Chinese police secret operations in B.C. hunt allegedly corrupt officials, laundered money — much of it in real estate

renminbiThe Province (and National Post) today are carrying this story (with video) by investigative journalist Sam Cooper: “Chinese police run secret operations in B.C. to hunt allegedly corrupt officials and laundered money” (5-Mar-2015)

Our observation: Citizens have asked Vancouver’s Mayor and City Hall to deal with this stuff and are consistently ignored. Not acceptable. The public needs to demand more action. Every single large rezoning and development application needs to be examined. City Hall and the industry often facilitate secrecy by processing applications without publicly revealing who is behind them. There are serious implications for housing and affordability. Below are some excerpts and the points of the story. Bolding is ours. Please go online to read the full article.

Chinese police agents have been conducting secret operations in Canada — a top destination for allegedly corrupt officials — seeking to “repatriate” suspects and money laundered in real estate.

Vancouver city officials will not comment on co-operation with Chinese agents in “Operation Fox Hunt,” or on suspects pointed to by Chinese news services.

Xinhua news agency reported that while China does not have extradition treaties with Canada, the United States and Australia — the three top destinations for corruption suspects — in 2013 Canada and China signed an agreement to share assets connected to corruption.

… The Province found indications in various data sources of large wealth allegedly misappropriated in China and invested in condo and commercial developments and private residences in and around Vancouver.
Continue reading

False Creek Residents Association versus City of Vancouver: Supreme Court decision favours Concord Pacific. “Green light” protest movement targeted developer & CoV

Green Light DistrictDid you notice them last night? The green lights in the tower windows of protesting residents seemed to shine more brightly under the rising moon, perhaps in anticipation of today. Below is a compilation of information in anticipation of that decision.

[Update at 1 pm: It looks like Concord Pacific won this round. See “Court sides with developer in battle over future False Creek park” by Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, 4-Mar-2015). Excerpt: The B.C. Supreme Court says the City of Vancouver did nothing wrong in allowing Concord Pacific to continue using a future park on False Creek for commercial purposes. In a ruling issued Wednesday, Justice Robert Sewell dismissed an application by the False Creek Residents Association to overturn the extension of temporary development permit the city gave to Concord Pacific while it completes adjacent developments. He also ruled against the FCRA’s application for a declaration that any use of the area, known as Sub-area 9, must conform to its zoning, which restricts uses to park and ancillary uses…]

The outcome of one of the numerous citizen-initiated court challenges against our municipal government is expected today, March 4, 2015. Justice Robert Sewell of the B.C. Supreme Court is expected to hand down his decision on the battle between the False Creek Residents’ Association (FCRA) and the City of Vancouver, with developer Concord Pacific also muscling into the process and even demanding costs be reimbursed if it wins.

This particular legal action is one important skirmish in a bigger battle by FCRA to get a park that was promised 25 years ago for this community. The action was launched on May 22, 2014, when FCRA applied for a “judicial review,” asking the court to rule on whether the City of Vancouver could continue to allow Concord Pacific to operate its commercial ventures on land zoned for exclusive park use. Representing FCRA is lawyer Bob Kasting.

After ten years of frustration and no results despite dealing in good faith with three consecutive mayors, three councils, and three directors of planning, FCRA felt compelled to take the plunge in 2014 and start this legal action. FCRA challenged the City’s decisions to continue to allow both the “temporary” development permits for Concord Pacific’s sales centre, and the on-going commercial activity on Lot 9 (the lot is actually designated as a park in the Official Development Plan for the area and in the BC Place/Expo District Zoning bylaw).

Perhaps core themes here are (1) developer-funded politicians giving favourable treatment to their funders (developers), giving them huge increases in urban density, while failing to provide commensurate improvements in parks and amenities for society, and (2) the government-enabled privatization of public space.

The “Green Light District” campaign was launched by the FCRA in mid-February 2014. Still ongoing, the campaign’s goal is to raise awareness of the fact that a 9-acre park that was promised to the residents over 25 years ago has still yet to be delivered. Residents are literally turning on ‘the green lights’ to send a message that they finally want to see a go ahead for their park.

Below are photos, a basic summary, and links to useful information and media coverage.  Continue reading

Vancouver region air quality: Useful links, data, webcams, monitoring

Webcam image at 2 pm, before port fire on 4-Mar-2015

Webcam image at 2 pm, before port fire on 4-Mar-2015

Anyone looking out or moving around outside today, might notice the poor air quality. You can see it. You can smell it. You can taste it. What’s it all about? Where can you get real-time pictures and data about air quality? What are the main sources of air pollution in the region? And what citizens can do to improve air quality?   Continue reading

Snapshot of development applications 1-Mar-2015

Development Application Info Sign

As a free public service we take a monthly snapshot of the Development Applications listed on the City of Vancouver website. Our count of “DE” numbers for March 1, 2015 shows 171 items listed (up from 152 on  February 2). Of the total, 9 are “concurrent with rezoning,” which probably means they are being fast-tracked under Rental 100. A couple have had the addresses change.

(We also take rezoning application snapshots. Search for “rezoning” and “snapshot” in the CityHallWatch search field.) The following information is simply copied as text from the City’s site. Many links will stop working over time. For current list click http://former.vancouver.ca/devapps/.

Click here for the 1-Mar-2015 list in PDF format: CoV development applications, snapshot 1-Mar-2015

Continue reading

Snapshot of rezoning applications 1-Mar-2015

As a free public service we take a monthly snapshot of Rezoning Applications listed on the City of Vancouver website. Below is the snapshot from March 1, 2015. Listed here are 36 “proposed” (versus 33 in February), 26 “approved” (versus 34 in Rezoning Info SignFeb), 3 “enacted” (versus 5 in Feb), 1 “open house” mentioned (versus 1 in Feb), and 8 “public hearings” mentioned (versus 4 in Feb, though 7 were already completed before end of March).

This list is simply copied from the City’s Rezoning Centre website. Many links will stop working over time. For the current official list, click: http://former.vancouver.ca/rezapps/.

Also, for anyone interested about the signs themselves, see our August 2014 analysis: A look at the City’s new Rezoning Signs. An improvement? Or a step backwards?

Download this list in PDF format: CoV rezoning applications, snapshot 1-Mar-2015 Continue reading

Council preview March 3rd & 4th: 2015 Budget

panorama downtown

The main item up before City Council on March 3rd is the 2015 Budget. The rezoning proposals at 450 Gore Avenue and 275 Kingsway will be discussed as “unfinished business”.  Two additional nights for Public Hearings might be added for Tuesday April 14th and Thursday, April 16th. There’s a motion on notice for “Pursuing a No Sewage Discharge Zone for Burrard Inlet”.

On March 4th, a motion for the Contract Award for the Supply and Delivery of Heavy Duty Fire Apparatus is on the agenda. There will be a discussion on naming a street Pat Quinn Way.

For reference, we’ve reproduced the agendas for the meetings this week: Continue reading

Shipping container housing proposal (420 Hawks Avenue) Open House March 2, 2015

420Hawks container building

The City of Vancouver is organizing an Open House on Monday, March 2nd, 2015 to share details about a proposed 7-storey building at 420 Hawks Avenue (located just south of East Hastings). A total of 26 units of social housing are proposed in a structure made from shipping containers. The building would have a height of 71′ (21.9m) and a floor space ratio of 4.7. No parking units would be provided on the site.

The Open House will be held between 5 and 8pm at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre located at 805 East Pender Street.

The property is currently zoned as Industrial Land (M-1) and the applicant is the Atira Women’s Resource Society (AWRS). The intended rents are $375 for singles and $570 for mothers with a child (rent at shelter component of income assistance). The units range in size from 280 square feet (studio) to 420 square feet (two bedroom).

Is it a good idea to make housing from shipping containers? What are the experiences of providing housing in other jurisdictions when shipping containers are used as a base building block? Further information on the project can be found on the City’s website.