A Vancouver city councillor wants to clear the haze around the city's annual 4/20 event by offering a space that will keep it off last year's location at Sunset Beach.
Green Coun. Adriane Carr has put forward a motion to direct city staff to find an appropriate city-owned site for the event for 2017 and "if necessary," future years.
In her motion, Carr suggests the PNE grounds, Larwell Park or the city lands on South False Creek, currently occupied by the Cavalia tents.
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"There is a right that is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to assemble, to free speech … so we can't stop an event like that from happening," Carr said.
"We want to make sure it's safe and the costs of the event are not borne by the citizens at large but the event organizers. That means permitting the event.
"The site where it was at last year, which was the Sunset Beach Park in the West End, had some real problems associated with it because of its proximity to so many people living right there."
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Carr says the proposed locations came out of discussions with organizers, who have expressed interest in moving the event to the PNE and with other people who have approached her. She says staff would consult with residents before deciding on a location.
The proposed locations are not controlled by the park board, which turned down organizers' request for an event permit earlier in March.
Not enough time, organizer says
Carr's motion is on council's March 28 agenda — only 23 days before the April 20 event.
Carr admits completing a "robust" consultation process, developing staff recommendations and getting event organizers on board in that amount of time will be challenging.
Event organizer Dana Larsen agrees and says he has no intention of moving the 2017 edition of the event to a new location after committing to Sunset beach, despite the park board's refusal to issue a permit.
"We've been talking about this for months and months, and the idea that we're going to change locations for this event just three weeks before we have it is just not very realistic at all," he said.
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Larsen says it took the park board eight months to hear and then deny their permit application for Sunset Beach. He says organizers have sold over 200 booths and booked a stage for the Sunset Beach event and moving it all, at this point, would be too chaotic.
"The PNE would be a great location for us to go to. We're happy to go there, but it's not going to happen this year," he said. "They should have started these conversations months and months ago."
After last year's event reportedly ran up a $148,000 bill for the city, Larsen says organizers will work to keep costs lower for the city at the Sunset Beach event.
However, he says some of the costs were due to another event at the Vancouver Art Gallery his group had nothing to do with.