1480 Howe Street – Sound Familiar? This was not the first time in recent years that a City of Vancouver land disposal article was removed from the internet by Post Media. The first story was taken down soon after it was published in 2014 in connection with 1480 Howe Street (aka- Vancouver House). The 1480 Howe “Vancouver House” story was also written by Sam Cooper. The online version of a Vancouver Sun article written by investigative journalist Sam Cooper in April 2017 was soon removed after City of Vancouver General manager Sadhu Johnston wrote a private complaint to the editor of the Vancouver Sun.
The City had owned the majority of the development site before it was sold in a non competitive transaction without any other bidders. The city disposed of its land to a company controlled by Mayor Robertson’s 2011 campaign chief fundraiser who undoubtedly runs one of Vancouver”s most successful luxury condo development companies and Vancouver’s only natural gas heating monopoly. Very little financial details have ever been publicly released by the City on this land disposal which was largely conducted in non public “in camera” city hall meetings.
April 4, 2017 – 508 Helmcken Front Page Story – The Vancouver Sun reported on the 508 Helmcken land disposal conducted by the City of Vancouver.
April 7, 2017 – City Manager Makes Complaint – City Manager Sadhu Johnston sent a written complaint to the Vancouver Sun.
April 10, 2017 – The Vancouver Sun editor responded to the Vancouver City manager and defended the newspaper’s reporting on the story. Despite this defense by the Newspaper, the online article was removed. (Below is the best copy of that letter which could be found)
Quote from Vancouver Sun editor, Harold Munro:
“The actions of the City in this transaction are quite properly matters of significant public interest. The residents of Vancouver are entitled to understand why and how the City of Vancouver would divest itself of a valuable asset. If you have additional information that you wish us to consider about this land swap, I would be most pleased to assign a reporter to arrange an interview”
Similarities between the 1480 Howe Street Disposal & the 508 Helmcken Disposal
- Like 508 Helmcken, 1480 Howe also involved premium city owned land that was disposed in downtown Vancouver.
- The 508 Helmcken disposal and the 1480 Howe Street disposal had their sale prices and CAC (negotiated fees) determined by the same government officials.
- Both properties were eventually marketed by the same realtor.
- Both properties benefited Mayor Robertson’s 2014 election chief fundraiser who was the realtor who eventually secured the pre-sale condo listings on both 508 Helmcken and 1480 Howe.
- Neither disposal went through an open or competitive bidding process at the City of Vancouver although little was ever heard about the 1480 Howe Street land disposal in the media again.
Unique to 508 Helmcken Disposal
- The realtor was a paid government official at the time his Capital Review Committee submitted a loan recommendation to his fellow board members at BC Housing for approval consideration.
2015 – Property disposal vote – Page 10 of a March 10, 2015 staff report indicated the disposed land value was $15 million dollars. Various government officials had years of knowledge at this point, that the deal had relied upon a minimum $80 million dollar property, bare land value, based on 2012 market data, but did not disclose this information to Council prior to the Council vote to approve the disposal.