A disturbing example of the demolition of affordable housing in Marpole. Concord and the City Together Again!

Marine Gardens is a model affordable townhouse project in Marpole on Marine Drive just east of Cambie St.

Released: September 15th, 2014
Where Is The Missing Land Title For Marine Gardens?
(And All That is Wrong with City Planning)

The land title that would show the City of Vancouver’s acquisition of the property on which Marine Gardens is located, is missing from the BC Land Title Registry. This is significant given that residents have been told that the land was originally donated to the City as a park (Delta View Park) with the stipulation that the trees never be cut. The City plans to demolish the townhouse community, and all its trees, to erect more skyscrapers.

Six years ago, I attended the first of many Open Houses and Public Consultations over the 34 story Marine Gateway project currently being built across from Marine Gardens at Cambie and Marine Drive.

Like most who attended, I was not opposed to development in Marpole, but I wanted it to enhance the best features of our neighbourhood as one of the “more” affordable, family-oriented areas of the city. Most of us felt that the 34 story Marine Gateway project was too tall and completely out of scale with our neighbourhood.

At meeting after meeting, planners trotted out the same project assuring us that we had been heard and that the skyscrapers had been moved back a few centimetres to reduce the shadowing on the local school playground.

It was a textbook example of all that is wrong with the planning and public consultation process under Vision Vancouver. It was a waste of time with our comments ignored while Vision boasted about its unprecedented level of (meaningless) consultation.

It was at one of these first Open Houses that the City brought a model of my neighbourhood with clear plastic skyscrapers overlaying many of the existing structures – including my townhouse community- Marine Gardens.

I advised City planners at the time that I had been told that Marine Gardens was built on land that was donated to the City as a park and that the trees were never to be cut. The development they were proposing would necessitate the complete removal of virtually every tree on the site.

I also advised them that Marine Gardens became a showcase for the United Nations Habitat for Humanity Conference, held in Vancouver in the mid-1970s, and was built as a model community. It became the prototype for many of the co-ops that followed.

I went down to the Vancouver Archives and amongst the sketchy records, was able to verify that Marine Gardens had indeed once been “Delta View Park,” and that in the early 1970s, City Council had stipulated that it must be used for “garden apartments.”

The records were too sketchy to understand how land purportedly donated to the City as park land, ever came to be developed.

In 2007, after more than thirty years of maintaining Marine Gardens, the original developer retired and put our community on the market. It sold for $12.5 million. Four years later, Concord Pacific bought it for almost double the price – $23 million.

At three separate meetings, Concord Pacific’s top executives have advised us that the City pressured them to buy Marine Gardens. With their sweet deal in False Creek where they have a 20+ year outstanding commitment to build a park, with City permits to use the space for commercial purposes (a parking lot, a Presentation Centre, rentals to Cirque de Soleil – even an Olympic Pavillion that apparently paid $1.3 million), all while paying no property tax – it is hard to imagine how they could say no.

Since the City itself pressured Concord Pacific to undertake the re-development at Marine Gardens (the two proposed skyscrapers match what was on the City’s model years before Concord was involved), it can hardly reject Concord Pacific’s rezoning application based on public opposition.

This has created a scenario whereby the rezoning application for Marine Gardens has not yet gone through the democratic process (it has not gone before Council and there has been no public hearing) but we have received a letter from Brian Jackson, the head of the City’s Planning Department, advising us that saving Marine Gardens “is not an option.”

This is a clear violation of Article 566 of the Vancouver Charter which stipulates that, “Council shall not make, amend, or repeal a zoning by-law until it has held a public hearing thereon, and an application for rezoning shall be treated as an application to amend a zoning by-law.”

Recent efforts to obtain the historical land title to verify the story behind Marine Gardens, came up dry. The title search company was unable to find the title we need and says it is missing from the records.

Something is seriously, if not legally, awry with the planning process in Vancouver, and it is showing up all over the City.
And the missing land title for Marine Gardens? Under the circumstances, it raises a lot of questions.

Jillian Skeet
Marine Gardens
Jillian Skeet is a writer and national/international affairs consultant. She has lived at Marine Gardens for 11 years.

Do you have questions?

On October 29th, the FCRA will sponsor a meeting of candidates in the upcoming civic election. There will be pre-set questions from the association and an opportunity for questions from the floor.

What would you like to ask:

When will the City demand that Creekside Park is delivered by Concord Pacific?

Are you in favour of removing the viaducts? What is your plan to ensure that removing the viaducts doesn’t have an unmanageable impact on our local streets?

When will we see the community centre including indoor soccer gym and ice rink on the Plaza of Nations?

Let us know your issues. Come on out on the 29th and assess the candidates.
October 29, 2014
Creekside Community Centre
1 Athletes Way
7pm Meet and Greet Candidates
7:30 Qs and As
9:00 Closing

Media Release advises of Concord’s application to adjourn long-established court date

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 9, 2014—Justice delayed, court process hijacked. Concord Pacific’s first act as a full party to the community’s dispute with the City of Vancouver is to postpone established Court date.

“The City must be happy that this will be buried until after the November 15, 2014 Civic election. There are significant reported financial contributions by Concord Pacific to Vision Vancouver. We assume the incumbent administration will not want to highlight its partnership with the developer in this legal battle with the community as we run up to November 15,” stated Fern Jeffries, Co-Chair of the FCRA (False Creek Residents Association).

The City’s lawyer’s has just now advised the FCRA that a key person is away on vacation until September 22nd and the City would have been unable to make the long established September 11th court date in any event. “It’s hard to understand this level of disorganization in such a well-paid bureaucracy,” said Jeffries. “The Court Rules say the City’s response was due June 12, 2014. I wonder if I could get that kind of extension on my property taxes”?

Timeline
On May 21, 2014 the FCRA filed a judicial review application to the BC Supreme Court to declare invalid the City of Vancouver’s decision to allow commercial activities on land zoned for exclusive use as a park. The temporary permit allowing such use had expired on May 16, and the FCRA was asking the Court to disallow any renewal. “Temporary” permits had been in place since 2006. The City of Vancouver then issued yet another “temporary” 3-year permit on July 24, 2014. Accordingly, the FCRA amended its court case, asking the court to quash this renewed permit.

On July 24, the same date that the City advised Concord of the 3-year extension of its temporary permit, Concord filed an application in Supreme Court to be added as a party to the judicial review application. No explanation was given as to why a full month passed between the FCRA filing and the joint actions by the City and by Concord. The Court heard Concord’s application on August 27, 2014.

The FCRA’s opposition to Concord’s application was largely based on concern that they would hijack the judicial process and FCRA would never have its day in court.

On September 3, 2014, the Court granted Concord’s application. Concord’s first act as a full party in this matter is to apply for a postponement. “We likely won’t be in Court on this matter until January,” said Bob Kasting, counsel for the FCRA. He added that there may be numerous other legal manoeuvres initiated by Concord or the City to delay the matter even further.

The City is working with Concord to facilitate the use of the park-zoned land for a television reality show, the Game of Homes. “Concord makes so much money from this property, it is hardly surprising that they are not motivated to deliver the 9-acre park that was part of the 1990 agreement with the City,” said Jeffries.

The 1990 agreement called for 7650 units of housing and green space that included this 9-acre waterfront property. Over 10,000 have since been built and another 1,300 were recently approved as Concord’s “False Creek Central” across from BC Place.
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For further information, contact Fern Jeffries, 604-328-7097
For legal information, contact Bob Kasting, 604-879-5952

Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

The FCRA is a member of this coalition of 23 neighbourhood associations focusing on Citizen Engagement in Planning. The Coalition is planning an All Party meeting to enable residents to assess parties in the upcoming civic election on their commitment to citizen engagement.

This important event will be: October 15, St. James Community Centre, 7 pm.

Stay tuned for more details.

General Manager of Engineering now admits there is no land use permit supporting the 9 week filming

In his latest response to the FCRA,Peter Judd now acknowledges that there is no permit between Concord Pacific and the City of Vancouver. Here is his response:
“Ms Jeffries, thank you for the opportunity to clarify. Yes you are correct. The City considers the proposed activity an acceptable use of this site and it is not precluded by the Development Permit issued by the City to Concord for an extension to the current use. The City has issued a film permit for this production per John Greers letter, but there are no other permits in existence relating to this site as we generally do not require Development or Building Permits for film sets.”

His response raises a number of serious issues, now formally conveyed to the City:
“Thank you for your email Mr. Judd in which you acknowledge that there is no “current permit between the City and Concord Pacific”.

However, your response raises a number of serious ancillary questions:

1. You say, “The City considers…” What does this mean? Is this a staff decision? Is this a Council decision? What is the process by which “the City” made this decision? What is the authority by which this decision is made? The City web site notes that new or significant events require Council decision. Is this new use requiring closure of the seawall considered “significant”?

2. What are the criteria by which this is judged to by “an acceptable use”? As you know, the land is zoned for exclusive park and recreation use. Was this zoning taken into account?

3. Is a “film permit” the same as a “Special Events” permit? Mr. Greer’s letter specifies “Special Events”, yet I can find no definition on the City’s web site. Please provide a definition of a “Special Event” . Is a “film set” a “special event” ? Mr. Greer’s letter does not allow any commercial usage, but is restrictive to “special events”. How did “the City” determine that this film permit was issued “per John Greers (sic.) letter?

4. Although this event is on private property, it has significant public impact. Why was no consultation with neighbours undertaken? Again, this appears to be a requirement according to the City’s web site.

Thank you for your attention to this important community issue.”

As usual, we’ll keep web site readers posted. Comments and suggestions welcome!

Peter Judd, General Manager of Engineering for the City of Vancouver alleges there is a land use permit between Concord and the City

Lot 9 of the BC Place Expo District is governed by a zoning bylaw which limits activity on the property to exclusive park and recreation uses. The City has granted a permit for Concord to operate its sales centre on part of this 9 acre site. And the rest of the property??
Concord nets millions in land rentals. The latest is a rental for the Game of Homes, a reality tv show on home renovation. We found this out only after many emails and phone calls. As is usual, there was no prior community consultation on the construction (much of it taking place on Labour Day) or the special event usage (as is required according to the City’s protocols).
In response to our queries, Mr. Judd, the General Manager of Engineering, writes that there is a land use permit between Concord and the City and that this usage is consistent with it. This will come as a great surprise to the city department that issues such permits. Of course, that department has yet to respond to our emails. John Greer, Asst Director who recently signed the documentation permitting another 3 years for the sales centre, has yet to respond.

What can we do? Here is an obvious case of the City not following its own bylaws. Suggestions welcome! For a complete copy of Mr.Judd’s communication, see: Judd’s email – Game of Homes

David versus the whole Goliath Family

Concord has won its bid to join with the City of Vancouver in opposing the community’s petition for judicial review of the City’s decision to allow commercial enterprises on land zoned exclusively for park and recreation.

The City supported Concord’s bid. No surprise there.

The FCRA is now up against both the City and the developer. But of more concern is the fact that we anticipate that Concord will hijack the process with endless applications and motions. Delay delay delay.

Certainly the City will be pleased NOT to have a decision on the substance of our petition before the November municipal election.

And the longer the delay, the more money Concord makes. At this point, the City has granted them a filming permit – a 9 week affair which will also close the seawall for significant periods of time.

The full decision allowing Concord to join the action is below:
Master Taylor, re F.C.R.A False Creek Residents Association v. Vancouver (City), 09-03

False Creek Residents Association battles Concord Pacific over commercial use of park-zoned land

Lawyer Bob Kasting is helping the local residents’ association in its efforts to halt the commercial use of park-zoned land

by Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight

Vancouver lawyer Bob Kasting has been doing a lot of thinking.

His admirers want him to run for mayor, and he says he’ll likely decide before an important court date on September 11. On that day, a judge will hear a petition regarding a False Creek property that Kasting’s clients argue should have been a park for a long time already. Read more…