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Residents of 21-storey Vancouver condo frustrated after 2nd elevator breaks down

Click to play video: 'Vancouver condo tower residents frustrated over lack of elevators' Vancouver condo tower residents frustrated over lack of elevators
With no working elevators, and no timeline on when they will be fixed, some residents at The Sterling condo tower in Vancouver's West End are growing more frustrated by the day. Grace Ke reports – Aug 10, 2022

Residents in a West End condominium tower say they’re frustrated that both elevators in their building have broken down and there appears to be no quick fix.

According to tenants and owners in the 21-storey building, the first elevator stopped working earlier this year and was never repaired, while the second stopped working in the past few days.

“We have seniors here, older people with dogs who can’t walk them up 18 flights of stairs,” said renter Derek MacDonald on Wednesday. “It’s certainly been a major inconvenience for me, but for I’d say it’s life-changing for others in the building.”

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The Smithe Street tower is managed by FirstService Residential, which had no one available for an interview on Wednesday. Instead, it sent a written statement from the building’s strata council.

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“The council of BCS1180 takes this situation very seriously and understands the impact to owners,” the statement read.

“Council have been putting in countless hours being actively involved in getting actions underway to remedy the elevator issue. Council has been providing communication to owners/residents and will be providing additional communication regularly and immediately as new information comes available.”

A notice recently posted labelled the elevators as “out of service,” but said “Richmond Elevator Tech will be back Monday Aug. 8 at the earliest.”

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Communications residents shared with Global News, however, provide insight into the repair process and alternatives offered to date.

A Monday message sent to residents, entitled “Elevator Update,” informed them that an elevator maintenance company was continuing to troubleshoot the issue with the second elevator, but “there is currently no diagnosis nor ETA for the elevator service to be restored.”

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It then advised residents who cannot use the stairs to “please contact the fire department for assistance.”

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In a clarifying statement sent Tuesday, the building’s management and strata council said the Vancouver Fire Department should “ONLY be called in the event of an emergency.”

“Both council and FirstService Residential respects the dedication and work these first responders perform on a daily basis and wants to ensure their services are being used appropriately,” it reads.

The council and FirstService Residential said they would inform residents of any progress on the broken elevators when additional information is obtained.

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According to minutes from a July 26 strata council meeting, the strata corporation has entered a contract with Gunn Consulting to write the specification of a request for proposal to have both elevators replaced. That process was expected to reach a conclusion at the end of July.

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“Owners should not expect a quick fix,” the minutes read. “The best-case scenario is that the work on the first elevator starts in about 6 months’ time. Once completed, the second elevator would then be replaced.”

According to the notes, the “hot temperature” in the elevator room is the cause of the interruptions and the strata council has approved the purchase of an air conditioning system, and the rental of a commercial-grade fan.

An undated notice currently posted in the building suggests a tender for the repairs is currently in progress, to be completed by August, and updates will be provided.

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Meanwhile, the Vancouver Fire Department has made it clear that they should only be called in the event of a true emergency. Its inspectors visited the building on Wednesday morning, as two broken-down elevators pose a serious safety risk.

The fire department inspectors usually educate first, according to public information officer Capt. Matthew Trudeau, but can issue notices of violations and fines, and prosecute if needed.

“For this specific instance, again, the start is information-gathering and then trying to resolve it as soon as possible,” he said. “(Elevators) are complicated and really costly to repair … if they’re waiting for a part, it could take weeks.”

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Since the second elevator went down, MacDonald said he has been unable to use his bicycle or do any large grocery runs.

“I’ve already talked to my landlord about a reduction in rent,” he said. “I’m on the 10th floor. I’m in good shape, but I can no longer cycle.”

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Jose Bustillo, who moved into the building recently, said the situation is “frustrating.”

“I live on the third floor so I can take the stairs but for the people who live in the 12th floor or (higher) it’s frustrating of course.”

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According to the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association, elevator maintenance poses a particular challenge in the midst of ongoing labour shortages and supply chain issues.

“If only one elevator was down, it probably wouldn’t be considered an emergency under the Strata Property Act because you have one working,” said president Wendy Wall.

“But if you have two that aren’t working, then it could be deemed an emergency under the act, which means strata can spend without the vote of the owners.”

Elevator companies do their best, she added, but skilled labour is in short supply and “parts are always an issue.”

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