City of Vancouver’s June 10, 2014
“Closure and Sale of a Portion of Lane Adjacent to 1412-1480 Howe Street”
How a City can keep sale details quiet if they lose loads of money disposing prime development land?
How a City can build luxury housing on government owned land without telling anyone?
How to really confuse people during a public hearing and/or land disposal?
All of the above.
The City is encouraged to update their current “1412-1480 Howe Street” rezoning web page with any facts, updates or clarifications. Neither the sale price nor valuation details regarding these land transfers have ever been made public by the City of Vancouver. All values in this study were found through BC Assessment and BC Land Titles Registry. Only limited information concerning the sale could be obtained from the City itself after years of searching.
Nowhere on the City rezoning application website does it contain information or links to the actual land disposal contracts or valuations. The City website as it looked on March 13, 2018. LINK: CoV_Website_Rezoning Application, 1412-1460 Howe
The Sale Process
A City of Vancouver October 29, 2013 rezoning approval indicated that further authority would be required by City Council to dispose a portion of City lanes if sold. No information was provided regarding the sale price or values of those City owned lanes. Eight months later on June 10, 2014, City Council approved a staff “Motion” without any public involvement, nor disclosure of price. The title of the motion suggested that it was purely a sale of lanes, as indicated by the resolution for “Closure and Sale of a Portion of Lane Adjacent to 1412-1480 Howe Street”.
Seventeen days later on June 27, 2014, the City sold 12 land parcels consisting of 118,000 square feet or 2.7 acres. This was far more than just a sale of lanes “no longer required for municipal purposes”. Staff only allowed one investor the opportunity to purchase these land parcels and refused to hold competitive bidding. This was all part of a private sale process for prime downtown land that was rezoned to build condos for a private investor. The recently approved pre-sale units were immediately marketed offshore through offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and China by the Mayor’s 2014 election fundraising Chairman Bob Rennie who obtained the listing contract through his privately owned firm.
On June 27, 2014 the City of Vancouver received $32,444,621 when it transferred 118,000 sq.ft from 12 individual land parcels to Howe Street Ventures which owned 17,896 sq.ft. on 4 parcels itself. The City owned land made up roughly 87% of the combined holdings. These parcels were then converted into the three new land titles whose assessed values are shown below. The conservative valuation completed by BC Assessment 4 days after the titles were transferred to Howe Street Ventures indicated that the value of the entire development site was $100 million above the sale price, totaling $129,891,800. Financing details suggest the value was even higher than $129 million on the day of transfer. LINK:Value-$129Million
(above) Mayor Robertson with his 2011 election fundraising Chairman Mr.Gillespie
The Mayor’s 2011 Vancouver election fundraising Chairman is the CEO of Westbank Projects and Howe Street Ventures. On the day the City transferred 118,000 sq.ft. of land to his company, $100 million dollars in mortgages were registered against this newly rezoned bare land development site. The $100 million provided the purchaser $67,555,379 more than was required to cover the $32,444,621 payment to the City. Top City staff involved in the sale should have known that lenders were providing the purchaser 3x the $32 million sale price. They also should have known this was only possible because they were selling the land at a fraction of the current market value. City staff are experts in finance and law and should have known the property had to be worth at least 1.5x the $100 million in loans for bare land. At the same time, staff are technically forbidden to sell property below market value, unless to a charity.
The report shown at the public hearing on October 24, 2013 & 29, 2013 indicated that no competitive bidding process was required if a bidder owned the majority of a development site.
The City incorrectly suggested the applicant had been the majority owner of the development site for over a year when the City was actually still the registered majority owner for another 8 months. It was not until June 10, 2014 that Council quietly approved a resolution to dispose “a portion of lane” which led to the transfer all 118,000 sq.ft. of land on June 27, 2014.