Saturday, February 11, 2012

Strata Properties Act

One of the most popular posts on this blog has been the Strata Warning we published in 2007.

This article from the Vancouver Courier Feb. 10 2012 explains changes made by the Province in Bill 8, the Strata Property Amendments Act.

Basically it says that every 3 years the strata needs to have a professional assessment of upkeep needs, file a report on it, and choose a plan for how to pay for the work. If actually carried out properly, that could help eliminate or ease the worst of the ugly financial surprises that new buyers or current owners may suddenly face.

It still doesn't change the fact that when you buy a strata you are buying into the infrastructure and not getting much of a share in the land. Land appreciates; infrastructure tends to depreciate. Upkeep will definitely help, however, in retaining the value of your strata apartment for longer.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Missed Garbage Pickups - Old Problem, New Hassle

Previously, if your garbage was not picked up you could call directly to the responsible department. They would send a truck that afternoon or in the morning. Now, however, with the city's implementation of the "convenient" 3-1-1 number, things have gotten inconvenient.

Here's what the city says about this situation on its web site:
My garbage (or recycling) wasn't picked up on my regular collection day - who should I call? Call 3-1-1 (or 604.873.7000 from outside Vancouver) to report any missed pickups. Please provide your address, a daytime phone number, what time your recycling was set out, and whether it was just your home or the entire block that was missed.

That is the information we've always been asked, and seems completely reasonable. However, the website doesn't mention that the 311 operators will also interrogate you intensely and try to give you a scolding.

On August 31, the garbage was not picked up on our block, when we got home it was too late to call. The morning of September 1, I gave the man who answered the 311 line my name, address, phone number, and the information that I had set my garbage out the night before the pickup date and that it was the whole block that was skipped - seven cans. He then asked me if the lid of my can was closed, if it was overfilled, and if there a metre (3 feet) of space on each side of my cans. I went out to look at the can placement, and when I came back he asked me if there was also a meter in front and in back of the can. I said that there were cans all up and down the block placed just as they were every week and that nobody's can had been picked up - wasn't that enough information already? He said no, it wasn't. I said I was sorry, but I couldn't answer any more questions, that I had to go to work now. The garbage on the block wasn't picked up that day, and when I called back the next morning the woman who answered said there was no record of his ever having put in my request.

She asked me the questions again, and at last told me that I couldn't expect the garbage to be picked up that day or the next, because the city had three working days from the date the report was filed to pick up missed collections. Because of the statutory holiday coming up, three working days from the date she accepted the request would have been six days from the date it should have been picked up.

This is no small inconvenience, I explained, because our block doesn't have back laneways, the cans sit on the other side of parked cars, in the middle of the street, where they are vulnerable to being hit by speeders and have to be moved for people to park and to drive away. She said that possibly the city might pick up the garbage sooner, but it might not, that they had three working days, so we should keep putting the cans out every day that was not a holiday, just in case.

I talked to other neighbours and at least two of them also called 311. One of them was told that the garbage "might" be picked up the next morning (only two days late). It was.

This incident would have been way less frustrating if 311 operators were not standing in the way of our discussion with someone actually at the responsible department. Our block often gets skipped for garbage pickup for some reason, and the dispatchers at the department certainly know that. In the past, they were always able to give us a specific pickup time for correcting that mistake. Loading the 311 operators up with the mandate to teach a catechism and a rigid attitude about it is not helpful - it just feels like giving the ratepayers a hard time. According to one auntie, "Nowadays, they are always making everything be your fault."

Mattress, TV and Computer Dumping

The laneways in Mt. Pleasant have become chronic dumping sites for old televisions, mattresses, other electronics, and broken furniture and clothes.

The city has washed its hands of picking up bulky items from residents, so there's currently no help there. Personally, I think the health and environmental needs of the city would warrant having these large and fairly dangerous items picked up as part of city service. Having regular pickup dates by the city would also be the most efficient way to deal with them. However, if we want that kind of service restored, it will presumably require a householders' campaign directed at city council.

At present, there is a patchwork of drop-off points where we are supposed to take different kinds of items. For mattresses, the city has now imposed a $20 per mattress drop-off fee. According to Vancouver's solid waste website:

The City will NOT pick up your old mattress or appliance. Vancouver residents can drop off a maximum of 4 mattresses and boxsprings at the Vancouver Transfer Station at 377 West Kent Avenue North. A $20 per unit piece applies to cover the cost of recycling. Residents may also drop off up to 8 mattresses and box spring at the Vancouver Landfill in Delta, where the same $20 per piece fee applies.

Dropping off mattresses will of course require use of a truck - something not too many people have these days. This has opened up a private sector recycling opportunity for people who do have trucks. Canadian Mattress Recycling on Annacis Island in Delta only charges $12 per mattress recycling fee, but they charge $60 pickup in the lower mainland. The pickup fee covers up to ten mattresses at a time.

If you'd like to keep a mattress that is suspected to have bedbugs instead of throwing it in the lane, you can buy a bedbug-proof mattress cover. In Mt. Pleasant, Parker's Mattress Factory Store sells both the bug-proof covers and new mattresses.

Televisions are an especially obnoxious thing to find in the lane. Often after they sit there a week or more, someone will find it irresistible to kick or batter them to pieces, leaving not only glass debris but also Electronic circuit boards, batteries and color cathode ray tubes (CRTs) that can contain lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium. If properly recycled, they can yield a harvest of plastic, steel, glass, and even precious metals.

In Mt. Pleasant, our nearest electronics recycling location for both televisions and all kinds of computers and computer accessories is the Salvation Army's 12th Avenue Thrift Store: 261 E. 12th Avenue.,261+E+12th+Ave,+Vancouver,+BC+V5T+3L1&gl=ca&ei=XxtlTrCRAs7diALo3PTKCg&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBcQ8gEwAA

This Salvation Army Thrift Store electronics recycling centre is tricky to get to - it's actually behind the Vancouver Recovery Club, and you have to go through the laneway north of 12th to get to the drop-off location.

However, the good news is that you can drive a vehicle into a paved area inside the fence, so it's not far to carry your items. There is a separate bay for electronics recycling drop-off, and the caretaker there tends to be irritable if you don't put your own drop-off items in the correct pile or bin. TVs were going into a bin when I was there last time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why aren't we getting our mail?

For weeks, our block in Mt. Pleasant has had almost no mail delivery. Last week, we only got mail one day. The week before, we got mail two days. The week before that, we got a stack of letters, some of which had been mailed weeks before.

I thought Canada Post must have followed through on a plan to cut mail delivery to two or three times a week. However, on Tuesday at Trout Lake Park posties from Victoria were practicing driving mail trucks, and I asked one if deliveries had been cut. He said that Canada Post still does five day a week delivery.

Today, I had a chance to talk with a postal insider, who gave me more information. He says our postal depot is called Mountain View, that the Mountain View depot has reduced its workforce by about nine carrier positions, that the mail delivery for those positions is being laid on the shoulders of the remaining carriers, that the carriers tell management they don't have time to finish their whole route in the workday, and the management says to leave it for tomorrow. But when tomorrow comes, the amount of mail that couldn't be delivered doubles.

Among the items due weeks ago that have never been delivered was my credit card statement. This resulted in my owing late fees and interest charges.

I phoned in a complaint to Canada Post at 1-800-267-1177. The fellow who answered said he didn't believe that these carrier cuts had happened, or that mail was piling up, and asserted that Canada Post does everything they can to insure prompt delivery of the mail. However, he said an inquiry would be sent to the depot.

If you live in Mt. Pleasant and are not getting regular mail service, please voice your complaint now. If this is a common problem in our neighbourhood, more squeaky wheels might help us get this situation improved.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Broadway/Kingsway Rezoning - Workshop Venue Change

Broadway/Kingsway Rezoning - Workshop Venue Change

Dear Registrant:
Thank you for your interest in and registration for the Community Workshop being held on Sunday, March 20, 11:30 am to 4:30 pm, to discuss the Rize Alliance rezoning application for the site at Main, Broadway, Kingsway, and Watson St.

Please note that due to the tremendous public response to this workshop - we currently have 136 people registered and registration is not yet closed - we have had to change venue. The workshop will now be held at:

The Salt Building
85 West 1st Ave. (at Manitoba)
Parking is available along 1st Ave. A light lunch will be provided for participants. Please find attached a map setting out the location of the Salt Building.

Also, please find attached the Community Workshop agenda and a description of the workshop objectives and group process. We remind everyone that the doors to the Salt Building will open at 11:30 AM so you can preview the presentation materials and talk with the proposal proponents and City staff. This will be followed by brief presentations and then group discussion.

I am also including a link to the Mount Pleasant Community Plan which will inform much of the discussion on Sunday. Of particular importance are the 'Overarching Principles" and the sections on the 'Uptown Shopping Area' and the 'Rize Alliance Development site".

Thanks so much for your interest in this event, and I'm looking forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Yours truly,
Peter Burch
Mount Pleasant Community Planning Program
Community Planning Division
Vancouver Planning Department
604.873.7486 (phone)
604.873.7898 (fax)

Nancy Wormald
Planning Analyst
Planning Department
City of Vancouver

Friday, March 4, 2011

26-Story Building aimed at Broadway at Kingsway - Have your say

The aunties have been saying ever since they happened in late 2009 that the two three-alarm fires at Broadway and Main and Broadway and Kingsway seemed to be property-owner arson to clear the lots for development. Now one of those properties is being proposed for a 26-story building!

"The City of Vancouver has received an application from Acton Ostry Architects Inc. to rezone the block bounded by Broadway, Kingsway, 10th Avenue, and Watson Street from C-3A (Commercial) District to a CD-1 "

Quite apart from the question of whether these owners are arsonists who should not profit from their crimes, such a building would be quite a travesty on that corner, since the next tallest building anywhere near there is only nine stories. It would grossly overshadow and shade the neighbourhood. It would cram a huge amount of mostly wealthy single and childless people into what is still basically a working-class family neighbourhood, and the people in the tower will be literally looking down on everyone and tend to be socially disconnected from the rest of the community. Plus, they will all be trying to find parking places on the street (and at Kingsgate Mall).

Yes, property owners will be supposed to provide a quota of parking spaces; however, conversations with property managers, people who live in apartments, and their neighbours reveal that apartment dwellers in Vancouver prefer not to pay the stall rent and the very considerable tax on such spaces, preferring to drive around and around poaching places wherever they can. In most cases there are not nearly enough spaces for all the cars anyway.

A further objection to a 26-story building is that if one tower is allowed to be built then the zoning will be broken in for additional towers of that magnitude. That will throw the longtime Mt. Pleasant Community Plan the city and neighbourhood have been developing - featuring three-to-six-story dwellings above stores - into the ashcan. Chinatown just went through a battle to prevent this invasion of the giants there, and now Mt. Pleasant will have to fend them off with our activism if we don't want them.

Here's what the Mt. Pleasant Community Plan says about what's supposed to happen to Main street - just to the west of this corner:

5.1 Uptown Shopping Area
Overall Concept Plan
• Retain the existing scale and character of Main Street (from 7th to
11th Avenue).
• Ensure that Main Street be kept more local in scale with smaller
frontages. Retain the ‘high and low’ rhythm of building heights
along Main Street. Retain older more affordable housing (e.g., 3
storey walk-ups) for low income families and individuals.
• Create an improved pedestrian environment linking important sites
along Main (e.g., IGA site, Heritage Hall).
• Allow additional density and height for mixed-use buildings of up
to 6 storeys to increase housing opportunities along South Main

One nearby precedent for neighbours resisting height was the change in plan for Broadway and Fraser, where the city intends to build a building for the hard-to-house. Through a series of planning and zoning hearings, those plans were reduced from 12 stories to 11 stories to finally 9 stories. The proposed 26-story building sits right in between Broaday and Fraser and Broadway and Main - how long can we keep heights in human scale around there if we allow the first oversized erection?

Now the city planning department has just announced "community workshops" to test the waters about the zoning hearing on the Broadway and Kingsway location. Here's the text of the letter they sent out to parties who had registered as interested (sans the pictures - :

Current Planning - RezoningMar

March 4, 2011


Dear Sir and/or Madam:

RE: Proposed Rezoning of 228, 236 and 246 East Broadway and 180 Kingsway
(Broadway, Kingsway, 10th Avenue and Watson Street - See Map on Reverse)

The City of Vancouver has received an application from Acton Ostry Architects Inc. to rezone the block bounded by Broadway, Kingsway, 10th Avenue, and Watson Street from C-3A (Commercial) District to a CD-
1 (Comprehensive Development) District to allow development with a mixed-use commercial and residential project, including the following components:

• a 6- and 7-storey base with retail and commercial uses at grade on the Broadway, Watson Street, and
Kingsway frontages and residential units above;
• a 26-storey residential tower at the 10th Avenue and Kingsway corner;
• 62 rental dwelling units and 206 market dwelling units (total 268 units);
• a 9,200 sq. ft. artist production space at the 10th Avenue and Watson Street corner;
• 6,600 sq. ft. of additional public open space at street level through additional sidewalk widths;
• 362 bicycle parking stalls;
• three levels of underground parking for 319 vehicles; and
• access to parking and loading facilities on the Watson Street frontage.

A facilitated Community Workshop will be held to discuss the project. The details are as follows:

Date: March 20, 2011
Time: 12:00 Noon – 4:30 p.m.
(Doors open at 11:30 for viewing the proposal)
Place: Native Education College, 285 East 5th Avenue

RSVP REQUIRED – Please contact us as soon as you can to confirm your attendance at the Workshop. We need to know the number of participants in order to properly plan the event. RSVP to:

Nancy Wormald - (604) 873-7388

The workshop will begin with brief presentations regarding the City’s rezoning process, an overview of the recently approved Mount Pleasant Community Plan as it relates specifically to this site, and a description of the rezoning application that has been submitted. During the workshop we intend to collect neighbourhood input on several different aspects of the project through small group discussions and reporting out.

A follow-up Open House event is planned for April 12 at Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street. This will be a drop-in event so that the community can view the response made by the project design team to the input provided at the March 20th workshop, and provide additional comments. The Open House will run from
4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

If you are unable to attend the March 20th workshop, please consider sharing your comments via letter, email or online at The drawings and information about the project are posted there.

All community input will be taken into account in our analysis of the application and ultimately staff’s recommendations to City Council. Council will consider policies, the public interest and staff recommendations when making its decision to approve or deny the rezoning application.

If you would like to view the plans which have been submitted with the application, please enquire at the Planning Department reception desk on the Third Floor, in the East Wing of City Hall, at 2675 Yukon Street. For additional information you can also contact the applicant, Alan Davies, Acton Ostry Architects Inc. at

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act deems any response to this notification to be public information. If you have contracted to sell or lease all or part of your property to any person, firm, or corporation, we strongly urge you to deliver this courtesy notification letter, as soon as possible, to the prospective buyer or tenant.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the application, please call me at 604.873.7727. You may also send written comments to me at the address below, by fax to 604.873.7060, by E-mail to, or online through

Yours truly,

Alison Higginson Rezoning Planner Phone: 604.873.7727


F:\VanDocs Offline Records\Offline Records (VP)\236 E ~ Land Administration and Planning - Rezoning - Rezoning Case Files\236 E Broadway - Notification
& Community Workshop - March 5th - 2011-02-23.DOC(09 IA)
City Hall 453 West 12th Avenue Vancouver BC V5Y 1V4
Current Planning - Rezoning tel: 604.873.7038 fax: 604.873.7060

The plan is artfully written to include six stories on one side, as if that would hide the tower looming over it. It also includes an artist's studio space - perhaps a tribute to the artist whose studio burned at that site and who lost 500 paintings, though she might not be able to afford this one. And it includes a larger than average number of rental units. However, how often have we seen these amenities peeled off one by one as the developers run crying to the city that they hadn't foreseen the inevitable cost overruns?


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shaw Snoops on Subscribers to Sell

Shaw Cable told one of the aunties that they have 17 "auditors" going around town right now looking to see if anyone has renters living with them in their homes. They send people around to snoop on your property and talk to unsuspecting people who are at your house. If they think that you are not just a single-family unit, Shaw will leave you a note signed by a "technician," threatening to disconnect the cable to that part of the house the very next day unless you sign up for a whole second subscription. According to offers they are sending out in the mail right now, the introductory offer on a subscription is about $75 a month.

When you call Shaw up to dispute the disconnect order, they say that you have to let them send an "auditor" into your house to "inspect" who is living in there. One man who answered the phone in the residential department that takes new and changed subscriptions at Shaw said that "legally" you have to have a separate subscription if you take any money from anyone who lives in your house, even if you rent out a room temporarily.

The auntie advises not to let anyone from Shaw inspect your house, as this is a company getting waaay too intrusive into their customers' lives!

The company may be getting desperate as so many people are watching TV on the internet instead of getting premium cable subscriptions. But what is happening is that they are getting formerly satisfied, regular-paying customers in an uproar and now starting to look around for other options for not only their cable television but also their phone and internet services.