British Columbia

City of Vancouver sues developer to force repair of damaged mansion

The City of Vancouver is headed to B.C. Supreme Court in a bid to force a prominent developer to repair a storied $14 million mansion ravaged by fire.

Storied $14M home that once housed legendary publisher now under threat of rodent infestation

The City of Vancouver included this picture of fire damage to a $14 million Shaughnessy mansion as part of a legal bid to force the owners to fix fire damage. (City of Vancouver/BC Supreme Court)

The City of Vancouver is headed to B.C. Supreme Court in a bid to force a prominent developer to repair a storied $14 million mansion ravaged by fire.

According to court documents, the 1911 Shaughnessy home that once hosted Vancouver's wealthy and powerful is now at threat of rodent infestation and water damage.

The city has filed a petition seeking to declare owners Miao Fei Pan and Wen Huan Yang in violation of its Heritage Standards ByLaw.

The city also wants an order to force the couple to hire registered professionals to come up with a plan to repair the building and then retain a contractor within 15 days of the issuance of applicable permits.

'He felt he was deceived'

The court filings are the latest move in a situation that began with what officials claimed was a suspicious fire on the grounds of the Angus Drive home on Oct. 22, 2017.

According to an assessment report, Pan and Yang bought the property for $10.7 million in 2012.

Pan made headlines in 2016 after he hosted a fundraiser with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at another mansion he owns in West Vancouver.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen here at a fundraiser held at the West Vancouver mansion of developer Miao Fei Pan. (Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the Wenszhou People's Government)

A fire incident report included in the petition claims fire officials called Pan and Yang on the night of the fire, but a language barrier prevented any questioning of the owners.

"Neighbours in passing stated that house had been vacant for approximately five years," the incident report says.

"The previous owner [unknown] was on scene and spoke with [Vancouver Police]. Stated that he sold the home several years ago. After the sale, he was notified by a lawyer that the new owner wanted to sue him. This was due to the fact he felt he was deceived by not being aware this house is protected by the city and is not able to be demolished and rebuilt as a new home."

The court documents say fire investigators took into evidence a cigarette package and a bottle of charcoal starter found in the house.

No charges have ever been filed in association with the fire.

Ordered to 'prevent further damage'

The blaze caused significant damage to the roof and walls of the building.

According to the petition, days after the fire, the city's chief building inspector ordered Pan and Yang to repair and maintain the building so as to "reasonably prevent further damage caused by weather, infestation, rot or similar decay."

A deadline was issued for Nov. 15, 2017.

The fire caused significant damage to the roof and walls of the building. The city has ordered the owners to repair and maintain the property. (Susana da Silva/CBC)

The deadline was twice extended, but the city says the couple never complied with the order.

In June, they were charged under the city's heritage bylaw with failing to comply with an order and failing to prevent damage caused by weather or decay.

Pan and Yang have not filed a response to the petition. A legal representative said they were not in a position to comment on the matter.

'Testament to the lifestyle of wealthy'

The petition includes an affidavit from heritage consultant Elana Zysblat, describing the architectural and cultural significance of the home.

The property is known as the Frank William Rounsefell residence for its association with the wealthy businessman and community leader who first owned it.

The City of Vancouver's B.C. Supreme Court petition includes copies of the original blueprint drawings for the 1911 Shaughnessy mansion. (City of Vancouver/BC Supreme Court)

"The residence is an excellent, intact example of the Arts & Crafts Style ... with its irregular and asymmetric plan, its horizontal orientation and its mixed materials cladding featuring wood shingles, stucco and decorative half-timbering," Zysblat wrote.

"The house design with its generous grounds, broad multi-gabled roof, prominent verandas and chimneys and its extensive, wide bands of divided light windows stands testament to the lifestyle of wealthy Shaughnessy families."

After Rounsefell's death in 1938, his wife began renting out the coach house in 1945.

In 1954, the property was bought by Don Cromie, described in an obituary as the "wealthy, generous, vindictive, creative, eclectic publisher" of the Vancouver Sun.

Cromie added a pool and cabana and was renowned for holding raucous parties.

The property was later sold to a B.C. educational pioneer and the coach house rented out to an architect who ran the Classical Joint jazz club by night.

According to the petition, the Heritage Standards Bylaw sets out a scheme to "ensure that protected heritage property and property that is within a heritage conservation area is preserved for future generations and does not deteriorate due to lack of repair, maintenance and conservation."

The city claims there are "no exceptional circumstances" that could prevent the court issuing an order.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

About the Author

Jason Proctor


Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.