Monday, 16 July 2012
Gregor Robertson and Members of City Council
City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4
Mayor Robertson and Members of City Council:
We are writing as a broad coalition of residents, community members, activists and allies of the Downtown Eastside low income community to demand that you act speedily to clean up the pile of rubble at 138 East Hastings, the site of the former Pantages Theatre. This was once a historic landmark that Vancouver’s founding neighbourhood could be proud of. Now, thanks to the negligence of the lot’s current owner, Marc Williams, it is a toxic pile of junk that is both an eyesore and a health hazard in the heart of the community.
In any other neighbourhood, the demolition of a building would be completed and the debris removed in just a few weeks. But Marc Williams seems to believe that it is appropriate to leave the rubble on his property for almost a year, presumably because he is operating in the DTES and thinks that he can get away with this conduct there. Apparently the city agrees. That you have allowed this situation to continue is clearly an act of discrimination against low-income people. It is also a form of ecological racism, since it is no coincidence that this is being permitted in the heart of one of the largest urban aboriginal communities in Canada.
Members of the low-income community are unanimous in condemning Marc Williams for this act of negligence.
“It’s psychologically damaging to look at this site every day because it makes you feel more impoverished and creates more of the internal negativity that you already have to mentally fight,” said Asia Hotel resident Ben Smith, “It says you are a loser. I am a loser because the city doesn’t care and just lets the owner get away with a big mess.”
Another resident noted that it is “proof that the city really doesn’t care about people here. We’re not part of this city.”
For a closer look at the situation at 138 East Hastings, we invite you to view a youtube video produced by one of the residents of the neighbouring buildings, which can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W-V9pSi578
Not only is the city clearly guilty of racist, poor-bashing discrimination in its negligence towards this site, but it is also in violation of its own codes. Section 4.1 (1) of the Standards of Maintenance bylaw clearly states that “All land shall be kept clean and free from rubbish or debris, objects and materials, except for materials for immediate use in the construction, alteration or repair of a building on the site.” Marc Williams is not currently engaged in any sort of “construction, alteration or repair” of anything on the site of 138 East Hastings. He has not even applied for a building permit. All that he is doing is letting the rubble sit there, causing health problems for people in the neighbourhood.
From the standpoint of justice, equality, legality, and simple economics, Marc Williams’ actions are destroying the DTES and we demand that you stop him. In the coming days it is imperative that you:
1.Remove all garbage, rubble and other debris from the site of 138 East Hastings in a safe, efficient manner.
2.Buy the lot from Mark Williams and designate it for 100% resident-controlled social housing.
These actions are essential for the continued health and wellbeing of the DTES low income community and we are determined to see that you take them.
If you do not make public and substantial progress towards completing these demands in the next week, we will take action ourselves to ensure the safety of the community. The DTES has been waiting for far too long already for you to take action in this regard and we will not wait much longer. Please consider this letter to be our final warning to you before we remedy the situation.
Thank you in advance for acting to protect the human rights of every person living in the City of Vancouver, especially those who reside in the DTES.
DTES Not for Developers Coalition:
Coalition member groups include:
Aboriginal Front Door Society
Carnegie Community Action Project
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society
DTES Neighborhood Council
DTES Power of Women
Streams of Justice
UBC Social Justice Centre
APPENDIX: Selections from the City of Vancouver Standards of Maintenance bylaw that pertain to the clean-up of the Pantages site
Sections of the Standards of Maintenance Bylaw the
City should use to get the rubble cleaned up at 138 E. Hastings
4. MAINTENANCE OF LAND, BUILDINGS, AND ACCESSORY BUILDINGS
4.1 (1) All land shall be kept clean and free from rubbish or debris, objects and materials, except for materials for immediate use in the construction, alteration or repair of a building on the site.
(12) Every owner of land must keep the land, and any building or accessory building on it, in such condition that it will not afford harbourage for or become infested with pests.
(13) If pests have infested land, or any building or accessory building on it, the owner of the land must eliminate the infestation.
23.2 The City Building Inspector may issue an order to an owner of a building or land directing that the building or land be brought into compliance with a provision of this By-law.
23.3 No person shall fail to comply with an order issued pursuant to Subsection 23.2.
23.5 (1) Every person is guilty of an offence against this By-law who:
a. violates any of the provisions of this By-law,
b. suffers or permits any act or thing to be done in contravention or in violation of any of the provisions of this By-law,
c. neglects to do or refrains from doing anything required to be done by any of the provisions of this By-law,
d. does any act which violates any of the provisions of this By-law, or
e. fails to comply with any order, direction, or notice given under this By-law.(2) Each day that a violation is permitted to exist, shall constitute a separate offence.
23.6 (1) Every person who commits an offence against this By-law is liable to a fine and penalty of not less than $250.00 or more than $2,000.00 for each offence.
(2) Despite the minimum fine referred to in subsection (1), every person who commits an offence against section 11.1(1), 15.1(1), 16.1(2), 17, 18, 21.4(a), 21.13(a), 21.13(b), 21.14, or 23.3 is liable to a fine of not less than $500.00 for each offence.
23.7 Every person who commits an offence of a continuing nature is liable to a fine not exceeding $50.00 for each day such offence is continued.
23.8 Notwithstanding any other provisions of this By-law, where any building or land does not comply with standards set out in this By-law, the Council may, by resolution, order that failure to remedy any default specified in such order within 60 days after service of such order, will result in the work being carried out by the City at the expense of the owner.
23.9 If, upon expiration of the sixty days’ notice, all of the defaults specified in the notice are not remedied, the City may, by its workers or others, enter upon the premises and effect such repairs, renovations or alterations as are necessary to make the building or land conform to the standards set out in this By-law.
23.10 All costs and expenses of the City, as a consequence of work carried out pursuant to Subsection 23.9, shall be paid by the owner or owner under agreement of the property within 30 days from the date of a statement of account from the City.
23.11 Any amount which remains unpaid after the time limited in Subsection
23.10 hereof, shall, after certification by the Director of Finance, be inserted in the Real Property Tax Roll as a charge with respect to the parcel on which the work was carried out.