For Immediate Release: City orders condo developer to clear rats and rubble from demolition, residents call for futher protections

Marc Williams, owner, showing off year old debris filled with rats on future condo site

For Immediate Release
July 18 2012

City orders condo developer to clear rats and rubble from demolition site, Downtown Eastside residents call for further protections

UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORIES – The City of Vancouver has issued an order to Marc Williams, owner of the former Pantages theatre site and target of community actions for over a year. The order, signed by Will Johnston, Director of Licenses and Inspections and Chief Building Official, says that Sequel 138 Development Corp must “remove the accumulation of construction debris, rubbish and discarded material on or before July 31, 2012.” It threatens legal action for “failure to comply with this order” including a threat that the city will undertake the clean-up work if the owner does not. (*see attached order)

Members of the DTES low-income community and neighbours of the Pantages site held a news conference Monday July 16 demanding the city use their power in this way. John Douglas, a resident of the Asia hotel immediately across the alley from the Pantages demolition site said, “It’s about time. It’s amazing that it took this long for the city to issue an order to clean up the site. The demolition has looked like a warzone for about a year. People who live around this site deserve an apology from the city for not taking action sooner.” Another resident of the Asia Hotel has posted video footage to Youtube of rats swarming in the alley beneath his window. See the clip here

Mona Woodward, Executive Director of Aboriginal Front Door, said, “This is a victory for the health of our community but it’s a short term victory. Aboriginal people who live and gather around this site struggle with many health problems and the conditions of this site has made their lives harder for over a year. But the bigger problem is that our people need good housing and we need to end homelessness. The city has done one thing right, now we need them to take the next step and buy the Pantages site for social housing.”

Herb Varley, Co-President of the DTES Neighbourhood Council, said: “This is a victory for us because we made this clean-up happen. Our community’s struggle made the city do what they said was impossible. People who live here have been suffering for their inaction. Now that we made it a very public issue that is embarrassing to City Hall, now they can clean up the site? Now we’re supposed to buy their story that they can’t buy the property? We’re going to step up our fight for social housing at the Pantages and make that possible too.”

The DTES Not for Developers Coalition organized for over a year to get attention from the city to improve the health and safety conditions at the Pantages site. The Coalition will continue to fight to get the city and province to build 100% social housing for low-income residents instead of condos for higher income people.

Ivan Drury, Board Member of the DTES Neighbourhood Council and organizer with the coalition said: “Pantages owner Marc Williams has definitively proven he can’t be trusted with the health and wellbeing of low-income DTES residents. We’re still concerned that the clean-up be done according to what we call ‘West Vancouver standards’. That means the rat infestation cannot be allowed to spread. The still-standing frontages of the theatre should be safely shored up so they don’t fall into the street and the debris must be constantly sprayed down as it is removed so the dust doesn’t rise up into the homes of people who live around the site. And most importantly, our community needs long-term protection from Marc Williams’ greed and irresponsibility. We demand the city or province buy the Pantages site from Williams to stop his sequel 138 condos and build 100% low-income social housing.”

For more information: Ivan Drury, 604-781-7346

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Residents shut down unsafe demolition site in summer 2011. Demolition stopped and has been a neighbourhood blight since then. (Rickie Lavallie, “Warrior In Memory” holding “wn”)