Seafield mass eviction a stark reminder of pressures facing city renters

The battle of the Seafield Apartments, which has seen a committed and united group of tenants hold off a landlord bent on evictions for more than two years, seems to be heading into its final phase.

Mayor Gregor Robertson and I were on hand today for a news conference held by the beleaguered residents of the Seafield, at 1436 West Pendrell, where the landlords are evicting current tenants, including a pregnant woman and a senior fighting cancer, en masse.

Seafield tenants Roland McFall (left), who is fighting cancer, and expectant mother Dana Crudo speak to reporters today at the Seafield, 1439 West Pendrell, as MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert looks on.

Just 10 days ago, the Seafield tenants won an important victory at the Residential Tenancy Branch, which denied Gordon Nelson Inc.’s bid for rent increase up to 73 percent. Now Gordon Nelson is back with a demand that everyone clear out by Feb. 1.

The renoviction battles on 2008, particularly the Seafield’s, were the backdrop to Robertson’s campaign pledge to bring in some kind of city support program for the construction of new rental property. The STIR program, Short Term Incentives for Rental, was the result.

The Seafield tenants, who have always offered to co-operate with renovations, but have refused to be exploited by exhorbitant rents, have found themselves in a civil war with Gordon Nelson. The apartments have been surrounded by a steel fence since the summer, and this week the owners began boarding up entrance windows, apparently simply as a harassment technique.

Robertson promised the city would do what it could to protect the tenants, but warned that there are few tools at council’s disposal.