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Letter: Higher New Westminster parking fees hurt businesses amid pandemic

This business owner thinks parking fees should be lowered during the pandemic
Columbia Street, New Westminster. Record file photo


We are a small business bringing value to the community of Sapperton in New Westminster.   

Since 2004, Urban Bliss Wellness & Spa has been providing therapeutic treatments and spa services to customers, attracting local residents and customers from all over the Lower Mainland and some from around the world.

When Urban Bliss relocated to Sapperton in 2011, the parking was free and customers could easily park and enjoy our services without the stress of worrying about getting a ticket.

Our staff who travel from other communities like Delta were able to park in the area so they could work, contribute to society and stimulate the local economy.

Since then, pay parking has been installed and more recently during the pandemic, the parking rates (was increased). A parklet was built outside of our storefront five years ago, which has taken away available parking right outside our storefront entrance. Not to mention, blocking the ability to view moving traffic, and obstruct access to East Columbia creating a visual blockage and a potential dangerous situation.

Today, our staff struggle to find parking anywhere in Sapperton. There are no "permits" for parking for local businesses and their employees. We have pleaded with the city to consider developing a plan to help support local businesses by providing workers/employees with the ability to park in the community that they work in. 

This would not only create more revenue for the city, but would inevitably help stimulate the local economy, especially after the blow of the pandemic where many businesses are already struggling or having to go bankrupt. As it is, it's extremely difficult to find employees to work as the issue of "no parking" is a huge deterrent when trying to offer employment to those looking for work.

The city claims to want to support local businesses, but from my experience, they are unwilling to actually put a plan in place to do so. Most businesses were forced to close their doors for three months earlier this year, and none of the businesses got a break on the cost to renew their business licences. 

In fact, the city increased the annual fee. Needless to say, there is no help from the city who claims to "wants to support small business."

The parking in the area is all "permit parking" for residents only, yet the streets are only 20% full during work days where these streets could be better utilized by the business owners, staff and employees who come to work every day, offering them a place to park so they can come to work in the community. 

It seems the city is trying to squeeze out people who travel by car to support small businesses like mine, and making it more and more challenging for employees to work in the community and customers to support local.

I truly hope this story will help create an awareness of the difficulty we are facing as business owners with the ever-increasing population and lack of parking to help us stay in business, attract the customers and staff needed especially during these "unprecedented" times. 

Clara Kovats, New Westminster