A photo of the conditions inside the Port Pub on July 30, 2020 provided by Port Alberni’s bylaw department. (SCREENSHOT)

Pair of Port Alberni buildings ‘offensive’ and in danger of being seized

‘Deplorable conditions’ in buildings include emergency exits welded shut, human waste in hallways

Two properties in Port Alberni have been slapped with remediation orders, and the owners have 30 days to fix things up before the city takes over.

Through the Community Charter, city council is imposing remedial action requirements on the Harbourview Apartments (Third Avenue) and the Port Pub (Argyle Street) as the buildings are both in “unsafe condition” and “are so dilapidated and unclean as to be offensive to the community.”

In two separate reports to council, Manager of Community Safety Gaylene Thorogood detailed some of the ongoing issues at both properties.

The Harbourview Apartments, owned by Folded Hills Farm Ltd. (based out of Victoria), has broken windows, hallways filled with garbage and emergency exits welded shut. Photos attached to the more than 100-page report provide evidence of building, bylaw and fire code violations.

The RCMP received 47 calls for service to the Harbourview Apartments between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31. As of June this year, Mid Island Fire Protection will no longer test fire equipment at the property due to “safety and cleanliness concerns.”

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This is not the first time the Harbourview has been under city’s council’s radar. The property was declared a nuisance back in 2018, but following some “minor improvements,” it was removed from the nuisance properties list in 2019. Ownership of the building has not changed since then.

“Since that time, the property has deteriorated significantly and has significant and increasing high volumes [of calls] that consume resources from police, fire, building and bylaw services,” said Thorogood during a virtual city council meeting on Monday, Sept. 14.

These calls, she added, are negatively impacting the community and causing safety concerns.

Most of the remedial action requirements are safety related—for example, replacing broken windows, locks and fire protection systems—and can be completed without displacing tenants, said Thorogood.

In the case that tenants are displaced, Mayor Sharie Minions said she has been speaking to BC Housing about making sure the tenants find a place to live.

“It’s not liveable the way it sits right now,” said Councillor Ron Paulson. “This is way past due.”

The Port Pub, meanwhile, is owned by Peter Wang (based out of Richmond). The property includes three businesses: a pub, restaurant and hotel with 40 rooms. The pub and restaurant are currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, while the hotel is being run as a halfway house called Teymour’s Wellness Centre. The building’s emergency doors are not working, rooms are missing smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, communal washrooms are out of order and there have been multiple bed bug infestations. An architect who was hired for some repairs earlier this year had to withdraw his services due to the “deplorable” conditions and concern for his own personal health.

“This property receives the highest call volume in Port Alberni, requiring the most resources,” Thorogood explained on Monday.

The RCMP received 96 calls for service between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 of this year, some of which include overdose deaths, drug trafficking and even sex trafficking of children and prostitution.

A letter from the RCMP details that the tenants are “living in deplorable conditions which include the excessive accumulation of human waste and refuse in the hallways and blocking exits and entrances.”

Paulson said he was “shocked” by some of the photo evidence at the Port Pub, while Minions said that she sees the police outside the building “every day” from her restaurant across the street.

“Aside from the very clear safety issues and devastating conditions that we can see people are living in, it is absolutely a huge drain on our resources—police, fire, bylaw—and very challenging for business owners and residents that live around these buildings,” she said.

Both property owners have 30 days to bring their properties up to code. If they do not meet the deadline, the city will take over and complete the work at the owners’ expense.

Councillor Debbie Haggard admitted that she has received “many” comments from the public about the two properties.

“They have to understand that there is a process we have to go through,” she explained on Monday.

Haggard also took the opportunity during Monday’s council meeting to address the other absentee landlords in the community.

”I hope this is a wakeup call, because you’re going to be next,” she said. “We’re not going to put up with this action anymore in our community.”

Minions agreed.

“This is about setting a better standard for the type of housing we’re going to allow in our community,” she said.

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A photo taken outside of the Harbourview Apartments on May 30, 2020. (SCREENSHOT)

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