City continues to conduct very public campaign of slum crackdowns

The city has been on a tear the last week, with city manager Penny Ballem and fire chief John McKearney talking about what they are doing to boost inspections, bring landlords of unsafe buildings into line and more. (Including almost a million for firehall upgrades.)

Some of this is just reporters discovering ongoing activities, a typical process that follows a startling news event. In this case, it was the Pandora Street fire where three young men died just before Christmas after a fire broke out in a house that had been turned into a rooming house. (Apparent cause, a faulty extension cord and some Christmas lights.)

That has prompted a run of reporting on city inspections, fire codes and the rest.

Last week, the chief evacuated a whole apartment building. Now here’s a news release about all the charges, plus a notation that the city has shut down 12 buildings in the last five years, plus it will be inspecting more buildings in the very near future.

It would be nice to sort out somewhere how much of this was already in the works, how much was prompted by the tragic deaths (yes, sad to say, that seems to be what it takes so often), and how much by the ensuing criticism.

City of Vancouver
Information bulletin
Jan. 12, 2011
Services to problem property terminated ;
bylaw prosecutions pending
Following the property owner’s failure to address fire and life-safety issues outlined in the Jan. 6 evacuation order issued by the City of Vancouver’s fire chief, water, electrical and gas services have been terminated at 2154 Dundas St.
City officials are preparing to charge the property owner with 25 fire bylaw and seven other bylaw offences following the evacuation of the property last Thursday over concern for an imminent threat to the life safety of 23 tenants.
A further 14 bylaw charges are pending the owner’s compliance with a Standards of Maintenance Order which expires on Jan. 24.
The fire bylaw prosecutions stem from the building owner’s failure to have functioning fire safety signage, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, heat detectors, emergency lighting, a fire safety plan and other serious fire safety breaches in the building.
The fine for each bylaw offence is a minimum of $500 and not more than $10,000.
City staff are also preparing charges under each of the building, standards of maintenance and electrical bylaws for infractions ranging from broken windows, doors and flooring to a cockroach and mice infestation, mould throughout the building and broken emergency signs.
The owner will also be charged with failing to comply with three bylaw orders.
The fines for each offence are a minimum of $250 and not more than $2,000.
City emergency services staff have worked closely with representatives from BC Housing and the Ministry of Social Development to ensure the tenants displaced by the evacuation of 18 suites at 2154 Dundas have a place to stay. The tenants have also been assisted to return to the building to pick up their belongings.
Whether or not the building will return to operation as an apartment complex depends on the completion of a long list of repairs, compliance with all City bylaws and a commitment to effective property management.
Over the coming days and weeks, the City’s integrated bylaw inspection team plans to visit at least five more of Vancouver’s worst problem properties, all of which are multi-tenanted. The City wants to send a strong signal to their owners that unsafe conditions will not be tolerated for building tenants and our citizens.
Between 2005 and 2010, the City closed 12 buildings as a result of violations of City safety bylaws.

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