Coal, Fraser River Ports, transit plebiscite response and $700 million borrowing at Metro Vancouver Meeting (Friday, July 31, 9am)

Neptune Terminal, North Vancouver. New coal port is under consideration at Fraser Surrey Docks

Neptune Terminal, North Vancouver. A new coal port is under consideration at the Fraser Surrey Docks

The final meeting of the Metro Vancouver Board before the summer break will take place on Friday, July 31 starting at 9am. The meeting will be live-streamed on the GVRD website.

There’s a very full agenda for the main Metro Board Meeting (a 36 Mb download). The Safe Energy Leadership Alliance (SELA) will provide the Metro Board with information on the “full costs and risks of coal export and the growing surge in oil transport by rail and barge” in the region. Another presentation on Inland Terminals will be reviewed. There are currently proposals to construct a new coal export terminal at the Fraser Surrey docks and to export LNG (the plans may include the dredging and deepening the river bed and the replacement of the Massey tunnel).

A raft of changes in land use designations to the Regional Growth Strategy will be viewed; it appears that the RGS is being amended on a regular basis. The annual baseline report of the “Progress toward Shaping our Future 2014″ will be considered (wrt to the RGS). GVRD staff will be asked prepare a response to the failed transit plebiscite vote. A separate motion on notice called “Public Transit Governance Structures” will also be debated. A review of the Air Quality Advisories for June and July of 2015 will be considered.

The Water District meeting agenda does not contain any items to discuss additional moves by the region to deal with the ongoing drought or a review of the current water shortage response plan. However, a part of the meeting is set to go in-camera. The agenda also shows that a sale of up to $700,000,000 of worth of debt has been authorized by the Greater Vancouver Water District to repay or refinance previously borrowed debt that is coming up for maturity.

neptune_coal_terminal_northvan

Who Needs Public Relations in Planning? (Observations by Jak King on one breed of PR firms in the development business)

no-towers-crack-the-whip(This essay by Jak King was posted on his blog on July 30, 2015. Republished here, with his permission. Neighbourhood groups would do well to note his comment about the “immoral asymmetry of power and money.” And be aware of the stealthy role of certain PR firms in major developments around you.)

Who Needs Public Relations in Planning? 

There is in Vancouver a breed of the public relations business that seeks to manipulate public opinion and manufacture consent specifically for rezoning hearings and other major development projects.

Developers who take the time to both understand and appreciate the zeitgeist of a neighbourhood have no need of such services. Their empathy with the community wouldn’t allow them to bring forward projects that are so obviously wrong, so clearly inappropriate.

But the developers who are driven by profit or are used to getting their own way, and who choose to ignore the loudly voiced outrage of longtime (and even new) residents, apparently do need such public relations specialists. And it seems likely that Boffo, in the case of the tower on the Drive, have understood this for quite some time.

I have a memory that Pottinger Bird, one of the most preeminent of these PR companies, were involved in some way in the only open house that Boffo have yet put their name to; and that was years ago. I know that Boffo and the Kettle also used Brook Pooni & Associates, another PR company at that time.
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Proposal to build tallest office tower in Vancouver at 524 feet: Oxford Properties

1133 Melville tower rezoningA rezoning proposal has been submitted to the City of Vancouver to construct a 524 foot (160m) tall office building at 1133 Melville Street. This building would have a Floor Space Ratio of 22.65 and a total floor area of 658,687 square feet (61,194 m2). A total of 287 underground parking spots would also be included on 5 levels below grade.

Current zoning for the site allows for a maximum 300 foot (91.4m) tall tower with a FSR of 9.0. The design includes a total of 33 storeys. Office buildings tend to have a much higher floor to floor height than residential towers; the proposed floor to floor height is 4.1 metres (or 13.45 feet vs. typical residential floor heights of 8.7′ – 9′). It’s unclear what the proposed Community Amenity Contributions would be. A Public Open House is planned for September of 2015. The rezoning is being put forward by Toronto-based Oxford Properties with a design by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates of New York and local firm Kassian Architecture Interior Design and Planning Ltd. Further details on the rezoning application can be found on the City’s website.

What are the impacts on views?

Apart from the views from Queen Elizabeth Park, the overall impact on the skyline would be somewhat localized. The City’s dome shaped skyline policy tries to put higher buildings in the centre of a height limiting ‘dome’ that peaks in the Central Business District. The Shangri-La (659′) and the Trump Tower (616′) are nearby and at the top of the current ‘dome’. The impact of the proposed tower at 1133 Melville on the overall city skyline won’t be as pronounced as the 550′ tall Burrard Gateway (Hornby & Drake) or the 509′ tall B.I.G. “Vancouver House” (Pacific & Howe). The Burrard Gateway and Vancouver House are both located close to False Creek and break the City’s dome shaped skyline policy.

Who is behind the scenes? Oxford Properties is a private company with Blake Hutcheson as CEO. (http://www.oxfordproperties.com/corp/Web/ownership-governance.aspx).  Continue reading

China close to full yuan convertibility on capital account — that means bigger flows of money: Implications for Vancouver real estate?

renminbiCityHallWatch reader HKHoward sent us this comment.

International Journalist Jonathan Manthorp pointed out on May 29, 2015 that billions of dollars are fleeing China for safe havens. Canada is one of the safest, with no restrictions on real estate purchases. Article here:
http://www.factsandopinions.com/galleries/opinion-columns/jonathan-manthorp-international-affairs/vancouver-not-mind-numbingly-boring-but-vacuously-vain/

A separate article is also worth reading: “China close to its goal of full yuan convertibility on Dollars, credit Desmog blog Canadaits capital account: Pan Gongsheng,deputy head of the central bank, says move to offer more flexibility for Chinese investment abroad is ‘not far away’ ” (South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, 21-June-2015).

In the article, the Vice Governor of the Central Bank of China, Pan Gongsheng, was quoted as saying the following: “We are not too far away from the yuan capital account full convertibility.”

China is close to its goal of allowing the yuan to be exchanged for foreign currency without any limits on the amount – a move that will grant greater flexibility to Chinese investment overseas, the deputy head of the central bank says.

The latest step in the opening of the capital account – which measures inflow and outflow of capital and covers investments such as stocks, bonds and properties – will be the launch of the new qualified domestic institutional investor programme, or QDII2.

“The QDII2 will remove the block on individuals investing overseas,” Pan told a wealth forum hosted by the local government in Qingdao , Shandong province yesterday.

http://www.scmp.com/business/banking-finance/article/1824483/china-close-its-goal-full-yuan-convertibility-its-capital

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HKHoward comments, “When there are no restrictions on the convertibility of the yuan wealthy Chinese investors will no longer be limited to legally converting just US$50,000 each year.

The need to find other means of moving funds will no longer be required and Canada, B.C. and Vancouver with no restrictions AT ALL on who can purchase real estate – especially compared to other jurisdictions where restrictions on non-resident purchases are being added to all the time – will become even more attractive for people looking to preserve capital by parking it in real estate.”

Prime Minister to crack down on foreign criminals buying homes with ‘dirty money’ (That’s UK’s David Cameron, not Canada’s Stephen Harper)

London St. Paul'sThis article by John Stevens appeared in the Daily Mail, a UK newspaper, dated 27-July-2015. One might wonder what Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to say or do about this international topic. Or any of the candidates in the upcoming federal election. It seems that many properties are purchased and owned by numbered companies in Canada. What have our governments been doing to stay on top of this issue? Ask your elected officials, candidates, and stay tuned! (Excerpts are below. Please visit website for the full text.)

A related story in the South China Morning Post (“Britain aims to crack down…”) quotes Polly Sprenger (specialist in corporate and economic crime at Eversheds): “For real advancement, the government would need to insist on exposure of the ‘ultimate beneficial owner’, that is, the individuals behind the corporate front.”

So the UK is taking the lead on this campaign. Will Canada join in?

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PM’s crackdown on foreign criminals buying up UK homes with ‘dirty money': Cameron announces clampdown on overseas buyers behind anonymous companies

  • Laundering has been blamed for pushing up house prices across Britain
  • PM will use Singapore speech to call for a global effort to tackle corruption
  • He will announce that a list of all properties in England and Wales owned by foreign companies will be published in the autumn

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Surrey set to overtake Vancouver population by 2041 according to latest GVRD estimates

Metro Population Estimate 2041
The latest estimates released by Metro Vancouver predict that Surrey will overtake Vancouver in terms of population by 2041.

Surrey City HallThe agenda for the Metro Vancouver Regular Board Meeting on July 31, 2015 includes a table that forecasts that Surrey’s population will be 770,000 by 2041, overtaking Vancouver’s estimated population of 765,000. The total number of dwelling units in Vancouver is predicted to increase from 265,100 in 2011 to 362,000 in 2041. Finally, Vancouver would see an increase of employment from 406,700 (in 2011) to 505,000 (in 2041).

The official Statistics Canada census population for 2011 was 603,502; the figures in the table show higher total of 617,200. This is due to the fact that “2011 Census undercount estimate” was also included in the population total. Additional details and the original table can be found on page 576 of the Metro Board agenda (36 MB download).

Marine Gateway and Marine Landing revisited

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Several towers around Cambie and Marine are nearing completion. For the record, we’ve compiled a series of photographs of the area. More towers are still planned for the area, including ones the Marine Gardens site and on the northwest corner of Cambie Street and SW Marine Drive.

Food for thought: How is this kind of ‘transit oriented development’ working out? Does the City have the same vision for Broadway and Commercial and for the rest of the Broadway corridor? There are alternate forms of development. For contrast, we’ve included a link to presentation by Professor Patrick Condon of UBC: Condon reflects on alternatives to the Broadway corridor plan: Gradual low-rise densification, improved transit throughtout Vancouver (Sept 12, 2014).
Cambie and Marine Drive