After years of neighbourhood complaints over noise, violence and drugs, innumerable RCMP raids resulting in arrests for possession of drugs and stolen property, and unsightly premises fines resulting in trucks of garbage being hauled away, the so-called Purple Palace is finally quiet.
The owner of the problem property on Cleveland Avenue, Denis McDougall, acquired a B.C. Supreme Court writ to evict tenants from all four of the building's residential units.
On Monday (May 15), two days after tenants were given notice, court bailiffs appeared to remove belongings, shut off water and board up the building. But despite the long journey to reclaim the neighbourhood, no one is rejoicing over the evictions.
"The aggravating part about it is I haven't eliminated the town's problems," said McDougall. "I've eliminated my problems but they'll just move onto some other poor landlord. That's the way it all works. Can't do anything about that."
Neighbours Joanne Luscombe and Rich Laverdiere, who have owned a backpacker's hostel across the alleyway from the property since 2000, said they've seen horrific things out of their windows and had lost hope on having a peaceful neighbourhood.
"It was mayhem day and night," said Laverdiere.
Despite the couple's campaign of complaints with the RCMP and McDougall, the problem not only remained, but was exacerbated by the presence of an adjacent alleyway drug dealing apartment. That apartment was in another McDougall building, and its tenants were evicted Friday, May 5.
"Now it's great. We can sleep again," said Laverdiere. "I want to be the first to thank Mr. McDougall for my kids' sake."
But the neighbours' relief is also laced with sadness for the desperate situation the evicted tenants are facing.
"It's a good day, but it's a sad day," said Luscombe. "They're not going to end up anywhere good."
Over the years, Luscombe and Laverdiere met and even befriended some of their neighbours, including Reginald Simpson. Simpson, a 10-year resident of the Purple Palace, lives there with his girlfriend and said their eviction is a case of "guilt by association".
"I have nothing to do with any of this stuff," said Simpson, referring to the criminal activity in the house. "For the last two years it's gone bad."
Simpson received notice on May 4 that McDougall's Residential Tenancy Office (RTO) arbitration process was complete and the tenants were to be evicted. He immediately sought help from local Vancouver Coastal Health crisis workers who were able to have the arbiter's decision reviewed - meaning a stay of the eviction.
But when authorities from Accurate Court Bailiffs arrived to take the residents' belongings, they said they do not take orders from the RTO, but from the B.C. Supreme Court.
"There's a whole bunch of social issues here and I get that," said crisis nurse Jully Buckley. "But what about people's rights?"
Simpson and his girlfriend were finally allowed to remain in the building until an arbiter's review, which is scheduled for May 30. The rest of the tenants were successfully ejected.
Despite Simpson's objections, RCMP returned to other duties shortly into the evictions when it was clear the tenants were calm. They returned to keep the peace in the late afternoon, however, when one tenant became hostile.
"Everybody was very cooperative," said Const. John Marinis. "It's a positive step. Hopefully the property owner does something with it."
McDougall said he will keep the property boarded up "until the people used to getting their drugs there decide to go somewhere else."
"The last thing I can do is get a normal tenant driven nuts by a bunch of whackos at 2, 3, 4 in the morning," he said. "So a couple more months' of rent will be lost until they decide to go somewhere else."
It's the third local property from which McDougall has had tenants evicted in the past two weeks, and the cost of legal processes, bailiffs, storage for the tenants' belongings and boarding up and renovating the premises will end up costing him $70,000 to $80,000, he said.
"The district said it helped with electrical inspectors, bylaw officers, building inspectors, these people all assisted me in any way they possibly could to help with this and it's absolute baloney," he said. "They obstructed me every step of the way."
Mayor Ian Sutherland said district staff spent substantial time and effort trying to bring about a conclusion on the problem property.
"We can only do certain things legally," he said. "It's been a problem property for a long time. It is unfortunate Mr. McDougall doesn't think we've been helpful but I've seen the amount of work staff has done with that and it's been quite substantial."