Chip Wilson talks to protesters in front of his Point Grey Road home on Saturday, where a ‘Rave Against Renovictions’ was held. Wilson made a surprise appearance and brief speech during the event.
Francis Georgian / Postmedia News
Athletic wear billionaire Chip Wilson wasn’t invited to the protest and dance party held outside his home Saturday but made a surprise appearance that left an impression.More than 60 artists and activists assembled outside the Lululemon Athletica founder’s $73.1-million Point Grey Road home for the “Rave Against Renovictions.” They protested the eviction and displacement of studios and music venues by Wilson’s development firm, Low Tide Properties.As the protesters began setting up around noon, Wilson emerged from his home with family and surprised them by chatting for two minutes.Wilson first reminded them of his philanthropy for the arts, which includes the $12 million he and his wife donated for The Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, $1.5 million he donated to save the laughing statues in English Bay, and $250,000 they donated to save the Trans Am Totem near Science World.He dismissed arguments that Low Tide is forcing artists out saying that he, too, experienced hardship while trying to build his businesses.“I didn’t get here without making a lot of mistakes and having failed many times, and many times I couldn’t make rent because I didn’t have a product that people actually wanted to buy,” Wilson said.
Protesters at a rave outside Chip Wilson’s $73.1 million house in Point Grey.
Francis Georgian /
Nathan Drillot, part of a collective that ran INDEX, one of the venues evicted by Low Tide, responded: “I had a product that was extremely popular, that was packed every single weekend, and you still renovicted me.”Wilson said the world didn’t want enough of Drillot’s “product” for him to afford rent. Drillot said Low Tide Properties didn’t even give him a chance to pay it. (Drillot previously told Postmedia that Low Tide negotiated a lease but later refused to sign it.)“Anyway, you guys are great, love ya, take care,” Wilson said with a chuckle as he joined his family for a stroll.Soon after, a DJ cranked up electronic music and protesters danced on Point Grey Road. They held placards protesting gentrification and renovictions, handed out “Stop Chip” bumper stickers, and chanted, “Art cannot be evicted!” Several people made speeches about the plight of arts in the city.According to the organizers, tenants and organizations “renovicted” by Low Tide Properties include INDEX and Merge at 1305 and 1315 Powell St., the old Red Gate Arts Society at 855 East Hastings St., five non-profits and artist collectives at 877 East Hastings St. and more.The company, whose website says it aims to invest in “emerging neighbourhoods,” has been rapidly purchasing property in East Vancouver for many years and has a public goal of owning $1.5 billion in Vancouver real estate by 2026.Protest organizers Jodie Overland and Tascha Speck said too many of their artist friends have been pushed out as Low Tide expands.
Protesters at Chip Wilson’s $73.1 million house in Point Grey..
Francis Georgian /
“(Wilson will) buy a property, give them an end date, force them out and then raise the rent so high that no one can rent the space,” said Overland, who produces underground events. “Those properties will just sit empty for years.”Overland said she believes Wilson is using his philanthropy for “hand-picked” art as an excuse to dismiss claims he is being unfair to the broader arts community.“We need to have more regulations from the city but also provincially,” said Speck, of the Vancouver Tenants Union. “One of the problems is we have virtually no rent control at the moment. There’s definitely more tenant protections than commercial.”Speck said a big problem is “triple-net” leases, which mean tenants are responsible not only for paying the landlord the rent, but also maintenance fees and property taxes.They are common across Canada but in Vancouver’s out-of-control property market such leases have made it impossible for some independent operations to cope with huge property-tax increases.Drillot, who helped organize the event, said Metro Vancouver has reached a “crisis point” when it comes to housing, small businesses and industrial land, and artists and grassroots groups have suffered greatly.“This isn’t because we’re not successful or not able to make money. It’s because of the kind of predatory practises of various development companies,” Drillot said.Drillot said they singled out Wilson and Low Tide because they have been responsible for 18 “renovictions” over the past 30 months or so.COPE city councillor Jean Swanson said she attended the event at the request of the protesters.“If you’re a billionaire, you can kind of choose how you make your money, I would say,” Swanson said. “If it were me, I would choose not to renovict artists. I would make my money doing something else.”— With files from Zak Vescera and Dan Fumanoneagland@postmedia.comtwitter.com/nickeaglandCLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org