City of Port Alberni orders owner of dilapidated downtown hotel to upgrade property | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

City of Port Alberni orders owner of dilapidated downtown hotel to upgrade property

Port Alberni, BC

A downtown Port Alberni hotel-turned-rooming house has fallen into disrepair and is being ordered by the city to make necessary repairs within 30 days - or the local government will do the necessary work and bill the owner.

Port Alberni city council discussed the matter at their January 22nd meeting, ordering the owner of the Port Pub, Peter Wang, to complete an extensive list of repairs and cleaning to make the space safe for the upstairs tenants. Council imposed a remedial action order for the property located at 5170 Argyle Street.

“The city put forth a recommendation of remedial action for 5180 Argyle Street, location of the Port Pub, which was approved by council at the January 22nd council meeting,” said Port Alberni Mayor Shari Minions in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa. “This order compels the owner to bring the property back into compliance with city bylaws and provincial building legislation within a specific timeframe.”

City staff provided council with reports and photos on the condition of the property from an inspection that took place Jan. 11. There were multiple violations noted by the fire inspector, building inspector and bylaw officer.

The report to city council listed several instances of combustible trash and other materials blocking hallways and emergency entrances. Some smoke detectors, alarms and other emergency devices were either inoperable or completely missing.

There are broken exterior doors that cannot be secured, several extension cords running from living units to hallway outlets – one running from a suite out the window and onto the roof.

The PAFD indicates that there is water running from upper floors, seeping through the ceilings onto the lower floors, including the restaurant. The water damage has caused ceiling collapse in some places, including in living units.

Built in 1949, the 75-year-old Port Pub, originally named the King Edward Hotel, was a high-end hotel for its time and a popular watering hole for locals. It replaced the original King Edward Hotel which burned down in November 1947, 40 years after it was built. The rebuilt hotel offered 30 rooms, a lobby, pub, lounge and restaurant.

While it was a popular pub in its early years, it lost its shine with the locals over the decades. In 2004 the building sold and underwent $1 million in renovations according to the Alberni Historical Society. It was renamed Port Pub.

It is not clear when the hotel rooms went from short-term to long-term rentals. What is known is since it became home to low-barrier tenants, maintenance and repairs to the building have been neglected.

In an email to city council, Corp. Jordan Hamlyn of Port Alberni RCMP wrote, “The RCMP have had 88 calls for service to 5170 Argyle Street between January 2023 and December 31, 2023.”

That is nearly double the service calls from the previous year. Hamlyn indicated that the RCMP have responded to calls at Port Pub for incidents like, “murder, assaults with weapons, sexual assaults, assaults, missing persons, mental health and a plethora of other property offences.”

Hamlyn went on to say that the Port Alberni RCMP “spend a considerable amount of time at this particular building.”

“During routine patrols and while attending calls, police have observed tenants of the building to be living in deplorable conditions, which include excessive accumulation of human waste and refuse in the hallway. Police routinely observe persons in their open rooms, or common hallways/stairwells under the influence of opiates and other illicit drugs,” he stated.

One tenant told Ha-Shilth-Sa that they want to get out of there because any personal property of value gets stolen routinely. Guns have been fired in the living units and the tenant worries that a bullet could come through the walls at any time.

Besides general trash in community areas, inspectors saw pet food, broken appliances, broken down furniture and even the bumper cover of a vehicle littering the halls. One city councillor, who said they have received complaints from tenants, added that the building is infested with “little guys”, not naming what type of vermin it was, only that it hatches.

“As recent as yesterday, the rear fire escape was overloaded with garbage, rendering it inoperable,” Hamlyn wrote. “There are extension cords running from room to room and the ceilings in several units have collapsed due to moisture levels and flooding. The building is in a general state of disrepair and no longer possesses the basic amenities required to provide a safe living environment for tenants.”

Mayor Shari Minions said living conditions at Port Pub were unacceptable and unsafe and should be remediated.

“We can’t let it be acceptable for people to be living like this,” she said.

Acutely aware of the housing shortage in Port Alberni and concerned that residents of Port Pub may perceive action from City Hall as an attempt to evict them, city council said their staff would work with housing resources in town, including BC Housing, should remedial action require any evictions.

Councillor Todd Patola said the action is to improve the site for people living on the premises.

“This is not an eviction. We are acting to reduce stress levels,” he said.

In September 2020 Port Pub was handed a 30-day remediation order by the City of Port Alberni for similar reasons. The owner complied and had completed most of the repairs within 30 days. A city staff member reported that since that time, the owner has responded to warnings from inspectors but not so much over the past six months.

“The city does not take this order lightly,” said Mayor Minions. “We acknowledge this property is home to city residents, and we share concerns over possible temporary displacement of these residents while the building undergoes renovations to bring it back to a livable standard. We will take every measure to ensure any displaced individual is connected with proper supports in the community, including shelter, while these renovations are underway,” she added.

“This is where people live – they have to have a good living condition,” said Councilor Charles Mealey.

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