Our entire civic system in Vancouver operates in the context of strong and often invisible connections between players and the underlying power of money and profits. Givers at one stage become the receivers at the next. It is like a self-reinforcing power structure.
In that context, what hope is there for neighbourhoods and citizens? Read below, and ask how deeply entrenched these patterns are in Vancouver. How long have things been this way? How many rezonings in the past ten years have been like this. These are all valid questions on this very day, as our case study (Marine Gardens) returns to a public hearing tonight (see our summary of the items).
Further to our article “A spotlight on “public” support vs opposition for rezonings: Case study of Marine Gardens – Agents of Concord Pacific …” we have done a bit more looking into letters submitted to Council in support of a 574 unit, two-tower (21 and 27 storeys) rezoning application at Marine Gardens (455 Marine Drive) — for the Public Hearing (day 1 was 24-Feb, links to letters here).
More than half of the letters to Vancouver City Council in support of the rezoning were from the real estate and development industry. Our initial tally is 27 of 49 letters, or 55 percent, and there could be more not clearly identified. Many of the other letters in support could be from industry people. Some letters are from current tenants who face the tough situation of supporting the rezoning to get a relocation package (and say good bye to their cherished community), or face unknown consequences. (Additional note: The city does not confirm the identity of letter writers received, so there is not even any assurance that some writers even exist. And anyone can write from anywhere in the world.)
Many of the 27 industry people who wrote to City Council in support of the rezoning did not mention their employment in the real estate and development industry. Upon further research, one finds that 11 of the 27 are employed with Prompton Real Estate Services, whose website actually declares that it is an agent for Concord Pacific (rezoning proponent). A few of the 11 mention that they work in the industry, but none mention their agency relationship with the proponent.
This all exposes the very strong involvement by the real estate and development industry in lobbying City Council to approve this rezoning.
Some questions are worth asking.
- Is the behaviour described above in violation of any legislation, regulations, bylaws, or codes of conduct? (Answer: Not as far as we know.)
- Is this system biased?
- Should persons working with companies that have an agency relationship with a rezoning proponent declare that interest when they write to City Council?
- Should City Hall have a means of processing letters from ordinary citizens separately from letters from the real estate and development industries who are doing this as a part of their job?
- When the minutes of public hearing only show the tally of letters of support versus opposed, is it really fair to include letters like these from realtors in the count? What alternatives are there, in order to increase transparency?
BIG PICTURE: REZONING IN VANCOUVER, MARKETING IN CHINA
Meanwhile, on the same day realtors from Macdonald Realty in Vancouver wrote to the Mayor and Council in support of the rezoning, an article in the local Vancouver Sun newspaper lauds the efforts of Macdonald Realty to sell Vancouver real estate in China through Macdonald Realty’s “Canadian Real Estate Investment Centre” in Shanghai.
Vancouver firm offers a one-stop real estate shop for Chinese investors in B.C.
Macdonald Realty’s Shanghai branch office opens new investment doors
(by Evan Duggan, Special to The Sun 24-Feb-2015)
Excerpt: “… a one-stop shop for Chinese investors looking toward anything to do with Canadian real estate, specifically B.C.”
In another sphere of influence, Concord Pacific donated over a hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions to help get Vision Vancouver re-elected in 2014, according to disclosure documents published on February 23.
Cementing relationships at the next level of government, Concord Pacific has also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the BC Liberal Party in Victoria to have the ear of the provincial government.
So we ask again, with all the money, power, and connections circulating around, what hope is there for the average citizen or community group to influence policy and rezoning decisions?
List of Prompton employees who wrote City Council in support of the rezoning, as of February 20, 2015. A couple mentioned working as realtors, but not one mentioned being employed by Concord Pacific’s agent:
- A. Collins (Prompton marketing manager)
- R. Hermuller (Prompton sales associate)
- S. Pouttu (Prompton sales associate)
- A. Leong (Prompton sales associate)
- J. Kuse (Prompton property manager)
- T. Wray (Prompton sales associate)
- S. Man (Prmpton sales associate)
- A. Shi (Prompton account services representative)
- A. Ho (Prompton aenior account liason)
- J.e Thomas (Prompton leasing representative)
- W. Brown (Prompton property manager)
Some of the other realtors who wrote rezoning-support letters to Council.
M. Buchan, Avison Young
G. Lin, Coldwell Banker Prestige Realty
K. Leung, Leung Realty & Associates, Richmond
E. Chan, Macdonald Realty Westmar
R. Choi, Macdonald Realty Westmar
C. Chu, Macdonald Realty Westmar
J. Ng, Macdonald Realty, Westmar
R. Yu, Magsen Realty Inc.
T. Lin, New Coast Realty
K. Ciu, New Coast Realty
L. Douglas, Not stated
G. Jinn, Regent Park Realty
D. Chou, Royal Pacific Realty
P. Tsang, Royal Pacific Realty