THE City of Vancouver this week told the media that the Sahota family that owns the decrepit hotels Balmoral and Regent in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside had pleaded guilty to the majority of charges, agreed to pay a fine and make charitable donations.
In an email, the City told the media: “After decades of underinvestment and mismanagement by the owners of the Balmoral and Regent hotels, the outstanding bylaw violations have been addressed through the legal process. Negotiations between the City Prosecutor and Sahota family reached a resolution on outstanding bylaw violations that had been referred to prosecution.
“On November 26, the Sahotas plead guilty to the majority of charges and agreed to pay a total fine of $150,000, along with making a charitable donation in the amount of $20,000 to Union Gospel Mission and $5,000 to EMBERS Eastside Works. The Court approved this resolution and imposed the requested fines.
“The legal avenues that were available to the City prosecutor were limited and we recognize that the value of the resolution does not reflect the historic harm done to the Downtown Eastside community through the unsafe conditions of these two buildings.”
It also pointed out: “This resolution is independent of the expropriation process for the Balmoral and Regent Hotels. That process is ongoing and the Sahotas have withdrawn their request for an inquiry.”
Last July, the City filed an expropriation notice for the Balmoral and Regent hotels. Balmoral was closed in June 2017, and the Regent was closed in June 2018, both due to decades of underinvestment and mismanagement by the building owners resulting in structural and life-safety concerns, the City said at the time. Through these closures, more than 300 of the City’s lowest income tenants needed to be relocated to safer housing.
The City said in a press statement: “Filing the expropriation notice is the first step in the expropriation process that is intended to result in the transfer of these two properties to public ownership. Despite years of enforcement efforts by the City and hundreds of bylaw violation charges presently before the courts, the owners have not made the basic investments necessary to maintain safety and an acceptable standard of living for tenants in these two buildings. Given this ongoing mismanagement and the critical shortage of housing for low-income residents in Vancouver, the City is now taking action to acquire direct ownership of the two properties for the purpose of providing housing in the Downtown Eastside.
“Prior to filing the expropriation notice, the City made an offer to the building owners to purchase both hotels, for a value based on independent appraisals. The offer was not accepted by the building owners.”