This Week At City Hall: Condo Creep, Capital Pointe, Fire Bylaw

Tuesday, May 24
CITY COUNCIL (5:30 pm): For good or ill, condo creep continues across the city as two condominium conversions top council’s agenda tonight!

Hey, you know what the number one thing is people say to me when I mention that a condo conversion is being considered at city hall? “I thought there was a condo conversion moratorium in place!”

“Indeed, there is,” I reply. “Isn’t that a funny thing?”

So, for those who (understandably) haven’t been following all the ins and outs of the condo conversion kerfuffle: the moratorium wasn’t retroactive. It only applies to conversion applications submitted after December 16, 2008 — the date the moratorium was proposed.

But, there was such a long queue of applications from before December 2008, and Planning Commission and council kept sending unsatisfactory applications back to the administration, that here we are a year and a half later and there are still applications being considered that the moratorium doesn’t apply to.

Tonight’s conversions are 1235 Grace Street and 4304 Rae Street (those links are to Google Maps so you can see where they are for yourselves). Planning Commission and city admin are recommending the Grace Street application be approved because all of the building’s tenants are happy with the deal the owner is giving them and therefore support the application.

4304 Rae is another matter.

Planning Commission has recommended denial on 4304 Rae and you can read our write-up on their last meeting to find out why. In short: tenants feel that converting this building to condos would result in hardship for themselves. What kind of hardship? Mostly having to move out of the neighbourhood and not being able to find somewhere to rent that’s comparably priced.

The building owner will be there with a rep from Nicor, the building manager and the company that’s shepherding this conversion (and many past ones) through the process. They’ll be arguing hard that council should set aside the Planning Commission and staff recommendations and approve this conversion anyway.

Their argument is that, after much backing and forthing over the last year, they are finally willing to offer their tenants the same tenancy agreement that was given to tenants in a bunch of other buildings that were approved for conversion. If those previous tenants from previous conversions were happy with this offer, then the 4304 Rae tenants will clearly not suffer any hardship (despite whatever they may have said to staff in the report before council).

It would be unfair to the owners of 4304 Rae if this conversion is turned down, they will argue, because other owners who’ve offered similar deals were granted their conversions. It will be unfair to the tenants too because the tenancy deal being offered is so awesome.

Now, it’s possible that council will be swayed by this. I don’t know. I’ve definitely seen Planning Commission recommend approval of conversions despite outstanding tenant hardship issues because they liked the last-minute tenancy deal the property owner put on the table.

And it doesn’t help things that none of the disgruntled tenants are on the agenda to speak against the conversion.

Of course, I have it on reasonably decent authority (in other words: I heard from a guy who heard from a guy…. this is not sourced well enough to pass muster to get into print, so take this as internet gossip and don’t frickin’ quote me on it) that at least one of the disgruntled tenants is not showing up because said tenant is confident the conversion will be denied. You see, this tenant reckons their (the disgruntled tenants’) concerns are adequately represented in the staff report so they don’t have to go to the trouble of standing before council.

We’ll see if that confidence is well placed. I’ve my doubts and suspect the Planning Commission recommendation will be overturned. But, I’ve guessed so many things wrong in this whole condo conversion saga that I’m really the last person who should be making predictions.

Oh, one tenant concern I found interesting and think warrants a mention here… Apparently, the tenants of 4304 are unhappy with how poorly their building is being maintained and don’t like how their requests to get some things repaired or upgraded are falling on deaf ears. According to the staff report, at a meeting between the landlord and the tenants,

“The landlord expressed that he did not intend to put effort into building maintenance until approval for the condominium conversion is granted.”

Um. If things went down the way they’re written then it seems to me that that kind of stinks of coercion.

I realize this landlord may have bought this property intending to turn it into condos. And maybe it’s his business plan to fund building upgrades by selling condos. But at present, this landlord doesn’t own a condo complex. He owns an apartment building made up of rental units. Like it or not, he has all the responsibilities that entails. And that means maintaining his frickin’ building and responding to tenant requests for repairs.

Now, I’ve sat through a lot of these condo conversions and I’ve seen a lot of landlords go before council who weren’t dicks. They treated their tenants with respect, they treated the process with respect, and in the end their tenants agreed to the condo conversions and Planning Commission recommended those conversions go ahead.

Far be it from me to accuse any landlord of dickitude, but I note that Planning Commission has not recommended this condo conversion go forward.

Before I quit grumbling about condo conversions, I should mention that these are not the final condo conversions before the moratorium finally comes into effect. Staff have indicated that there’s at least one last one heading for Planning Commission.

Well… can you believe that after all that, there’s still more on the council agenda? Well, there is. The Capital Pointe project is looking for final approval — that’s the hotel/condo complex that’ll replace the Plains Hotel and become Regina’s tallest building in the process. Also looking to be green lit are plans for a funeral home on 1265 Scarth Street. Changes to the Fire Bylaw will likely get approval which means by tomorrow you could get a ticket if your outdoor fire breaks the law in any way. The Traffic Bylaw will likely get amended to accommodate changes to the downtown as part of the City Square Project.

And, citizen appointments to committees for 2010 will be announced. Of interest to anyone who knows of a kid who’s chomping at the bit to get their political career started: the city is still recruiting for the Youth Advisory Committee.

Wednesday, May 26
BOARD OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS (9 am): Okay. Seriously. What am I doing wrong? I think I’m reasonably skilled at clicking links and poking around in drop down menus. But once again, the city’s website says, for the Police Commissioners’ meeting agenda go to the Regina Police Service website. I go there. I find nothing.

As always, full meeting agendas and reports (for everything except Board of Police Commissioner meetings) are available on the city’s website.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

7 thoughts on “This Week At City Hall: Condo Creep, Capital Pointe, Fire Bylaw”

  1. Okay (hoping my tenants aren’t reading the first bit):

    Owning an apartment building is a fantastically easy way to make money. Lots of it. Every month. Then you get to sell the building at the end and make even more money. The condo developers are making it seem as if it’s a hardship to own apartment buildings, as if repairs are an unreasonable expectation, and not something that they have already collected the money for (i.e. rent) to perform. Just to get the repair costs into perspective, you should budget around $850 per year per unit. In other lines of work, this would be called a cost of doing business, and not an undue or unexpected hardship.

    The condo conversion people are basically buying a whole building (after it’s been neglected by the previous owner who pocketed the maintenance money) and selling it for parts. In many cases, they continue to manage the buildings after they’ve gone condo, so they still get that monthly flow of money that they did before, suspiciously like… rent.

    Don’t get me started on hood houses…

  2. I think it stands for Paul J. Dechene. Can’t decide whether your middle name should be Jervoise (alert warrior), Job (persecuted — and I’d spell it Gob anyway), Jocelin (sportive), or Jolon (Valley of the dead oaks). How about Jesse (wealthy)?

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