2101, 2015

In Land Swap, Where Did $43 Million Go?

Money Flying Away in Land SwapWhere did $43 million go? Did Vancouver City Hall give a developer an overly sweet deal? And did taxpayers lose almost $45 million in a complex land swap? These are all questions that are raised in reading this week’s Georgia Straight article, City of Vancouver Downtown Land Swap Questioned.

Author Carlito Pablo points to a huge discrepancy between the value that the City attributed to the property at 508 Helmcken in 2014 and its new 2015 assessed value.

The Land Swap

As readers of this site will recall, 508 Helmcken and 1077/1099 Richards are set to be traded in a land swap agreement between the City and a developer, Brenhill. As part of that deal, the City valued its property at 508 Helmcken in 2014 at $15 million. The difference in the value of the swapped properties, according to the City, was $6.6 million.

2015 Assessment Surprise

Recently, the City issued its 2015 Property Assessments for the two properties. Surprise! 508 Helmcken is now valued at more than $59 million–and will soon become the property of developer Brenhill. The difference in value for these same swapped properties in 2015 is now suddenly nearly $50 million.

That $50 difference is roughly $44 million more than the city’s own estimate just a year ago. Brenhill will soon own this $59 million property, on terms based on last year’s $15 million valuation.

How Could This Happen?

Why did the City agree to trade away its land based on an assessment that is $44 million lower than its current value? Did Brenhill get an unusually sweet deal? Did Vancouver taxpayers lose out, big time? Why isn’t the City getting full value for its property?

And perhaps most importantly, how could this kind of deal happen?

For more information, please read the article in the Georgia Straight, and earlier more detailed analysis in CityHallWatch.

1511, 2014

Please vote

VoteAll residents of Vancouver have the opportunity to vote today for the city we want to become.

For the residents of New Yaletown, it is time to vote for change. The incumbent council has repeatedly voted against our interests, without proper consultation or even disclosure of relevant information. It has held secret meetings, hidden bylaw changes from our community, and refused to consider reasonable proposals for compromise.

As a non-partisan association, the Community Association of New Yaletown can not, and will not, recommend a slate of candidates. What we can and will do is recommend you vote for change, to replace the current dominant party and elect a mixed slate of your own choosing.

Above all, we urge you to vote.

Find a place to vote :


Even if you haven’t yet registered, you can bring two forms of ID and register at any polling place.

Today is the day. Vote now!


310, 2014

Why won’t Mayor Robertson enforce laws for peaceful protest?

Protesters targeting young children with unpleasant imagesOn Davie St. downtown every week for the past year, a group of protesters violates Federal criminal, Provincial,  and City bylaws. Police officers regularly observe the violations and take no action.

The police confirm that laws are being broken. They embarrassedly admit that are under strict orders not to take any action against the protesters unless things “get out of hand.” Top police officials say that they’ve been instructed by our Vision-led City government not to enforce the laws.

Protest sign with offensive languageNew Yaletown residents, businesses and visitors are increasingly frustrated by this untenable situation. Every week for a year we have been subjected to disturbances of the peace, unpleasantly loud screaming and shouting, and verbal abuse and hostile threats by the protesters, and we have had our children forcefully exposed to disturbing images and offensive language as we simply pass by on the sidewalk.

Speak quietly to a protester and you’ll likely get screamed at and perhaps threatened. The protesters’ noise travels for blocks, interfering with peaceful conversation even within our own homes.

Numerous calls and emails to police and city officials have resulted in no action against the protesters.

Possible criminal and by-law violations by the protesters include:

Federal Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46)

BC Provincial Laws

 City of Vancouver By-laws

The Davie Street location of the protest is classified by the City Noise Control Bylaw as a residential neighbourhood. The law gives us the right to quiet enjoyment of our homes.

Numerous calls to police and emails to city officials have resulted in no action.

The Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY) has been asked by its members to take action.

CANY firmly believes in the right to protest peacefully. Regardless of the issue being protested, the right to free speech can not be trampled. The right to protest is not at issue.

CANY also firmly believes that laws are created for a purpose. When laws are not enforced, as in the case of the Stanley Cup Riots, civil disorder ensues and confidence in our elected officials drops.

These protesters have gone far beyond peaceful protest. They appear to be violating numerous civil and criminal laws and are creating a hostile, noisy, unpleasant environment in our residential neighbourhood. We have had enough of the continued inaction by our Vision-led government.

So we are asking everyone to demand that Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision-led Council enforce the law.

Take Action Now

  • Call, Email, and Share every time the protesters disturb the peace.


Vancouver Police: 604-717-3321
Noise Complaints Hotline: 604-873-7000


City Council: mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca
Mayor Gregor Robertson: gregor.robertson@vancouver.ca
Police: vpd@vpd.ca


Add any of the following to your tweet:
#Vanpoli #Vancouver @MayorGregor @CityofVancouver @VanMayorsOffice @VancouverPD @VisionVancouver @iyaletown @yaletown

Sign the petition

Add your name to the hundreds of people who want the City to enforce the laws to keep protests peaceful.

109, 2014

Did City Get a Bad Deal in Secret Land Swap?

Did the City of Vancouver strike a “sweet deal” with a developer, and lose over $40 million in the process?

That’s what documents recently released by the City appear to show.

Unfortunately, these documents were hidden from the public at the public hearing for the rezoning of the land in question, at 508 Helmcken St.

Months before the public hearing, the City and Brenhill Developments secretly signed a Land Exchange Contract, and then City Council secretly approved this deal during an in camera meeting.

Then at the public hearing, the terms of the deal and even the existence of this secret contract were intentionally withheld from the public.

At the public hearing, the Land Exchange Contract was repeatedly described by the City in its public documents as “a proposal”. In reality, it wasn’t a proposal at all. It was a done deal, with financial terms and agreed-upon density that were intentionally kept secret.

The City intentionally kept the existence of the contract and its terms secret so that the public could not analyze or discuss what a sweet deal it was for the developer — and what a bad deal it was for taxpayers.

Months after the rezoning, and months after a CANY FOI request, the City finally released the Land Exchange Contract — but only after CANY filed its lawsuit against the City.

CityHallWatch has now examined the terms of the deal and finds that in the land swap, the City lost over $40 million of public funds. See the full details plus an excellent analysis at CityHallWatch: http://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/was_land_swap_a_bad_deal/.

Has City secrecy gone too far? Does the public have a right to know how its tax dollars are spent?

2408, 2014

Social housing rent: How high is too high?

Construction is progressing rapidly at 1099 Richards, a development the City described at a public hearing as “100% social housing” and therefore worthy of additional density in excess of local zoning bylaws.

In addition to the 87 units that will simply replace the 87 units currently at Jubilee House, this building will also contain 75 “low end of market” units. These units are tiny: 34 studio apartments are 320 sq. ft.. The 41, 1-Bedroom units are 350 sq. ft., for an average size of 336.4 sq ft.

Average rent is $1142 / month for these “low end of market” “social housing” apartments. Not a tiny amount.

How costly is this on a per-square-foot basis? $3.39/sq. ft. monthly, or 40.74/sq. ft. annually.

Let’s compare this rent to other apartments in the area on a per-square-foot basis.

Furnished New Yaletown ApartmentWe checked Craigslist, which on Aug 24, 2014, listed an 883 sq. ft. apartment directly across the street from 1099 Richards. This fully furnished Yaletown apartment rents for $2350/mo. That’s $2.66/sq. ft. monthly, or 31.94/sq. ft. annually.

On a price per square foot basis, the 1099 Richards “low end of market” City-defined “social housing” is 27% more expensive than a fully furnished New Yaletown apartment across the street!

Luxury Apartment 1400 sq ft water viewsTo see if this is just an anomaly, we checked out another listing for another data point. This 1400 sq. ft. luxury apartment with water views rents downtown for $3950/mo. That’s $2.82/sq. ft. monthly, or 33.86/sq. ft. annually.

On a price per square foot basis, the 1099 Richards “low end of market” City-defined “social housing” is 20% more expensive than a downtown luxury apartment with water views!

Which apartment is the better deal? You decide:

Apartment Size
$ per Sq.Ft.
1099 Richards “Social Housing” at “Low end of market” 336.4 $1142 $3.39
Fully Furnished Yaletown Apartment 883 $2350 $2.66
Luxury Apartment with Water Views 1400 $3950 $2.82

apartment rent comparison

Is the City playing fast and loose with the terms “social housing” and “low end of market?”

Or being lured into giving density bonuses to a developer who is charging luxury rents for “social housing”?

Should the developer Brenhill be earning luxury-rate profits from so-called social housing?

Share your thoughts on Twitter, and with the Mayor and Council.

2008, 2014

Media Release, Aug 21, 2014: Supreme Court to Hear CANY v. City of Vancouver

Neighbourhood Association Slams City for Violations of Procedural Fairness and for Secret Contract to Build Massive Tower

BC Supreme Court will be hearing the claims of the Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY) against the City of Vancouver in a four-day hearing, starting Monday, August 25 2014. CANY’s legal petition presents evidence that the City signed a secret Land Exchange Contract with a developer, Brenhill Development Ltd. six months before the public hearing regarding the developments. The outcome of the public hearing was predetermined, in violation of procedural fairness.

CANY is asking the Court to quash the contract and subsequent rezoning in order to prevent the densest residential building in Vancouver from being built right on the corner of Emery Barnes Park downtown. This case is “one of the most troubling of several legal battles launched by citizens against the City of Vancouver,” according to the CityHallWatch website.

“The City has repeatedly violated standards of procedural fairness with respect to these two developments—from failing to disclose the contract and other related documents at the public hearing to withholding documents requested through FOI.” said CANY President Jon Green. “This was a secret, backroom deal. The entire process was extremely unfair to the public.”

CANY has posted the complete amended petition, images of the developments, a summary chronology and additional information at http://www.newyaletown.ca.

This lawsuit follows fourteen others from community associations, including a petition from the Residents Association Mount Pleasant challenging the Rize development, and another from the False Creek Residents Association before the Court in early September and challenging commercial use of land that is zoned exclusively for park and recreation uses.

Download the CANY media release:
CANY Media Release, CANY v CoV, Aug 21 2014

1508, 2014

Low end of market? Or just another deception?

The City of Vancouver has said a benefit of entering into this Land Exchange Contract with Brenhill developments is the increase in social housing.  The 1099 Richards building replaces only the 87 units of social housing in the Jubilee House.  The remaining 75 units will provide housing to individuals at low-end of market rents.  The development application admits that those 75 units will likely host a range of levels of income, yet it repeatedly falsely refers to these small apartments to be rented at market rates as “social housing”.  This is a direct attempt to mislead the public that more social housing is being built at the 1099 Richards site (see full details here)

As our court dates loomed, I began reviewing the sizes of the planned apartments at 1099 Richards.   The other units at 1099 Richards are very small for-profit rental units. I looked up again how small they were, and what they were renting for (see 1099 Richards Street Development Permit Board Report, July 31, 2013):

There will be 34 tiny (320 sq. ft) studio apartments and 41 tiny (~350 sq. ft) 1-bedroom units, which will be initially rented at so-called “low end of market” rates with a combined average rent of $1142 per month.

What struck this time was that on a per square foot basis, these rents are actually quite expensive—and profitable.

If we apply this same $ per sq. ft ratio to a 500 sq. ft. apartment, it would rent for $2,500. For that rent, you might instead consider this fully furnished 500 sq.ft. Yaletown apartment, renting at a lower price per square foot at $1550:


If we apply this same $ per sq. ft ratio to a 1400 sq. ft. apartment, it would rent for $4,375. For that rent, you might instead consider this 1400 sq. ft. luxury apartment with water views, renting at a lower price per square foot at $3980:


The rents at 1099 Richards are decidedly higher per square foot than these much more desirable units currently on the market.

What makes the apartments at 1099 Richards merit being called “low end of market” rentals?

Aren’t they simply tiny units, rented at very profitably at prices above average rates in the neighbourhood?

Additionally, does it also warrant allowing Brenhill to build a 36-storey, 100% for-profit tower on Emery Barnes Park?  And if people are living in 320 sq. ft, won’t they need more park space to escape to?

Please share this and sign our petition as we stand up to the City for our neighbourhood!

1607, 2014

Media Release, July 16, 2014: City Refuses to Disclose Documents Requested Under Freedom of Information Act. What is the City Hiding?

The City of Vancouver continues to withhold documents, requested in December 2013 under the Freedom of Information act, regarding the land swap, rezoning and redevelopment of 1099 Richards and 508 Helmcken. 144 days later, and one day after the Community Association of New Yaletown filed and served its Judicial Review Application to set aside the rezoning, the City finally released a portion of the requested records. The released records were heavily redacted.

Now, more than 6 months after the original request, the City continues to intentionally withhold over 90% of the documents identified in this request.

FOIPPA requires delivery of records requested under the Act within 30 business days.

“Our request was a simple request for emails,” said Jon Green, President of the Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY). “Anyone can search their email in seconds. The City appears to be intentionally delaying delivery of the records. What is the City hiding?”

The City’s repeated delays and continued refusal to deliver the requested documents are not isolated incidents. The newspaper industry association Newspapers Canada, in its National Freedom of Information Audit, recently gave the City of Vancouver a mark of “C” for extent of information disclosed, and an “F” for speed of responses.

“While I respect the role that confidentiality plays in good government, secrecy undermines it,” said Kerry Corlett, a CANY member. “The City of Vancouver intentionally withheld crucial information from the public, including the January 2013 Land Exchange Contract between the City and Brenhill. This information should have been disclosed at the open houses and public hearings. Based on the City’s continued refusal to provide full disclosure under FOI legislation, one can only draw the conclusion that the City has something to hide.”

Mr. Green’s FOI Request was for:

“All email correspondence between Brian Jackson, Penny Ballem, Mike Magee, Michael Flanigan and Kent Munro with regards to the 508 Helmcken rezoning and/or the 1099 Richards rezoning from August 1, 2012 to December 13, 2013.”

The FOI request relates to the Community Association of New Yaletown’s quest to stop the developments at 508 Helmcken and 1099 Richards. These buildings were approved by the City over the objections of 90% of area residents, in violation of numerous bylaws and the Vancouver Charter, and through a process that repeatedly breached legal standards of procedural fairness, according to the amended legal Petition filed July 3, 2014 in BC Supreme Court.

“We now know that the City entered into a Land Exchange Contract with a developer 6 months before the public hearing,” added CANY President Green. “This contract and other related agreements were kept secret and intentionally withheld from the public at the public hearing. The entire hearing was a sham. The public didn’t stand a chance.  Now the City is withholding documents detailing these secret deals. The City continues to use secrecy as a weapon.”

By email dated March 12, 2013, the City replied regarding the FOI request, advising that it had over “9000 pages of responsive records”. Yet after 3 months of delays past the legal due date, the City released just 85 pages. Of those 85 pages released on May 6, 2014, City officials blanked out a total of roughly 29 pages.

The redacted FOI documents can be viewed at CANY FOI #1 Info Requested 2013-377 – res.pdf.

On May 20, May 23, and again on June 2, 2014, Mr. Green inquired as to why only 1% of the responsive records were delivered. Receiving no reply from the City to any of his emails, on June 3 Mr. Green once again submitted a complaint to the OIPC requesting an inquiry into the City’s refusal to deliver the bulk of the requested documents.

On June 4, Barbara Van Fraassen, the City’s Director of Access to Information finally replied to Mr. Green, falsely claiming that “Your request keyed on/revolved around Michael Flanigan’s correspondence with a set of named parties” and that this reduced the number of respondent pages.

Despite Ms. Van Fraassen’s false claims, the FOI request clearly lists five City employees equally, not just Michael Flanigan, who is no longer employed by the City and now works for BC Housing. Michael Flanigan left the City within a month of the City approving the two developments around which the FOI request centres.

Mr. Green sent numerous emails to the City requesting the missing requested documents, re-documenting the initial request and even quoting Ms. Van Fraassen’s correspondence listing the 5 individuals involved. The City remained silent, and refused to deliver the emails involving Brian Jackson, Penny Balem, Mike Magee and Kent Munro.

Finally on June 27 the City replied, suggesting that since the matter was subject to an inquiry by the OIPC, it did not have to provide documents until the complaint was resolved. Mr. Green immediately replied demanding delivery of the missing records but the City continues to withhold the documents.

The City has not replied since, and continues to be in violation of the Freedom of Information act.

CANY’s legal claims are scheduled for a 4-day hearing commencing on August 25, 2014.  CANY is asking the Court to set aside Council’s decision to rezone 508 Helmcken and to declare the Land Exchange Contract unenforceable.

If built, these developments will prevent the planned expansion of Emery Barnes Park to occupy the full block, as had been previously planned and budgeted.

Hundreds of residents have signed CANY’s Change.org petition online at https://www.change.org/petitions/the-city-of-vancouver-save-emery-barnes-park-andvancouver-s-green-space and are donating towards legal fees and following updates on the case at www.newyaletown.ca.

A detailed chronology follows:

  • On December 13, 2013, the FOI request was submitted to the City.
  • The City initially set its own due date for delivery on January 30—the maximum allowed by law.
  • On February 4, responding to a query about its non-delivery, the City set itself a new due date for delivery on March 17, 2014.
  • On March 18, responding to a query about this second non-delivery, the City told Mr. Green that there were over 8,500 respondent documents and that they “expected” to deliver the requested information by April 30, 2014.
  • On March 21, Mr. Green submitted a formal Request for Review to the BC Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, seeking an inquiry into for the multiple delays.
  • On March 31, an OIPC officer told Mr. Green that the City was claiming it would now take an additional 400 business days to deliver the documents. Citing the City’s highly unusual call for significant further delay, the OIPC fast-tracked its inquiry into the matter.
  • On May 6, the Community Association of New Yaletown filed its Petition in BC Supreme Court seeking to halt the developments at 508 Helmcken and 1099 Richards, alleging violations of City bylaws, the Vancouver Charter, and violations of procedural fairness.
  • Within hours of being served notice of Court action, the City notified Mr. Green that the requested information was suddenly now available. Mr. Green paid for and collected the documents from City Hall the following day—144 days after the initial request and 96 days after the initial due date that the City had set. The documents supplied by the City contained only 85 heavily redacted pages, not the 8500+ pages previously indicated by Ms. Van Fraassen.
  • On May 20, May 23, and again on June 2, Mr. Green repeatedly sought an explanation for the non-delivery of roughly 99% of the respondent documents.
  • On June 3, 2014, Mr. Green again contacted the OIPC to request a review of the City’s withholding the remaining documents.
  • On June 4, the City falsely claimed that the FOI request centred on one individual, Michael Flanigan.
  • On June 13, June 20 and again on June 27, Mr. Green documented the full scope of the FOI request, quoting the City’s own correspondence mentioning the 5 individuals involved, and demanding delivery of the missing documents.
  • On June 27, the City finally replied, only to ask if the matter was under investigation by the OIPC.
  • On June 27, Mr. Green asked again for immediate delivery of the documents.
  • No response from the City has been received since June 27.
  • On July 3, CANY filed its amended Petition in BC Supreme Court.

Download the CANY media release, July 16, 2014:  CANY Media Release, FOI re Helmcken and Richards, July 16, 2014

807, 2014

Park Board Commissioner Confirms Plans for Full-Block Park

The City-owned land under the Jubilee House and Brookland Court social housing buildings at the north end of Emery Barnes Park had been planned and budgeted to be added to the park. Plans for a full-block Emery Barnes Park are documented in City and Park Board budgets, as reported earlier on this site.

In correspondence with a CANY member about the planned tower at 508 Helmcken, Park Board Commissioner Trevor Loke confirmed these original plans for Emery Barnes Park to occupy the entire city block.

Commissioner Loke further noted that the Park Board was not consulted or even informed that Jubilee House was to be replaced with a for-profit building. Commissioner Loke writes:

You are correct to state that it did not come before the board in either a briefing or a staff report. I understand that in 1998 the site was planned to be part of a future expansion of Emery Barnes Park

Current plans call for a private school to occupy the ground floor of the new tower at 508 Helmcken at the corner of Emery Barnes Park. When the school is in session, the school will use Emery Barnes Park as their private playground, without requesting permits or paying the daily usage fees required for legal private use of a public park.

It is disappointing to witness City staff secretly signing deals with a developer, overriding 90% public opposition to this project, and not even informing or consulting the Park Board, which has jurisdiction over the use of the park. If the building at 508 Helmcken is built, it will forever prevent the realization of the planned full-block park.

CANY is calling on the public to help fight illegal back-room deals with developers and save the original plans for a full-block Emery Barnes Park. Please sign our petition!

807, 2014

Media Release, July 7, 2014

The Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY) on July 3 filed an amended petition in BC Supreme Court regarding the land swap and redevelopment of 1099 Richards and 508 Helmcken.

New documents recently obtained by CANY show that the City of Vancouver entered into a Land Exchange Contract with the developer months before the rezoning was publicly considered by Council and did not disclose this at the public hearing—a clear violation of procedural fairness.

The amended petition alleges that the City, in approving development of the 36-storey tower at 508 Helmcken St. and a related building across the street at 1099 Richards St.:

  • Withheld crucial information from the public about the planned development, including the January 28, 2013 Land Exchange Contract between the City and the Developer, the January 31, 2013 Lease Surrender Agreement between the City, the Developer and 127 Society and May 15, 2013 Development Agreement between the City, Developer, 127 and BC Housing;
  • Fettered its voting discretion contrary to the Vancouver Charter; and
  • Repeatedly breached its legal duty to procedural fairness.

“The public hearing process relating to this development was completely flawed and totally unfair. Documents we obtained from the City after filing our original petition in May show that the City had, unbeknownst to the public, already entered into a Land Exchange Contract with the developer, months before the matter was put before Council for approval,” said Jon Green, President of the Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY). “By the time the rezoning was publicly considered by Council, the agreement was a done deal.”

“At the public hearing, I witnessed overwhelming public opposition to the rezoning of the Jubilee House site,” said Alexander Hayne, a neighbourhood resident. “My New Yaletown neighbours were begging the City to reduce the size of the proposed 36-storey condo tower to save the character of Emery Barnes Park and to better fit within our

“I was deeply disappointed when Council voted to approve the project with no changes to building height or density—against the emotional pleas of New Yaletown residents,” continued Hayne. “I invite other concerned Vancouver residents to join me in supporting the CANY lawsuit to hold our government accountable to conduct the rezoning via a fair and transparent process.”

Hundreds of residents have signed CANY’s Change.org petition online at https://www.change.org/petitions/the-city-of-vancouver-save-emery-barnes-park-andvancouver-s-green-space and are donating towards legal fees and following updates on the case at www.newyaletown.ca.

The petition is scheduled for a 3-day hearing commencing on August 18, 2014. CANY is asking the Court to set aside Council’s decision to rezone 508 Helmcken and to declare the Land Exchange Contract unenforceable.


Download the CANY Media Release, July 7 2014:
Community Association Files Amended Court Petition
to Stop Development near Emery Barnes Park