East Van theatre sign to advertise smelly neighbour

Some residents of Vancouver's Commercial Drive area say the proposed sign for a local community theatre, that would advertise West Coast Reduction, stinks.

Some area residents don't want to see the stinky plant's name up in lights

West Coast Reduction is a sponsor of renovated York Theatre 1:37

Some East Vancouver residents say the proposed sign for a local community theatre stinks.

Renovations are wrapping up for the 100-year-old York Theatre on Commercial Drive at East Georgia Street, and part of the new face for the old playhouse includes an LED-lit sign for a corporate sponsor.

The current proposal has the local meat rendering plant's name up in lights.

The north end of Commercial Drive is part of the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, and has been part-industrial and part-residential for decades.

At the very northern tip, the neighbourhood gives way to port land, and that's where West Coast Reduction has been operating for nearly 50 years.

But on some days, especially in warmer weather, the odour from the plant seeps into the neighbourhood, making it aromatically unlivable.

Longtime Cultch supporter

West Coast Reduction has been donating money for years to the The Cultch, a popular performance arts hub that will also be running the revived York Theatre.

West Coast Reduction operates a rendering plant off the northern tip of Commercial Drive, accessible on Stewart Street on Port Metro Vancouver property. (CBC)

Heather Redfern, executive director at The Cultch, said the plant's owners are philanthropists who have been donating to the cultural centre for 22 years.

"This relationship is incredibly important for The York and The Cultch, because West Coast Reduction will be contributing $2 million to our operation, which we desperately need," she said.

Redfern said her organization wants to acknowledge that — but adding a corporate sponsor to the sign would need approval from Vancouver's city council.

Battle over bouquet

Some local residents say they would oppose the sign, because the rendering plant has been subjecting them to its stench for years.

Ken Ingram, director of technical and environmental services for West Coast Reduction, says the company is doing all it can to mitigate its emissions.

"West Coast Reduction uses the best available technology for odour control. In fact, we just recently spent a couple million dollars upgrading," he said.

Local resident Melva Forsberg says she phone the city throughout the summer to report the episodes of bad smells. She doesn't feel enough is being done.

"It's a greenwash. They're trying to make themselves look like good corporate citizens," she said. "I know they do good things but they could do something about the stench."

The York Theatre's grand opening is scheduled for December. Forsberg says that if the sign is approved, she won't be going to that, or to any of The Cultch's shows.

With files from the CBC's Therera Lalonde and Jesara Sinclair