‘Disgusting’ state of parkades and city streets reflects diminishing civic pride in Vancouver

Despite social ills, city shouldn’t become complacent

The fentanyl overdose crisis. Money laundering. Unfair evictions. Unaffordable housing. Inadequate public transit. Limited childcare. Loneliness.

These are just some of the issues facing Vancouver. However, this week’s column is not directly about any of them.

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Instead, I want to revisit a topic I wrote about in March, namely, the filthy, disgusting condition of an EasyPark managed, city-owned parkade in Gastown.

While the column was critical of EasyPark, it also explored why so many downtown stairwells and back lanes have sadly become public toilets.

It proposed increased public toilets and improved property maintenance while we await more facilities.

Last week, I parked in EasyPark’s Lot 2 parkade at Cambie and Pender. This is the site of Vancouver's first hospital and, in 2018, was designated with a Vancouver Heritage Foundation plaque as part of the “Places That Matter” program.

Although I didn’t see the plaque, I did find a parkade in even worse condition than the Gastown parkade. The stench in the stairwell was not just unpleasant, it was sickening.

To get this parkade cleaned up, I tweeted the following:

While EasyPark did not respond, Global TV emailed and offered to join me on a tour at 11 a.m. last Friday. I proposed that we meet at the stairwell I found so unpleasant, but the cameraman found one that was even more putrid and littered with discarded needles and other drug debris.

Photo Michael Geller
Photo Michael Geller

On Saturday, Global broadcast its story, which included interviews with parkade users, all of whom complained about the stench.

One young woman, who uses the facility every day, said she must hold her jacket over her nose every time she uses the stairs.

Hopefully, EasyPark's general manager will personally visit this parkade and arrange for the stairwells, one of which resembles a cesspool behind a reinforcing bar gate, to be thoroughly cleaned.

I also urge EasyPark directors, Vancouver facilities officials and politicians to visit the parkade, if only to see that I am not exaggerating the disgusting and unhealthy condition of this city-owned facility.

While EasyPark spokesperson Linda Bui apologized to Global TV for the “unsatisfactory experience the customer was subject to during their last visit,” noting a third party maintenance contractor provides onsite janitorial services six days a week, what is really needed is a long-term strategy to address the problems facing this and other parking garages.

The issue is not just the smell and unsightly appearance. It is also the crime that regularly occurs. Next to where the TV cameraman filmed his interviews, broken glass from yet another break-in was clearly visible.

Photo Michael Geller
Photo Michael Geller

I would like to offer EasyPark a few suggestions.

Firstly, why not install portable toilets in these parkades? They would benefit both the homeless and others using the stairwells as toilets and car parkers. Surely it will be easier to clean a portable toilet than the stairwells.

Also, why not install video cameras and notices letting everyone know they’re being monitored?

Why not organize a neighbourhood watch program and invite volunteers to community clean-ups in return for food or parking vouchers and a barbecue? 

However, my concern is not just these parkades. I am also troubled by the increasing amount of unwanted graffiti on electrical boxes and other structures around the city and garbage on the streets.

I’m worried about the increasing number of homeless people sleeping on sidewalks and dangerously wandering into traffic at busy intersections, begging for change.

Finally, I fear that, collectively, we are becoming too complacent about what is happening around our city. Too many Vancouverites appear to be losing their sense of civic pride.

I realize cleaning parkades and graffiti is not going to solve the serious problems listed at the top of this column. But that is no reason why we shouldn’t be making more of an effort to beautify our city. I hope some of you will join me in speaking out.

@michaelgeller

geller@sfu.ca

This story has been updated since first published.

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