Site of demolished home at centre of contentious lawsuit may be declared a 'nuisance'

The former site of a modernist mansion that was torn down without the owner's signed approval could be formally declared a nuisance after Vancouver city councillors meet this week.

The house at 6289 Carnarvon St. in Vancouver was demolished in 2015, without the owner's signature

The empty lot at 6289 Carnarvon St. in Vancouver has been unattended since the house was demolished in 2015. (Bethany Lindsay/CBC)

UPDATE, Dec. 19, 2018: Abandoned site of Vancouver mansion demolished by owner's ex declared a 'public nuisance'


The former site of a modernist mansion that was torn down without the owner's signed approval could be formally declared a nuisance after Vancouver city councillors meet this week.

City staff have recommended the empty foundation and abandoned construction crane at 6289 Carnarvon St. be recognized as a danger to public safety. Declaring it a nuisance would give city workers the right to clean up the property without the owner's permission if it isn't taken care of.

"The chief building official considers the crane and excavation to amount to a danger to the public safety, and a nuisance," a report from staff reads. "The excavation is temporary in nature and not designed to be left for an extended and unmanaged period of time."

The home that used to stand on the property was demolished more than three years ago in the midst of a contentious divorce between the owner, Jin Fang Li, and her then-husband, Shen Yun Dong. Documents obtained by CBC show that a demolition permit was issued in Dong's name, without a signature from Li — she alleges he conspired to have it torn down while she was out of the country.

The matter is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by Li against Dong, the city and the contractors and architect allegedly involved in the demolition.

In the meantime, the property has been left to decline, unattended. After a rainy day, puddles as deep as 60 centimetres form inside the empty foundation, according to the city, and staff have raised concerns about the erosion of neighbouring properties.

The home was in a state of disrepair when crews arrived to demolish it. (Billard Architecture)

Over the past year, the city has issued two orders related to the site. The first, dating to February, ordered the owner to retain a geological engineer to assess the site's safety. The second, issued in September, ordered her to remove the crane and fill in the hole.

Li has not complied with either order, the city says, and a prosecutor has approved charges for non-compliance.

If councillors approve the resolution to declare the site a nuisance, Li will have 60 days to remove the crane and fill in the hole. If she fails to do that, the city's chief building inspector will be allowed to "take any and all steps necessary" to remedy the situation, including hiring contractors fix up the site.

The inspector would then be allowed to sell the crane after 30 days to cover some of the costs of the cleanup.

Council's standing committee on policy and strategic priorities will consider the proposed resolution at a meeting Wednesday.

The house was designed by modernist architect Daniel Evan White. (Billard Architecture)

Li, who has been the property's sole owner since 2012, filed suit over the destruction of the home in August 2016. In her statement of claim, she says she planned to live in the 10,000-square-foot home with her daughter after completing renovations.

Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request confirm Li received a permit to update the interior and exterior of the home, designed by the influential West Coast modernist Daniel Evan White.

But in June 2014, another application was submitted to tear down the house. It included an owner's undertaking, which is required by the city for any demolition project. Though Li is identified as the owner in that document, the space where her signature should be was left blank.

Li alleges the city was negligent in issuing the demolition permit without her signature. City officials have declined to comment on the case, citing the pending litigation.

The whereabouts of Li and Dong are unknown.

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay has more than a decade of experience in B.C. journalism, with a focus on the courts, health and social justice issues. She has also reported on human rights and crimes against humanity in Cambodia. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.