A former tattoo shop on Third Avenue is boarded up after the Port Alberni Fire Department ordered the building to be vacated due to unsafe conditions. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

A former tattoo shop on Third Avenue is boarded up after the Port Alberni Fire Department ordered the building to be vacated due to unsafe conditions. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Unofficial ‘shelter’ shut down in Port Alberni commercial district

Fire department deemed building was unsafe

Occupants of an unofficial “shelter” set up in a former retail space in Port Alberni’s uptown were forced to vacate the building in late December.

On Dec. 29, the Port Alberni Fire Department (PAFD) ordered that the property at 2976 Third Avenue (also known as the former CJAV building) had to be vacated due to its unsafe condition.

The building is owned by Randy Brown, who also owns the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue and the “Rack and Rally” squash and billiards club on Third Avenue. Brown has come under fire from the city recently for setting up a number of trailers at the Wintergreen Apartments as shelters for the community’s homeless.

READ MORE: Another Port Alberni property slapped with remediation order

READ MORE: Remediation work keeps Harbourview Apartments safe—for now

The former CJAV building—which includes a residential space upstairs and a commercial space downstairs—had been vacated back in 2018 after it was determined to be “unfit for occupation” by the City of Port Alberni. However, a “number of issues” were brought to the attention of the fire department back in mid-December of 2020.

“We went into the building after receiving a report that someone was living upstairs,” said PAFD Chief Mike Owens. “When we went inside, we discovered extensive renovations that gave us cause for concern.”

READ MORE: Two more Uptown buildings declared nuisance properties

READ MORE: Port Alberni city council shuts down nuisance building

Owens said that several load-bearing walls and support posts had been removed, making the building structurally unsound.

Another inspection took place on Dec. 29, at which point city officials discovered that Brown had placed a number of people inside the ground-level room downstairs, which was formerly a tattoo shop.

“In addition to the building construction issues, it did not have proper fire safety equipment,” said Owens.

During this inspection on Dec. 29, the fire department ordered that the building be vacated due to its unsafe condition. The city’s bylaw services department, RCMP and Canadian Mental Health Association were also on site to assist with the coordination of providing alternate emergency shelter for some of the individuals who were occupying the building and being displaced as a result of the order.

Brown said he had chosen the location because the “Do Not Occupy” order placed in 2018 did not apply to the downstairs room.

“My plan was to put 12 futons in there and set it up with some COVID separation and have a place where we could take people off the street,” said Brown. “I figured I’ve got that space sitting there, I might as well use it.”

Brown was charging rent for the space. Between Dec. 24 and Dec. 29, there were 16 people living in the downstairs area, including a full-time manager. Brown said city officials came in on the evening of Dec. 29 “without any warning or any calls” to shut the “shelter” down.

Between the former CJAV building and the Wintergreen Apartments, Brown said he has been receiving dozens of tickets from the city’s bylaw department.

“I’ll take the tickets,” said Brown. “Housing these people is more important than a thousand dollars’ worth of tickets.”

Owens said that the previous “Do Not Occupy” order had not applied to the downstairs room because it was being used as a commercial space, not a residential space.

“The tattoo shop that was downstairs was allowed to continue in that capacity at that time,” said Owens. “It was designed to be a commercial occupancy, not multiple people sleeping downstairs. The proper fire protection systems were not set up. In addition, all those walls and support beams have been moved upstairs—that would obviously affect the residence downstairs, as well.”

Brown said he was aware of this concern and had hired Brad West of McGill Engineering with the intention of starting improvements on the upstairs space. However, this work was shut down by Port Alberni’s bylaw department because Brown did not have the proper permits.

The building at 2976 Third Avenue has since been boarded up and secured by the PAFD to prevent re-entry.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Housing and HomelessnessPORT ALBERNI

Just Posted

Myla Bui holds up one of the paper cranes she made which have raised $31,031 for the Help Fill A Dream Foundation. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Cut out for this: sister of Leila Bui helps sick kids with 1,001 cranes each

Young Saanich philanthropist raises $31,031 for sick kids, folds thousands of paper cranes

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: Island man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with actor/broadcaster and current Island resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Millar: If the world is getting you down, laugh

There is good reason laughter is called humanity’s best medicine

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub will soon be the eighth Craft Beer Market location in Canada. (Google Maps)
Craft Beer Market buys Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub

Craft Beer Market operates nine locations across Canada

The Neighbourhood Market at Saanich Baptist Church is one of 10 that provide fresh produce to people in need across Greater Victoria. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Daily free food markets offer fresh produce to Greater Victorians in need

Ten Neighbourhood Markets operate across the region

AnimalKind, the BC SPCA’s animal welfare accreditation and referral program, has granted accreditation to Courtenay’s K9 Kind Dog Training & Behaviour Consulting, owned and operated by Carrie Lumsden. Photo supplied
Comox Valley dog trainer joins select club

Carrie Lumsden receives special BC SPCA accreditation

Victoria artist Noah Layne is conducting online workshops on portrait drawing as part of the Metchosin ArtPod’s About Face portrait show. (Photo courtesy of Noah Layne)
Metchosin Art Pod doing an about-face

Renowned artist Noah Layne hosting online classes in portrait drawing

A still from surveillance footage showing a confrontation in the entranceway at Dolly’s Gym on Nicol Street on Friday morning. (Image submitted)
Troublemaker in Nanaimo fails at fraud attempt, slams door on business owner’s foot

VIDEO: Suspect causes pain and damage in incident downtown Friday morning

Johnathan Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight charges including sex-related offences against children and accessing, possessing and making or publishing child pornography. (Courtesy of Saanich Police)
Sentencing date moved for Saanich nanny guilty of child porn charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight sex offences against children

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Most Read