4/20 complaints flooded Vancouver’s 311 phone lines

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Take 4/20 and add it to 311 and you get hundreds of calls from Vancouverites complaining about the annual gathering that organizers consider a protest against marijuana laws and detractors call an illegal pot party and trade fair.

Vancouver’s 311 line installed a special “if you’re calling about …” option for those wanting to voice concerns about the latest 4/20 smoke-in at Sunset Beach.

The city’s 311 operators logged 82 calls this year — all but 10 of them complaints — which was down slightly from the 86 calls (79 complaints) logged in 2017.

The largest number of calls — 121, all but one of them complaints — came in 2016, the year organizers moved the event to Sunset Beach from the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza.

In 2015, the last year at VAG, 311 received 11 calls, all of them complaints.

The 311 service, which began in 2009, logs more than a million calls every year, most of them requests for recycling boxes or complaints about parking, noise, water use or dumping and garbage issues.

Complaints from callers included loud music that was rattling apartment windows, the smell wafting into apartments, loud noise and music, cars blocking a parkade, garbage everywhere, and the length of time it takes to get home. They also complained about “children as high as can be wandering around.”

One caller said “you can see clouds of smoke similar to that of a pulp mill.”

Another said the smell was making her nauseous, and a caller said the noise that day began at 4 a.m. with the set-up of the event.

Another said his health was affected by the smoke because he had recent surgery for heart and lung problems: “it’s just a toxic, stinking festival,” and another said the smoke and noise hurts animals in the neighbourhood.

A resident made a suggestion to hold it at the vacant PNE lands, another to allow Ambleside, Queen Elizabeth Park or Trout Lake a chance to host, and yet another for the city to sanction another two-day event like a Jehovah’s Witness convention on the site “to get rid of these obnoxious people.”

Several complained about the cost to the taxpayer for cleanup and accused the park board, the mayor and the city of neglecting their duty to stop the event or to fine or arrest the organizers and illegal vendors.

But some callers pointed out the public area is for the public, including pot users, and another called opponents hypocritical for not complaining about how the annual Bard on the Beach Shakespearean festival ruins the grass at Kits Point, while another said the Festival of Lights fireworks events does more damage to area.

slazaruk@postmedia.com

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