Hotel in West End has been operating illegally for years. Now seeks official “approval” to convert 96 “rental” units to hotel use

Carmana Plaza

The Carmana Plaza at 1128 Alberni Street has been operating illegally for many years as a hotel — in full view of the City of Vancouver and with the full knowledge of senior staff. The residential units that make up this hotel are zoned for rental use only. Hotel uses are not permitted and never have been. In fact, a previous request for official “approval” was already rejected a few years back. Despite the shortage of rental units in Vancouver and permitting disruptive, block-busting developments elsewhere under the STIR and Rental 100 developer incentive programs, why has the City consistently failed to enforce its bylaw here? How often do officials “look the other way” as in this case? Why is enforcement selective? How much tax revenue has the City foregone by permitting this violation for so many years?

The owner has submitted a new development application that seeks to change the (official permitted) use of the 96 rental units in this building to hotel use. Comments by the public related to this proposed change in use will be received by City staff until May 20, 2015 (details here); there is also an online survey form here. The Development Permit Board is scheduled to consider the rental to hotel room conversion application on June 15, 2015.

The popular travel site Trip Advisor has 368 reviews of the hotel. It’s clearly used as a hotel. While the City has means to enforce its bylaws through $10,000 fines and via court orders, no action has been taken with respect to the Carmana Plaza. Is there tacit approval by City officials for taking almost 100 rental units off the housing market?

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There may be a little irony in the title of the upcoming motion on notice from Councillor Meggs: 3. Increased Protection for Tenants and Vancouver’s Rental Housing Stock (May 12, 2015). If City Council truly wishes to protect “Vancouver’s Rental Housing Stock” then shouldn’t they start with protecting the rental housing at the Carmana Plaza?

The building was approved with purpose-built rental housing; should it remain this way? Should the owner be rewarded for operating a portion of the building illegally as a hotel for many years?

The City’s “rental standards database” shows that there is a violation for 1128 Alberni Street (Carmana Plaza) dating from July 2014: http://app.vancouver.ca/RPS_Net/Default.aspx?num=1128&street=alberni

Further details on the proposed rental to hotel conversion are available on the City’s website (1128 Alberni Street – DE418950). The property was previously known to be owned by Peterson Investment Group (CEO Ben Yeung), during previous requests to convert official permitted use from “rental” to “hotel.” The current applicant is “Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership,” so perhaps the ownership has changed hands in the past few years.

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