Homeless in Vancouver: Update on the little West Broadway blackout

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      Power returned 15 minutes early to a city block at the intersection of West Broadway and South Granville, following B.C. Hydro’s planned nine-hour outage, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, February 16.

      But there was no longer any trace of Hydro’s wooden H-frame utility pole platform in the mouth of the laneway separating 1489 and 1465 West Broadway.

      Apparently that had been the entire purpose of the Hydro outage—to remove power transmission infrastructure from the 213.7 square metres-worth of laneway.

      It was purchased in December from the City of Vancouver for $3.7 million by PCI Developments, as part of its consolidated redevelopment of 1465-1489 West Broadway.

      Just before 5 p.m., B.C. Hydro contractors work on a relocated utility pole platform, now a few metres north of the back end of the soon to be redeveloped 1489 West Broadway.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      In fact, B.C. Hydro ended up rebuildings said H-grame platform little more than 12 metres north—out of the path of PCI’s redevelopment and into the laneway still owned by the city. And the number of electrical transformers sharing the new platform has visibly increased—from three to four.

      Unfortunately, this developer-centric exercise had the wider consequence of taking away a Sunday’s worth of business from the majority of retailers in the affected area (not to mention the wages lost by their employees).

      Developers and big business have the power

      “Closed today due to power outage. Open tomorrow. Sorry for the inconvenience,” read the sign on the door of City Vaper at 3:41 p.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      All the small businesses on the north side of the 1400 block of West Broadway that normally would have been open Sunday were closed due to the power outage, including City Vaper, Portobello Ristorante, Deserres, Express Pho, and Jitlada.

      And before too many months pass, all these same businesses know that they will be evicted permanently.

      The buildings they occupy are all slated for demolition, to make way for the cut-and-cover construction of the Granville Street subway station—the entrance of which will be in PCI’s corner redevelopment.

      Contrary to the sign on the door, the Portobello Ristorante did not even open at 6 p.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      While the majority of businesses in the 18 buildings affected by Sunday’s power outage on West Broadway were given no choice but to stay shut for the day, PCI went to some trouble and expense to provide generator power for two of the buildings.

      One that received a generator, courtesy of PCI Developments, was the Dick Building, on the southwest corner of the block, which houses both a McDonald’s and a Blenz Coffee. The other building was 1401 West Broadway—the only one on the north side of the 1400 block not marked for Broadway subway-related demolition.

      While I cannot prove that 1401 West Broadway is owned by the PCI Group, I do know that it is managed by a PCI Group company called Warrington PCI Management.

      Boundary of Sunday’s planned power outage and the two buildings that received generators (green).
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      And on Sunday, while the rest of the north side of the 1400 block of West Broadway suffered through the power outage, I was certain that the distinctive roar I could hear emanating from the underground parkade of 1401 belonged to a diesel generator.

      What I heard chugging away in the parkade was likely one, or both, of the diesel generators that a worker told me Saturday evening had been relocated from the alley between 1465 and 1498 West Broadway—specifically to provide power elsewhere on the north side of the 1400 block during the outage.

      For over two weeks these two generators had been running 24 hours a day, five days a week, apparently going through two large tankers-worth of diesel fuel a week.

      By Friday (February 14) they were nowhere to be seen.

      At the same time, another—even larger—diesel generator was hauled in to provide power for the Dick Building during the outage.

      Almost missed the power outage by that much!

      The big diesel generator that was big let down for the Dick Building.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Saturday evening at 11:30, a worker who was guarding the generator in the alley on the south side of the 1400 block, behind the Dick Building, couldn’t tell me how many litres of diesel it held. But he estimated, loftily, that it was enough to provide three days-worth of continuous electricity.

      In the event, however, it apparently managed no more than 11 hours-worth.

      The plan had been to have the generator hooked up and providing power to the Dick Building before 5 a.m. Sunday morning, when the first of the building’s three-ground floor retail tenants opened for business; this was the McDonald’s at 1482 West Broadway.

      However, I’m told that the McDonald’s was still closed at 8 a.m., with staff milling about inside the restaurant and a sign on the locked door blaming the power outage.

      The generator was certainly hard at work when I arrived in the area at 3 p.m. Alone of the affected retail in the 1400 block of West Broadway, the McDonald’s and the Blenz Coffee in the Dick Building were open for business.

      At 6:30 p.m, 45 minutes after the power outage had ended, someone with Mott Electric explained to McDonald’s management that it would stay on generator power and only switch back to the city mains after the restaurant closed at midnight.

      Looking out from inside the dark McDonald’s at the bright lights of the 1400 block of West Broadway.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      When the McDonald’s was pitched into the better part of darkness less than two hour later, my reaction was as much amusement as surprise.

      So much for the generator being good for three days, I thought.

      Cash registers and kitchen equipment were, of course, bricked by the loss of generator power and there was no lighting save a few emergency flood lights. Restaurant management had no choice but to hurry customers out of the restaurant,

      However, while one of the McD’s young staff could be heard reacting with shock that the loss of power had somehow disabled the fountain drink dispenser, there was evidence that a small amount of electricity continued to flow into the restaurant—through its phone lines.

      While I was leaving the restaurant I could still hear the inconvenient “bing bing bing” of mobile orders coming in.