Little Mountain and the sale of BC’s Jericho Lands

Little Mountain Housing and Jericho Lands

by Ned Jacobs

(Updated) David Eby’s concerns about the impending sale of the province’s portion of the Jericho Lands are well founded*. The Minister for Citizen Services, Amrik Virk, has indicated that he is going down a very similar road to the one that led to needless destruction of the Little Mountain (LM) community and long delays in planning the redevelopment of the site, which back in 2007 was hailed by Housing Minister Rich Coleman and Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan as the ‘model’ for renewing and replacing the province’s stock of post-war social housing. The failed model has been discarded, but the causes for its failure remain unacknowledged and unaddressed, and therefore are likely to be repeated.

The province appears poised to sell their Jericho holdings without community engagement or a policy in place to define what uses, built forms and population density could be supported by the City of Vancouver (CoV), which has authority for land development. Of equal concern is whether the province will consult the public and the CoV about how proceeds of the sale of this immensely valuable property might be used.

Little Mountain 155 East 37th AvenueWhen plans for the sale and redevelopment of LM were first announced in early 2007, BC Housing (BCH) officials assured tenants in the 224 homes that they would be able to return in 2010, even though the existing zoning and redevelopment policy was at odds with their stated plans. To date, none of the family units have been replaced, and the most optimistic scenario, according to CoV planning staff, is that construction of the first of up to five phases could start in early 2017 with occupancy beginning in 2019. The only structure on the 15-acre site is a new 5-storey, 53-unit ‘seniors’ building, approved under relaxation of the existing zoning. It only exists today because several tenants refused to leave their homes and successfully opposed eviction—a fascinating and touching story that is being made into a documentary. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/little-mountain-film#/.

Rich Coleman reels in a sucker

In 2007, BCH ignored advice from CoV planners and selected a developer that had not previously applied for a rezoning in Vancouver and had never attempted anything remotely approaching the complexity and scale of the LM redevelopment. Holborn Properties, a subsidiary of a Malaysian merchant bank, was selected because they were willing to offer about $300 million—about 50% more than a dozen experienced development companies would commit to. These figures are approximations because BCH and Holborn signed a confidentiality agreement and have refused to reveal the terms even though City Council requested that they be apprised of its ‘key elements’.

In a May, 2008 speech to the Urban Development Institute (UDI) ‘Condo King’ Bob Renee said that “”Holborn’s Little Mountain site …will replace the current 224 non-market homes and is currently in the community consultation process and I would think that we will see either side of 2,000 homes…” In truth, the consultation process had not started, and would not start for another 18 months because Holborn declined to consult with the Little Mountain tenants, the Riley Park Community, or the CoV until after the site was cleared. In May, 2009, Rennie again addressed the UDI, and upped his prediction to “2,500-plus condos.” He also announced that “Joo Kim from Holborn, [architect] Norm Hotson, the City, Mr. Coleman and Rennie Marketing will be meeting very soon to start the rezoning process…” In truth, the rezoning process would only begin in October, 2015.

Little Mountain Housing (prior to demolition)

Community public art event (Feb 2012) protesting the impending destruction of Little Mountain housing

Despite public pressure on the province to retain and maintain the existing LM housing and remaining tenants until a plan for phased redevelopment was complete, Mayor Robertson allowed BCH to level nearly the entire site in late 2009. That winter the planners made it clear to Holborn that the kind of height and density they anticipated wasn’t in the offing because the site isn’t close enough to rapid transit or a significant employment area, and because of unique public views from adjacent Queen Elizabeth Park to Mount Baker and up the Fraser Valley, where on a clear day you can see the mountains around Harrison.

Holborn balked at these limitations, saying that a maximum gross Floor Space Ratio (FSR—a measure of building density) of 2.5, was not “economic” if they had to also provide the required Development Cost Levy (DCL) and a Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) totaling ca $32 million for a neighbourhood house, 69-space daycare, traffic calming and park improvements. Their excuse was that they had to provide the 224 replacement social housing units plus 10 units in a separate arrangement with the Musqueam Nation. The CoV stood by their memorandum of understanding with the province, which included no such concessions; indeed, it specified that the DCL would be invested on or around the site.

Little Mountain site

Little Mountain: Community gone.

For the CoV to forgo the DCL and CAC on the market housing and/or cave in to Holborn’s demands for even greater height and density than could be justified, would set bad precedents for future large site development. The Riley Park Community Vision Implementation Committee, along with the Little Mountain Community Advisory Group (CAG), which had been established specifically for this planning process, were adamant that the amenities must be provided, while pointing out that the building heights proposed by the developer were totally unacceptable to the community, which in the 2005 CityPlan Community Vision, approved by Council, limited heights to four storeys.

Due to Holborn’s objections and stalling, a process that the City had anticipated would take about a year dragged out for two and a half years before Council approved a policy in 2012 that could accommodate about 1400 condos, 234 social housing units, plus 48 ‘affordable’ rentals that the City will fund on three levels above the neighbourhood house/daycare centre.

At the June, 2012 Council meeting, architect James Cheng, speaking for Holborn, asked for a 14-storey tower (higher than the park summit), while the CAG argued for a 10-storey maximum. As expected, the Council majority approved the staff ‘recommendations’, which allowed heights up to 120 feet (12 storeys) for one or two carefully placed buildings. Other buildings could range from 2 to 10 storeys if positioned to provide sensitive transitions of scale to the Riley Park neighbourhood, and acceptable ‘solar performance’ (shadowing) in regard to key public places on and adjacent to the site. Even though 1400 condos is about a thousand fewer than Holborn probably anticipated when they made their offer, when fully built out it will be one of the densest major site developments outside the city’s central area.

It is doubtful that Holborn gave consideration to these potentially limiting factors when they made their offer. What is known for certain is that BCH and/or their realtor, Colliers International, repeatedly urged interested developers to increase their initial offers on the basis of greater density (architect/development consultant Michael Geller, who participated in the request for proposal (RFP), and I have discussed this and other aspects of the LM debacle at length on his blog; see: http://gellersworldtravel.blogspot.ca/2011/03/ned-jacobs-response-to-my-post-whats.html. http://gellersworldtravel.blogspot.ca/2012/02/ned-jacobs-response-to-my-little.html.)

Only Holborn took the bait. My surmise is that they placed too much faith in the province’s ability or willingness to dictate development policy to the CoV. Possibly Coleman did the same.

Normally, when one offer comes in far above the others it raises a red flag. Given Holborn’s lack of experience, that should certainly have been the case. It wasn’t, because Holborn was intentionally lured into making an offer that was completely out of line with research and analysis conducted by numerous other more capable firms. In the years that followed rumours abounded that Holborn was trying to sell their interest in the redevelopment to another firm, but no-one was buying.

Trump Tower

Trump Tower, Vancouver

It also became clear that other than a ‘deposit’ for an undisclosed amount, Holborn wasn’t required to pay for the land up front. Shortly after the homes were demolished, Coleman explained in a Vancouver Courier interview that the government had borrowed money to fund the supportive housing, and would recoup what they could as the LM redevelopment progressed. Although Holborn is listed as the owner in land-title documents, it does not appear that the firm has been paying property taxes to the CoV, which seems odd. They have paid the CoV for the policy process, and now the rezoning process, but other than to recoup these expenses there doesn’t seem to have been much disincentive to delay. Meanwhile, they partnered with Donald Trump to develop a ‘Trump Tower’ downtown.

Selling the house to pay for the furniture

The cascade of difficulties and delays that has plagued the LM redevelopment has its source, I think, in the provincial government’s motives and assumptions about how to go about reducing an extreme deficit of ‘supportive’ housing for individuals incapable of working due to physical or mental disabilities, who require supportive services as well as fully subsidized housing. This deficit, which was largely of the government’s own making because of continual neglect of the social safety net, had spawned a crisis of homelessness that is arguably worse than in any other Canadian city.

Marguerite Ford Building West 2nd Avenue

Marguerite Ford Building

Then-Premier Campbell, Finance Minister Carole Taylor (her riding included LM) and Coleman had finally awakened to this crisis because of the Olympic Games coming in 2010. The CoV owned fourteen building sites that they had earmarked for supportive housing (most of them, alarmingly, within one neighbourhood, Mount Pleasant), but lacked funds for constructing the facilities because of senior government downloading. Although it was too late to do much about homelessness before the Games (other than through the temporary and inadequate expedient of opening more shelters) the province might still head off a public relations disaster by committing to funding construction on those sites, along with purchasing and renovating a few of the squalid-yet-expensive Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels in the Downtown Eastside.

But where would they get the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to build out the supportive housing sites? The Liberals had replaced the NDP partly on promises to cuts taxes while balancing the budget. Rolling back tax cuts was out of the question; another source of revenue was needed. That’s where Little Mountain came in.

How 15 acres of former marshland at the foot of a former CPR rock quarry became BC’s first social housing complex is an interesting story, but beyond the scope of this article. The bare bones of it is that shortly after World War II a group of homeless veterans pitched tents on the publicly owned land as a protest. They were arrested, but it drew attention to their plight, and housing was obtained for them. It also drew attention to the site as land that could be developed to house veterans, seniors on fixed incomes, and other low and lower-middle-income families that had been squeezed by the post-war housing shortage and inflation.

Little Mountain old photo

Little Mountain housing, opened in 1954, became a cherished community for several generations of residents

LM opened in 1954, and the folks living there in the early days felt no sense of stigma because most of their neighbours were no better off than they. The complex became a community hub: there was ample room for children to play; the tenants organized picnics and other community events; they were largely responsible for breaking up the troublesome ‘Riley Park’ youth gang, and spearheaded initiatives to get a community centre, neighbourhood house, library, and the King Edward bus route. On the basis of my own observations (starting when I moved to the neighbourhood in 1980) LM was a superb social and physical environment for developing and strengthening multiculturalism.

Meanwhile, the Riley Park neighbourhood was gradually prospering, partly through better-paying jobs for blue-collar workers through the 1970s, more women entering the workforce, and a gradual influx of middle-income families that couldn’t afford West Side real estate and appreciated the local amenities, especially that former quarry, which the Parks Board had gradually been developing into Queen Elizabeth Park (voted ‘Vancouver’s best urban oasis’ by Georgia Straight readers in 2015). Consequently, the LM site became a valuable hunk of real estate, due in no small part to the community-building efforts of the LM tenants.

Little Mountain Ground Break

Scene at Little Mountain, 2013. Buildings razed.

With Vancouver home prices soaring, driven in no small part by ripple effects from a massive influx of offshore capital, which all levels of government have been remiss in acknowledging or addressing, Coleman saw in LM a cash-cow for funding supportive housing on those CoV-owned sites. But he and his colleagues ignored the fly in this ointment. For a government that supposedly stands for fiscal responsibility they were heading down a road that is fundamentally unsound.

The need for housing subsidies is not diminishing—it is growing, generated in part by cuts to education, health care, family services, social assistance, and the fact that wages are not keeping pace with the consumer price index, which includes rental housing. Social Housing, like other elements of the social safety net requires a sustainable and replenishable source of funding, like the graduated income tax.

Land—especially publicly owned land close to jobs services and amenities—can’t be replenished in that sense. Sometimes, as is the case with the LM site, it can be used more intensively, but there are practical and livability-related limits, as the LM policy process showed. And if the land is sold for luxury housing—used as a substitute for tax revenue to fund the social safety net—then it’s no longer available to provide additional housing for the growing numbers of city residents who are under-housed and/or financially over-stretched due to the soaring costs of housing, whether the tenure is fee-simple, strata or rental. It’s like selling the house to pay for the furniture.

Indeed, the government is getting out of subsidized housing for seniors and families because they believe that this is the role of the for-profit housing market. But there is a huge disconnect between that laissez-faire ideology and reality.

Stamps Place

Stamps Place, another BC Housing site, on the selling block

The government’s main housing strategy has been to supplement rents of low-income residents who are not on social assistance. In principle it makes good sense to subsidize the recipient rather than the housing per se. That way, any rental unit can function as social housing (although landlords sometimes take advantage of this by jacking up rents if they can get away with it). But because the government is unwilling to invest very much in this program it has been designed to disqualify all but a small percentage of British Columbians living below the poverty line (one in five children by recent estimates). The program’s main purpose seems to be something the government can point at to deflect criticism. And now, Coleman’s new model, replacing the failed LM model, consists of selling the province’s social housing to non-profit operators under arrangements that permit up to half of it to be rented at market rates in place of government inputs: once again, selling the house to pay for the furniture. http://www.timlouis.ca/2015/01/29/crimes-in-the-making-vancouvers-affordable-housing-crisis/.

In essence, what the government has done at LM is to sell land—an appreciating permanent asset—to purchase housing—a temporary, depreciating asset (like a car). A building may last 50 years, or even more than a century if it’s well maintained and isn’t lost to fire or an earthquake. Even so, its lifetime is finite, and generally speaking, the older the home the less it is worth relative to the land on which it sits. This is true of buildings ranging from stucco bungalows to glass towers (and why the unprecedented rate at which Vancouver’s detached housing is being demolished and replaced with new homes is contributing to the housing crisis).

The Lauren – 1401 Comox

The Lauren (22 storeys) in the West End. Westbank Projects Corp. benefited from the City’s generous incentives, but now charges luxury rental rates.

I’m not arguing that public land should never be sold, and land swaps can often make sense. But doing what was done at LM is a slippery slope. If it’s acceptable to fund the social safety net by divesting public assets, then what’s next? How about selling off our parks to fund ’affordable’ housing? I put that in quotes because ‘affordable’ rental housing produced under the CoV Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) program, which forwent DCL, CAC and more, rents at up to $3,500 per month for two bedrooms. As one City Councillor explained, “Affordable housing is something that somebody can afford.” And this year the CoV redefined ‘social housing’ to include market rentals produced with incentives. Or how about selling public school property in neighbourhoods where enrolment is down to help fund education? Arguments can always be made for land divestment; but given the irreplaceability of urban land they need to be thought through very carefully, and only implemented if there is broad public consensus that the uses to which the divested land will be put, as well as how the proceeds will be reinvested, serve community interest in the long term. That did not occur at Little Mountain, and I fear it may not at Jericho.

 

Opportunities lost and uncertain gains.

Little Mountain empty lot

Chain-link fence around the now vacant Little Mountain site

For nearly three and a half years after the LM policy framework was approved Holborn continued to insist that development under the CoV policy was ‘not economic’, which left a desolate 15-acre empty lot surrounded by chain-link fencing where children once romped. The developer has finally submitted a rezoning application that planning staff deems suitably consistent with the policy, and rezoning ‘open houses’ were held on November 28th and December 3rd, 2015, to inform the public and obtain input on the rezoning proposal, which is more detailed than the policy framework. Information, including the rezoning application and feedback forms, is at vancouver.ca/littlemountain.

Assuming the application is approved, the percentage of below-market units will probably be about 18%, not the 20% specified by Council resolution in 2009. Nor will it be well-integrated with the market housing as requested by the CAG and required under the policy. Three of the four non-market buildings will be clustered in a single group near Main Street between 36th and 37th Avenues, and none of the subsidized housing will be adjacent to Queen Elizabeth Park.

Little Mountain Housing

Flowering Tulip Tree at Little Mountain

These policy infringements have been justified by the CoV on grounds that replacing the social housing has been so long delayed (largely due to Holborn’s intransigence) that full integration must be sacrificed to ensure that most of the non-market housing is built in the first phase. Perhaps Holborn thinks that quasi-segregation serves their condo-marketing interests. That said, because the majority of proposed non-market housing will be situated in two mixed-use buildings framing the Main Street ‘gateway’ and public square, the developer will probably want to ensure that they don’t look cheap. Unfortunately, none of the replacement social housing will be in the form of rowhouses, which for many reasons worked superbly at LM, and has generally proved superior to apartments for family housing everywhere. In this regard, quality is being sacrificed for density. The replacement units will also be smaller by about 5%.

Little Mountain modelOf equal or greater concern is the almost total absence of housing intermediate in cost to the 82% high-end internationally marketed condos and the 18% social housing. If the province had funded the fourteen sites through sustainable, renewable sources of revenue, a smaller percentage of the LM site could have been allocated for market housing, the proceeds from which could have been used to provide a range of purpose-built rental and/or co-op housing. By my analysis, the lack of ‘workforce’ housing, the needless destruction of the LM community and their social capital (which may not be replaceable), and the delays in replacing the much-needed social housing all derive from that original decision to use this public land as a cash-cow.
.
Little Mountain model QE Park SideIf there are no more significant delays, CoV planners say construction of the first of five (but hopefully just four) phases could begin in early 2017, which means the community facilities and most of the social housing could conceivably be occupied in 2019, more than twelve years after BC Housing began displacing the tenants. The developer has cited a 10-year horizon for build-out of the entire site, but horizons like this have a habit of receding.

Why is Holborn finally moving to rezone? Well, back in 2011, realtors agreed that the condo market could support prices of about $600 per square foot at a redeveloped LM. Now, I am told that they could fetch $800-$900 (and more for penthouses). The deal Holborn struck with the province in early 2008 may finally be “economic”. But if in the meantime the market goes south (many analysts predict a 10-30% “correction” is overdue), actual construction, including the social housing and community facilities, might be further delayed.

Battle of Jericho?

The Jericho situation is not completely analogous, of course to LM. A thriving low-income community is not in jeopardy (I have often met people, some of whom came to Canada as refugees, who speak in glowing terms about growing up at LM). But the Jericho site also contains potentially important community assets, and the West Point Grey community (and CoV) should have an opportunity for meaningful input in regard to services and amenities, housing types and tenures, building forms and scale, all of which can affect land value.

Jericho Lands

Scene from the Jericho Lands, 2015

That could be jeopardized if the land is sold to the highest bidder before due diligence and process are completed. There is no reason that the province can’t ask the CoV to manage a policy planning process, to be conducted in conjunction with the federal (Canada Lands) portion of the site, and later recoup its share of the costs for the joint planning process from developers. Bottom line: there should be no sale of such a large and crucial site until a development policy is in place and potential developers have a factual basis for making offers.

The other outstanding Jericho issue is how the province would allocate proceeds of a sale. Has a decision already been made behind closed doors? Will proceeds be lumped with general revenue to supplement income tax and other sources? Is it earmarked for a specific project, such as a down payment for a bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, or for public transit? Given their record and priorities, I don’t imagine they are planning to structure a land sale to require low-market ‘workforce’ rental housing on the site.

Shouldn’t there be an open and meaningful conversation with the community and the CoV to determine their priorities? That would represent progress; but this is a government that has great difficulty learning from its mistakes.

*****

Ned Jacobs is a member of the Riley Park/South Cambie Vision Implementation Committee, Community Advocates for Little Mountain, Little Mountain Community Advisory Group, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, and is a frequent commentator on civic issues. 



* British Columbia Member of Legislative Assembly (BC MLA) David Eby’s communiqué of November 26, 2015, is reproduced below:

Hello Jericho Neighbours!

There are two updates on the Jericho lands. One concerning update from the province, and one hopeful update from the federal government’s development company.

Provincial update
The provincial news comes courtesy of the Minister for Citizen Services, Amrik Virk. Mr. Virk’s ministry is responsible for the management (and if necessary development or disposal) of the provincial half of the Jericho lands.

By way of background, Mr. Virk was shuffled out of the Advanced Education portfolio into Citizen Services about a year ago after his involvement in a scandal in his formal role as a board member at Kwantlen University. You can read more about that here.

Unfortunately, Andrew Wilkinson, who was the previous Minister responsible, was moved out of the Ministry responsible for Jericho and into Mr. Virk’s role in Advanced Education. This move was unfortunate both because Mr. Wilkinson has a reputation for integrity which is needed in such a delicate and valuable land deal, and because he had committed to our community (of which he is a member, living just up the hill in Shaughnessy) that the government would consult widely before selling the provincial half of the Jericho lands.

Many of you have written to Mr. Virk since his appointment asking him to involve our community in the planning process. He is finally starting to reply to those who provided e-mail addresses to his office.
His standard form reply appears to confirm his willingness to break the promises of his government made by Mr. Wilkinson to consult before selling. Further, he seems also to believe that the City of Vancouver somehow is an appropriate body to consult our community about the best use of these public, provincial lands even though they have no ownership stake in the land.

While I suppose we should be grateful that he didn’t delete our community’s e-mails, his reply attempting to avoid all responsibility for the future of this public land leaves much to be desired and we need to keep the pressure on.

Here is the full text of his message sent to one of our community members. I note that he cc’d his message to the public e-mail addresses of the Premier, BC Liberal MLA Suzanne Anton who is also a member of our community, and me:

From: Minister, MTIC MTIC:EX [mailto:TIACS.Minister@gov.bc.ca]
Sent: November 18, 2015 11:00 AM
To: [NAME DELETED]
Cc: OfficeofthePremier, Office PREM:EX <Premier@gov.bc.ca>; Anton.MLA, Suzanne <Suzanne.Anton.MLA@leg.bc.ca>; Eby.MLA, David <David.Eby.MLA@leg.bc.ca>
Subject: Jericho Lands

Ref:  103322

November 16, 2015

Dear [NAME DELETED]: 

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the future of the provincially owned Jericho Lands.  The Province is currently fulfilling its legal duty to consult with First Nations regarding the future of the lands.  Out of respect for the First Nations consultation process, we intend to conclude those consultations prior to making any commitments or taking any further actions with regards to the future of the lands. 

Consultations with First Nations follow a process between the Province and the First Nations as detailed in the guidebook, Updated Procedures For Meeting Legal Obligations When Consulting First Nations (May 2010), which can be found at this link: 

http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/business/natural-resource-industries/consulting-with-first-nations/first-nations/legal_obligations_when_consulting_with_first_nations.pdf

Following the completion of consultations with the First Nations, if a decision is made to change the use of the land, those proposed changes would have to be approved by the City of Vancouver.  This process involves extensive public consultations regardless of the proponent. 

It is our understanding that the City of Vancouver’s current planning process for major projects includes robust and exhaustive community consultation, which involves the following: 

•             The City creates a policy statement for a specific property that is open for potential development. This is done in collaboration with the community, the proponent and other stakeholders. 
•             The City then undertakes the community engagement process on land use, typically consisting of town hall meetings, mail outs and other communications as appropriate. 
•             Results are then overlaid with the higher level policies of the City to reach a decision. 

Up to date details on the City’s requirements and planning processes can be found on the City of Vancouver’s website. 

Hence, we expect that there will be ample opportunities for consultation prior to a decision on the type of potential development. 

Sincerely,

Amrik Virk
Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services

Implications of provincial response
The key line Mr. Virk’s e-mail is “if a decision is made to change the use of the land” in which Mr. Virk uses the passive voice in an attempt to avoid his personal responsibility, and the Premier’s responsibility, for the decision about the future of the provincial Jericho lands. A decision about Jericho will not be made by some unknown force and imposed on Mr. Virk and Premier Clark. The decision will be made by them with the support of BC Liberal cabinet ministers like our neighbours Andrew Wilkinson and Suzanne Anton. The question is whether or not this government will consult with our community before deciding to sell.

First Nations title claims to the property
Mr. Virk mentions the obligations of government to consult with First Nations in his response. Full consultation and a just settlement with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples is a legal obligation on Mr. Virk’s government and all future provincial governments. This is especially true in the situation of the Jericho lands where historic use of these lands by First Nations is obvious, and these lands were never handed over by treaty.

While the provincial government has an obligation to negotiate with and deal fairly with First Nations, the content of any just settlement with First Nations, whether through money, land, or some other arrangement, is strongly informed by the value of the land that is part of any settlement package. That value is established by determining what zoning and other public or private use encumbrances, and in the case of Jericho, potential environmental contaminants, are on the land.

The province has commissioned formal estimates to advise them how much Jericho is worth to inform these negotiations with First Nations. But what zoning assumptions were used in these estimates, and what affordability and environmental requirements were built into that valuation? On what basis were those assumptions made? We can’t know, because Mr. Virk, Premier Clark and their government refuse to release any documents under Freedom of Information that include these details.

Even under the Federal Conservative government which shuttered our coast guard base without consultation, the Canada Lands Company (the Federal government’s development arm) committed to broad community consultation before proposing rezoning to the City of Vancouver and before selling any property to private developers. This arrangement was agreed to by First Nations who are partners in this Federal process.

For some reason the province is totally unwilling to make a commitment to similar community consultation for their half of the land.

Federal update
This brings me to the second, short, piece of news from the Federal Government on their half of the land. A constituent recently shared with our office the following correspondence with the Canada Lands Company, which is leading the development for the Federal Government on the Eastern half of the Jericho Lands where the military base is located.

I’ve reproduced the content of the e-mails in chronological order.

From: [NAME DELETED]
Sent: November-25-15 1:27 PM
To: Robert Howald; david.eby.mla@leg.bc.ca
Subject: Jericho Lands Update?

Hi:

I attended your update meeting in the Spring (April 29), and noted a pledge to begin formal public engagement in the Fall.

Is there any news on this?

[NAME DELETED]

—-

From: DGrinnell@clc.ca
To: [NAME DELETED]
Subject: RE: Jericho Lands Update?
Date: Wed, 25 Nov 2015 20:17:41 +0000

Hi [NAME DELETED], thanks for your inquiry.   It is anticipated that public engagement will begin in Spring 2016. 

Regards, Deana

Deana F Grinnell, MA, MCIP, RPP
Senior Director, Real Estate | BC Region

Canada Lands Company | Socit immobilire du Canada
2nd Floor, 4949 Heather Street, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 3L7
Tel/ Tl : 604-257-0147 (direct) 604-351-3562 (mobile) | Web: www.clc.ca | Email/Courriel: dgrinnell@clc.ca     

A planned public information session scheduled for Brock House in November where the Canada Lands Company would be presenting on the process they intend to follow was recently cancelled.

It looks like public consultation on the federal half of the land has, understandably, been delayed in light of the change of federal government. I hope this is good news for prioritization of affordability, community input and key environmental features in whatever development takes shape on the site. Joyce Murray, our re-elected federal M.P., continues to monitor the federal situation on our community’s behalf as she has for many years now.

Thank you for your continued interest in the Jericho Lands. If you have friends who would like to receive these Jericho update e-mails, please tell them to e-mail david.eby.mla[at]leg.bc.ca and ask to be added to our Jericho land e-mail list.

See you around the neighbourhood!

2 thoughts on “Little Mountain and the sale of BC’s Jericho Lands

  1. Thanks to Ned for a comprehensive and excellent review of the tragic Little Mountain saga. There are a couple of additions that I think might be helpful.

    First, I think Ned’s analogy regarding selling parks to pay for social housing isn’t quite the right comparison. Privatizing Little Mountain to pay for social housing somewhere else (more on that below) is more like the following: The government decides it needs more parks. So it sells Queen Elizabeth Park, or 90% of it, and uses the proceeds to buy parks somewhere else. Well, it’s valuable land you see. And we need more parks. So …. That’s exactly the argument that has been used to justify the Little Mountain deal. But it would never be used to sell off Queen Elizabeth Park.

    Ned has pointed out on a number of public occasions that Coleman’s (and the City’s) argument that the privatization of the Little Mountain site was necessary to pay for the capital costs of the 14 supportive housing sites was bunk as well. Coleman made it clear in an interview with The Courier that even if the LM sale didn’t go through, the 14 sites would be funded. But Coleman has repeated his story about having to convince Treasury Board to make the money available for the 14 sights so he needed to sell LM so many times that even the City’s Planning Department is now doing his PR work for him and peddling his myth.

    The real reason for the LM deal – the privatization of a very valuable public asset, is that the provincial government is unwilling – for ideological reasons – to fund social or supportive housing out of the capital budget, like they fund stadium roofs or highways, for example. This housing is for poor and marginalized people after all.

    It’s worth repeating as well, that the Province – with Coleman in the lead – has quietly, and successfully, changed the definition of social housing. It used to mean housing for people (many of them families) who could not afford to find housing in the private market. Now, social housing means what we used to call supportive housing. We certainly need housing (and ongoing support) desperately, for people with mental and physical health challenges and addiction issues. But in the meantime our historic commitment to families who are simply too poor to find a decent home has been sacrificed.

    And the City is working hard to change our notion of what’s affordable as well. Rent at a maximum of 30% of family income is affordable. More than that isn’t. The City argues that ALL market rental is affordable. As Counsellor Jang argued, if somebody – anybody – can afford it, then it’s affordable.

    Finally, the City rightly reminds advocates for social and affordable housing that responsibility to build them lies with the Provincial and Federal governments. But the City gets to approve development and they get to set the criteria by which that approval is obtained. It’s absolutely preposterous that the new Little Mountain site will include more than 1400 expensive condos and only a maximum of 58 units of new affordable or social housing – that’s about 4%. In the midst of a crisis of affordability that is driving working class and middle class families, seniors, and young people out of the city, that’s just unacceptable.

  2. David Chudnovsky makes excellent points (and helps clarify and expand on mine). As the MLA for the riding immediately adjacent to LM and NDP critic for homelessness and housing, he advocated not using the site as a cash-cow, but retaining it and keeping the community intact through phased redevelopment of low and below-market housing (e, g. co-ops). And after retiring from provincial politics he has continued, as an area resident, to stand by these principles. His support for the remaining LM tenants, who by opposing eviction forced the province to replace 53 units of senior housing on the site (while Holborn stalled) was crucial to that relatively small yet significant victory.

    To clarify my analogy, I compared selling off public land to fund construction of supportive housing as “selling the house to buy the furniture”, meaning the transaction results in a net loss of the more fundamental asset—in this case land that is much needed for increasing the supply of social housing (not just replacing it) in a neighbourhood undergoing rapid gentrification. My reference to selling park land to fund ‘affordable’ housing was not in reference to QE Park—which I agree is not in jeopardy—but rather to Mayor Robertson floating the idea of selling CoV park land on the Cambie Corridor for residential use (some of which presumably would be characterized as ‘affordable’). The problem here is that the CoV would be increasing population density while simultaneously reducing public amenity, a reversal of the principle that amenity should grow along with population. The Park Board approved a resolution to reassure the public that this was not part of their agenda, and the Mayor quickly backtracked; but the fact that Robertson (presumably with encouragement from advisors) was thinking along such lines underlines my point that starting down the slippery slope of divesting irreplaceable public assets in exchange for impermanent assets (sometimes even of questionable public value, though profitable for private partners) is a slippery slope, though a tempting one for all levels of governments, whether motivated by an ideology-based privatization agenda, or short-term pragmatism.

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