Archive for November 2011
The Past: Developers in Control of their Puppets
With less than one work week remaining between now and the 19 November 2011 Vancouver municipal election, Eye on Norquay offers this final perspective.
The key message about this election went out over a week ago: the Vision-NPA axis is funded by developers. These two parties care little for anything except payback to those who finance their electioneering. Any neighborhood where a developer looks to reap extravagant profit comes second. A prime example is what has happened to Norquay, especially with last-minute “considerations” that the community never saw before approval.
Look at this recent hard evidence:
Split Council is different than diverse Council. If slates exist, better one slate has majority.
Bob Ransford, the packager of three acres in Far East Vancouver, tweeted this opinion last Saturday to another big name in Vancouver development, Michael Geller. The deal was sealed on his rezoning package less than three weeks ahead of this election. What a no-surprise when NPA Ransford jumped up today to support Vision.
Developers pour a lot of money into both sides of the Vision-NPA axis, and don’t really much care who wins, as long as few or no winners are independent of the axis. Given their druthers, they prefer the autocracy that NPA was able to provide 2005-2008 and Vision 2008-2011.
This notorious expression of royal privilege spewed from the mouth of Councillor Geoff Meggs in 2009 —
The consultation was the election and this is the delivery.
— when a few prescient Vancouver residents objected to handing over to developers under the STIR program as much as $100,000 per unit to build condos that would rent for however much the developer could afterward extract from a renter. The jargon for this scam is market-affordable.
The Future? Independent Councillors Balancing All Interests
In this election, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) offers a clear and credible and experienced alternative to the developer-funded axis. This electoral organization — not a political party — has put forward a candidate for Mayor and four candidates for Council. In particular, Elizabeth Murphy has stood with Norquay residents on many separate occasions since 2007. To round out a slate, NSV has also endorsed six additional candidates without seeking any reciprocity. Two of these additional candidates, Tim Louis and Ellen Woodsworth of COPE, have served on Council and exemplify many of the values held by NSV. The platform of NSV articulates principles and policy developed through years of advocacy for neighborhoods and their people.
East Vancouver Needs to Vote
The widening disparity between East and West in Vancouver traces to the control of elections by voters who live west of Main Street. See the percentage turnout in 2008 for your voting district on this map of Vancouver. How else to explain the imposition of the first two mass-rezoned “neighbourhood centres” on Kingsway & Knight and on Norquay, two adjacent areas in the heart of East Vancouver? According to sequence in time, the first two Community Visions — Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Dunbar — would have produced the first two neighbourhood centres. Yet Dunbar on the far west side will be the last place planners dare to go with this kind of abusive “planning.”
Historical aside: The second two centres were to have been Hastings-Sunrise North and Main Street-Riley Park. The first mentioned will be subsumed in the new simultaneous planning of Grandview-Woodland, Marpole, and West End. The second has been overwhelmed by the Little Mountain debacle and the takeout of all of Cambie Corridor.
So-called city planning seems to have abandoned the huge efforts and millions of dollars that went into producing nine Community Visions. The past decade, and in particular the past two Councils, NPA and then Vision, have abandoned CityPlan because developers wanted helter-skelter maximization of all profit opportunities rather than sane progression toward a livable and sustainable city of 23 villages.
Affordability of housing is not encouraged by deliberately accelerating demolition of older stock. When developers replace those buildings with smaller, more expensive units, they often house no more people, but only bring in gentrifiers to displace the existing working-class and immigrant community.
Only a diverse Council of independent candidates can pursue a balanced agenda — abandoning an agenda which says no one except the developer will be heard, repudiating an agenda where the developer operates in the back room with planners until most features of a rezoning project are beyond significant change.
Eye on Norquay has already connected the recent rezoning of 3 acres at Boundary-Ormidale-Vanness to the protracted Norquay struggle with developers and planners and politicians.
Now see for yourself how affordable housing is also a key issue in this mass rezoning. Listen to what NSV Council candidate Terry Martin says to the 1 November 2011 public hearing:
Martin begins by highlighting the severe conflict of interest situation of the Vision and NPA councillors who have received substantial funding from applicant Wall Financial.
He comments that the rezoning would increase FSR from 1.45 to 5.5 (an increase of 380%). Based on a rough estimate of $400,000 per unit, the rezoning alters overall project value from $120 million to $445 million. At a 15% profit margin, Martin estimates an extra $50 million in profits will go to the developer.
Martin notes that the only two councillors to bring up the issue of affordable housing were David Cadman and Ellen Woodsworth — perhaps not coincidentally the only two councillors not impaired by conflict of interest.
Despite incorporating a lot owned by the City of Vancouver, the project contemplates no contribution whatsoever to affordable housing.
[ Editorial aside: the gentrification agenda does not support “mix” in this kind of virtual gated-community development — just phony talk of loving “mix” as long as it happens to land in places like the Downtown Eastside. ]
To rub in the pain, the motion to approve this mass rezoning was made by Kerry Jang — a past master at betraying the area of town that he likes to claim to live in.
Detail of the vote:
Against: COPE (David Cadman, Ellen Woodsworth)
For: Vision (Gregor Robertson, Heather Deal, Kerry Jang, Raymond Louie, Geoff Meggs, Tim Stevenson)
NPA (Suzanne Anton)
Martin has also put out this tweet on the public hearing.
After the 2002 civic election, COPE spawned a malformed child that only had a right arm — a child that presumed to name itself Vision Vancouver. Since then, the already tired party politics of Vancouver has morphed into desperate farce.
While Vision and NPA have competed over the past six years to be right and righter, they have obscured the truth that their similarity matters much more than their superficial differences. The evidence? Vancouver’s development industry happily funds both, and the same developer often funds both sides, though sometimes not equally.
To judge by Council voting records, developers do not care whether Vision or NPA candidates are elected — as long as the majority of Council is dominated by the Vision-NPA axis that favors their interests.
A report posted by Think City on 31 March 2009 calculates that Vision spent $2.5 million in the 2008 Vancouver municipal election, while the almost-decimated NPA spent $2.1 million.
Vision went on to raise even more money after its initial required reporting. Developer money played a big role in erasing their 2008 debt of almost a quarter of a million dollars.
How can a sitting Council with a strong majority have no conflict of interest while routinely rubber-stamping applications from the developers who are still pouring money into their pockets?
Neighborhoods as Wild Card
From 2005 to 2008 Tweedledum aka NPA held sway, giving way to Tweedledee aka Vision for 2008 to 2011. The continuity of this developer-funded axis has brought rezoning disaster to neighborhood after neighborhood across Vancouver. In this swirl of rezoning maelstrom, Norquay stood out as struggling victim about to go under.
Only two days ago, in an end-game display of contempt, the Vision-NPA juggernaut rolled over a hapless three acres in far east Vancouver.
Desperate neighborhoods were hoping that Vision might mitigate the suffering that they had experienced under the NPA. See below for two letters published right after the 2008 election. Vision proved to be no savior to neighborhoods, as Vancouver Council Votes demonstrates. Rezoning after rezoning saw hordes of Vancouver residents waste countless hours at public hearings, trying to speak to a deaf and sometimes insulting Council.
In this 2011 election, therefore, no hope should be placed in the axis. The good news is that there are a wealth of other strong candidates to choose from, candidates that could form a Council not dominated by developer interests. In particular:
• Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) has candidates for Mayor and four seats on Council
• COPE has three candidates for Council
• Sandy Garossino is making a strong run as an independent
• Adriane Carr is running under the Green banner
• Bill McCreery has demonstrated strong support for neighborhood interests despite his NPA affiliation
2011 could be the year that neighborhoods take revenge on the developer-funded Vision-NPA axis, and vote in a Council that has more ears to hear with and is less impaired by Strangelovian rubber-stamp jerk reflexes.
Two Letters from the Archives
Joseph Jones. “NPA paid price for ignoring neighbourhood’s wants” [letter]. Vancouver Sun (20 Nov 2008) A18
Re: Eastside immigrant areas switched from NPA to Vision, Nov. 18
Let me offer a further explanation for the dramatic shift away from Non-Partisan Association in eastside municipal voting, especially in Renfrew-Collingwood, the area that this article highlights.
As a founder of Norquay Neighbours, I can tell you that my immigrant neighbours and I were appalled by the June 2007 attempt to initiate the mass rezoning of 2,400 of our homes. Our dismay then spread right across the city.
The out-of-nowhere “draft plan” for our neighbourhood clearly violated the Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision approved by city council.
Despite official denials, city documents confirmed that this move was rooted in premature EcoDensity. After a survey attached to the draft proposal met with strong rejection, the city at first withheld the results, and then hired an “independent adviser” who said those results should be disregarded!
I feel certain that this recent history provided the cornerstone for successful COPE and Vision campaigning in East Vancouver.
= = =
Joseph Jones. NPA rezoning sowed the seeds of their defeat [letter]. Georgia Straight (27 Nov 2008)
Carlito Pablo offers Ladner’s ousting of Sullivan as an explanation for the NPA defeat [“Coup blamed for NPA loss”, November 20-27]. Recent history provides a reason for both a West Side drop in NPA turnout and for a dramatic shift away from the NPA in an increased East Side immigrant vote. A sudden mass-rezoning proposal that violated the city council–approved Renfrew-Collingwood Community Visions provoked the June 2007 formation of Norquay Neighbours. That group’s first public action saw about 40 people, diverse in age and ethnicity, picketing and leafleting the city’s June 23, 2007, EcoDensity forum.
In that setting, Norquay residents established connections with other anxious neighborhoods from across Vancouver and found ongoing support for their opposition to a reckless EcoDensity. Acquaintances developed further during the unprecedented seven nights of public hearings on EcoDensity in the spring of 2008 at City Hall. Not voting for and voting against are two sides of the same ballot.
[ Historical note: Origins of Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver can be detected in the phrases “right across the city” and “other anxious neighborhoods from across Vancouver.” ]
* * *
[ Note: Figures may be less than full totals ]
Developer Vision NPA Aquilini 5,000 14,801 Concert 5,000 7,086 Concord Pacific 34,586 35,600 Holborn 7,000 Millennium 3,250 500 Pattison 10,000 10,000 Rennie 17,500 35,000 Rize 16,961 Wall 14,250 6,161 Westbank 2,000 5,000 98,586 131,109
Lori Culbert / Chad Skelton. “Developers, condo king top civic campaign donors list.” Vancouver Sun (14 Mar 2009) A3
Mike Klassen. Vision’s big debt erased by big donations from big developers. CityCaucus.com (29 July 2010)
Tom Sandborn. Show me the money in Vancouver civic election. Vancouver Courier (27 Oct 2011)