When it comes to local amenities like parks, we’re used to having them be public. This means both that they are open to everyone, and that they are paid for through taxes. We’re fortunate to have many excellent parks in the District of North Vancouver, offering residents and visitors alike access to nature, open spaces, and recreational amenities.
The vast majority of these parks are truly open to the public, but there is at least one that has in recent years, become rather exclusive. It’s just a small, out-of-the-way park, the kind that mainly serves as a place for dogs and kids from the immediate neighbourhood to take a break from the indoors. So perhaps I was one of only a small number of people to notice when this park was effectively privatized in 2020.
I’m talking about Eliza Kuttner Park, which sits near the north end of Riverside Drive, on Chapman Way. When I say it was “effectively privatized,” I don’t mean that a company or individual acquired ownership of the land from the District. I might not have a problem with that, as long as fair compensation was paid. Instead, what has happened is that vehicle parking all around Eliza Kuttner Park has been restricted to Residents Only, meaning that anyone from outside the neighbourhood who wishes to visit the park had better not arrive by car.
Such Resident Parking Only (RPO) zones are not uncommon, but their purpose is to deal with areas of heavy demand for street parking, particularly where the neighbourhood residents may not have sufficient parking on private property. A busy arterial road with many shops and apartment or condo buildings is the type of area we usually see RPO zones. It’s quite unusual to see an RPO zone in a low-density area of detatched single-family dwellings with wide frontages, driveways, and 2-car garages. However, this is the case for nearly 1km of Riverside Dr and its side streets, including Chapman Way, where Eliza Kuttner Park sits. Even though nearly every home has sufficient space on its lot for 2 vehicles, the entire area is an RPO zone for the majority of the year (April to September).
When I noticed that street parking is very little used (perhaps 10% of space occupied by parked cars) on a typical day, I asked the District Engineering Dept what guidelines existed for the creation of RPO zones, they informed me that an area needs to have 85% occupancy (of street parking spots) to be considered, and 67% of the residents in the area signing a petition in favour of it.
So how did this low-density area with no commercial development end up with an RPO zone, and why was a public park not given an exemption? For several years, the one block at the very north end of Riverside has been an RPO zone during the summer months, but in the spring of 2020, the zone was extended to the entire neighbourhood. When I initially asked the District about the expanded restrictions, I was told they came about at that time because many so many people were going to the area to make use of the trails there near Seymour River. That begged the question of why the District would want to limit outdoor recreation, but it seems to have something to do with the panicked implementation of various restrictions in the wake of Covid-19 that we saw at that time.
The real question is, why, 2 and a half years later, is the extensive RPO zone still in place? Does the District not have a process in place whereby RPO zones are reviewed to see whether they are still needed, based on the guidelines?
The residents of a neighbourhood might find it convenient to exclude the vehicles of those from outside the neighbourhood, however as long as the roads and parks are public property, this is quite unjust. If Riverside Drive property owners wish to purchase the roadway and Eliza Kuttner Park at a fair price from the District, and maintain them for private use, I would be interested in chatting with them about how this could be accomplished. In fact, I see some great community-building potential in small parks such as these being turned over to associations of neighbourhood residents for management by them. However, I stand firmly against the private and exclusive use of public amenities like these which all taxpayers in the District pay for with the expectation that they are open to all. I hope that the new Mayor and Council will address this by ensuring that a review of this and other Resident Parking Only zones is conducted in the near future. A park can be public or private; it can’t be both.
2022 Candidate for DNV Council
Clayton ran for District of North Vancouver Council in 2022. He holds a BA in International Development from Trent University, and works as a project manager in the construction industry.