Vancouver has a reputation of being a “no fun city” but one councillor’s proposal to launch an Italian piazza on Commercial Drive aims to bring a little celebration and community spirit.
On Wednesday, Coun. Melissa De Genova put forward a motion before council asking staff to consider an “age-friendly piazza pilot space” in Vancouver that would not only include artisans and restaurateurs, but a place for the public to responsibly enjoy wine, beer and “appertivos.”
“I think that we have to do what we can to make our city more fun, to welcome people into the different cultures that share the heritage the history of those cultures,” said De Genova who is of Italian heritage herself.
“I understand the importance of making Vancouver a family friendly place, but also a fun place. We hear often as city council that members from the public think that Vancouver’s not fun and I think that instead of saying ‘no,’ we have to say ‘why not?'”
In her motion, De Genova noted that some other provinces including Alberta and Quebec allow drinking in public spaces when it’s accompanied by a picnic.
“I’ve been told that that’s something people want in the city of Vancouver,” she said. Should city be capitalized here?
However, De Genova said her motion is not just focused on alcohol, but also on celebrating Italian culture and has included a proposal for artistic signage to mark the boundaries of Little Italy on four blocks of Commercial Drive, south of 1st Avenue.
She added that, as this is simply a proposed pilot, there are options to limit hours when drinking would be allowed.
“Maybe the hours would be limited to a weekend … and we’d look at doing this for a month,” she said. “I think that we need to look at pilots with a certain amount of time so that we can assess whether or not that was a success.”
During the meeting, Coun. Christine Boyle said it was important to include the Indigenous community around Commercial Drive in discussions about the proposed piazza and signage.
“We know this neighbourhood is historically an Italian community, it’s also a prominent Indigenous community,” she said. “While it’s part of our city of reconciliation work to be engaged in ongoing efforts to recognize Indigenous presence throughout the city, I think it’s particularly apt in this neighbourhood.”
Overall, however, De Genova’s idea was well-supported by council.
“De Genova has been a real leader and champion as an Italian-Canadian here at council for the community,” said Coun. Lisa Dominato in the meeting. “I think there is enormous merit to (the motion). I think it will be welcomed in the community at large, not just within the Italian community.”
Council voted unanimously in favour of the motion, with Coun. Colleen Hardwick absent for the vote. Now staff will be directed to work with the local Italian community to explore the pilot project.
De Genova hopes the pilot will be implemented before June 2020, as June is recognized as Italian Heritage Month.
The Vancouver Park Board is currently considering a pilot project that would allow consumption of alcohol in some parks and beaches. Park board staff are expected to report back at the end of 2019.