Vancouver city council will consider a motion to make parking free in Chinatown at next week’s meeting.
The motion put forward by Coun. Melissa De Genova proposes a larger effort to address public safety issues in the historic district, which has seen numerous incidents of violent crime, property damage, vandalism and graffiti in recent months.
The free parking initiative has been identified by businesses and community advocates as a way to attract more customers to the area.
The motion proposes a pilot program that would allow three hours of free parking on Sundays at street meters and in city-owned parking lots.
If passed as written, the program could start as soon as next month and last for a year before staff reports back on whether to make free parking permanent.
De Genova notes in her motion that Richmond has free parking options near Chinese-owned businesses in the city, creating competition for merchants in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
In October 2020, the Vancouver Chinatown Legacy Stewardship Group — which has been tasked with overseeing the district’s revitalization — wrote to council that free parking would help businesses weather the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That proposal and others suggested by the group were not taken up by council, despite moves to make parking free in other areas like Granville Island during the pandemic.
The motion also calls on staff to explore measures to deter crime in the area, including additional lighting and CCTV cameras, after consulting with businesses and stakeholders before July.
Staff would also be tasked to explore how the spike in crime has impacted the city’s efforts to designate Chinatown as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.