“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:  Tues Feb 28. We have added the times for the BC Assessment Review Panel sessions on Friday)

See related post: Do Vancouver & B.C. need a Charbonneau Commission? South Vancouver Parks Society might be showing the way.

(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 (1) 508 Helmcken, (2) Oakridge, (3) 949 West 41st Ave. transit site, and (4) 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.
TIMES (30-minute sessions) are as follows: (1) 9:30, (2) 10 am, then 15 minute break (10:30 to 10:45), then (3) 10:45 am, and (4) 11:15 am. We believe the cases are in the order shown above.

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)

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