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July 16 2012
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 a truck.
See the coalition's Pantages challenge letter to city council below.
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.
To ask the city about what they have done to enforce the Standards of Maintenance bylaw contact the City Director of Licenses and Inspections Will Johnson, 604-873-7515 or Program Manager for Property Use Debbie Heeps, 604-873-7563
For more information contact the Downtown Eastside Not for Developers Coalition, Jean Swanson 604-729-2380
PANTAGES CHALLENGE LETTER TO MAYOR GREGOR ROBERTSON AND CITY COUNCIL
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