Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Live Work Space for Artists

with 5 comments

An important, an regrettably often overlooked, feature of civilisation is “arts-and-culture”. The Premier made a nice big announcement yesterday about funding to move the Vancouver Art Gallery. Nothing like $50m to grab people’s attention. But yesterday at the SFU meeting I was handed the following documents. They relate to the treatment of artists working in Vancouver.

The creation of live work spaces required City Hall to bend its collective head around a concept foreign to them. That people could both live and work in the same building – even in the same space. Our conventional  zoning wisdom is that residential and commercial spaces must be located in different areas. The two activities are seen as mutually exclusive. This dates back to the early days of planning, when employment was mostly in factories and “dark satanic mills”. The separation of land uses was seen as the first step to environmental protection, as factories were dirty, noisy and smelly and should be remote from dwellings. In fact, for most of human history where we lived and where we worked were the same place. The idea that they must be separate is taking a long while to kill, but gradually mixed use developments – places where you can live over the shop – and live work spaces are becoming accepted. Of course, no-one can force you to work in your live work space, and many people have decided they like living in lofts even if they do not need a studio. And in Vancouver, of course, competition for space is a very serious business indeed.

Live work spaces for artists were once seen as an important part of the city’s cultural life and buildings had all kinds of conditions imposed on them to ensure that this role was protected, but somehow this message seems to fall on deaf ears when it comes to our courts.

The rest of this post is an OCR scan from the documents I was given last night:

 A Statement by Robert Gardiner

It is critically important to release certain factual information, now that there is no longer a case before the courts. I think the public has a right and, I think, a keen interest in such matters as housing and arts
and culture.

As citizens of and stakeholders in our communities at large, these actions of landlords and/or decisions by justices made in the courts affect us all; often quite directly on a civic level, and as Canadians as a
whole.

There is now no legislative protection (such as the Residential Tenancy Act) to protect artists living and working in live/work studios from landlords that see fit to increase rents to literally any amount.

Up to 2007, every effort by my landlord to increase my rent beyond allowable limits under the RTA were denied by the RTB and the Courts of B.C. by ruling that live/work studios were covered under RTA
legislation.  The recent decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal changes that, and could result in dramatic rent increases for artists living in live/work studios.

In light of the huge impact this will have on all artists in similar situations (since case law will have a direct bearing on new cases that will undoubtedly come before the courts in the future), I believe it is time to quickly move to change the laws in the B.C. Legislature, and civically in Vancouver, to protect the hundreds of artists – and the art and cultural initiatives that they provide – as valuable participants in and contributors to our communities.

From:   Robert Gardiner
Sent:    Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Subject: Media Release – AFFORDABLE LIVE/WORK STUDIOS THREATENED
For Immediate Release

Affordable Live/Work Studios Threatened By Court Ruling

A recent ruling by the B.C. Court of Appeal threatens all renters of live-work premises with dramatic rent increases.  This could most seriously affect low-income artists who rent live/work studios in order to produce their art. And combined with the possible loss of artist’s studios at 901 Main, could greatly reduce the availability of affordable artist’s studio space within the City of Vancouver.

Robert Gardiner, an artist who has rented an artist’s live/work studio at 857 Beatty Street in Vancouver for sixteen years, is threatened with immediate eviction following a February 21, 2008, ruling by the B.C. Court of Appeal. That ruling upheld his landlord’s right to double the rent for the 70% portion of Mr. Gardiner’s
studio that is legally designated for “work,” effectively making Mr. Gardiner’s live/work studio unaffordable for him.

Yet when the old warehouse at 857 Beatty Street was converted for artist’s live/work studios in 1988, the City of Vancouver specified that the studios were to be “affordable” for artists as one of many conditions of the development.

In the case before the Court of Appeal, Mr. Gardiner was appealing the decision of the Supreme Court of B.C. in September, 2007, which dismissed his petition seeking a judicial review of the decision of a Dispute Resolution Officer at the Residential Tenancy Branch that the Residential Tenancy Act of B.C. did not apply to Mr. Gardiner’s live/work studio, on the basis that the premises “are primarily occupied for business purposes.”
Not only is Mr. Gardiner facing immediate eviction as a result of this ruling, all other tenants of live/work premises may now be threatened with dramatically high rent increases no longer limited to 4% annually under the Residential Tenancy Act.

-30-

Contact: Robert Gardiner          604-488-1599

Written by Stephen Rees

March 8, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

5 Responses

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  4. See also, this Globe and Mail article by MARSHA LEDERMAN from January 1, 2008 at skyscraperpage.com

    “A plan to end Vancouver’s theatrical brain drain. University of British Columbia theatre-design prof Robert Gardiner says his city urgently needs a permanent multipurpose arts incubator – and he’s not the only one feeling the crunch…

    Gardiner’s not-so-modest proposal would see part of the eight-hectare Great Northern Way Campus in East Vancouver – owned and operated jointly by four postsecondary institutions as an extension of their teaching spaces – transformed into a grand permanent production and rehearsal facility for the artistic community. He calls it “the Great Northern Way Art Factory, a creation, infrastructure and production centre.” The broad artistic mandate, formal structure and funding model would make the facility unique, he says, in Canada – and possibly North America….”

    forum.skyscraperpage.com/archive/index.php/t-143634.html

    And this CTV news article:

    Artist fights eviction from live/work studio
    Updated: Mon Mar. 10 2008 07:05:03

    At any moment, artist Robert Gardiner could be evicted from his live/work studio in a hundred-year-old building on Beatty Street.

    He won’t abide by his landlord’s attempt to double his rent of the home he’s lived in for 16 years, and so he isn’t paying. Gardiner says a designation by the city that the space should remain an artist’s building should stand.

    ctvbc.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20080309/BC_Evicted_Artist_080309/20080310/?hub=BritishColumbiaHome

    jmv

    March 16, 2008 at 12:20 pm

  5. this is a problem all over the world it seems. my converted warehouse space was bought out and developed and pretty much most of the area around me. buildings are being bought by real estate gurus who convert the space into lofts for lawyers and doctors. the artist find the spaces and then get bought out. it sux

    zynmaster

    September 10, 2008 at 11:40 pm


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