NPA tries to pin blame for Pandora house fire on Vision council

It truly feels like campaign season, as various NPA types, in co-ordination with, try to get the media going on putting the blame on the Vision administration for the Pandora Street house fire that killed three men just before Christmas. (They’re really working this thing as four or five news releases have gone out already. The latest one just out is appended below here.)

Rookie NPA candidate Jesse Johl even suggested that Vision Mayor Gregor Robertson might have wanted to look the other way on infractions at this house, because he’s so desperate to keep homelessness numbers down — an inference that more experienced campaigners steered judiciously around.

Perhaps there’s something I’m missing, but I have not seen anything yet in any news release that indicates that the city’s inspection department was operating any differently than it has for the past, oh, two decades. The department, in all the time I’ve known it, has been extremely reluctant to shut down any housing that seems to be providing accommodation to poor people, whether it’s grotty residential hotels, run-down three-story walk-ups, or illegal rooming houses. That means there are all kinds of buildings around town that have a list of warnings, ominous-sounding inspection reports and more on their files.

As you’ll all recall, an entire apartment building had to be evacuated three years ago (under then-mayor Sullivan’s administration) after the roof collapsed during a heavier-than-usual rainstorm — ironically, also on Pandora Street, only seven blocks to the west. The city had a huge file on that building, as its inspectors of various kinds prodded the landlords to make repairs. That case is still working through the courts as the former tenants try to get compensation. I was in that building while it was still being evacuated and it was a miracle no one was hurt. So did that happen because the city administration of the time also lacked the will to enforce existing bylaws?

Critics have plenty to go after the Vision council for on other issues, from the Olympic village to the botched rental-incentive program to the too-hastily-planned Hornby lane,and more. But this? At the moment, I don’t see any evidence that this has anything to do with the Vision administration one way or the other. Maybe Bill can explain this further.

4 January, 2011

For Immediate Release

Vision Vancouver’s Blind Eye Endangers Lives

Bill McCreery, NPA Council Candidate and an architect, questioned the veracity of recent statements of Vision Councillors Kerry Jang and Andrea Reimer, as well as of Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnston regarding the fire that killed three men at 2862 Pandora Street in Vancouver.  “There is no question this fire could have been avoided if this Council and City Management had the will to enforce the City’s own existing by-laws”, stated McCreery. He added, “It’s clear that Vancouver Mayor Robertson and his Vision Council colleagues are more concerned with optics than actual enforcement, endangering the lives of citizens in the process”.

McCreery continued: “There are far too many inconsistencies and unanswered questions here. The City of Vancouver Information Bulletin of 23, December stated ‘…. at no time did City Inspectors find a situation which would have allowed them to….. [require that the building] be evacuated or closed down…..’.  Yet, in stunning contrast, the City seems to have given themselves the authority to order the owner to demolish the home by 14 January.  So which is it?  Play politics to pick and choose what by-laws to enforce in an attempt to look good, or enforce existing by-laws that will save lives”.

“Based on my experience as a Vancouver architect, there were a number of reasons why this building should have, and could have been shut down as of the 31st of October” deadline.

“1) The RS-1, single family zoned and Vancouver Building Bylaw, Part 9 constructed house was being used as a Vancouver Building Bylaw, Part 3 multi-tenant rooming house.  This is contrary to both the Zoning and Building By-laws, and therefore, it is illegal for the owner, or the City to permit a “rooming house” occupancy.

“2) The house had an illegal back room extension that was constructed without a Building Permit.  Any such changes to a building not only require a building permit, but once the Building Permit requirements have been met, an Occupancy Permit as well.  No Building Permit and no Occupancy Permit.  Therefore, no occupancy, and effective immediately.

“3) Contrary to Jang and Johnston’s claims, of the nine violations City Inspectors found in their 26 August Inspection Report, seven were Building Code violations, which did compromise life safety for occupants of the house.  In addition, the electrical and plumbing inspections document a host of additional life safety hazards, one of which, the use of  ‘2. …. extension cords…. being used as a substitute for fixed wiring….’ was apparently the cause of the fire (ref: CoV IR 14845, 26 August, 2010).

“The unfortunate loss of these three lives confirms that at least one of these infractions was, in fact, life threatening, and led to the deaths of the unfortunate inhabitants of the rooming house.”

McCreery further stated “the safety of the people of our City should be first and foremost and Mayor Robertson and his Vision Council must enforce life saving by-laws, where necessary enact new tough new regulations to protect people, and properly fund the Neighbourhood Integrated Service Team, so the City can prevent similar tragedies in the future.


For Further Information Contact:

Bill McCreery

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