Pastor joins call for independent inquiry of Pandora Street deaths

Post by Mike Klassen in

24 comments

bc-101222-pandora-fire-vancouver
The burned out home on Pandora Street where three people died – CBC photo

Yesterday Councillor Suzanne Anton called for an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of why three men died in a house fire on Pandora Street in east Vancouver. She said that the suggestion by a Vision councillor that the City had done everything it could was simply not good enough.

In a follow-up story by the Vancouver Sun, Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson made the following admission:

Looking back on the file, "there's not a lot we would do differently than what we did with this property."

Now a Vancouver pastor familiar with the Pandora Street occupants is joining Anton's call for an independent inquiry. Pastor Barry Morris stated to CKNW News:

...tenants often called city hall and the landlord complaining about various problems in the house,"I know some of the actual roomers there, people who have lived there have used our phone numerous times to make such calls either directly to the landlords or in some cases to the city, like around the winter time, like not having the heat on at all or plumbing not working or wiring having basically exploded out of the wall."

Three men have died in an unsafe building that the City of Vancouver had inspected numerous times. A fully independent inquiry – not one managed by the City Manager herself as in previous instances – is in order. If these men had died as a result of the actions of the police, there would be an immediate provision for a coroner's inquest. So it should be with the public officials involved in this tragic story.

Coroner's inquests provide public institutions with a set of recommendations on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. In this case we need to find what pressure, political or otherwise, that prevented the City taking action sooner.

Astonishingly, paperwork revealed by the City of Vancouver shows that this property had been a problem for over a decade! Yet this homeowner was able to continue to flout the law and endanger the lives of the tenants.

In a previous post on CityCaucus.com, we asked a series of questions which deserve an answer. Repeatedly we've heard from City reps that one of their biggest concerns was about putting people out on the street. Does the "street homeless" count therefore override life and safety concerns for the City of Vancouver?

Mayor Gregor Robertson claims he dumped his job as an NDP MLA so he could run for mayor of Vancouver because of a homeless person who lit themselves on fire. Then within 2 weeks of him putting on the chain of office another person living on the streets of Vancouver set themselves on fire.

Now three men trying to keep warm and dry on the back deck of an eastside flophouse died in a fire. Mayor Robertson announced via Twitter he was going on vacation the day after the fire took place. A cynic might suggest that the narrative changes when R&R is at stake.

We support the call of Councillor Anton and Pastor Morris for an independent third party inquiry. However, the City of Vancouver has ordered an immediate demolition of the Pandora Street home. This will effectively wipe out any evidence of this tragedy before an independent inquiry takes place. Therefore, the building should remain standing until an independent third party can inspect the building.

- post by Mike

24 Comments

If you read a June 24th, 2010 report on page 14 inspectors talk about the dangers related to extension cords being used throughout the house. Didn't the fire dept say it was the use of an extension cord that triggered the fire?

These inspection reports are amazing to read. Clearly this home was not fit for human habitation. I can understand why the city wants this house demolished as soon as possible. They don't want anyone back in there asking questions of why this house wasn't demolished months ago. Shame on the Mayor. We need an inquiry now.

You make valid points about the mayor's behaviour and actions in this article and the previous one, particularly regarding the demise of the NIST programme. However a house that has been a problem for ten years suggests a much deeper malaise.

Actually, I don't think many people who have had any dealings with City Hall will be very surprised about this, except perhaps that something similar didn't happen sooner. People doing legitimate restoration work benefitting the community are put through nit-picking hell, such as the couple forced to move their house a few inches sideways;

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?p=4258538

Meanwhile slumlords are allowed, metaphorically at least, to get away with murder. Whether there is any reason behind this other than laziness, young couples being a lot easier to bully than the unscrupulous and wealthy, I won't speculate.

When he returns, however, it would be very nice if Mr Robertson and Dr Ballem would tell our well paid bureaucrats to do their f*ck!ng job.

This news release just sent to us by NPA council candidate Johl.

For Immediate Release:

December 28

FLOP HOUSE SHELL GAME WITH THE LIVEES OF THE HOMELESS

“Vision city council playing a shell game endangering the lives of the homeless”, says NPA Council Candidate Jesse Johl

Vancouver, B.C.

The death of three men in a flop house on Pandora Street raises very serious questions regarding the lack of enforcement of City of Vancouver By-laws and the priorities of the present Vision dominated council.

After the tragedy, Vision Councillor Kerry Jang said that the city had done everything in its power to prevent this tragic loss of life and the Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson added, “there’s not a lot we would do differently than what we did with this property.”

This is not acceptable in a wealthy city like Vancouver. We are playing Russian Roulette with the lives of those less fortunate" said Johl.

Johl continued "Mayor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver Council are playing a shell game with the City budget and endangering the lives of the less fortunate in the process. "It's all an illusion", continued Johl "in an effort to show the number of homeless to be as low as they claim, they are failing to enforce current bylaws or condemn dangerous buildings or help tenants find suitable accommodation. This is a travesty being played out for sheer political theatre!"

Johl wants the City to strictly enforce existing by-laws and proposes tough new regulations which will force those in violation to comply in a specified period of time or face severe penalties. He also proposes the City fund the Neighbourhood Integrated Service Teams (NIST) appropriately, so they can assist those in need.

-30-

In all fairness (even though I'm not happy with some Vision decisions).
The enforcement of by-laws in regards to run down houses has been a problem for YEARS.
We have some run down illegal rooming houses in the neighbourhood that have had complaints for probably 30 years.Nothing ever seems to be resolved.
All the City gov'ts seem to have had problems getting by-laws to be upheld.
It's ironic that as I write this I'm having an electrical house inspection done (our insurance company wanted it due to the age of the house) Very detailed and will probably have to have some changes made if we wish to continue being insured.(at a favourable rate)
I would love to know why all these run down houses don't seem to have any consequnces from either City or insurance companies.
Flophouses (stuffed with people) continue and a small bungalow must make changes.

Chris(one of many)
You bring up an interesting point. It makes you wonder if there was insurance on that, or similar properties..
If you are being put through such stringent hurtles how would these property owners escape the scrutiny?
Perhaps the line of accountability is getting longer.

These Vision green egos don't have any use for NIST. It was a Judy Rodgers idea.
Therefor, it had to go, regardless of how effective it was.

IF VISION VANCOUVER WERE DOING THEIR JOBS INSTEAD OF wasting their time on McLeans magazine articles, global warming, and Oil Tankers crossing the Inlet...the 'real slumlords of Vancouver' would have been on their AGENDA.
BUT IT WASN'T.
Appointing with 'a no compete clause' one incompetent management member after another WAS!
You do the math.

This is so sad in so many ways. Plenty of blame to go around here, but nothing's going to bring these people back.

I could not have said it better myself!
Incompetent management team handpicked by the money puppeteers backed by a corrupt political body. 'NO-VISION' Vancouver,Ballem, Sadhu...the local 'Tom and Jerry' team.
Wait till Robertson throws some crocodile tears on this, like he shamelessly did with Tracey,that poor homeless woman that died on the streets trying to warm herself up, two year back. IN this instance,these men were not homeless but their scum landlord treated them like they were. City Hall and Vision concentrated more energy on chicken coops, bike lanes, office remodeling, etc. than on things that matter to a city as a whole. Despicable. What a disgusting lot they are! When you think of it, is nothing more appalling than the name they chose for their 'retreat'on Cortes Island - Hollyhock! They should have call it 'Hellyhock R US Inc.'instead.

Thanks for your information.
The inspector we had did not recommend any major repairs.
His recommendations made sense and were understandable based on the age of the house.
He also did not recommend any of his 'friends'.
We are getting quotes from a couple of electricians before we proceed.

What's needed is far more stringent inspection and regulation of houses that are used solely as rentals. Too many neighbourhoods have horror stories of unresponsive or overseas owners who don't give a damn about the impact of their neglect on neighbourhoods.

The City was aware this property was being used as an illegal boarding house since 1998 so blaming Vision is absurd and ignorant.

Who is blaming Vision for anything? If they did everything they could, the independent inquiry will bear this out. What do they have to hide? Just support Anton's request and we can begin the work of finding out who knew what and when.

Blaming the current mayor for this is a joke. A review will find that the City had done what they could under the bylaws and the building code.
City Inspectors have been lobbying for years for tougher bylaw penalties. They are as frustrated as anyone. (Even under NPA regimes) Anton knows this and so this is all cheap politicing.
Increased penalty and consequences under the bylaws is where we need to be focusing our energy.
A review will tell you this.

An inquiry is going to do what?
1) Mr Justice Bumble (Rtd) doesn’t have to deal with the honey-do list for a year or five
2) Half a dozen Lawyers don’t have to find clients for a while
3) We the public find out that successive governments / by-law inspectors didn’t follow up on or think there was a problems
After all is said and done it is going to cost a million dollars to have someone write a report that will gather dust in some filing cabinet like every Public Inquiry or Coroner’s Inquest in the past. And there will still be illegal flop houses in the city.
We need to name names and like in Europe the responsible need to do jail time

I have to agree a probe or a inquiry is a waste of time and money.

We know the facts as they are public knowledge and the problem is as clear as the nose on the end of your face.

That press release from Johl has it right.

Change the bylaws give hard time lines and make the fines severe and harsh

The other point that is correct is that this mayor and Vision are to blame and should be held accountable.

Kerry Jang said that they did all they could do, and the manager Johnston said that they wouldn't do anything differently. This means that the mayor and his Vision council have no clue

This just in from NPA candidate Bill McCreery.

December 29, 2010
For Immediate Release

PANDORA STREET FIRE WAS A TRAGEDY WAITING TO HAPPEN

“The City’s response to the tragic Pandora Street fire was a tragedy waiting to happen” says Bill McCreery, NPA Council Candidate.

Vision Councillor Kerry Jang’s assertion that the City had done everything in its power to prevent this tragic loss of life is not correct. The owner of the property had been given notice by the City Building Inspector to correct the nine violations by 31 October or vacate the premises. The City also knew of these serious life safety infractions as well as the numerous fire and ambulance calls to the house.

The fire occurred eight weeks later and three people died. Why was proactive action not taken 31 October by the City?

“Similar infractions in an unoccupied building under construction would have a “Stop Work Order” posted on the property 31 October and all construction work would immediately cease. The City currently has the authority to order a similar immediate “Vacate Notice” on two grounds:

1) the life safety Building Code violations, and

2) the house is designed as a single family house and was being used as a multi-tenant facility contrary to the Zoning and Building By-laws”

says Bill McCreery, a retired architect.

The claim by Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson that “There’s not a lot we would do differently than what we did with this property” is not only “underwhelming” as Councilor Anton has suggested but, incorrect and inadequate as the loss of lives confirms.

-30-


Too right.

I'll tell you, the Swiss and the Austrians would never permit houses like this to remain unrepaired, and they don't have any homeless in the streets; but they enforce their laws with a steely determination and they really ding a landlord like this guy. I understand that one of the things they do in some places in Europe to clean up problems like this, is to simply send city crews in to make the repairs and then lien the property for the full costs as part of the following year's taxes; if you don't pay your taxes they auction the property off and mail you the net proceeds.

There are far too many buildings in Vancouver like this, and it is in these circumstances where the rights of private property must be infringed.

I think this situation points to a simple truth: the City of Vancouver is trying to do too many things and not doing many of them well. We need to stop stretching staff so thinly and let them concentrate on core responsibilities and problems like prosecuting delinquent landlords. One thing that could be done is to hire lawyers in private practice to clean up some of the backlog in enforcement.

A Happy New Year to all the innumerable staff at CC.

Unless you know something I don't City Holler, I beg to differ. The actions outlined in my press release posted below are possible now if the political POLICIES are in place to make them happen. Policies as you know are defined by Council and senior management.

The new Council in 2011 will be just that, new. I hope you and other concerned staff will work with me and other like minded Councillors to give you the authority you need to do your jobs and to properly protect Vancouver citizens. This is not just me politicing, it's one of the reasons I'm running for Council.

City Holler,
The current council is very much responsible for this situation.. they chose to ignore it, and now are trying to blame everyone else, Mayor Gregor is hiding, and 3 men are gone....I personally don't care which party fixes it, as long as someone steps up and does the right thing, accepts responsibility, earns their paycheck, the new bloated one...just do the job you were elected to do for ALL the people, not just a special few...

Don't probe me,
I agree with you...
"Kerry Jang said that they did all they could do, and the manager Johnston said that they wouldn't do anything differently." This means that the mayor and his Vision council have no clue

I find it very interesting that bylaws were changed in minutes, when city workers needed the OK to the change the rules/bylaws so workers could work Sundays/with overtime to build those bike lanes...

Yes, why NOW do Vision councilors insist bylaws and orders to vacate "take time"?? Back in 2008 this Mayor hastily opened HEAT shelters bypassing required bylaws and permits. Where there's a will...

Shamefully, it's no surprise to hear zilch from our Mayor on the tragic deaths of these 3 vulnerable folk; he earned the nickname Bubble Boy honestly.

Lin,
There is a reason you haven't heard anything from the Mayor, this is from his Facebook, with a little narrative added by me.. follow the time line, it speaks volumes...he's hiding, after putting his foot in his mouth, once again.

Gregor Robertson
met new residents of affordable housing @ olympic village. great to see much needed homes filling up b4 xmas!

December 22 at 9:55pm via Twitter ……..

9:59pm Gregor signs off social media to spend much needed family time

**** then at 11:46 pm the firemen arrive at the fire on Pandora, … no word from the Mayor since, while 3 other families are left to mourn….. I think that says it all.

Probably more like three million...jeez, just imagine how many bike lanes you could build with that!

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