Press Release: Tenants Speak Against Larco Rezoning at Public Hearing; Council Adjourns to Add Conditions for Approval

Vancouver, BC –– Vancouver City Council held a public hearing on Tuesday over Larco Investments’ proposed rezoning of 5455 Balsam Street, which would build a high-rise on top of existing tenant’s garden space. Tenants and community allies testified against the rezoning, including representatives from UNITE HERE Local 40. Speakers raised issues about the displacement of seniors, Larco’s building maintenance practices, the unaffordability of the proposed building, and the need to protect the community’s green space.

Council ultimately decided to adjourn the meeting until July 23, to give City Staff time to write appropriate conditions to address issues related to trees, standards of maintenance, community amenities, and parking.

“This is just the beginning of our fight,” said Bhavna Solecki, a tenant from the building. “Council should listen to the community and reject this proposal.”

Eleven senior tenants have signed statements saying they will be forced to leave the building if they lose their parking garage. Councilor Kirby-Yung questioned Wendy Lebreton, Larco’s Development Manager, about how they plan to accommodate tenants with mobility issues who would be unable to walk to the off-site parking provided during construction. Lebreton was unable to explain how Larco plans to accommodate such residents.

“We have lost many of the amenities that were agreed upon when we signed our lease agreement,” said tenant William Snowden. When asked if the pool––which has been closed for three years due to Larco’s failure to maintain it––would be fixed and operational for the development, Lebreton said, “there is no intent to at this time.” Councilor Fry pointed out that this contradicts the proposal’s referral report, which states that the swimming pool will remain.

The tenants plan to continue pressuring City Council to ensure that the conditions satisfy their demands. “They must refuse any proposal that will lead to our displacement,” said Daniel Kasowitz, a senior in the building.

“It was made clear from their testimony that Larco is not interested in addressing the concerns we have raised,” said Ileana Madrid, another senior tenant. “It is now the job of Council and City Staff to hold them accountable. We will not allow them to use this adjournment to escape public scrutiny.”

 

Contact: Nate Holers, 250-889-7682, campaigns@unitehere40.com

BREAKING: Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa Workers Launch 3-Day Strike

Vancouver, BC – Workers at Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa walked off the job early this morning and are setting up picket lines.

The resort and spa workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, are holding a 3-day strike over the busy summer weekend. This comes after bargaining broke off yesterday afternoon with little progress. Workers are striking for fair wages and a reversal of concessions made during the pandemic.

Hotel room revenues in the Fraser Valley Regional District, which includes Harrison Hot Springs, have grown 42% since 2019, yet workers have not shared equitably in those gains.

“Harrison Hot Springs Resort workers want management to invest in providing top quality jobs. Low wages, short staffing and workload issues affect morale and guest service. Workers are fed up, which is why they’re taking limited strike action,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40.

Harrison Hot Springs Resort is owned by Aldesta Hotel Group, a subsidiary of Salience Global Holdings, which also owns Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, luxury waterfront resorts, and two islands along the Great Barrier Reef.

Contact: Michelle Travis, mtravis@unitehere.org, 778-960-9785

Press Release: Tenants of Larco Property Protest Rezoning at Vancouver City Hall

Vancouver, BC –– Today, tenants from 5455 Balsam Street protested the rezoning of their property in front of Vancouver City Hall. Their landlord, Larco Investments, is applying to build an unaffordable high-rise on top of their garden space.

The tenants, the majority of whom are seniors, have reported significant issues with building management since Larco bought the property in 2020, including lack of heat during winter due to insufficient boiler repairs, frequent elevator breakdowns, and an unusable pool for the past three years. The rezoning would exacerbate tenants’ difficulties by removing their underground parking lot during construction, posing safety risks for those with mobility issues.

“We reject the designation of the site as ‘infill,’” said tenant Bhavna Solecki, citing that it serves vital needs for existing tenants. “Losing on-site parking, green space and garbage areas will make it impossible for many of us to live in the building during construction.”

Over ten residents have signed statements saying that the development will force them to leave the building if it is approved. “Tell me, where will I go in this housing crisis?” asked Elizabeth Cross, one of the residents.

“This new building will be unaffordable for the average worker or student, let alone seniors,” said resident Daniel Kasowitz. “There is no sense in building a 15-story high-rise which will probably remain half-empty, when the neighboring apartment buildings are charging less rent for bigger spaces.”

Vancouver City Council has received over a thousand letters from the community in opposition to the rezoning, many of which raise concerns about the effects it will have on the neighborhood. “If this development is approved, we will lose a beautiful garden which is also a haven for many species of birds,” said another resident, Illean Madrid. “Vancouver prides itself on being a green city. Between the destruction of our garden, and the increased traffic and congestion, this development will contradict that goal.”

The tenants were joined at the rally by a group of striking workers from the Sheraton Vancouver Airport hotel, another property owned and managed by Larco. The crowd protested in front of City Hall’s south entrance, chanting slogans against the rezoning. Some held signs that read “Seniors Deserve Dignity!”, “No Deals for Larco!”, “Protect Our Green Spaces!”, among others.

Russ Jamieson, one of the Sheraton strikers, spoke for the group of workers: “We know how Larco works. We know how little respect they give to their employees.  We are here to provide support to our tenant allies, who need all the help they can get against a company that does not care about working people. The tenants have raised some very serious concerns about this rezoning. For the sake of these seniors, and working people everywhere in Vancouver, we hope City Council will listen.”

Contact: Nate Holers, 250-889-7682, campaigns@unitehere40.com

 

###

 

 

 

Media Advisory: Tenants to Hold Rally Against Rezoning at Vancouver City Hall; Over 1,000 letters sent to City Council in opposition

Demonstration to be held Thursday, July 4, 12 PM, at Vancouver City Hall

Vancouver, BC — THIS Thursday, tenants at 5455 Balsam St will be protesting the rezoning of their property in front of Vancouver City Hall. Their landlord, Larco Investments, is applying to build an unaffordable high-rise on top of their garden space, which would remove their parking garage during construction.

The tenants, the majority of whom are seniors, have reported significant issues with Larco’s building management subsidiary, Maple Leaf Property Management, including lack of heat during winter due to insufficient boiler repairs, frequent elevator breakdowns, and an unusable pool for the past three years. The rezoning would exacerbate tenants’ difficulties by removing their underground parking lot during construction, posing safety risks for those with mobility issues. Some seniors say they will be displaced from the building if the rezoning is approved.

Striking workers from Sheraton Vancouver Airport hotel, another Larco property, will join the rally in solidarity. Vancouver City Council has received over one thousand letters from tenants and community members in opposition to the rezoning. The rally will be held ahead of a public hearing on July 9, where they will express their concerns directly to Council.

 

WHO: Tenants of 5455 Balsam St, joined by striking workers from Sheraton YVR, and community allies.

WHERE: Vancouver City Hall, 453 W 12th Ave, Vancouver, BC

WHEN: Thursday, July 4 at 12:00 PM

VISUALS: Tenants and workers chanting with colorful signs in protest of the rezoning and Larco. Tenants and UNITE HERE Local 40 representatives will be made available for interviews.

Media Contact: Nate Holers, 250-889-7682, campaigns@unitehere40.com

 

Press Release: YVR Airport Concession Workers Launch Strike for $25 Living Wage

Vancouver, BC — Over 200 food workers at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) walked out on strike early this morning to demand a $25 living wage.  The workers are employed by SSP America, which operates over a dozen food outlets at YVR.

Food attendants, servers, cooks, dishwashers and others set up picket lines at 4:30AM this morning to inform travelers about the one-day strike action.  The action comes after workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, turned down the company’s latest offer in negotiations. They are negotiating their first collective agreement.

The Vancouver Airport Authority is attempting to limit workers’ attempt to picket inside the airport. The Union is asking the Labour Board to direct the Airport Authority to permit such activity, which was permitted in 2010 during a previous strike action.

Airport concession workers are among the lowest paid staff at YVR. Although YVR is a certified living wage employer, the average hourly wage for concession staff is $18.27, or $7.41 less than Metro Vancouver’s living wage.  Eighty percent of concession workers are women, many of them immigrants, according to a recent survey.  Thousands have petitioned YVR to expand its living wage policy to apply to concession staff.

SSP Group is one of the largest food operators at Vancouver International Airport and operates thirteen outlets: Freshii, Thai Hang, Urban Crave, Whistler Brewhouse, LIFT Bar and Grill, Church’s Chicken, Sal y Limón, Banh Shop, Nourish, Dirty Apron, Tru Burger, Rice Tales, and El Chiquito.

 

Contact: Michelle Travis, mtravis@unitehere.org, 778-960-9785