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New Burnaby parking policy ignites debate, party split at council

Lively debate at city council asked: How much new parking should be built in Burnaby?

Parking minimums at new residential developments sparked a party rift at Burnaby city council Monday.

Burnaby Citizens Association Coun. Alison Gu hoped to push the minimums lower to reflect a “true minimum” for the city at a council meeting Oct. 16.

But BCA colleague and fellow councillor Sav Dhaliwal said her amendments amounted to making new policy on the fly.

While council unanimously supported staff recommendations which would see the required parking minimums reduced by around 50 to 60 per cent based on the size and location of a unit, Gu offered multiple amendments that would further reduce, and in one case eliminate, the requirements.

Reductions mean flexibility, cost saving: councillor

Gu emphasized parking minimums are “simply that – minimums.”

“Developers will build as much parking as the market demands of them if the site requires it,” she said. “Lowering minimums simply adds the flexibility so that there is no waste anywhere.”

She advocated for lowering the required parking ratio to reflect a “true minimum” throughout the city “so no new development overbuilds parking, which is a cost that gets passed down to residents.”

She added eliminating required parking minimums for non-market housing would give flexibility to non-profit housing operators, who are tasked with delivering affordable housing, but face having to build an oversupply of parking which she said “significantly cuts into how low the rents can go.”

Her amendments also included resolutions asking staff to review:

  • Updating commercial parking minimums near transit,
  • Allowing parking stalls in strata buildings to be held as unassigned, common property rather than tied to specific units,
  • Increasing the ratio of carshare vehicles to housing units

Gu’s amendments and resolutions received the support of fellow BCA party members Couns. Daniel Tetrault and Maita Santiago and independent Mayor Mike Hurley.

'Not an exact science'

But fellow BCAer Coun. Sav Dhaliwal was not swayed.

“This is really not much of an amendment; this is almost a new introduction of a policy in many ways,” Dhaliwal said.

He said staff brought a policy forward after discussion with the industry and relying on data from various studies, and the policy was discussed at the planning and development committee in September.

“I think this is more than the minimum, this is a new policy on the fly.”

OneBurnaby Coun. Richard Lee agreed with Dhaliwal saying he supports the original motion reducing the minimums but that the policy should be done in stages.

Jozsef Dioszeghy, the city’s general manager of engineering, began a remark to council, but was cut off due to council rules.

“I’m the first one to admit that when we are dealing with this kind of parking ratios, this is really not an exact science,” Dioszeghy started to say.

But Dhaliwal made a point of order noting staff cannot participate in council discussion on the merits of a topic unless there was a specific question posed, which there was not.

Gu’s amendment failed in a 4-4 tie, supported by Gu, Tetrault, Santiago and Mayor Mike Hurley and opposed by Dhaliwal, Lee, and BCA members Couns. Pietro Calendino and James Wang.

Green Party Coun. Joe Keithley was absent, and the tie vote resulted in a defeated amendment.

The recommendation to reduce the parking ratios as set out in the staff report passed unanimously.

Burnaby’s approved new parking minimums near transit

The newly approved policy will reduce the minimum required number of parking stalls in strata and rental buildings depending on how close a development is to a SkyTrain station and on the number of bedrooms in a unit.

The parking ratios recommended by staff and approved by Burnaby city council Oct. 16. By City of Burnaby

For strata studio and one-bedroom units, there’s a 55 to 60 per cent decrease in the required number of parking spots; for rentals of the same size, it’s a 40 per cent decrease.

For strata units with 2+ bedrooms, the reduction is between five and 10 per cent fewer required parking spaces; for rentals with 2+ bedrooms, there’s a 50 per cent increase in the required number of stalls.

Staff acknowledge in their report the proposed reductions mean some units will not have a parking stall. They expect people moving near transit will likely own fewer vehicles, so “not all units will need to have an assigned parking space.”

Burnaby council has committed to its Transportation Plan, which sets targets to move away from personal vehicles to the point where three-quarters of all trips are made by public transit and active transportation (such as walking, cycling and rolling) by 2050.

The city aims for half of all trips to be made by public transit and active transportation by 2030.