Monthly Archives: February 2013

The FCRA joins in opposing the giant electronic billboards that intrude into the lives of our neighbours

Families still suffering due to flashing outdoor digital billboards at BC Place Stadium

Director, BC Pavilion Corp

Vancouver, Monday, February 4, 2013

Please accept our congratulations on your appointment to the Board of Directors of BC Pavilion Corp (PavCo).  There is great hope that with your appointment and with that of your new colleagues to the PavCo Board, that our community will receive a more considerate response to our concerns.  Unfortunately for those of us living near BC Place, the previous Podmore-Buckley leadership chose to ignore repeated and very public appeals from our community concerning liveability issues, electing instead to pursue a campaign of stonewalling and misinformation.

As residents living near BC Place Stadium, our homes and our lives have been greatly affected by the three giant video billboards outside the stadium since they were erected without community or city consultation in September of 2011.  When PavCo installed the video billboards outside BC Place directly facing Vancouver’s densest group of glass residential buildings, they gravely afflicted hundreds of families who had previously lived peacefully in their homes.  Despite repeated demands from neighbours that the three flashing screens be removed, PavCo has done little to address this on-going assault on the well-being of these downtown Vancouver residents.

In the face of media pressure, PavCo pointed to minor adjustments which were made to one of the three giant billboards.  These minor modifications to the brightness and operating hours (again, to one of the screens) have done nothing to address residents’ primary concern, and that is:

It is unacceptable that large groups of residents on all sides of BC Place Stadium be made to suffer in their homes – held captive under the blight of giant flashing screens – where some raise their children and others simply seek needed rest.  Surely there is a more responsible way for an otherwise honourable Crown Corporation to achieve its goals?

Following the minor operational changes, Mayor Gregor Robertson and all ten City Councillors demonstrated their on-going concerns for residents’ well-being by unanimously passing a council motion aimed at bringing PavCo’s billboards at BC Place into compliance with Vancouver bylaws. Recall that the screens in question are ten times the maximum size allowable under the city bylaw, the applicable standard for determining acceptable conditions of residential liveability within this community.

Many other concerned community leaders and officials who to this day remain alarmed by PavCo’s actions have vocally supported residents and insisted that these screens be taken down.  Vancouver West-End MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert has demanded in the BC Legislative Assembly that the screens be removed; Park Board Commissioner Constance Barnes has repeatedly stated that the screens must be taken down; and the Board of the False Creek Residents Association has identified the removal of the three giant screens among the association’s most pressing objectives in 2013.

Residents have mounted a letter writing campaign and have sent collectively over a hundred emails to the offices of Warren Buckley, Councillor Meggs, MLA Chandra-Herbert and Minister Pat Bell.  So intense was this campaign that Minister Bell was ultimately compelled to address the negative press that the billboard issue was creating for his office.  By this time it had become obvious to Vancouverites that erecting rapidly flashing high-intensity three-story-tall digital billboards directly facing a dense residential glass structured neighbourhood is pure absurdity…but the PavCo leadership remained unmoved.

This situation remains shamefully unresolved.  Residents on all three sides of the stadium continue to suffer in their homes, captive under the oppressive daily glare of giant video screens which they are powerless to turn off.  The flashing light invades their living rooms, extends across their dinner tables, and penetrates into their children’s bedrooms.  We implore you to reconsider the mistakes of the previous PavCo leadership and begin the responsible action of removing these intolerable screens. Vancouver residents must not be made to bear the continued assault of these giant flashing billboards any longer.

Sincerely,

David Cookson, Primary Spokesperson, Take the Giant Screens Down Now organisation

Patricia Graca, Board Member, False Creek Residents Association

Kate Glassford, Chair, Stadium Neighbourhood Association

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Cc:  Dana Hayden, President and CEO, BC Pavilion Corp.

Cc:  Howard Crosley, BC Place Stadium General Manager

Cc:  Adrian Dix, Provincial Opposition Leader

Cc:  Spencer Chandra-Herbert, Provincial PavCo Critic

Cc:  Geoff Meggs, Vancouver City Councillor

Attachment 1:  History of events – questions left unanswered

When questioned by media reporters in 2011 about PavCo’s apparent disregard for the well-being of the adjacent residential community, Howard Crosley, General Manager at BC Place stadium responded on camera that PavCo’s provincial status effectively creates an exemption from city signage bylaws, suggesting that PavCo need not be concerned with the litany of complaints received by dozens of civic and provincial offices nor by those complaints received by PavCo itself.  Since there was no law to forbid PavCo’s actions, PavCo could do as it pleased.  Residents were left not knowing where to turn – the city hotline and other city offices were refusing to log complaints and were instead referring complainants to provincial authorities – PavCo continued to claim immunity from bylaws and pursued a complaint rebuttal policy of ‘Too-bad-for-you’.  What were residents to do?

Left largely neutered by PavCo’s hard-line legal stance on the non-enforceability of city bylaws, City Manager Penny Ballem was required to issue a memo to City Council outlining her staff’s cursory understanding of the situation.  That was, as misinformed by Warren Buckley, that PavCo had met with residents about the situation (not one single resident has yet been found which ever met with PavCo on this issue) and that PavCo had only received a single complaint (which is categorically disproven by the copies of dozens of emails received by Councillor Meggs and MLA Chandra-Herbert).  Nevertheless, in the face of an uncooperative PavCo leadership, Dr Ballem described in her memo about the city’s inability to force PavCo to comply with basic standards of liveability, and concluded that the situation, from the perspective of her office’s inability to enforce city bylaws, was therefore ‘resolved’.  To date, City Councillors have not yet addressed PavCo’s indifference towards the Mayor and Council’s unanimous motion, and PavCo continues to operate the billboards in direct violation of several sections of the Sign bylaw #6510.

One confused PavCo staff member recently tried suggesting that BC Place has not crossed the threshold of acceptable impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood by using the argument that video billboards have existed at BC Place for many years.  Such a claim is irrational in its premise since it suggests that tiny and benign analogue filament-screw-bulb technology boards from 1986 produced the same environmental impact on the adjacent glass residential community as today’s oversized hi-intensity high-definition LED video jumbotrons selected and installed by BC Place in 2011.  Such an argument baffles the mind and is not appropriate coming from senior staff managing one of our major Crown Corporations.

A second equally baffling comment recently received from PavCo senior staff calls out authorities’ inability to prove the health hazards of video billboards. The person intimates that since the video billboards have not yet been conclusively proven to be hazardous to people’s physical health – that is, to cause debilitating illness and disease – that PavCo is correct in its assertion that the screens are acceptable.  This statement typifies the gross irrationality which has characterised PavCo’s response on this issue, and we residents expect that the new PavCo Board will use a criteria more reasonable than disease and illness in their determination that these billboards easily breach unacceptable levels of liveability for residents.

This begs the question, if PavCo did not follow any city bylaws or standards of liveability when designing and building this intrusive infrastructure within a dense residential community, then what standards did it follow?  Surely a reasonable PavCo leadership would have to agree that some sort of standards of practice, some guidelines or some best practices must be employed when erecting three giant screens with the capacity to vastly aggress residents in all directions surrounding BC Place.  Surprisingly, this question has not yet been answered by the PavCo management.  Simply put, it has not yet been demonstrated that any measures or standards of liveability were employed when planning for the erection of these billboards. With PavCo’s claimed exemption from city bylaws, and with no existing provincial guidelines to employ, the previous PavCo leadership effectively rode roughshod over this community.