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