Vancouver city councillor wants to open Robson Square to traffic
A Vancouver city councillor is putting forward a motion next week to re-open Robson Square to traffic after the public space experienced an embattled few months when it became the site of an open-air cannabis market.
CTV News reported a series of stories on confrontations and arrests as well as vendors allegedly selling pot to minors. Ultimately, police moved in and cleared out the illegal marijuana sellers after an investigation called Project Apprentice.
Now, councillor Melissa De Genova says it's time for the traffic barricades to come down so the roadway can be re-opened for other uses.
"The public square model has failed here," she told CTV News. "The idea was to have this vibrant public plaza and I feel like it's lacked that leadership and programming."
She thinks the square could be put to better use if the old roadway that closed in 2016 and was painted blue with a leaf motif in 2017 was opened back up to cyclists and TransLink buses.
Later, she said she's open to taxis or vehicles also being allowed back.
She said Robson Street's closure threw off transit service for people trying to get across the downtown core, especially seniors living in the West End.
De Genova has also heard from families who say they don't feel comfortable bringing their children through the square while cannabis vendors were there.
"It's attracting conflict between those vendors and the police," she said. "[Robson Square] doesn't look like the squares I see in Montreal or Europe where they've really created a space that's all-ages friendly."
De Genova added she doesn't have a problem with marijuana or its forthcoming legalization, but said pot vendors need to follow city rules and obtain proper permits.
"It's about making sure we have a fair playing field for small businesses," she said.
But Paola Qualizza of the Vancouver Public Square Network said allowing vehicles back in would be detrimental.
"If we let an issue like [the pot vendors] ruin the future of what I think is going to become the real heart of downtown and a real important place for everyone … We've got to see the bigger picture," she said.
Qualizza explained the current plan is to add more trees in Robson Square and more seating to make it a fun gathering place.
De Genova, however, thinks the space has offered little to the public so far. She's bringing her motion to allow transit through the square to council on Tuesday.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro
Should the barricades in Robson Square come down and the roadway be opened back up again? Why one councillor says the public square model has failed and what she wants done at 6 @CTVVancouver pic.twitter.com/EcljLJCsWN— Michele Brunoro (@ctv_michele) March 11, 2018