Kelowna is turning to education and increased enforcement rather than prohibition in its bid to deal with the controversial issue of parking in the residential neighbourhood around Kelowna General Hospital.
On Monday, council opted to hold off introducing a resident parking only restriction on the side streets around the hospital until it sees the results of other measures, such as better signs, improving the residents parking permit program, changing the time limits and enforcing those limits better.
The residential parking only rule was suggested by area residents, upset by hospital visitors clogging their streets with parked vehicles.
Tracy MacDonald, with the Interior Health Authority, said the hospital has about 1,000 spaces now and will have another 200 within the next year.
She agreed with Coun. Robert Hobson that a second parkade on site may have to be looked at in the future, but money for that is not available now as it is estimated to cost up to $5 million to build.
“I see at least a decade of construction going on at the hospital and parking will continue to be an issue,” said Hobson.
MacDonald said IHA encourages its staff to use a free IHA lot on Ethel Street—a 10 minute walk away—and said there is currently a clause in the contract with the company building the new surgical tower and the clinical support building across Pandosy Street that construction workers park at least one kilometre way.
In presenting his report to council, Doug Gilchirst, director of real estate and building services for the city, said in addition to more and better signs, a communications strategy, two-hour time limits for parking on streets around KGH between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and renting parking at nearby Strathcona Park to the IHA during the winter to provide more staff parking, there would also be the towing of vehicles parked within two metres of a fire hydrant and six metres of a crosswalk or stop sign and towing after four parking offences instead of the current 10 infractions.
That policy will also be used for the city towing vehicles throughout the rest of city. He added the city now has a full-time traffic bylaw officer for the area.
Coun. Charlie Hodge noted there is already resident parking only along Royal Avenue, and Gilchrist said there is no plan to end that restriction.
But he said it is not proposed that the restriction be extended either because roads are meant for all Kelowna residents, he said. Hodge was also opposed to renting out Strathcona Park parking because it is currently used by people with respiratory problems who enter the respiratory clinic in the area. His bid to have it removed failed and because of that, he voted against the entire parking plan.
Coun. Luke Stack called the recommendations needed “short-term” steps, adding he had been told by residents the provision of a new KGH area traffic bylaw officer has helped.
Coun. Andre Blanleil said it is most important to get the vehicles of hospital staff and construction workers off the surrounding streets to make room for people visiting someone in the hospital.
“We have to manage the parking better,” Blanleil said.
The city will re-evaluate the changes in six months. It will also consider a parking strategy for the hospital area as part of a future overall parking strategy for the city.
KGH currently has 2,500 employees, is operational 24 hours a day and sees an average of 55,000 patients per year, with a similar number that attend as outpatients and attend clinics. Those numbers do not include people who visit patients at the hospital.