The city has revealed further details regarding its new plan to close Bernard Avenue to vehicles, allowing businesses — and pedestrians — to expand into the streets.
The mayor announced the potential closure of Bernard on May 21 alongside several other aspects of the city’s plan to reopen amid the pandemic. A report headed to city council next week gives a more in-depth look at what the closure could look like.
And the areas of the street that will be closed — extending slightly onto both Mill and Abbott streets. pic.twitter.com/vQqyEabEbz
— michael rodriguez, but a little farther away (@MichaelRdrguez) May 21, 2020
If approved by city council on May 25, Bernard would close to vehicle traffic from St. Paul Street to the Sails statue, including a portion of Abbott Street towards Lawrence Avenue. The intersections at cross streets would remain open to through traffic. The closure would begin June 29 and last through Sept. 8.
Over 10 metres of the 16-metre wide road would be used as new patio space, with two 3-metre walking lanes — one in each direction — in between. The sidewalks on both sides of the road would still be used by pedestrians.
The south side of Bernard Avenue would see significantly more on-road patio space at 7.5 metres than the north at 2.6 metres. That space would extend out directly from the business’ current frontage — unless they receive written consent from the owners of the adjacent properties to use their space.
Businesses serving liquor would be required to provide fencing demarcating their service area. To ensure consistency and maintain aesthetic standards, the city would provide direction on the type of temporary fencing to be installed as part of the approval process. Fencing would be optional for businesses not serving alcohol, however, the area must be visually demarcated in some way.
Based on social distancing requirements and a review of a sample of existing patios, city staff anticipate a 50 per cent reduction in the number of guests that could be accommodated in a given patio area. As such, patio fees would also be decreased by 50 per cent and patio application costs would also be reduced to $100 from the current $300 for new patios and $180 for amendments.
Despite the reduction in patio fees, the city anticipates the revenue generated from them to remain about the same — but the same cannot be said for the impact of parking.
The closure of Bernard would result in the loss of 113 parking stalls, prompting a nearly $43,000 revenue loss.
As parking services is a self-funded department, a reduction in department revenues would be offset by anticipated contributions to parking reserves and have no direct impact on taxation.
A separate report also headed to council on Monday shows the city’s plans to reinstate paid parking in Zone A areas on June 1, followed by Zone B and Zone C areas on June 15.
From June 1 through to the end of August, the city parking department is proposing to execute a promotion where the first 30 minutes of parking is at no charge when you use the Pay-by-Phone app. The current temporary parking program for curbside pickup is also proposed to continue.
While the city anticipates it will mostly be restaurants interested in expanding their patios into the street, retail outlets along Bernard are also encouraged to participate.
“Doing so will allow them to provide shoppers a way to browse their wares in open-air displays on the sidewalk or the newly created patio zone,” reads part of the report headed to council.
The Downtown Kelowna Association (DKA) is on-board with the proposed changes.
“This closure addresses physical distancing requirements for pedestrians accessing the Bernard Avenue core by expanding sidewalk space onto the street,” DKA’s executive director Mark Burley wrote in a letter to the mayor, council and the city’s property manager.
“The extended pedestrian space will also allow for ample room to accommodate queues that may be needed to access a store, service or restaurant.”
And it won’t be just the Bernard Avenue businesses benefiting from the new measures either, Burley said.
“Support from the DKA includes downtown Kelowna businesses on streets other than Bernard Avenue to be granted the same opportunity to apply to expand their business outside onto the sidewalk through a brief online application. This will be adjudicated by a new committee formed to facilitate a streamlined process of approval,” wrote Burley.
“Businesses may also apply to expand beyond their existing store frontage sidewalk area with permission from their business neighbour. This provides an opportunity for all downtown Kelowna businesses to take advantage of this City of Kelowna driven initiative.”
That committee would be called the Public Space Task Force, which would review and approve requests regarding the temporary use of public space throughout the city.
City staff’s report states that the ability to close a portion of Bernard Avenue is a direct function of the unique nature and characteristics of this roadway, and similar approaches throughout the city would not be appropriate.
However, as the most significant landowner within the community, the city can allow businesses in other areas to use public land.
Requests will be considered by the task force with other municipal needs, such as parking and transportation, in mind.
“While staff commit to creatively exploring how to best respond to requests, due to location-specific factors, certain applications may not be approved,” reads the report.
During a press conference on May 21, the mayor said he and his council colleagues are excited about the proposed changes — specifically regarding Bernard Avenue.
“This is something I’ve wanted to see us try for a number of years,” said Basran.
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