Documenting the project

In Uncategorized on July 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm

For a day-to-day report of this project, please visit our Project Chronology page. Fasten your seatbelts, as we are in for a ride for the next couple years, as this project serves as a test case for the policies and practices of the City of Vancouver and of the entire construction industry.

We invite you back often here for video, documents, photos, chronology of this project and the companies behind it.

Video from July 2013. Neighbours have been jolted awake in the middle of the night about once a week since Westbank/Peterson/Icon installed remote-controlled electronic surveillance cameras and automatic alarms facing the public streets at two corners of the construction site.

In one case, a suspicious-looking skunk was seen racing away from the scene. The security guard arrived thirty minutes later, after hundreds in the neighbourhood continued to be treated to the alarm and flashing lights. These late night alarms began after the two sets of four surveillance cameras were installed. Due to their positioning, some neighbours are concerned that the companies involved may be able to peer into nearby properties and windows. The system has a motion sensor triggers that sets off the lights and alarm, connected to a central monitoring office where operators are able to make threatening announcements to the offending skunks or cat that wander onto or near the site. People have a right to ask if this system complies with provincial privacy legislation, whether it is appropriate for a densely-populated residential neighbourhood, and why the companies chose to install it here. This robo-cop type of surveillance system does not appear to be commonly used in other construction sites. Is it another example of Westbanks’ attempts to pad its profits at the community expense?

People versus machine, in the dark on a Saturday night, March 9, 2013. Woman confronts excavator and wins.

Blight or beauty – machines work in an otherwise quiet neighbourhood on a lovely early-spring Saturday afternoon

Check back for announcements. We will be holding street corner briefings. In other projects, good contractors have actually met with neighbours to present their construction schedule, answer questions, and explain how they will be respecting the community. So far this has not happened at 1401 Comox. Peterson Investment Group actually has a special web page for its hotel guests at Carmana Plaza — informing guests about disruptions from a tower construction project next door. The West End residents should expect the same level of courtesy here, in one of the mostly densely populated residential communities in Canada.

More video of Westbank’s excavator working on an otherwise lovely evening, March 9, 2013. The Vancouver Noise Bylaw permits this until 8 pm, six days a week, and Westbank often goes to the limit. The Bylaws much change.

So far, Westbank has violated city bylaws many times with this project. City staff are unable to monitor carefully, so it is up to citizens to know the regulations, monitor and report to the City. And we hope that beyond staying just within the law, the company, which has numerous high-profile projects already approved or in the pipeline in Vancouver, will demonstrate good neighbourliness and show the host community it is capable of the best behaviour and best practices. Future project approvals by City Council should be conditional on clearly written guidelines and commitments to respect the community.

So far, wherever there has been a choice, Westbank has chosen methods that cost the least but have the worst impact on the neighbourhood. For example, smashing concrete onsite with a 5 tonne wrecking ball instead of carrying it away for handling offsite. And the particular shoring method chosen by Westbank to reinforce the sides of the excavation hole creates the maximum noise but saves on corporate costs and boosts profits. While machines work and create dust, no workers are spraying down the dirt to keep the dust down, though this is common practice elsewhere. Parents nearby are reporting that their kids’ allergies are flaring up seriously. Neithbours have reported a dramatic increase in dust in their apartments far above the ground.

Demolition of the 30-year-old church building happened in June 2012. Excavation of the site started in January 2013. The project is expected to take a couple years until completion. The property owner, contractors, and host community are going to have to get to know each other. The Mayor and Vision Vancouver councillors who approved the project need to get feedback on the impacts of their decisions.

Complaints are handled through a system that takes a few days to get any response from City staff. Ground vibration, noise, traffic, and odours from the site are not being monitored. There is no systemic arrangement for protecting the livability of the neighbourhood. The contractor (ICON) and Westbank have no monitoring equipment on site for any of these construction impacts. Neighbours are left to report disturbances and annoyances individually on an incident by incident basis. Local residents have had confrontations with workers. Renters have moved out of nearby buildings, leaving suites empty while the owner loses revenues. Owners have given up, sold and moved out of the community. Others are considering doing the same.

Elected officials and public servants at City Hall probably have no idea that all this is going on. But the community feels it every day. Literally. The city’s regulations are inadequate. The industry practices are biased against existing communities. The profits are private. The costs are public. This must all change.

Video of big trucks turning at 1401 Comox.

Note that this is a traffic-calmed, densely-populated residential neighbourhood. Right beside the site is Gordon Neighbourhood House, which hosts many infants, toddlers, children, parents, and seniors each day in a wide range of programming year round. Most users get there on foot, many of them going right past the construction site, forced to cross the lane where tandem trucks pull in, make three-point turns, back in, load up, then pull out. Idling diesel trucks often wait in twos along the side street. A once–peaceful mini-park is also right beside the site, used year round. What measures have Westbank and the City of Vancouver taken to ensure that no one is injured or killed by the thousands of truck trips from now until project completion in 2013? Let’s hope no one gets run over, like the tragic accident in the Toronto area on March 8, 2013 when a five-year old girl was killed by a garbage truck turning. Mayor and Council have an obligation to protect safety of all citizens. Write mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca if you have concerns and questions.


NEW: CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL FALLS FROM BIDWELL/DAVIE TOWER. In a wind storm on March 20, debris fell to the street from the tower under construction at Bidwell and Davie. This is on the former 1215 Bidwell site of Maxines, now to become The Alexandria, a 21-storey tower, owned by Millennium and marketed by Concord Pacific. See coverage here http://www.news1130.com/2013/03/20/glass-shattering-onto-davie-street-alarms-passerbys/. The incident caused damage on the street, but fortunately no people were injured or killed. Wind storms are no surprise. What did Millennium/Concord and their contractor do wrong to expose the neighbourhood to a potentially fatal accident? Will they compensate the City of Vancouver (i.e., taxpayers) for the costs of responding to this? Will they compensate businesses that had to close temporarily? Do City bylaws currently protect the people? Or the construction industry? These are more questions for the campaign to reform City bylaws. This incident proves that people living at or passing by tower construction sites are inevitably exposed to risk of injury and damage.

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