What Can Quebec’s Anti-Corruption Inquiry Teach BC? Sonia Lebel speaks Mar 21 (Tues) – Lead lawyer of Charbonneau Commission

anticorruption_forum_21-Mar-2017 Allard UBC LebelDid we plant this idea? On February 27, CityHallWatch asked this question: “Do Vancouver & B.C. need a Charbonneau Commission? South Vancouver Parks Society might be showing the way.”

Well, Vancouver and B.C. will get some help to answer that question soon, just three weeks later. On March 21, the lead lawyer from Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission will be speaking at on March 21, 2017 (Tues) starting 10 am, at UBC’s Allard Law School.

Lessons for BC from Quebec’s Implementation of Rules to Minimize Corruption
Tuesday, March 21, 2017 – 09:30 to 11:00
Franklin Lew Forum, Room 101
Link: http://www.allard.ubc.ca/events/lessons-bc-quebecs-implementation-rules-minimize-corruption

Guest speaker Sonia Lebel, commission counsel for the Charbonneau Inquiry into corruption in infrastructure and construction in Quebec, will be presenting on lessons BC could learn from Quebec’s experience in putting rules in place to minimize the risk of corruption. She will also be launching the first English translation of volume three of the Charbonneau report. Point Grey MLA David Eby will be co-hosting this event with Nicole Barrett, Director, International Justice and Human Rights Clinic at the Allard School of Law.

Ms. Lebel was invited by BC MLA David Eby.  Continue reading

SVPS society shines light on shady deals with public funds & land at Emery Barnes Park

Emery Barnes Park

Emery Barnes Park in Vancouver. Blue building (Jubilee House, social housing) has now been demolished. Future site of the “8X8 ON THE PARK” condo tower

Update: CKNW AM 980 at 4 pm, Friday, March 10. Interview of SVPS (Glen Chernen) with Lynda Steele and Drex. Audio archive (16 minutes): https://omny.fm/shows/steele-drex/bc-gov-t-made-loan-to-developer-to-build-luxury-co

The South Vancouver Parks Society (http://vanparks.ca/, @FeeSimplePark) has been delving deep and shining light on what appear to be shading dealings with public funds and public land at 508 Helmcken (re-addressed as 1111 Richards, a.k.a. “8×8 ON THE PARK” in Vancouver. Last week they were in meetings with the BC Assessment Review Panel regarding significant and unexplained reductions in the assessed value, saving the owner in property taxes.

This was previously publicly-owned city land at Emery Barnes Park downtown. Political donors/fundraisers received secret financing with public funds, highly profitable business deals, and what was previously public land is now subject to sales flipping activity even before the condo tower is built. It appears to be another case where law enforcement should be getting intensively involved and defending the public interest.

In the past few days, SVPS has released a large amount of information on its website (http://vanparks.ca/). Here below are a few excerpts and links to a couple recent data releases.

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Pre-Sales Data of 508 Helmcken – (March 10, 2017)

508 HELMCKEN: New address 1111 Richards. a.k.a. “8×8 ON THE PARK”

This is a collection of sales data we have obtained regarding this project. It has been advertised that it is 85% sold so there will be much more information eventually disclosed.

The Range of these Strata Condo Sales price per square foot of area is $1348 – $1,761

These are some market strata Pre-Sales at 508 Helmcken sold by Rennie Marketing Systems in 2016. Construction of these strata condos has not yet occurred. Advertising says 85% of units are SOLD.

See more: http://vanparks.ca/2017/03/10/pre-sales-data-of-508-helmcken/

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BC HOUSING FINANCES SPEC CONDO SALES (March 9, 2017)

This is about:

  • The Deputy Premier appointing a realtor to the BC Housing Board.
  • A loan approved by the BC Housing Board purely to finance condos.
  • A “Pre-Sale” loan feature granted by BC Housing just for condos.
  • How BC Housing’s website discloses misleading information about this loan.
  • How a former BC Housing Board member got millions in condo listings.
  • The coincidental fact that the same realtor has been raising millions for the Housing Minister’s political party!

See more: http://vanparks.ca/2017/03/09/condopresaleloan/

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While we’re at it, here is a separate case being followed by SVPS, dealings at the Oakridge Centre.

Sold Actually (March 7, 2017)

This is about how on Friday March 3, 2017 an independent legal team of 4 representing a land owner, and BC Assessment, suggested they knew nothing about a land transfer completion of a property under assessment appeal.

In January our Society filed four assessment complaints. One complaint was that the approved Oakridge Development property was assessed far too low. It was and is assessed at about $140PBA (per buildable area). For comparison, many single family homes in the same area of Vancouver are assessed at about 4.5x that amount ($625PBA).

See more: http://vanparks.ca/2017/03/07/100-sold-dont-talk-about-it/

Sherry Breshears comments for My Community Centres re Park Board vote to refer JOA negotiations back to staff. Next date April 10.

Hastings-Community-Centre-Facilities credit COV

Hastings Community Centre. Credit: CoV

On Monday, March 6, 2017, Park Board Commissioners voted to refer the controversial Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) back to staff for further discussion. Carlito Pablo covered the story in the Georgia Straight after the vote, “Vancouver park board and community-centre associations have resumed talking.” (See excerpts further below.)

 

CityHallWatch has obtained this statement from Vancouver Community Centre Associations, copied below.

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Statement from group of Community Centre Associations (CCAs) regarding March 6, 2017 Park Board decision to direct staff to work with CCAs and their lawyer (Statement, March 9)

CCA representatives say that they are cautiously encouraged about the Park Board Commissioners’ decision to direct staff to work with CCAs and their respective lawyers on the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA).

Said Sherry Breshears, president of the Hastings Community Association: “We are asking for a good faith process in the absence of clear direction to staff from Commissioners to actually resolve the outstanding issues.” She added: “Having the CCA lawyer and the group of 14 CCAs at the table, along with the Park Board and their legal counsel, is the first step in getting a JOA that we can sign. But it is only the first step.”

The discussions will take place over the next month and the JOA will return to Park Board Commissioners for a decision on April 10. [CHW note: Mark that date.]

Explained Breshears: “We want Commissioners to direct staff to work with us equitably. Staff must come to the discussion with the intent to actively listen and engage, to participate in good faith. The representatives of each of the 14 CCAs have spent close to 10 months and hundreds of hours working together towards getting a JOA that works for each of our diverse communities and for the Park Board.” She continued: “We want this process to work, and for that to happen, Park Board staff need to come to the table ready to focus on an agreement that works for everyone involved.”

For more extensive information and references, see the My Community Center website:

http://mycommunitycentre.com. Follow @Vancouver_CCAs on Twitter.

Continue reading

One simple rule and it still gets messed up (by Dermod Travis, IntegrityBC) – Election finance, political donations …

integritybc_2293 christy clark photo

Image in Georgia Straight in 2012.Credit IntegrityBC.ca

CityHallWatch believes the full force of the law should be applied. Full investigation. Quickly. We note that many of the same concerns regarding third-party donations, corporate and union donations, lobbying, and cash-for-access all apply to our municipal government system. The public needs to ramp up its scrutiny and demands for serious change.

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Commentary by Dermod Travis, IntegrityBC, 10-March-2017.

This past weekend the Globe and Mail reported that lobbyists in the province have been making political donations on behalf of their clients, effectively camouflaging the identity of the real donors and breaking B.C.’s Elections Act in the process.

On Sunday, Elections B.C. announced it was conducting an investigation into the Globe’s findings. Five days later, the entire matter was referred to the RCMP.

To think it was only in January that Advanced Education minister Andrew Wilkinson was boasting to CKNW’s Jon McComb that British Columbia has the “most transparent disclosure system in the world.” Continue reading

News Release from City of Vancouver on Empty Homes Tax: Reminder for owners

City HallNews Release: Reminder for owners of Vancouver’s empty and under-utilized homes, 9-Mar-2017

City of Vancouver
News Release
March 9, 2017

Reminder for owners of Vancouver’s empty and under-utilized homes:
Properties must be tenanted for six months or be subject to the Empty Homes Tax

The City of Vancouver is reminding homeowners that non-principal residences must be rented out for at least six months in 2017 or they will be subject to the newly-introduced Empty Homes Tax. This means that owners of empty and occasionally-used homes have less than four months left to find tenants for these properties.

If a residential property is not a principal residence and does not qualify for an exemption, it must be occupied by a tenant for at least six months of the year – in periods of 30 or more consecutive days – or be subject to a one per cent (1%) tax on its assessed value. Properties that have not yet been rented would therefore need to be occupied by a tenant no later than July 1, and remain occupied for the remainder of 2017 in order to be excluded from the tax. Continue reading

“Make Planet Earth Great Again” singer songwriter David Rovics world tour starts in VANCOUVER, March 17, 2017 (Friday)

Some people want to make specific countries “great again.” But maybe that’s being too closed-minded and selfish. Here is someone who wants to make the planet Earth great again. Portland-based singer songwriter David Rovics creates and performs music with messages for our times, about housing, the environment, social justice, and more. This month he launches a world tour–and it starts right here, in Vancouver. Have a look at the lyrics and video below.

DAVID ROVICS – PUNK BAROQUE WORLD TOUR
Friday, March 17, 2017
 — Facebook Event page
Grace Memorial United Church
803 East 16th Ave.
Vancouver, BC

Links:

 

Profits from the Vancouver concert will be donated to the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative project: https://dtescollaborative.org/

Opening the concert – Vancouver’s Solidarity Notes Labour Choir under the direction of Earle Peach.

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/david-rovics-at-havana-tickets-31730918030 Tickets can also be purchased at Spartacus Books – 3378 Findlay Street (Commercial Drive & 18th Avenue)

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MESSAGE FROM DAVID ROVICS

I’m setting out to make the planet Earth great again (or at least to sing about it), and I need your help.  I know everybody is overwhelmed with information and lots of other things, but if you can possibly find a few minutes (or more) to help spread the word about my upcoming tour, especially gigs near you, that would be really great.  If enough of you do this, it will make a huge difference, and allow me to keep on doing this for a living, quite simply. Continue reading

“Saving Vancouver character houses through incentives” (Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun): Topic in Council this week

Vancouver City Council will discuss crucial topics relating to housing at its Tuesday, March 7 meeting.

  • Character Home Consultation Update: Presentation by Gil Kelley (General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability) makes presentation.
  • Permit and Development Process Update: Presentation by Kaye Krishna (General Manager of Development, Buildings and Licensing).
  • Motion on “Making Legalizing Secondary Suites Easier in RT/RM Zones”

In that context, this op ed in the Vancouver Sun (March 2, 2017) by Elizabeth Murphy provides useful perspective. Her closing point: “There are many things that need to be done to provide incentives for retaining character housing stock through adaptive reuse. This is the most sustainable way to add more housing options and we only have a small window of time to do this before we lose this opportunity forever.

**************Character house, Vancouver Sun, 2-Mar-2017 E Murphy article

Saving Vancouver character houses through incentives
by Elizabeth Murphy (Vancouver Sun, March 2, 2017)

Photo caption: The City of Vancouver is reviewing incentives to retaining character houses, such as allowing additional suites. Elizabeth Murphy / PNG

The City of Vancouver is doing a character house zoning review to consider saving character houses through incentives such as increased size, number of units, and infill. This retains character while accommodating growth in a more sustainable way.

Although this is good in principle, additional options need to be considered.

There is an urgent need for the review. Since city zoning rules were changed in 2009, demolitions increased to over 1,000 a year with replacement construction of much larger and more expensive “monster” houses. On average, home demolitions have increased 80 per cent between 2009 and 2015, and by 73 per cent on average for pre-1940 homes.

Most of these demolished homes were livable and structurally sound, many substantially upgraded, many with secondary suites. Prime old growth wood was sent to the chipper, materials sent to the dump and little, if any, materials reused. Many of the new houses, often twice as expensive as the older ones they replaced, are left vacant purely as investments. Hardly a green or sustainable city.

City of Vancouver survey results show that 90 per cent of citizens think the retention of character buildings should be encouraged.

Some in the development lobby say retention of character houses through incentives is freezing single family zoning. In fact, it is doing just the opposite. Character zoning is proposed to conditionally allow a variety of additional options to meet current needs through adaptive reuse. This is by far the most sustainable way to accommodate growth, increase rental and ownership options, provide more affordability and mortgage helpers, and retain neighbourhood character. Continue reading