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Chris Pettingill will be seeking a second term as District of Squamish councillor

The local politician is known for his environmentalist views and ambitions to shift away from personal vehicle infrastructure.
Chris copyChris Pettingill t
Chris Pettingill.

A councillor well-known for his environmental politics and views on reducing car use is declaring his candidacy.

On June 24, Coun. Chris Pettingill told The Squamish Chief that he would be seeking a second term as councillor.

He named climate, reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and equity as the three pillars that have informed his decisions. His upcoming platform, he said, will continue with these three priorities.

Pettingill said that the most significant issue on his mind is equity.

"I think everything falls under that," he said.

"It's about making sure that it's just not the super wealthy that can find housing."

He noted that he and his partner are renters, and, even with good, stable jobs, it's been a challenge finding housing. They currently live in the Highlands, but not-too-recently were forced to move due to circumstances affecting their landlord.

"My partner has a good job. I've got a couple of good jobs. And it's still a challenge, because there's not much out there," said Pettingill, who works at Penny AI, a local tech start-up. "And, so, if I'm having a hard time — man, I can't imagine what a lot of other people are going through right now."

He acknowledged that a municipality does have limited powers, but there are some things that can be done.

"One thing is trying to aggressively zone for a lot more affordable rental," he said.

Pettingill's views on personal vehicles have drawn a lot of attention. He has advocated for environmentally-friendly policies that shift away from dependence on cars.

He said he and his partner use one hybrid car. He has a motorcycle that he intends to get rid of, and the pair have e-bikes. Pettingill said he bikes to his job, which is located in town.

In a number of cases, people have questioned the wisdom of reducing parking availability in upcoming developments. Squamish has spotty transit, and many commute to work in Vancouver.

Pettingill said he'd like to see the next census figures on how many people commute, as he suspects the increase in remote work has likely cut that number.

He also said that downsizing the amount of parking in new upcoming developments will not affect people who already have cars.

"Even if you're sort of adamant that I can't survive without my car to live here…those new [parking] spaces are actually going to make your life worse too," he said.

Building more parking infrastructure will clog Squamish with traffic, he said.

He also addressed the concern that residents in new developments without parking spots will go rogue and park in public spaces.

"We have the parking demand management work coming up," said Pettingill. "By all indications, that's probably going to recommend parking permits, and paid parking, and so on. And so that's going to make sure that sort of thing doesn't happen."

However, he acknowledged, the car transition would not be easy.

"It's really tough," said Pettingill. "We're in this transition period where our city is not set up yet for a lot of people to work well without a car. But we're not going to ever get to that place if we say, 'It's not perfect to be without a car, so we have to build everything around cars forever.'"

The local government election is set for Oct. 15.




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