“Vastly under-assessed”: Is public being short-changed on major assessments and deals (Oakridge Centre, 508 Helmcken, 949 W41st transit site, Langara Gardens)? Supreme Court (Fri, Feb 24) & BC Property Assessment Review Panel (Fri, Mar 3)

svps-4-sites-appeals-2017-google-maps(Update: Fri Feb 24. The case was heard in BC Supreme Court. Madam Justice Heather J. Holmes heard “South Vancouver Parks CHM v. Assessor of Area #09 – Vancouver Sea to Sky Region” Case VA S169638. Ivanhoe Cambridge legal team presented first, asserting that SVPS had no standing, and went on from there til the end of the day. Justice Holmes has “reserved judgement,” with no date known for the outcome. Stay tuned. Next big day is March 3. See below.)

Heads up for major action on Friday, February 24, 2017 in B.C. Supreme Court, and again on Friday, March 3 at the BC property Assessment Review Panel (Croatian Cultural Center).

Below is information on important actions that deserve public scrutiny. We encourage people to attend and observe. An underlying question the public may wish to ask: Besides these four specific cases, is there a systemic problem with certain properties being “vastly under-assessed”?

At stake are millions of dollars the South Vancouver Parks Society asserts are or were vastly under-assessed at the following four sites:

  • 508 Helmcken Street (soon to become a 35-storey tower on Emery Barnes Park, downtown, swapped at $15 million now assessed at $130 million)
  • Oakridge Centre (41st Avenue and Cambie) (recently sold to new owner). Had a privately-arranged $367 million assessment reduction.
  • 949 West 41st Avenue (former transit site) (recently sold to new owner for $432,256,000). The July 31, 2016 assessment was for $170,882,000
  • Langara Gardens (Lower Cambie)

Below is basic information, documentation, and media links. More will be added. First, the dates and venues…

1. B.C. SUPREME COURT: South Van Parks Society is in Supreme Court for “round one” of its appeal to the BC Property Assessment Review Board previous decision on Oakridge. SVPS is represented by Glen Chernen, and lawyer Bob Kasting (both of whom were mayoral candidates in the 2014 civic election).
B.C. Supreme Court (800 Smithe Street, Vancouver, B.C.
Starting 10 am, scheduled for all day
Friday, February 24, 2017
(Room to be announced on display board on-site the morning of the session.)

2. BC PROPERTY ASSESSMENT REVIEW PANEL: Review of appeals by SVPS regarding assessments of 508 Helmcken, Oakridge, 949 West 41st Ave. transit site, and Langara Gardens.
Review Panel 00392 hearings to be held Friday March 3, 2017. Time TBD.
Location: Croatian Cultural Center
Room C – 3250 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, B.C.

In the public interest and working entirely as volunteers, SVPS has been challenging deals and property assessments. This is a small community group up against armies of highly paid lawyers from major law firms, the government, and developers. The stakes are very high. When assessments or deals are made the government and BC Assessment is required to value property at “the highest and best use.” SVPS asserts that the development potential for all four of these properties was not properly valued.

SVPS tells CityHallWatch  that said they have “great comparables” for the four complaints to be considered at the Property Assessment Review Panel hearing on March 3, look forward to presenting their evidence. They say that an odd situation has come about where residents in Vancouver are having their properties assessed at the proper market value and paying hefty property taxes, while a number of major development properties involving speculators or big players are being subsidized with assessments at a fraction of the actual current market value.


  • The 508 Helmcken site was subject to a no-bid property swap between the City of Vancouver and Brenhill Developments, agreed to secretly. The site was part of public land on Emery Barnes Park downtown, but is now under construction for a 35-storey tower, which CityHallWatch and media have covered extensively. SVPS asserts that the deal was made for many millions less than what it was really worth. Global New (see link below) reports that “the City valued its land at $15 million before the swap, in exchange for Brenhill’s land, which was valued at $8.4 million….The properties switched title last August [2016] and the land now in Brenhill’s hands is assessed at $130 million.”
  • According to SVPS, properties such as these three below are having zero value being attributed for their development potential, an approach which is, in effect, in conflict with the Assessment Act.
  • Oakridge Centre: See affidavit and response PDF downloads below for details. It has been learned through a two year assessment appeal process of the 2015 assessment that the tenants are responsible for paying all of the site taxes while the developer has had to pay nothing for the massive residential density approval that was approved by Vancouver City Council on March 14, 2014 (subject to conditions). The only thing preventing the development consortium from going ahead is their financial manoeuvres such as the recent sale–which ironically, and actually, recognized the massive density approval in its valuation of the land. Industry sources suggest that the price paid for the recently reported Oakridge land sale was well over a billion dollars. SVPS is appealing the recent assessed value of $611,181,000. They believe that Oakridge was assessed at only about 50% of the actual market value or less, as evidenced by a recent sale of the actual property in question.
  • Transit Site (949 West 41st Avenue): SVPS says it is assessed at approximately 39% of the actual market value, as evidenced by the recent sale of the actual property ($432,256,000). The July 31, 2016 assessment was for $170,882,000.
  • Langara Gardens: $268,196,000 (1-Jul-2016) BC Assessment. According to Business in Vancouver (see link below), Concert Real Estate Corporation  bought a 50% stake in this 20.8-acre mixed-use property on Cambie Street, from the Peterson Group. “Citing confidentially agreements, neither party would disclose what Concert paid for the property.”

South Vancouver Parks Society (http://vanparks.ca/, Twitter @FeeSimplePark) consists of “Vancouver residents concerned for the legal, principled provision and care of City Park & other real property assets.”









EXCLUSIVE: Did Vancouverites lose out on downtown land swap deal? (Global News, with video, by Tanya Beja, 17-Jan-2017) [This relates to 508 Helmcken]

Oakridge Centre’s $367 million assessment reduction under appeal: Citizen’s Group claims decision costing city taxpayers millions of dollars per year, by Bob Mackin, Business in Vancouver. 16-June-2016

Challenge to Oakridge Centre valuation fails: Assessment stays at $500M after $367M drop (by Bob Mackin, Business in Vancouver, 20-Sep-2016)

Oakridge group asks court to review assessment decision (by Sam Cooper, Vancouver Sun, 29-Nov-2016) [This article gives the background for the Supreme Court hearing, which eventually was held on 24-Feb-2017. It explains both sides.]

TransLink finalizes sale of Oakridge Transit Centre lands for $440 million. (Vancouver Sun, 20-Dec-2016): “TransLink has sold its 13.8-acres Oakridge Transit Centre lot to a developer for $440 million, making it one of the largest real estate transactions in B.C.’s history.”

City mulls over Oakridge Transit Centre plans: Redeveloped transit hub could include housing, retail, park space (by Mike Howell, Vancouver Courier), 6-Feb-2014http://www.vancourier.com/news/city-mulls-over-oakridge-transit-centre-plans-1.826019

Langara Gardens population could bloom in the future (by Naoibh O’Connor, Vancouver Courier, 21-June-2016)

Concert buys 50% stake in Langara Gardens: Concert Real Estate Corporation has bought a 50% stake in Langara Gardens, a 20.8-acre mixed-use property on Vancouver’s Cambie Street, from the Peterson Group (by Frank O’Brien, Business in Vancouver, 1-Oct-2014)

Citizens comment on proposed new City “wordmark” (Result: Approved 22-Feb-2017)


Proposed new “wordmark”

(Epilogue: City Council approved the new “wordmark.” You can see the discussion on web video by going to the agenda for the meeting.)

Updated: On 22-Feb-2017, this topic was discussed and the “wordmark” adopted officially by Vancouver City Council this afternoon (Wednesday, February 22, 2017).

Visit this link for agenda and archive video. Below is an excerpt of the City staff report, followed by comments we received from Ian, a CityHallWatch reader.

vision-vancouver-priorities-logo-web-23-feb-2017We have also long-noted the similarity between the ruling party’s (Vision Vancouver) colours (see left, and the municipal government’s official colours. Until recently, Vision’s colours were absolutely identical to the City of Vancouver colours. A coincidence, or subliminal message?

From City staff report (PDF) for February 22, 2017: In 2006, Vancouver City Council adopted a visual identity program to help Vancouver’s citizens and businesses quickly and easily recognize the vast array of programs, services and information delivered to them by their municipal government. This consistent visual identity also made the City more approachable, and supported Vancouver’s reputation as one of the world’s most livable cities.

The City of Vancouver identified the opportunity in June 2016 to refresh its visual identity in light of changing city demographics, evolving popular culture including the increased reliance on social media for communication, and keeping pace with change. A simplified wordmark has been developed which presents an updated image of the City of Vancouver as a modern, innovative and highly desirable place to live and work. More: http://council.vancouver.ca/20170222/documents/pspc3.pdf



Comments submitted to City Council 21-Feb-2017, from citizen Ian:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
3. New City Wordmark

I most strongly recommend you reject with prejudice the adoption of this proposal.
There is nothing particularly imaginative about this logo. It’s boring, uninspired and indistinct. There is nothing to suggest a sense of place. Continue reading

Open house on rezoning of Ryerson Church site (2195 West 45th): Feb 27 (Mon). Ryerson Neighbours list concerns.

ryerson-8791We have received information from Ryerson Neighbours, a community group concerned about a development proposal for 2195 West 45th Avenue in Vancouver.  They are trying to raise awareness about the proposal and their concerns.

A city-hosted public open house is scheduled as follows:
Ryerson Memorial Centre (2195 W. 45th)
Monday, February 27, 2017
5 to 8 pm

Official details of the proposal:

Text further below is copied from a flyer by Ryerson Neighbours. Download flyer: ryerson-neighbours-flyer-open-house-27-feb-2017

Dunbar Ryerson Church and co-developer Wall Financial have applied to the City of Vancouver to rezone properties in the 2100 and 2200 blocks West 45th Avenue for redevelopment that involves tearing down Ryerson Memorial Centre, gym and the neighbouring house plus three homes west of the Church.

In the current proposal, the condo tower is up to four storeys lower than the first rough scheme shown in 2015 but still places an 8-storey tower (with 9th floor mechanical penthouse) directly across the street from a one-storey house.

The group says that this is an unpopular proposal with neighbourhood homeowners and renters—even tower dwellers to the north who will have a tall obstacle in their views to the south.

Ryerson Neighbours


Continue reading

Crab Park Vigil for DTES Missing Women, Feb 14


Notice received from  Don Larson, Brenda Arrance, Elliott McLaughlin
(Crab-Water for Life Society)

Annual Honor Our Women Vigil
takes place at the Memorial Boulder at Crab Park at Portside beside
the Pacific Ocean. Some people say that Crab Park itself is sacred space
at the foot of Main Street.

Bring drum. Bring Prayer. Bring Sacred Silence.

The time this Tuesday, February 14th at 11:00 AM and it will be
a small personal vigil that we have been doing for many years.

Please feel free to circulate the poster.

*This sacred space is currently under threat from Centerm Container Port Expansion.*

[Search for “Centerm” on CityHallWatch.ca for previous coverage.]


Audacity: bold ideas for planning communities (9th Annual SCARP Symposium, March 3, 2017 at UBC)


REGISTER NOW: www.symposium.scarp.ubc.ca
When: Friday, March 3rd, 2017 8:00am – 6:45pm
Where: The Great Hall, AMS Nest, 6133 University Boulevard, UBC, Vancouver
Cost: General $99 | Students $39
Contact: info.scarpsymposium@gmail.com
Twitter: @scarp_symposium
Facebook event: Audacity: 9th Annual SCARP Symposium

The School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC is excited to announce our upcoming 9th annual symposium, taking place on Friday, March 3rd, 2017. We invite professionals, academics and students to join us for a full day of discussion on planning issues.

Audacity, is about bold, daring ideas to inspire future planning initiatives. This theme takes a brave stance against the status-quo, and demands a push for new ideas, innovations, and actions.

Keynote Speakers:

severn2-768x465Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Severn is an Earth Charter Commissioner and Council Member; host of the APTN TV series ‘Samaqan Water Stories’; and board member of the David Suzuki Foundation. She has undertaken study of the endangered Xaayda kil (Skidegate dialect of the Haida language) and was a founding member of the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society. Severn holds a B.Sc. in Biology from Yale University and an M.Sc. in Ethnoecology from the University of Victoria.

Second keynote TBA

Plus 11 dynamic, planning-related breakout sessions, workshops, and discussions.

PIBC members are eligible for 7 CPL credits.

PANEL TOPICS Continue reading

Open Houses: People, Parks, and Dogs Strategy (7 events Feb 11-Mar 4)

Dog off leash area, Trout Lake
Park Board has scheduled a series of Open Houses to receive input on its People, Parks, and Dogs Strategy. The schedule of the Open Houses is listed below:

  • Sat, Feb 11, 1:00pm–4:00pm (Yaletown Roundhouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews)
  • Wed, Feb 15, 5:30pm–8:30pm (Langara Golf Course, Clubhouse , 6706 Alberta Street)
  • Sat, Feb 18, 1:00pm–4:00pm (Kitsilano Community Centre, 2690 Larch Street)
  • Mon, Feb 20, 5:30pm–8:30pm (Wise Hall, 1882 Adanac Street)
  • Sat, Feb 25, 1:00pm–4:00pm (River District Showroom, 8683 Kerr Street)
  • Wed, Mar 1, 5:30pm–8:30pm (Central Vancouver Public Library, 350 West Georgia Street)
  • Sat, Mar 4, 1:00pm–4:00pm (PNE, The Hastings Room, 2901 Hastings Street)

The Park Board is seeking feedback on key draft recommendations in this Round 2 of public consultation. The presentation boards are available on the Park Board website.

Vancouver population 631,486 in 2016 Census, and 25,502 unoccupied dwelling units

Vancouver skyline winter

Statistics Canada revealed that Vancouver’s population increased to 631,486 residents, as part of the 2016 Census count. This is an increase of 4.6% from the previous 2011 population count of 603,502. As well, the Census also showed that 25,502 residential dwelling units were unoccupied at the time of the Census (May 10, 2016). The overall population of Canada increased to 35,151,728 residents, representing 5.0% growth since 2011.

The population of Surrey increased to 517,887, a 10.6% increase from 2011. Other Canadian cities with high rates of growth in the same time frame included Calgary (13.0%), Edmonton (14.8%) and Saskatoon (10.9%). More moderate population growth was recorded in Toronto (4.5%), Ottawa (5.8%) and Winnipeg (6.3%). The largest city in Canada was Toronto, with 2,731,571 residents and a population density of 4,334.4 people per square kilometre. In contrast, the city of Vancouver’s population density was 5,492.6 people per square kilometre. Vancouver is a denser city than Toronto.

Statistics Canada hired 35,000 additional workers for the 2016 Census; hundreds of enumerators went door to door in Vancouver alone over a four-month period to follow-up and verify data in the field. Statistics Canada counted all residential dwelling units across Canada and recorded the number of residents per unit. Canadian citizens, landed immigrants, foreign workers and students with visas were all included in the population count (excluded were tourists and visitors). One in four residents completed a mandatory long form census.

A total of 309,418 private dwelling units were recorded in Vancouver. 283,916 private dwelling units were occupied by usual residents; in other words, 25,502 residential units were unoccupied on Census Day. The Statistics Canada website notes:

‘Private dwelling occupied by usual residents’ refers to a private dwelling in which a person or a group of persons is permanently residing. Also included are private dwellings whose usual residents are temporarily absent on May 10, 2016.

An unoccupied dwelling unit could be an investment property left empty, or it could be a rental unit without a tenant. The City of Vancouver received a report in March of 2016 that claimed there are 10,800 empty homes by examining hydro (electricity consumption) data from 225,000 homes (this figure of 10,800 empty homes is 14,702 less than the count of unoccupied dwelling units by StatsCan).

Statistics Canada has scheduled the following dates to release additional results from the 2016 Census of Population:

  • May 3, 2017 – Age, sex and type of dwelling
  • August 2, 2017 – Families, households, marital status and language
  • September 13, 2017 – Income
  • October 25, 2017 – Immigration, ethnocultural diversity, housing and Aboriginal peoples
  • November 29, 2017 – Education, labour, journey to work, language of work, mobility and migration

The Census included mechanisms to count homeless, as well as people living in tents, cars, or other vehicles. Data collected for the Census is strictly confidential and covered by the Statistics Act.


Population changes varied over Vancouver. A number of Census tracts recorded population declines (orange). Population increases are shown in purple (see legend). Click on image to see original high-resolution PDF.