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“The Bird Sanctuary” is the name tenants have for the third floor room of the Clifton Hotel where an unsealed window opens the way to roosting pigeons.

This is just one of the many maintenance issues left unchecked at the Granville Street building.

Now, all forty tenants of the Clifton hotel have received eviction notices from the landlord, requesting vacant possession of the units for renovations. The tenants are fighting the notice with a joint dispute resolution application to the Residential Tenancy Branch.

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Chelsea Inn under threat

Residents of the Chelsea Inn, a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) staged a demonstration outside of the building to generate awareness that Steven Lippman had been in contact with the owner. Lippman, who is the founder of Living Balance, has gained a reputation for buying up buildings in the DTES and evicting tenants. Lippman publicly denied interest and the owner, Yahya Nickpour, now claims to have stepped away from the decision to sell. However, this potential threat to the hotel is part of a larger trend of renovictions in the neighbourhood, which has resulted in an overall decrease in affordability, as documented by the Carnegie Community Action Project’s annual Hotel report.

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$25,000 lunch saga continues

This week the provincial legislature debated whether to place limits on campaign contributions and spending in Vancouver civic elections, but it looks like it’s not going to happen this election cycle. In 2011, both Vision Vancouver and the NPA raised over $1million each from the real estate industry. No wonder there’s no action on real affordable housing.

Meanwhile, both of those parties are aggressively courting real estate interests. Last month, realtor Bob Rennie organized a $25,000 lunch for developers to meet with Vision. The NPA has scheduled a gala hoping to get up to $50,000 for dinner, but time will tell whether all the developers have joined Bob Rennie, Peter Wall, and Ian Gillespie in leaving the NPA for Vision.


Gentrification Displaces

Photos: DM GILLIS

As summer sets in, city staff are already making preparations for the coming fall. For the Downtown Eastside this means that while their Local Area Plan will not be formally approved until November, the foundation of the plan is already being put into place. Once implemented, the plan will have wide-ranging effects on the DTES and will determine the future of the neighborhood.

For the past two weeks, activists and community members in the neighbourhood have been building support around a list of demands they would like to see prioritized in the looming Plan. Their organizing efforts culminated on June 11th, when the DTES community delivered an alternative Local Area Plan, signed and supported by 3,000 DTES residents.

Vancity

As the elections for three of the nine Board of Directors positions draw to a close at Vancity (today is the last day to vote), members will soon know who will hold the decision-making power at Canada’s largest credit union. The election results for the three board positions will be announced on May 7th at Vancity’s Annual General Meeting.

Vancity elections have been marred by controversy for the past three years, ever since rules were passed in 2011 allowing the pre-existing Board of Directors to recommend candidates through a Nominations and Elections committee. This change was made under the guise of creating a more “transparent” process in which voters would be better informed. However, beneath outward motives of transparency is a more complex process of power-jockeying and patronage, and the process has come under sharp critique from some Vancity members.

Lisa Barrett’s six years, or two three year terms, on the Vancity Board of Directors ended in 2012, after running for the third time and getting half the number of votes than three years previously. In 2009 she was elected with the support of 8,996 members. In 2012, after the recommendation system was put into place, Barrett didn’t make the list of “starred” candidates, and only 3,206 members voted for her. The same happened to another incumbent, Wendy Holm, who swung from 12,273 votes to 3,582 in the same two-year period.

After the 2011 rule-change allowing for candidate selection by the incumbent board, the five candidates who came out on top were, not surprisingly, the five who were endorsed. The power of this system lies in the fact that most members vote with the information they are given — and that’s out of the less than 5 percent of members who actually vote.

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Up until recently, Pam Burge was one of the few remaining tenants in the city’s Olympic Village social housing on False Creek. Since moving into the Olympic Village almost two years ago, problems with rent, utility bills and tenancy rights accumulated “without end.” Burge has been forced out of her housing in a post-Olympic drama containing many lessons but little in the way of answers and accountability.

Burge had been living in her one-bedroom apartment at 80 Walter Hardwick in the Olympic Village since April of 2011. The building is one of three city-owned buildings in the Olympic Village managed by COHO property management. The same company also manages The Athletes Village Housing Coop and 121 Walter Hardwick. All of these buildings are meant to provide a mix of market housing and non-market housing for low-income tenants. However, Burge states that a mix of housing simply does not exist in her former community: “There is no social housing at the Olympic Village.” Most of the units are more suited to higher income tenants, according to Burge, and she estimated that there were only about five tenants, including herself, who were “genuinely in core need of social housing.” However, she said that these tenants were in the process of being “forced out.”

City Hall

Over the past two years, a proposed development in the heart of North Vancouver has severely divided public opinion. This conflict came to its apex last week when the developer, Onni, announced in a letter that it intends to quit the project at 1308 Lonsdale, on 13th Avenue. The letter came after North Vancouver council voted 4 to 3 in favor of postponing the decision and holding another public hearing in the New Year. Councillors argued that another meeting was necessary because not all interested parties were able to speak at the November 19th hearing.

Onni first brought their proposal to city hall in 2011 prior to the election, where the council at that time voted against it 7 to 0. The vote did not kill the project but instead prompted Onni to revise its proposal, scaling back the height of the project and moving from three towers to two towers. It also prompted Onni to seek better links with city councilors. In the lead-up to the November 2011 election, current mayor Darrell Mussatto received a $5000 donation from RMPG Holdings Ltd, a parent company of Onni, and $5,000 from Pinnacle International, which is owned by the De Cotiis family. Councillor Linda Buchanan also received $1,500.

This is something which councillor Rod Clark feels has overshadowed the process. While it did not amount to a legal conflict of interest, Clark says, “morally and ethically? It stinks.” In response to council’s decision to hold another hearing in the New Year, Onni is no blaming Clark and fellow councilor Pam Bookham for holding back the approval.