January 30, 10 am in Supreme Court

The City will present its case for granting “hardship” status to one of the country’s wealthiest private companies on January 30, 2015 at 10 am.

Concord Pacific’s Vancouver sales centre is built on land that is zoned for exclusive park and recreation use.  The City has allowed this on a “temporary” basis for the past decade.  The provision used by the City enables a “relaxation” of zoning if otherwise the owner would suffer unnecessary hardship.

The FCRA is asking the Supreme Court to review this decision.  Is it correct?  Is it reasonable?  Concord was successful in being named as a full party to this dispute.  For a full account of day 1 of this case, see our previous posting.

The presentation to Mr. Justice Sewell will conclude on January 30, with the City of Vancouver’s opportunity to justify its decision to allow commercial activities on park-zoned lands.

OOPS. City’s Planning Boss files 2nd affidavit to say he read the FCRA’s submission on Concord’s application to renew the “temporary” permit allowing their sales centre to operate on park-zoned land

In his evidence, Mr. Jackson’s first affidavit filed on December 22, 2014 indicates all the factors he took into account when granting “Hardship” status to Concord Pacific.  Conspicuous by its absence  was the submission made by the FCRA indicating our objection to renewing the  permit which would have resulted in 10 years of selling condos “temporarily” on a site zoned for exclusive park use.

This web site, the  FCRA’s tweets and Facebook page pointed out the fact that Mr. Jackson neglected to take the community’s position into account.

Now Mr. Jackson has filed a second affidavit, claiming that of course he took our position into account.    Not a surprise given the overwhelming negative response from the public to the omission of any reference to the community’s objection.

We are still awaiting word on a Court date to complete the presentation of this case in BC’s Supreme Court.

Would Concord Pacific suffer “unnecessary hardship” if it wasn’t allowed to sell condos on land zoned for exclusive park use?  The City of Vancouver says “Yes”.  The FCRA says “No.

We are continuing our efforts to have safe parks and playgrounds

The FCRA has sent the following email to the Mayor and Council in the hope of changing the City’s policy of not accepting calls about used syringes in parks and playgrounds.  In response to this email, Dr. Penny Ballem, the City Manager, has responded that she is following up with staff.  We await action on this important issue.

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am writing to bring your attention to a city policy that significantly increases the health and safety risk to children using municipal playgrounds.

You will appreciate that used syringes which are discarded in playgrounds pose a risk to children who may pick up such articles and cause serious harm to themselves or their playmates.  Parents or caregivers  who take their children to our playgrounds are aware of this danger and are anxious to report such articles to civic authorities.  Similarly, interested residents, runners, dog walkers etc. who spot these articles in parks and playgrounds want to keep the area safe from obvious hazards.

The 311 system was developed at considerable public expense to facilitate such reporting.  Many residents have a cell phone and will call 311, only to be told that the city doesn’t accept those calls.  As you likely know, the City has contracted out the needle pick-up service.  We are advised that 311 will not forward calls to an outside agency.

We have made numerous attempts to have the 311 administrators change this policy in order to ensure that playgrounds are safe for children.  However, 311 stands firm in their position that all residents should attend parks with paper and pen, and at least one free hand, so they can record the needle pick number and make a second call.  All this, presumably while maintaining control over their children. 

The False Creek Residents Association has been working closely with the Police Department and the Parks Board to improve safety in local parks.  Senior representatives on our working group, Inspector Howard Chow and Park Director Bill Harding, have been very helpful and supportive.  We appreciate their active involvement and commitment. Both would like to see this problem solved.  Neither have been able to influence the 311 policy.  Parents and caregivers are anxious to work with civic officials, to be an extra set of ‘eyes’, and assist in keeping public areas safe.  The current policy is a barrier to this important aspect of engagement.

We are advised by 311 administrators that the policy is based on the preference of the outside contractor to have the personal information of the caller.  This apparently trumps children’s safety.

We hope you will agree that children’s safety is paramount, and the City should do whatever is necessary to ensure that used syringes, used condoms, and other hazardous materials are removed as soon as possible from the playground area.  We have a collection of photos of syringes in playgrounds, hidden in play structures, strewn on the ground, on benches, in the grass etc.  I can provide these if necessary.

If the City can have a ‘one stop service’ for tax collection, surely we can extend the same concept to the collection of used syringes from children’s play areas.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.
Fern Jeffries
Co-Chair, False Creek Residents Association

No Pretense – Chief Planner Brian Jackson admits to the Court that he did not consider the FCRA submission

On December 12, 2014 the FCRA presented its case for Judicial Review of the City’s decision to grant Concord Pacific an extension of its temporary permit for the Sales Centre located on land zoned for exclusive park use. The city allowed Concord to build the sales centre on this land (Lot 9 of the BC Place/Expo District) on the basis of “hardship” as outlined in the Vancouver Charter.

In closing the proceedings for the day, Justice Sewell asked that the City clarify its consideration of hardship.  The City has responded with this affidavit filed by Brian Jackson, General Manager of Planning and development.

Before we filed for Judicial Review – in fact, before we even considered legal action, the FCRA wrote to Mr. Jackson outlining the reasons we objected to the renewal of the permit.  Obviously, we addressed the issue of “hardship”.

In his affidavit to the Court, Mr.Jackson refers to all the information he considered before issuing a 3 year extension for Concord.  What is not listed is our May 3 submission.

A clear admission that the City has made its decision without hearing from the community.

Keeping Parks and Playgrounds safe for Children

Whether you’re out walking your dog or taking the kids out to play, we are all aware that our parks and playgrounds are often littered with used syringes, human and animal feces, and other garbage that threatens health and safety.

The FCRA has been working with the Vancouver Police Department and the Park Board to develop strategies for improving park safety.  Please check out our Action Plan and provide your  comments and input.

Active engagement with the Community Policing Office, Family Movie Night, a Community Baseball League —  some of the many ideas for activating the park and ensuring that it is safe for children and families.

This picture was taken December 2014 under one of  the play structure in the park.  Let’s make 2015 safe!

The Playground at Andy Livingston Park

Day 1 – FCRA vs the City of Vancouver and Concord Pacific

Back in May 2014, the FCRA filed a petition in the Supreme Court of British Columbia asking the Court to determine whether the City was right in according Concord Pacific “Hardship” status, exempting them from the Park zoning, and allowing them to conduct business on the 9 acres park-zoned site located on the northeast shore of False Creek.  The existing permit expired on May 16th, and our petition to the court asked that it not be renewed.

Our issue was very simple, and lawyers for the City agreed it could be dealt with in one day.  Enter Concord Pacific.  Concord filed an application to be named a full party to our dispute with the city.  Their application was granted, and our case became FCRA vs the City of Vancouver AND One West Holdings (Concord’s legal name).

Let me take a quick detour to provide some definitions.  Our legal action is a Judicial Review procedure.  Many decisions are made by civil servants acting in a quasi-judicial manner, and by various administrative boards and tribunals.  Appointees are normally considered “experts” in their fields.  For example, a member of the BC Labour Relations Board will normally have extensive knowledge of labour law and/or staff relations and/or human resource management.  In cases such as this, Courts allow a high level of “deference” to the decisions made.  Because the decision-maker has specialized expertise, the Judge will only consider whether the decision was “reasonable”, not whether it was correct.

However, the decision-maker must stay within the ambit of his/her expertise.  Otherwise, the decision-maker looses jurisdiction, and a Judge may review the decision on the basis of “correctness”, not simply “reasonableness”.  If a decision-maker makes a decision outside the authority of the legislation that created the mandate, this too would render the decision reviewable on the higher standard of “correctness”.

After our petition was filed in May, on July 24, 2014, the City of Vancouver renewed the “temporary” development permit, allowing Concord another 3 years of doing business on the park site.  We then amended our petition, asking the Court to quash that decision and not to allow for any of the other commercial operations to take place on the 9 acre site.

Back to our day in court.

The day started with Concord’s lawyer, Mr. Hein Poulus, Q.C. asking for an adjournment because he would require more than just one day of the court’s time.  We all knew that to get a 2-day court appointment would take us well into 2015.  Our lawyer, Bob Kasting, argued that we should proceed.  The Mr. Justice Sewell agreed.

Bob presented our case:

  1. That allowing commercial use of park-zoned land wasn’t’ just a mere “relaxation” of the zoning, it was a change of use from Park to Business.
  2. That the Director of Planning did not have jurisdiction in the Vancouver Charter to change use, rather Council would have to go through its normal procedure of re-zoning to change from park zoning to commercial use.
  3. Therefore the Director of Planning did not have the jurisdiction.
  4. Alternately, if the Director of Planning had the jurisdiction, he made an unreasonable decision in considering the application of “hardship” to Concord’s situation as all Concord’s evidence was about their marketing a “waterfront” lifestyle, not about hardship.

Concord presented next, although obviously there were ongoing private discussions between the City’s lawyer and Mr. Poulus. Mr. Poulus took the Court through a lengthy (and in our view totally irrelevant) history lesson from Expo ’86 through to the present.  His presentation also attempted to interpret the FCRA’s motivations.  Hours later, he finally got around to focussing on the questions before the Court.

Concord and the City argue that the Director of Planning has jurisdiction to relax the zoning and allow commercial use of park land.  Further, they argue that because of the shortage of land in northeast False Creek, not allowing this use of the 9 acre park site would cause “unnecessary hardship” to Concord.

By the end of the day, Concord finished its presentation, but indicated that they were “surprised” by our application to deny other commercial uses for Lot 9, and would need time to prepare for additional submissions.

Court adjourned.  Our challenge now is to schedule another day in the Court.  At that point, the City of Vancouver is likely to present rather than simply allowing Concord to speak on its behalf.  Then the FCRA will have an opportunity for a closing statement.

Submissions and supporting affidavits are all posted on our web site: falsecreekresidents.org.

In addition, Jeff Lee has written a piece in the Vancouver Sun.  He was present for the first half of the day’s proceedings.

Although obviously the FCRA wants to get on with building the park, however, that is not the issue before the court.  In our view, Concord’s extensive presentations on soil remediation, viaduct removal, allowing various charitable organizations to use lot 9 for events like the Sun Run, etc. is background noise, attempting to delay proceedings and confound the court.  But at the end of Day 1, Mr. Justice Sewell made it clear that he is still focussed on the “evidence of hardship” before Mr. Jackson when the decision was made to allow commercial use of park-zoned land.

Concord’s Response to the FCRA Petition

Concord has filed its response to the FCRA petition for judicial review.

Their response attempts to steer attention to FCRA motivation rather than the quite narrow focus on the question before the Court:  Would Concord suffer “unnecessary hardship” such that the City could grant them an exemption from zoning?

The response contains all kinds of information on soil remediation,  various charitable causes they support, constraints around the  timing of Creekside Park delivery, etc.  Everything except “Hardship” – the basis of the exemption!

Have a read.  You’ll enjoy it.

Concord Pleads Hardship – The Court will determine whether the City made a reasonable decision

On December 12, the FCRA will have its day in court, asking whether the City was justified in relaxing the zoning bylaw to allow Concord Pacific to sell its condos on park-zoned land.

Concord bases its case on wanting a location that accurately portrays the lifestyle it is marketing i.e. waterfront luxury condominiums. The City agreed, putting Concord’s marketing plan ahead of the community’s need for green space.

Here is Concord’s application, filed as part of the city response to the FCRA’s challenge.  Does this sound like hardship to you?
Concord's Hardship Case

Welcome New Board Members

IMG_2447The FCRA hosted another successful AGM at Science World, December 2, 2014.  Our guest speaker was Adriane Carr, recently elected to City Council with more votes than any other candidate.

Councillor Carr provided interesting commentary and analysis of the recent civic election, including some insights into how we might tell if there is any new collaboration on the City Council. We were also joined by Olympic Village neighbour, John Coupar, NPA,  newly elected as Chair of the Vancouver Park Board.  Both Councillor Carr and Commissioner Coupar indicated their interest in working collaboratively in the interests of community and neighbourhoods.

Association Co-Chairs Patsy McMillan and Fern Jeffries tabled their annual report, highlighting the advocacy work undertaken by the association on a range of issues including the seismic upgrade for Lord Strathcona School, playground improvement, safety and up-keep of parks, and local planning and development. Much of our energy has focused on local development issues such as the city’s unfortunate approval of more than 1,300 new units with  no increase in childcare spaces or green space.  The Greening the Creek Light Campaign has lit up homes all around False Creek, sending a silent message to City Hall that we want Creekside Park now.  Our Court challenge to commercial use of park space continues in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on December 12, 2014.  Stay tuned!

We thank Gary Jackson for his years of service to the association.  We welcome new Board Members, Peter Kieser, JF Williams, Fiona Burke and Aaron Chapman.  This promises to be an interesting and exciting year.

Open House December 3, Creekside Community Centre, 4 pm to 7 pm

The FCRA lobbied for the refurbishment of the Creekside Park playground as part of the Community Amenity Contribution paid by the developer for the rezoning of the area east of the Cambie Bridge..  You will recall that we lost one of the playgrounds on the south side of that park when Science World remodelled and built its outdoor Science extension.

We’re happy to report that the Park Board is now moving to renew the playground.  They will have some initial drawings and ideas to present.  They are asking for community feedback on this initial work and community input into the final placement of the playground, design and playground components.

Come to the Open House