A Clayton landlord says Freedom of Information requests prove the City of Surrey is lying about parking complaints it has received in East Clayton.
Greg Garner says the city is “misleading the public about why they are proceeding with these mass evictions” after 175 landlords received notices that the city would fine and take them to court if they didn’t remove suites by Jan. 31, 2018.
Bylaw manager Jas Rehal previously stated there were 7,600 complaints in three years, however an FOI document states that amount was received over five years, from 2013-2017.
Rehal acknowledged that he “should’ve said five years” not three.
The city says the crackdown is an effort to resolve parking issues that have plagued the area for years, but Garner says the FOI shows the number of complaints are being inflated.
But residents didn’t stop there. Garner and several other targeted landlords FOI’d complaints against their property.
This, after Rehal told the Now-Leader that enforcement is “definitely complaint based.”
Garner said the results were “staggering.” Of the eight parking complaints associated with seven of the homes in the FOI, not one contained a license plate number.
Some properties didn’t have a single complaint.
One response from City of Surrey FOI Assistant Jennifer Baetz for a property on 72A Avenue stated, “The Bylaws Division conducted a search of records related to complaints, including parking complaints, for your address. The records related to parking complaints were gathered from a database search of the City’s third party provider for parking services, Concord Security Corporation.
It adds: “We have confirmed with the Bylaws Division, there are no records of complaints related to your address other than the records enclosed.”
In response to another property on 68th Avenue, the FOI response stated the “Bylaws Division did not locate any parking complaints specifically related to the address.”
As for the homes that did have complaints, Garner says there would be no way to know who a vehicle parked on the street belonged to or connect it to a residence.
For example, a property on 195A Street had two complaints: one about vehicles blocking the laneway in 2014 and a subsequent one about a U-Haul truck being parked in the residential area all day.
Another example of this is a property on 72A Avenue about a car parked too close to a walkway.
And a property on 68th Avenue had a parking complaint lodged against it from 2016 regarding a vehicle and trailer, which had “Big Jesus billboards” on it.
The complaint said it parked in the same spot for over a week, taking up three parking stalls and obstructing the bike lane.
“This vehicle is well known in Clayton and belonged to the neighbour, yet the city registered the complaint against this homeowner,” said Garner.
He said the city is lying about the number of complaints, and says the statement they are relying on complaints to guide enforcement is also false.
“Residents of Clayton could unknowingly have parking complaints documented against their home in city databases without knowing it because someone you have never met parked illegally in front of your home,” said Garner.
“I would urge Surrey residents to call the city and get this rectified as maybe down the road they will use this information to do arbitrary enforcement on your home.”
Asked about the FOI results and the discrepancy between what the city has said, Rehal emailed this statement to the Now-Leader on Nov. 23.
“Enforcement is complaint based, but we also take into account the history of the property in our system (previous files/suite investigations), parking complaints in the surrounding area, and parking complaints on specific streets. We review all the relevant information that we have on hand and take the appropriate steps.”
Prior to that email, on Nov. 15, Rehal told the Now-Leader the 7,600 complaints are not tied to a specific address.
Rather, Rehal said the city has received 298 complaints this year that were tied to a specific address and “that wasn’t included in the FOI because it wasn’t asked for” or there was more information available if the applicants wished to pay a fee.
“We released what we could now, and responded back with a fee estimate to do more digging,” Rehal noted.
“That was not released so that’s some of the confusion.”
But Garner says his FOIs against seven properties have searched both of the city’s databases — Posse and Concord — so there is no avenue left to find complaints.
“I expect my elected officials and city representatives to be truthful and this clearly hasn’t happened in this case,” he said.
“It is easy to be truthful in this case, 7,600 parking complaints in five years, based on the FOI information provided. There shouldn’t be any variance in reporting this number but yet there has been.”
Furthermore, Garner questions how the city can “legally and morally use this inaccurate data” to evict people.
“The city themselves has said a blanket enforcement approach does not work yet they are using this approach on 175 homes in Clayton,” Garner stated.
Meantime, the city’s effort to crackdown on the many illegal suites in Clayton is still “on hold” after Surrey city council asked staff how they’re going to work with tenants in illegal suites.
While a report to council in October noted staff have received significant positive feedback about the move, it has also been met by much opposition, both from landlords, but also the tenants living in the homes.
During that meeting, Councillor Bruce Hayne said he’d “like to see more on this corporate report from staff.”
While Hayne and several other councillors said there was no point in having bylaws in the city if they’re not enforced, he acknowledged this is a “human issue” and said “we have to work very closely and compassionately with the community.”
Haye said he’d “like to see more information from staff on how staff is going to work with the community, how we’re going to communicate with the community, to achieve these goals.”
That report has yet to materialize.
Councillor Judy Villeneuve told the Now-Leader that staff expect to have a report before council before the end of 2017, and that the city is “not taking any further action until we get the report back.”