Complaint against Sutton West Coast over the disruption of AG David Eby’s town hall

I’ve just filed a complaint against Sutton West Coast over the part they played in disrupting BC Attorney General David Eby’s town hall.

Here’s the full text of my complaint:

  1. Sutton Group West Coast Realty (“Sutton West Coast”) took out a full page advertisement on Vancouver Courier newspaper published on or about 2018 April 28 urging supporters to disrupt Attorney General David Eby’s planned town hall with his constituents.
  2. This advertisement, and similar call by BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, forced Mr. Eby to cancel the event owing to security reasons.
  3. The wording of the call for action in Sutton West Coast’s advertisement was “Regardless of whether or not the Hall is full, demonstrate your opposition to these taxes and make your voice heard by attending:” followed by details of Mr. Eby’ town hall. The “Regardless of whether or not the Hall is full” was underlined in the original advertisement.
  4. Similarly, Mr. Wilkinson, urged his supporters to protest at Mr. Eby’s town hall “whether you have a ticket or not”.
  5. An elected MLA has a duty to meet with his or her constituents. In turn, the constituents have a right to meet their MLA. Sutton West Coast’s advertisement, singularly or in conjunction with Mr. Wilkinson’s letter, amounts to a deliberate disruption of the democratic process. It deprives the constituents of their democratic rights, and prevents an elected official from carrying out their democratic duties.
  6. Section 35(2) of the Real Estate Services Act states :
    A licensee commits conduct unbecoming a licensee if the licensee engages in conduct that, in the judgment of a discipline committee,
    (a) is contrary to the best interests of the public,

    (b) undermines public confidence in the real estate industry, or

    (c) brings the real estate industry into disrepute.
  7. It is plain and obvious that Sutton West Coast has violated Section 35(2) of the Real Estate Service Act as inciting mobs to sabotage a democratic process is contrary to the best interests of the public, undermines public confidence in the real estate industry, and brings the real estate industry into disrepute.
  8. Candice Dyer is named as the managing broker of Sutton West Coast.
  9. Section 6 (2) of the Act states:
    A managing broker licensed in relation to a brokerage acts for the brokerage for all purposes under this Act, and is responsible for

    (c) the control and conduct of the brokerage’s real estate business, including supervision of the associate brokers and representatives who are licensed in relation to the brokerage.
  10. Therefore, Ms. Dyer is named as the licensee against whom the complaint is made.

Letter to Andrew Wilkinson: Please don’t incite violence against political opponents

Andrew Wilkinson, MLA
Leader of the Official Opposition
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

2018 May 01

Please don’t incite violence against political opponents

Dear Mr. Wilkinson,

I’m greatly alarmed to learn that you have recently incited mob violence against British Columbia Attorney General David Eby, forcing him to cancel a planned town hall on the speculation tax. Your conduct is both undemocratic, and unbecoming of a person of your intellect, calibre and stature.

Fom Mussolini to Mugabe, intimidating one’s political opponents through violence is a depraved tactic only the most despotic dictators have engaged in. And history has shown us that once politicians divide societies by means of violent polarization, they send those societies down a path of certain ruin. Is that what you want for British Columbia?

While I’m aware that you have made a career of representing big tobacco1)https://thinkpol.ca/2018/02/05/bc-liberal-leader-batted-big-tobacco-bc/ and corrupt businessmen from China2)https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/new-bc-liberal-candidate-has-ties-to-shuttered-pulp-mill/article8798196/ against BC, I want to believe that you did so for the money, and not out of some deep rooted hatred towards your fellow British Columbians.

I, like you, am an immigrant to Canada. I learned while studying for my citizenship test that the role of the opposition in a parliamentary democracy is to “peacefully oppose or try to improve government proposals.”3)https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/discover-canada/read-online/federal-elections.html(Emphasis Mine.)

A town hall is one of the most inclusive forms of democratic discourse. By inciting mobs to violently disrupt a town hall, not only are you compromising the safety and security of an elected official and civilians who wish to engage with him, you’re also undermining our democratic institutions.

I urge you: stop. Stop inciting violence. Take the honourable path and restore civility by apologizing to Mr. Eby and asking your supporters to refrain from violence.

Thank you,

Rohana Rezel

References   [ + ]

1. https://thinkpol.ca/2018/02/05/bc-liberal-leader-batted-big-tobacco-bc/
2. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/new-bc-liberal-candidate-has-ties-to-shuttered-pulp-mill/article8798196/
3. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/discover-canada/read-online/federal-elections.html

Airbnb has caused my rent to go up by $750. I want Airbnb to pay up.

A UCLA study has found that “that a 1% increase in Airbnb listings leads to a 0.018% increase in rents.”. Short term rentals have been illegal in Vancouver until April 18, 2018, but Airbnb listings have grown by over 270% between 2013 and 2018. Applying the UCLA model, Airbnb has lead to a 4.87% rent increase in Vancouver. That works out to $3,397.17, or, more than $750 extra annually for me. It’s time for Airbnb to compensate renters of Vancouver.

The following is my demand letter to Airbnb.

Airbnb, Inc.,
888 Brannan Street,
4th Floor, San Francisco,
CA 94103,
United States

April 28, 2018

Dear Sir or Madam,

Demand Letter

Facts

1. Between Jan 1, 2013 (or earlier) and April 18, 2018, Airbnb has operated or caused to operate illegal short term rentals in the City of Vancouver in violation of City of Vancouver Zoning & Development Bylaw 3575 as in force in that period, specifically:

Section 10.19.4: No person shall use or permit to be used any sleeping unit for a period of less than one month unless such unit forms part of a hotel.

Section 10.21.6: No person shall use or permit to be used any dwelling unit for a period of less than one month unless such unit forms part of a hotel or is used for bed and breakfast accommodation.

2. Based on data provided by Airbnb 1)https://2sqy5r1jf93u30kwzc1smfqt-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/VancouverReport_finalcopy_June-1.pdf and the City of Vancouver 2)http://council.vancouver.ca/documents/pspc7_000.pdf, the number of Airbnb units have increased from 1,800 in 2013 to 6,667 as of March 2018, and increase of 270.39%.

3. A UCLA study has found that “a 1% increase in Airbnb listings leads to a 0.018% increase in rents” 3)https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3006832.

4. Based on the UCLA study, Airbnb is responsible for a 4.87% rent increase.

5. I moved to Vancouver in November 2013. Between then and April 2018, I have paid $69,800 in rent.

6. Thus, applying UCLA model to Vancouver, $3,397.17 of my rents are an increase attributable to Airbnb’s illegal operations in Vancouver.

Demand

Based on the facts above, the I hereby demand the following from you:

Payment of $3,397.17 as restitution for damages suffered as a result of rent increases caused by Airbnb operating, or causing to operate, illegal short term rentals in Vancouver.

Please confirm in writing that you have complied with the above demands within thirty (30) days of this letter.

Please note that if I have to commence legal proceedings in order to require your performance of the above actions, this letter will be tendered in court as evidence of your failure to attempt to resolve this matter. Further, you may be liable for any court costs, attorney fees and damages, including punitive damages.

You might want to contact a lawyer to discuss your legal rights and responsibilities.

Yours sincerely,

Rohana Rezel

References   [ + ]

1. https://2sqy5r1jf93u30kwzc1smfqt-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/VancouverReport_finalcopy_June-1.pdf
2. http://council.vancouver.ca/documents/pspc7_000.pdf
3. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3006832

City of Vancouver doesn’t think Airbnb’s influence on the City Hall is a matter of public interest

Would attempts by a multi-billion dollar corporation to influence city administration be considered a matter of public interest?

City of Vancouver does not think so.

On November 3, 2017, I sent the following freedom of information request to the Freedom of Information office of the City of Vancouver by email:

Copies of all documents, including emails, memos, briefing notes, powerpoint presentations, manuals, and Q&As containing the words “AIRBNB” or “ALEX DAGG” or “SHORT TERM RENTAL” or “PUBLIC HEARING” for the time period Sep 1, 2017 to Oct 30, 2017.

Following correspondence from the FOI office, on November 10, 2017, the FOI request was modified as follows:

Copies of all documents including emails, memos, briefing notes, power point presentations, manuals, and Q&A’s containing the words “AIRBNB” or “ALEX DAGG” or “SHORT TERM RENTAL” or “PUBLIC HEARING” from September 1, 2017 to October 30, 2017 to or from Mayor Robertson, Kaye Krishna, and Janice MacKenzie.

On November 23, 2017, the FOI office assessed a fee of $690 to fulfill the request.

On November 30, 2017, I requested a fee waiver on the grounds that the information sought was a matter of public interest and public safety, as per Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, ss. 75(1), 75(5)(b) and BC Housing (Re), 2014 BCIPC 45:

I wish request a fee waiver on the grounds of public interest .

Has the subject matter been a matter of recent public debate?
Yes. The City of Vancouver’s inaction on the Airbnb file, and the new bylaws, have been widely publicized in the media and debated in forums.

Does the subject of the records relate directly to the environment, public health or safety?
Yes. The public may be at risk of various property crimes and fraud associated with Airbnb.

Would dissemination of the information yield a public benefit by
– disclosing an environmental, public health or safety concern
– contributing meaningfully to the development or understanding of an important environmental, health, or safety issue, or
– assisting public understanding of an important policy, law, program, or service?

Yes. Short term rentals are a public safety concern. Politicians being influenced by large corporations is a public safety concern. Releasing the information requested will contribute contributing meaningfully to the development or understanding of the issue. Given the allegations of City officials’ involvement with Airbnb, it would assist public understanding of an important policy, law, program, or service.

Do the records show how the public body is allocating financial or other resources?
Yes.

Is your primary purpose to disseminate information in a way that could reasonably be expected to benefit the public, or to serve a private interest?
My objective of obtaining this information is to release it on my blog.

Are you able to disseminate the information to the public?
I will be releasing the information I receive on my blog at (https://rezel.ca). I have significant online presence and I’m able to use that to disseminate the information.

On December 1, 2017, the FOI office denied my fee waiver request without any explanation simply stating

Rohana, thank you for your feedback below. I am afraid we are unable to waive the fee based on public interest or public safety. I am going to suggest that you narrow your request in order to avoid a fee.

Today, I wrote to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia asking a for a review of the fee request denial.

[Photo Credit: Paul Krueger]

Canada Post Scam

Here’s a new scam. You will get an email from “Canada Post” asking you to download a “notice card” to collect a package that “Canada Post” has been trying to deliver.

Do not click on that link. It’s a zip file containing a .vbs malware scrip.

The script itself is encoded, with the decoding logic built in. I re-wrote the decoding logic in Python to figure out what the script really does, and here’s what I found out.

The script will disable “Security Center” and call another URL and download and execute another piece of malware from a third URL on the domain clueup.in.

The domain clueup.in is registered by an organization called Clueup India in Ahmedabad, India.

I have reported this incident to Canada Anti-fraud Centre with all the information I have and hopefully, they can get that website shutdown to prevent the malware from spreading.

If you have already clicked through to the link, shutdown your device immediately, and you might need to talk to someone who knows how to properly clean up malware.

Letter to Mayor and Council: A shadow has been cast over the proposed Airbnb bylaws

Dear Mayor and Council,

Today, you will be voting on a new set of proposed bylaws, which, if passed, would make Airbnb and other short term rentals legal in Vancouver. The move to legalize short term rentals in the city have been spearheaded by Kaye Krishna, General manager of Development, Buildings, and Licensing.

Ms. Krishna served as a principal at the New York City-based lobbying company HR&A Advisors between October 2013 and her appointment to the City of Vancouver post. It has been recently revealed that during Ms. Krishna’s time with HR&A, Airbnb commissioned HR&A to produce three reports, in 2013, 2014 and 2015, highlighting Airbnb’s positive contributions to New York City.

It has also been recently revealed that sections of Ms. Krishna’s report to the Vancouver City Council bore a striking resemblance to the content found in Airbnb-commissioned reports produced by her former company.

There have also been calls for Ms. Krishna’s resignation over her perceived reluctance to enforce the existing bylaws against short term rentals.

I firmly believe that a shadow has been cast over the proposed bylaws you will be voting on today. For that reason, I urge you to postpone the vote on these bylaws until a thorough investigation is carried out into the issues raised above.

Your decision today will shape the Vancouver of tomorrow. It could be one where individuals, families and communities thrive. It could also end up being a mere playground for the rich where those who work and contribute to the city are no longer able to afford to live in the city.

You are duty bound to get the new bylaws right. Otherwise, you risk hurting the hundreds of thousands of citizens of our city who elected you and to whom you are answerable.

Thank you,
Rohana Rezel

Letter to City of Vancouver: Accepting Property Use Complaints over Twitter

To:
Mayor Gregor Robertson
Connie Pavone, Executive Assistant to the Mayor’s Chief of Staff
Jessie Adcock, CTO
Kaye Krishna, General manager of Development, Buildings, and Licensing

Dear Sir and Mesdames,

I learnt yesterday that the City of Vancouver has abruptly decided to stop accepting property use bylaw infraction complaints sent to @CityofVancouver Twitter account.

A quick analysis of @CityofVancouver Twitter account’s posting history shows that the City has been accepting such complaints over Twitter for years, but decided to stop doing so once Twitter handle @VISTRO11 started reporting illegal Airbnb hotels.

It also appears that the City continues to accept reports of other bylaw violations over Twitter, but has decided to exclude just illegal Airbnb reports.

I find your decision to be arbitrary and capricious.

There would be no @VISTRO11 were it not for your nonfeasance. By wilfully deciding to ignore reports of bylaw violations in such an arbitrary and capricious manner, you seem to be pushing the needle from nofeasance to malfeasance.

I respectfully urge you to reconsider your decision, and resume accepting property use bylaw infraction complaints sent to @CityofVancouver Twitter account.

Thank you,
Rohana Rezel

My speech at the Public Hearing on regulating short-term rentals in Vancouver

My name is Rohana Rezel, here as an individual, and I’m speaking against this motion.

Airbnb’s Alex Dagg told you that “The vast majority of our hosts are everyday people and families sharing the extra space at their homes a few nights each month to earn modest supplemental income”

But out of curiosity, I went and checked the Inside Airbnb website to see if what Alex Dagg said was true. What I found was that 68% of all units were entire homes or apartments, 58% were rented for more than 60 days a year, and 36% were commercial operators.

I can only conclude, that either Airbnb’s statements were based on alternative facts or that Alex Dagg was bearing false witness. But why?

As I was in the lounge on Tuesday, waiting for my turn to speak, I talked to people who have been evicted by their landlords to make way for illegal Airbnb hotels. We know that this is an all too common occurrence in this city.

Entire apartment buildings are being turned into airbnb hotels displacing dozens of long term tenants at a time. We heard about the nightmare on Pender Street where Anoop Majithia’s Plan A Real Estate tried to throw scores of vulnerable renters out onto the streets to make way for an Airbnb hotel. Some victims of these Airbnb evictions are living in their cars. Many others have been forced onto the streets.

The City’s own studies, and research done by many others such as Karen Sawatzky, have conclusively proven that Airbnb continues to erode our city’s chronically inadequate rental stock.

Airbnb is currently illegal. Yet, we have 6,000-plus units listed right now in this city. And in comparison, we have under 1,000 long term rental vacancies. There are six times as many short term rentals as there are long term rental vacancies. So how can 6,000 people break the law with complete impunity?

Is the City incompetent or impotent? Or is our town being run by a bunch of venal politicians?

Think about it.

It took months for the city to shut down the illegal Airbnb hotel that the developer Onni was running. Onni’s parent company is a major Vision Vancouver donor.

Airbnb is a cancer that’s destroying communities. Destroying families. Destroying lives. It takes a special kind of a sociopath to vote to legalize a company that’s wreaking such havoc in this city and many other great cities around the world. If you have even a vestige of a conscience left, you would not vote for this by-law.

I support families who are “sharing the extra space at their homes a few nights each month”.

Fun fact: they can a run a perfectly legal bed and breakfast today under the existing bylaws with a simple B&B business licence. So, we don’t need this dog and pony show to legalize what’s unethical and immoral. Instead, I urge you to send this bylaw back and strengthen the existing bylaw so it does the following:

  1. Increase the fines for illegal short term rental operators to $20,000 per infractions as they do in some cities
  2. Make even advertising units on short term rental platforms without a B&B licence an infraction
  3. Create a full-time enforcement team funded by the increased fines
  4. Take Airbnb and other short term rental operators to court to extract identities of the violators
  5. Use what’s left over from the fines collected to support affordable housing programs

Airbnb and the political class are trying to frame this as a war between homeowners and renters. But it’s not.

One thing we learnt from the speakers who spoke in support of Airbnb is that many homeowners are forced to run hotels in their own homes because of the unafforbability crisis plaguing our region. Once again, the Vision Vancouver administration in the City, and the former BC Liberal government that ran the province, to the ground some might say, are responsible for this sorry state of affairs. The reason we are in this mess is because we have allowed international money launderers and tax evaders to speculate on our housing market, with near complete impunity.

If you really want to end this problem once and for all, stop treating housing as a commodity, and start recognizing housing as a human right.

Thank you

Dear UK: You gifted the world human rights, please vote to protect them

Dear UK,

Theresa May today promised to rip human rights into shreds in the name of fighting terrorism – the very terrorism for which she’s at least partially responsible through her gutting of the police service, support of the illegal invasion of Iraq leading to the creation of ISIS, and her continued support of and weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, the number one promoter and financier of Jihadi terrorism.

The right to due process, a right that Theresa may wants to take away from you, is a right that is enshrined in the Magna Carta signed in 1215. For eight hundred years, many monarchs, wars, and political upheavals later, the right of due process remain one of your greatest gifts to human civilization.

It’ll be a tragedy to see those human rights die in their birthplace. But that’s precisely what will happen if, through omission or commission, the Conservatives are re-elected on Thursday.

But you have one final chance to protect those rights and freedoms.

Jeremy Corbyn warned us that gutting the police service would make it hard to prevent terror attacks. He also warned us that the invasion of Iraq would lead to a spiral of misery and conflict leading to terrorism. He warned us about the consequences of aiding and abetting repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia.

Even if one cynically dismisses Corbyn for being an idealist for wanting to achieve world peace, end poverty and save the planet, it’s worth bearing in mind that the man has risked his own freedom to protect the freedoms of others, such as the time when he was arrested for protesting against apartheid in South Africa.

On Thursday, you get to choose between man who has spent his entire adult life fighting for our fundamental freedoms, and a woman who feels that human rights are obstacles that need to be bulldozed away in posthaste to clear the glorious path to strength and stability.

I hope you chose freedom over fear.

Dear young people of Britain: Do the unexpected

So there we have it, we are heading into an election or, as Theresa May calls it, a dangerous and unnecessary exercise. Because as we all know, United Kingdom is one of the world’s greatest democracies and the greatest threat to that democracy is that we get to vote. But vote we will.

So that means if you live in a retirement home, prepare to be targeted. Because these days it’s all about targeting the vote. All the major parties have well publicized plans to target the ethnic vote, the women’s vote, the blue-collar vote, the corporate vote. If there were more than five paraplegic vegetarian Latin speakers in Orkney, they would be a target.

Everyone is targeted, except for one group, the youth vote.

There are more than three million young eligible voters in this country and as far as any of the political parties are concerned, you might as well all be dead.


It is the conventional wisdom of all political parties that young people will not vote. And the parties, they like it that way. It’s why your tuition keeps going up.

So please, if you’re between the age of 18 and 25 and you want to scare the hell out of the people that run this country, this time around do the unexpected. Take 20 minutes out of your day and do what young people all around the world are dying to do.

Vote.

[With apologies to Rick Mercer

Photo Credit: Andrew Moss]