Vancouver west side home destroyed by fire was not approved for demolition

4812 Belmont Avenue, Vancouver. | Google Streetview screengrab

The Vancouver west side home that was destroyed by a massive fire late Friday had a city permit issued for salvage and abatement – but specifically not for demolition, according to municipal records.

The City of Vancouver database for permits showed that the house at 4812 Belmont Avenue in Point Grey was approved for the salvage/abatement permit on Jan. 25 of this year after almost three years of processing. (The application was started in August 2019.)

In the city permit, the work description showed the approval hinges on the project being “salvage and abatement ... only … to be completed under the supervision of a qualified professional.” It also specifies that “this permit does not authorize demolition, deconstruction or construction work.”

A fire engulfed the home last Friday at around 10 p.m., and social media quickly filled with videos and photos of the flames being visible from downtown and the North Shore. Fire crews said the home was unoccupied and under renovation, and the fire was brought under control by Saturday morning.

Investigators are currently looking into the cause of the fire.

Vancouver writer [and heritage buildings expert] Eve Lazarus wrote in her blog that 4812 Belmont previously belonged to former Vancouver mayor Gerry McGeer – who lived in the house from 1927 to 1947. The 6,452-square-foot home was built in 1920 and has seven bedrooms and four bathrooms, according to Zillow.

The property is valued at $15,220,000, according to the 2019 assessment.

According to the City of Vancouver, there was a building permit application under review for the property when the fire occurred. The application, made in November 2021, was for the construction of a “2 storey with cellar one-family dwelling with a detached accessory building (garage), at the rear providing 5 parking spaces, having vehicular access from Belmont Ave.”

The previous salvage/abatement permit has now also been revised to a demolition permit “due to fire,” according to the City of Vancouver website.

The applicants in all documents were listed as Canton Excavating Ltd. and an individual named Chen Lin.