Mayor Kennedy Stewart gave no firm timelines Thursday as to when the city’s community centres, libraries and other facilities will reopen as part of the province’s plan to restart the economy.
Stewart said his office is conducting public opinion research to determine what residents want to see open first and what they will use, if public health measures are in place to make facilities safe.
“If we open an indoor swimming pool and nobody wants to come, that would be a mistake,” he told reporters at his weekly news conference at city hall. “It doesn’t just not make sense, it also doesn’t make economic sense if we open up facilities that people aren’t comfortable using yet.”
The mayor pointed out some golf courses reopened and he said outdoor facilities, which include skate parks and playgrounds, would likely open before any of the city’s buildings.
“Indoor facilities are trickier because of the need to social distance and clean [the buildings], but there will be an announcement coming soon,” he said. “It won’t be everything all at once. We’ll be rolling things out one at a time, as these operational decisions are made.”
At least two of the city’s community centres — Coal Harbour and Roundhouse — are being used to provide refuge for homeless people. The mayor has also offered the use of more community centres to the provincial government to house homeless people, if needed.
Stewart said city staff continues to review the province’s “restart” plan unveiled Wednesday by Premier John Horgan. The plan largely focuses on allowing businesses to open their doors again to customers.
Horgan did not address what the government’s plan means for municipalities.
An emailed statement from the government’s joint information centre to Glacier Media explained that government will work closely with municipalities and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on “transition planning.”
“Plans will be driven by an overarching provincial framework for local governments to ensure that local governments are acting in concert across regions and that sectoral plans for things like libraries and recreation centres are also adhered to,” the statement said.
Each organization, such as a library or community centre, will be responsible for restart plans that are appropriate to their specific activities, the statement said.
In Vancouver, community centres, theatres, libraries, swimming pools, ice rinks and other facilities were closed in March to adhere to physical distancing measures. Golf courses were also shut down, but some have reopened; Langara Golf Course will open next week.
“I know people are missing their city services, but we have to be cautious and follow the health order,” the mayor said.
The core operations of the city, however, did not stop and continue to serve the public, albeit at a reduced pace and remotely, with the development and building services centre continuing to review applications.
Revenue services are also available by appointment for help with taxes and other payments. Business licences are still being issued, along with the renewal of licences.
Though libraries were shuttered, residents are accessing digital books, magazines, e-audio books and streaming services, according to an email from the city’s communications department, which noted “digital products have seen double, triple and even, in some cases, quadruple digital growth.”
Vancouver city council has continued to hold meetings during the pandemic, via a dial-in system. That same system will be in place for public hearings scheduled for May 12 at city hall.
Residents are allowed to attend the council chamber at city hall to hear and watch the hearing, but are strongly urged to tune in via the city’s livestream on its website. It will be the city’s first hearing where speakers to council will call in by telephone to address council.
Meanwhile, the City of Coquitlam announced Thursday that locks will come off the city’s dog parks, outdoor tennis courts, skate parks, outdoor table games and park washrooms this Saturday.