic unit reminds drivers to slow down in McKenzie interchange

Sidney Museum showcases Snapshots of Canada exhibit

Photo exhibition displays ‘triumphs, failures and sacrifices’ of the nation

Legion in Langford keeps things clean with hand sanitizer donation

Legion aims to draw in new members and volunteers

Victoria police investigating chop-shop found in Beacon Hill Park

Police asking public to register bikes with them in case lost or stolen

Saanich makes ALC appeal for Prospect Lake Elementary parking, portables

Council votes in favour of seeking non-farm use designation

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Beloved Island woman dies at 106

Dorothy Adair adored by the many people she met in Chemainus in two short years

Man arrested for allegedly pushing unsuspecting seniors, jumping on cars at Parksville mall

Cops arrest man after ‘aggressive incident’ at Wembley Mall in Parksville

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

Most Read