Pubdate: Fri, 27 Oct 2006
Source: Richmond News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006, Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc.
Author: Eve Edmonds


Crack deals going down in the hallways, people screaming as they trip  
out on crystal meth, squatters leaving their trash in the apartment  
next door - this is what Kaila Chandler, 24, has put up with for the  
last three years in her Waterstone complex at 8031 Colonial Dr.

But when her apartment was broken into earlier this week - her  
laptop, DVD collection and even her phone gone - she decided it was  
time to tell the world that yes, Virginia, Richmond has a ghetto and  
it's right here at Railway Avenue and Blundell Road.

"People say 'there are no ghettos in Richmond.' I say 'are you  
kidding? You haven't been to 8031 Colonial Dr.'"

She called the police, but the officers didn't leave her a card or  
file number.

"They just said, 'we're here all the time.'" And Chandler had to agree.

"They're here every other night. I recognize most of them."

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Peter Thiessen confirmed police are more than  
familiar with the 213-suite building.

"There are many, many, many, many entries in our system. We're well  
familiar with that complex. You name it, we've been there in regards  
to criminal and non-criminal incidents over the last number of years."

Making the situation even more frightening is the fact a significant  
number of children live in the complex, which backs on to Grauer  

Even the landlord agrees the situation is out of control.

"There are drugs in that complex," admits Norman Cressey, whose Nacel  
Properties owns the building.

He blames the situation, in part, on the on-site building managers,  
whom he recently fired.

"If people aren't doing their job, you're going to have a mess.  
Senior management doesn't know about it until it starts really  
smelling (vacancy goes up, collections calls). By that time, the  
problem's bigger than it should be."

Cressey also blames legislation that makes it difficult to kick out  
bad tenants.

"The police have been there how many times and they can't do  
anything, what am I supposed to do? Everything has to be proven in  
law ... I'd like to go in there with sniffer dogs, but then people  
like you would be all over me for violating tenants' rights."

This is not the first time Nacel Properties has been in the news.

A few years ago, the company made headlines when it tried to require  
pet owners to pay a damage deposit for their pets, despite having  
already signed a contract stating pets were allowed.

Nacel eventually backed down.

Also, in 1997 Richmond Fire-Rescue took the unusual step of actually  
charging Nacel after it ignored a provincial fire commissioner's order.

The following year, Nacel Properties allegedly dragged its feet in  
bringing in an exterminator to deal with a severe ant infestation in  
its Colonial Drive complex.

David Raey, spokesman for the Richmond Poverty Response Committee, is  
familiar with 8031 Colonial Dr. because he once looked to rent a  
place there.

"I looked at it and thought it was no place to raise a family."

Raey believes the city should get involved in helping clean up the  
place. "As Al Capone was brought down on tax laws, crack dealers are  
brought down on garbage violations."

Sometimes small moves that help establish a sense of public order are  
most effective, he added.

"The police have the Criminal Code, health authorities have the  
Health Act, tenants and landlords have the Residential Tenancy Act,  
but all of these are very cumbersome processes that require  
definitive proof."

The city could make smaller gestures to help support the law-abiding  
tenants in the complex, Raey suggested.

Chandler agrees, but said most of the "good tenants" are recent  
immigrants, with limited English.

"I've tried to talk to some of them, but they're not interested.  
They're scared, like everyone else."

The Standards of Maintenance bylaw, which is slowly wending its way  
through civic bureaucracy, may be a tool in dealing with these kinds  
of issues, said Coun. Rob Howard.

The bylaw was proposed by Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt to deal  
specifically with tenants' rights regarding water, electricity and  
heat, but Howard questions if the bylaw couldn't be expanded.

Meanwhile, back at 8031 Colonial Dr., Chandler, a student at  
Vancouver Film School, frets over her lost laptop.

"I can't even do my work now."

Chandler said she would like to move, but she has a dog and this is  
one of the few apartment complexes that allow pets.

"I feel trapped. But I really feel bad for the kids."

Cressey is determined to do his part through new management. Job  
postings are prominent on the company's website.
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MAP posted-by: Jackl