Vancouver City Councillor

Multi-unit apartment renos getting “ramped up scrutiny” in wake of 1168 Pendrell eviction battle

City of Vancouver staff will “ramp up scrutiny” of building renovation applications for multi-unit apartment buildings, says City Manager Penny Ballem, to ensure the changes are not “under-the-radar attempts to displace long-term tenants.”

Ballem was responding to questions I put to her in council today in the wake of the apparent attempted eviction of long-standing tenants at 1168 Pendrell, where a new owner has issued a blizzard of tenant notices, including eviction notices while seeking to make further renovations at a building just recently upgraded.

Although the city welcomes landlord upgrades and improved maintenance, there is increasing evidence some upgrades are a cover for conversion to short-term rental or eviction.

In the face of this risk, Ballem said the city has established a cross-department team to monitor large building renovations to “oversee what has been submitted and what is actually happening.”

Where a landlord has plans that could result in dislocation, the city team will “vet the plans and encourage the applicant to provide a tenant relocation plan,” Ballem said.

The goal, she said, is to “avoid unnecessary dislocation.” (In some cases, tenants must relocate during renovation for health and safety reasons.)

These measures are in addition to a range of initiatives to support tenants, including a new advisory position to assist tenants in making submissions to the province’s Residential Tenancy Branch, which regulates rental properties.


September 16, 2014 Bookmark and Share

Translink review has tough calls to make in face of riders’ urge to walk tracks during shutdowns

What’s the solution to Translink riders’ new urge to pry open the doors and walk the guideways during service shutdowns?

Commenters online after last week’s Sept. 8 shutdown urged heavy fines and stronger warnings, which make perfect sense, but that assumes Translink has enough personnel to despatch to such situations with the power to lay the necessary charges. (The current fine is $115.)

One of Skytrain’s great features is the low operating cost that result from automated train control. For Gary McNeil, the independent expert engaged to review the July shutdowns, the latest episodes pose a tough challenge. Adding more staff will erode that advantage.

There will be times when people do need to be escorted from stranded trains. But when they make up their own minds when and how to leave, they risk their lives and hold up everyone else. A solution will not be simple, quick or easy.

September 11, 2014 Bookmark and Share

Plan A achieves new low with intensive “greed eviction” campaign against Pendrell tenants

When residents at 1168 Pendrell learned their modest but clean and updated West End apartment building had changed ownership last month, they had no idea what the new landlord had in store.

Plan A Real Estate Services Ltd., the oddly-named new ownership group, waited barely 24 hours before achieving a new low in abusive treatment of tenants. In the 22 business days that followed, residents received 16 separate tenant notices posted on each resident’s door, with some experiencing serial eviction notices.

That’s why I was glad to join NDP MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert at today’s news conference to protest Plan A’s actions.

When tenants approached me last month about Plan A’s apparent plan to convert the entire building to Air BnB-type short term rentals, I was able to ensure city staff warned the new owners that their plans were illegal under city bylaws regulating short-term rentals.  (Many American cities are confronting the same problem.)

The threat of short-term rental has eased, but Plan B continues to press tenants to hit the road, with measures ranging from threatened eviction to higher laundry fees.

It seems, says Chandra-Herbert, like a simple “greed eviction,” based on some scheme to extract superprofits from this building. But the Pendrell tenants are standing strong.

Plan A should be thinking about Plan B: respectful operation of a clean, affordable building with long-term tenants remaining in place.


September 10, 2014 Bookmark and Share

The NPA line on Point Grey bike lane: those “bring back the car” stories in full

Kirk “High Road” Lapointe, the NPA’s candidate for mayor, yesterday issued a series of angry tweets at me that escalated from charges of “fibbing” about his party’s position on the Point Grey bike lane to “fabrication” and finally all-out “lying.”

Mr. Lapointe’s ire was roused by a Vision Vancouver e-mail sent out over my name hailing new highs in bike ridership and, adding “Too bad Kirk LaPointe and the NPA have promised to rip out the Point Grey bike lane if elected. It’s an example of how an out-of-touch NPA would drag Vancouver backwards.”

For those interested in the NPA record on this issue, I offer the following links:

Sounds to me like they’ll get rid of the bike lane. If, unlike Councillor Affleck, Mr. Lapointe favours keeping the lane, a clarification would be appreciated.

Mr. Lapointe said he decided to run for mayor with the NPA because he looked at their record and liked what he saw. For those who follow council closely, that record is one of voting against separated bike lanes, opposing more than 500 units of new social housing  and voting no to more than 700 units of new rental housing.

It’s time for Mr. Lapointe to set out what parts of his party’s past he embraces and what he deems inoperative. A “learning” for him from this week’s campaign: he owns it all.


September 3, 2014 Bookmark and Share