Godzilla returns to West End (1401 Comox): What we have learned so far about demolitions…

Demolition work (and earth tremors) continues here today, May 25, 2011. This demolition/construction can be considered a test case for a wave of projects sweeping the West End and, in fact, much of Vancouver. A number of citizens are in communication with the City of Vancouver regarding various concerns and disturbances connected with the demolition of St. John’s Church (1401 Comox). Below is some of the information obtained, in question and answer format. More will be added.

If you find the type of demolition activity being used to be disruptive, you are encouraged to call City Hall by using the 311 service to register your concerns.

Q. What regulations control the size of human-caused earth tremors permitted from demolition or construction sites? How are these tremors being monitored and regulations enforced in real time?
A. The City says it has no regulations regarding vibrations caused by demolition or construction activities. All monitoring and reporting is up to the property owner.

Q. If regulations are violated, is the City imposing penalties?
A. The answer in a specific case is apparently confidential, but a citizen can inquire by freedom of information processes. If a bylaw or regulation is violated, the City may take action in accordance with the provisions under that particular regulation or bylaw.  Violations of the provincial WorksafeBC regulations, such as practices for handling asbestos, are referred to WorksafeBC.

Q. Absolutely no information has been provided publicly to the community from the City of Vancouver or from the property owners regarding the demolition work. No signs are posted regarding the days or hours of work. No contact number is provided. Is this normal practice? Can the City take steps or have the owners to provide this information?
A. The City answered that the Vancouver Building Bylaw requires under Article 8.1.3.1. of Division B that a Construction Safety Program be prepared before commencing any construction or demolition.  Posting of information such as the names of and the emergency phone numbers for the constructor, and the Construction Safety Officer is required on site per Article 8.1.3.3., either
     a) firmly affixed to plywood and staked into the ground, or posted
     b) on the exterior of the principal construction site shelter.
Our comment: It appears that Westbank and Peterson have violated this bylaw at 1401 Comox. No information has been posted as of May 26, 2011, although work has been going on for weeks. We also found that because of copyright protection, the Vancouver Building Bylaw is only partially available online. To review relevant sections, a citizen probably has to make a trip to City Hall.

Q. Can the owners of the property be requested or required to use less violent (less disruptive to the local community) means of demolishing the buildings on site?
A. The City replied that there is no requirement in the Vancouver Building Bylaw for using a particular method of demolition or construction.  Demolition and construction projects must comply with the Vancouver Building Bylaw for safety measures.

Q. Who is responsible for monitoring and reporting vibrations, toxic or hazardous emissions, noise, etc.?
A. The City advises that these tasks are left up to the property owner. Citizens may complain and inquire, but it appears the City has no desire or available equipment to actually do the monitoring.

Q. Does the City of Vancouver have any special regulations to minimize impacts of demolition and construction on residential communities (as compared to commercial or industrial zones).
A. Apparently not, but we will investigate and report findings. If none exist, they should be created.

To be continued.

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