Tired of rats & demolition disaster DTES community challenges city hall to act
UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORIES – On Monday July 16 Downtown Eastside (DTES) residents gathered outside the Pantages demolition site to draw attention to rats and rubble disaster that festered in their community for over a year.
“Nearly two months ago we conducted a community rat count to show that 138 East Hastings was full of rats who were using the site as a staging ground to invade neighboring hotels,” said organizer Jean Swanson. “And just last night again I counted 18 rats in five minutes.”
After the rat count the City of Vancouver promised to “work with the owner to tidy up the lot” but has taken no substantive action to remove the rubble. Swanson points to Section 4.1 (1) of the Standards and Maintenance bylaw which clearly states, “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.”
At the news conference coalition member Colleen Boudreau unveiled the community’s “rubble house,” a small model house plastered with disgusting layers of rocks, garbage and grime collected from the Pantages demolition site. Boudreau said, “We need housing in our community. Too many of us are living on the streets and in places where our kids get taken away from us. The city has an opportunity here to make something beautiful and badly needed out of this embarrassing and dangerous pile of rubble.”
The coalition repeated its call for the city to buy the Pantages site and build 100% social housing there for the low-income community. And they closed the news conference with a challenge. Swanson said, “We are giving City Hall a challenge and a warning. We want you to clean up this lot immediately. The owner is not looking after the health and safety of low-income neighbours and the city so far has been negligent and incompetent. If the lot is not on its way to being cleaned up one week from now, we will start to remove the rubble ourselves. We have addresses for the people responsible for this mess, and we have lots of able hands and we have a truck.”
See the coalition’s Pantages challenge letter to city council and selections from the Vancouver Standards of Maintenance bylaw here.
The action was organized by the Downtown Eastside Not for Developers Coalition who have been organizing to stop Pantages site owner and prospective developer Marc Williams from building 79 quarter million dollar condos on the site. DTES residents have long been calling for the lot to be bought by the city and designated for 100% low-income Social Housing. More recently issues of health and safety hazards at the Pantages have also taken centre stage in their demands.
For more information contact the Downtown Eastside Not for Developers Coalition, Jean Swanson 604-729-2380