Parkdale residents fail to block basement suite for problem landlord

People living in an inner-city neighbourhood have lost their appeal to block a plan to open a basement suite by a landlord they accuse of putting the rest of the community in danger.

Frustrated residents have been fighting for the past decade and feel let down by city, community league says

Dorothea Thielmann says she's had to deal with property damage and trespassing, living across from one of the properties. (CBC)

Residents of an inner-city neighbourhood have lost an appeal they hoped would block a basement suite planned by a landlord they accuse of putting the rest of the community in danger.

Neighbours on Thursday asked the city to reverse its decision to allow Abdullah Shah, formerly known as Carmen Pervez, to build a secondary suite in the basement of the home on 87th Street and 113rd Avenue.

But Sheila McDonald, director of tribunals for the city, said Friday morning the subdivision development and appeal board had denied the community league's appeal.

"It's frustrating," said Richard Williams, vice-president of the Parkdale-Cromdale Community League. "We're constantly fighting. We have for the last decade. Various people have been involved, trying to stop the problem tenants, and the problem tenants generally are connected to slum landlords. This whole issue is much bigger than this one appeal."

The city bylaw, he said, states that development officers "should consider whether a development materially interferes with or affects the use, enjoyment or value of neighbouring properties. This is an example where we think it would impact those properties."

Residents in the area say Shah, who owns four other rental properties on the street, is an absentee landlord whose tenants are often out of control.

"We have so many examples and so much evidence of tenants in this property causing those issues to the neighbours that we can't fathom why this has been approved," said Williams.

He said Parkdale residents have had to deal with everything from noise complaints and graffiti to shootings and street brawls. He said Shah often rents the home to too many tenants, and shows little concern when they cause damage to his property or others in the neighbourhood.

"Some of them, you know, they're in tears, they can't sleep, their health is suffering, their properties are suffering," Williams said of the neighbours. "The morale of the community can suffer with something like this."

In May, the city approved Shah's application for a secondary suite on the property. The community league appealed that decision, citing a long list of complaints with the property including loud parties, property damage and excessive garbage.

On Thursday, Parkdale residents voiced their concerns before the subdivision appeals board, urging it to reverse the decision.

Dorothea Thielmann lives across the alley from one of Shah's properties.

"My garage has been used," Thielmann told CBC News after the hearing. "My fence has been totally been smashed in. The neighbourhood has really gone downhill."

She said over the years, she has seen the house used to deal drugs and as a car salvage business. She has even been forced to barricade her garage, because the tenants have taken to using it.

"It's wearing us out," she said. "It's very tiring. Exhausting, frustrating, maddening."

Thielmann said she has repeatedly appealed to both the mayor and city council to help deal with the issue, but has been ignored.

Shah did not respond to requests for comment and did not attend the hearing.

However, Sarah Fassman, who has managed properties with him for several years, did make a presentation before the board.

She said the Shah properties are often rented to people who would otherwise be homeless.

"There is a demographic of the population in Edmonton that may be a little bit troublesome, that we could actually focus and help a little bit more," she said. "We have to accommodate for everybody."

Fassman thinks neighbours might be discriminating against Shah, who has a criminal record stemming from a conviction for $30-million mortgage fraud in 2008, before he changed his name.

The written decision with reasons for the appeal board's decision will be posted on the city website Aug. 21, McDonald said.

Williams said the community will now go back to the city, to ask officials how residents can deal with such problems if the appeal board can't or won't help them.

"We're also open to working with the tenants themselves," he said. "A lot of them are not bad folks. Some are. Some are just in a tight spot, and they don't have any choice but to live in a slum property."


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