New Westminster new houses same old parking issues

The City of New Westminster encourages the construction of new laneway houses but the higher density may be unsafe from the street view of unregulated street parkers

West End residents in New Westminster say their streets have become dangerously crowded thanks to laneway homes increasing density and more cars parking in unregulated areas. Photo Taesa Hodel
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By Taesa Hodel

As the City of New Westminster encourages the construction of new laneway houses, unregulated street parking from increased density poses a threat to the safety of the already crowded streets of the West End, some residents say.

They say that after regular work hours, it is common to see cars parked solidly down both sides of the residential roads, impacting visibility for drivers.

“You have to look ahead to the end of the block to see if there’s another vehicle coming because you can’t pass each other,” said Elmer Rudolph, president of the West End Residents Association.

“There’s only one lane down the centre.”

The congested streets become more dangerous in the mornings, said resident Norbert Bisek, who lives near Lord Tweedsmuir elementary school and has noticed drivers speeding through his neighbourhood early in the day.

“They cut through to avoid the 30 km/h school zone,” said Bisek. “I’ve got a young son, most of this street is full of young kids … It’s scary.”

As part of an initiative to create more rental housing in the city, the laneway and carriage house program was launched in New Westminster in 2017 to encourage property owners to develop small rental homes on their lots.

According to the zoning bylaws, laneway houses must provide a parking space on the property to avoid a traffic build-up from the new renters. But the bylaw has little to no effect in the West End where there is almost no residential permit parking. Without permits regulating which vehicles are or aren’t allowed to stay parked on the street, parking is difficult to enforce.

If unregulated street parking were to cause a hazard for drivers, it would then become a bylaw issue, said Michael Nguyen, engineering technologist in transportation for the City of New Westminster.

“We’d have to … get a complaint in and our bylaw officer would either move it or tow it if it’s blocking access.”

According to the city, 32 per cent of development permit applications for laneway houses are from the West End, the largest amount by district in the New Westminster.

It is unknown what effect this influx of residents could have on the neighbourhood, yet the city has stopped monitoring the process, stating on its website that it will be “put on hold […] until 2022.”

Without active investigations into the implementation of the new laneway houses, the city is relying on residents to send any feedback through an online survey.

Whether emergency vehicle access could also be impacted by the rows of parked cars is uncertain. The New Westminster Building Division and Fire Protection Division require a clear access width between cars on either side of 24 feet for a firetruck.

Vehicles parked on either side of the roads in the West End can use up to 10 feet of that access width, taking streets from the required 24 feet down to 14 feet.

Assistant Deputy Fire Chief Rob Dick of the New Westminster Fire Department says firetrucks are 10 feet wide and can fit between parked cars.

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