Hand It Over

Records Must Be Provided Immediately

Under the FOI Act, the City must provide requested records even if they don’t want to. The City will have a record of all payments and reimbursements made by the City. Certain critical payments regarding the 508 Helmcken land sale are not being provided and this is after they vowed to improve their records keeping. The City cannot have possibly lost these payment records and must produce them without further delay, no matter how inconvenient it may be. The residents of the City of Vancouver and the BC Privacy Commissioner are being treated as fools. It is time that the city provide the payment records concerning the appraiser they engaged to help write a report for them. And this was only needed because City staff were unable to find the original analysis that also went missing when in City care and custody.

In OIPC order 04-19, Adjudicator Francis wrote: 

“Control is to be given a liberal and purposive meaning that promotes the objectives of British Columbia’s access and privacy legislation. The nature of requested records and all aspects of their generation and use must be assessed in relation to the public body’s mandate and functions. Records that are created or acquired by or for a public body as part of its mandate and functions will be under the public body’s control.” “The duty to provide access to records under the Act is not defined by the willingness of the public body or its staff, contractors or agents.”

 

April 15, 2015 – Council approved the rezoning of 508 Helmcken which was required in order for the land sale of City land to occur. City Real estate staff presented some of the conclusions from a report which City contractors completed on March 24, 2015.

Approval – April 14/15, 2015

2017 Email – Analysis Missing & Experts Hired to Produce Report for Hearing

The City Manager made it very clear in a 2017 email that City Real Estate Services had completed analysis; however “the records to support the analysis of the transaction could not be found in the file.” Therefore, the City engaged experts to do the job for them back in early 2015 “to complete independent analysis of the transaction before this matter went back to Council for the 2mnd public hearing” Staff went on to say that “E&Y recommendations have been implemented in Real Estate Services so there is accountability regarding proper documentation for files”.

The Report – Completed on March 24, 2015 – 3 Weeks Prior to Hearing

Contract – February 23, 2015 – 7 Weeks Prior to Hearing

The City lawyer agreed that the City would would pay the appraiser contractor which they demanded, and signed the legal document agreeing to pay the appraiser that completed much of the report. The report was immediately started, and complete within four weeks. 

The City subcontractor/appraiser completed their work for the City.

The City appraiser/subcontractor completed the largest portion of the report used to finalize the land disposal and three pages of time records have been located and even some details of the exact time spent by the City appraiser/subcontractor.

Now in late February 2018, the City continues to be unhelpful. The City says they do not have, or cannot provide the invoices for their this appraiser which they contracted although it is clear that the City demanded the contractor who completed much of the work. This FOI search has been going on for a long time. This is not only a failure of accountability but it is an epic failure of integrity, and it is time we got some better answers from the City.

 

 

 

VANCOUVER PRE-SALES REGISTRY & LOCAL SALES OFFICE PROPOSALS

FEBRUARY 18, 2018 – PRESS RELEASE

GLEN CHERNEN – NPA MAYORAL and LEADERSHIP HOPEFUL


Vancouver is afflicted with extreme housing unaffordability and it is time the City of Vancouver starts being part of the solution. I am seeking the NPA Mayoral nomination and leadership, and I would like to bring new ideas to the City that result in improved housing affordability. Today I share two personal proposals that are aimed at helping out people who live and work in Vancouver.

VANCOUVER PRE-SALES REGISTRY

Currently, the condo pre-sales market in BC is allowed to operate as an anonymous marketplace where transactions and participants are allowed to hide from regulators and public scrutiny. It is time for transparency so that all transactions are made publicly available much like our current BC Land Titles system. Until the province steps in to do a proper job, the City should begin managing a Public Registry for all “pre-sales” transactions in the local sales market.

LOCAL SALES OFFICE MANDATE

One segment of Vancouver’s housing industry is creating an overabundance of luxury housing supply which is out of the price range for people who live and work here. Not only are many of these sales made to people who never set foot in Vancouver but many of these transactions are being conducted outside of Canada. This is like shipping Canadian resources and sales jobs out of Canada like raw unprocessed lumber. These sales do nothing to alleviate local demand and actually compound affordability problems by increasing the money supply in the Vancouver real estate market. Offshore sales offices combined with a lack of transparency, fuel an insatiable demand from global investors, speculators, and money launderers. The only question is how much do these offshore sales offices and the “pre-sales” secrecy, reduce opportunities for local wage earners, to purchase and rent in our local market?

PROPOSAL(s) (February 18, 2018)

If elected as Mayor,
1) I PROMISE to pursue implementation of an immediate MANDATE THAT ALL VANCOUVER

CONDO PRE-SALES BE CONDUCTED IN VANCOUVER,
2) I PROMISE to pursue the creation of a MANDATORY PRE-SALES REGISTRY that would be

managed by the City of Vancouver until such time that the BC Government can make it redundant.

AUTHORITY

As the city has legal authority to approve new density and rezonings, the City can come to an arrangement whereby new rezonings require a covenant registered by the developer, to abide by particular requirements that are registered on the BC Land Titles system. I propose that all “new density approvals” in Vancouver for strata condominiums and townhomes require a covenant be registered on title, legally ensuring that “new density” pre-sales, be conducted in Vancouver ONLY. A further covenant would be agreed so that all pre-sales transactions data including the beneficial owner (Numbered company owner revealed), and transaction values, be kept in a public registry.

Not only would I pursue implementation of these groundbreaking but simple measures if elected as Mayor, but I would work every single day to find more solutions to combat our housing affordability issues that also include reducing City hall “red tape”, and permit approval times and excessive spending by the City . If you like these proposals, then please actively support my bid to become the next leader of the NPA by joining the party today.

Sincerely, Glen Chernen

Media inquires and interview requests are best arranged with me personally via twitter direct message @glenchernen

Deja Vu

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, 2017City 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.


Background

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.

Vancouver’s Missing Files

Winter 2016/17 – Criminal Complaint: Just over a year ago, I shared certain findings regarding the City of Vancouver 508 Helmcken land disposal with the Federal Serious and Organized Crime Financial Integrity division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Although it is uncertain what may come of their involvement, a Freedom of Information investigation continues with the BC privacy Commissioner regarding my pursuit of related public records held by the City of Vancouver.

2016 – Present 2018 – OIPC Investigation: The parallel 508 Helmcken Freedom of Information complaint has been treated as an investigation by BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner for approximately one year.

508 Helmcken Records: The City have legal care and custody of financial and appraisal public records which they have not yet provided despite repeated requests. I continue to demand these documents as they may answer many questions about how the disposal process of City owned property and the calculation of CAC (negotiated fees) were conducted. In addition, invoices for various contractors and appraisers the city funded through a 3rd party “transaction advisory service” specialist, have been sought.

Missing Records – Learned recently in 2018: Approximately one year after my complaints were made, I discovered that Vancouver’s City Manager had pressured the Vancouver Sun to adjust a story written about this property disposal. I also learned through reading publicly available City staff emails, that our City Manager had been informed City staff could not find the financial records for this transaction. The City manager then proceeded to inform all elected officials on April 13, 2017 that the “records to support the analysis could not be found in the file”.

What happened to the documents? City Must Respond: What makes this situation different from most other FOI requests is that we have determined that the City had this information but for some reason they don’t have them now? The real question for the City is – If you don’t have them, where did they go? The BC Information & Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) has given the City of Vancouver over a year to produce the requested information but it is now time for city staff to provide real answers to OIPC investigators.


Background

February 2013 – An $80 million appraisal was completed in regards to a City land disposal sale but was not disclosed to Council or the public. The 508 Helmcken disposal relied upon this $80 million dollar appraisal as part of the loan security for a loan issued by BC Housing. Despite this, city staff informed the public that the disposed land value was only $15 million dollars.

2015 – Property disposal vote – On page 10 of a March 10, 2015 staff report, City officials continued to indicate only a $15 million value. 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.

Vancouver House

Note: The below article was written by investigative journalist Sam Cooper and then quickly removed by the Vancouver Province soon after it was printed in 2014. Why did the story come down? Virtually none of the economics were ever revealed by the City about the City owned land in this transaction.  This development is primarily (87%) on land that was obtained in a private deal by the Mayor’s 2011 chief fundraiser. No other competitors were allowed to bid on this city owned land. Was it a fair deal for the city? In July 2017 I publicly asked the Mayor for specific sale details but no answers were given. The public has the legal right to know everything about the disposal process of this property and the City has an obligation to provide a proper accounting of the transaction if legitimate questions and concerns are asked.  Should we have been selling City land to create more luxury condos? https://web.archive.org/web/20140730193755/http://www.theprovince.com/news/vancouver/Vancouver+House+tower+makes+enemies+before+built+targeting/10067128/story.html


Vancouver House tower makes enemies before it’s built by targeting Asian buyers 

 
Rendering of Westbank Projects Corporation’s Vancouver House. Vancouver Houses most distinctive feature is the 52-storey curving and cantilevered residential tower by the Howe Street on ramp to the Granville Street Bridge.
Photograph by: Submitted

With its twisted sculptural design, the “iconic” $500-million Vancouver House is being marketed across Asia as a symbol of Vancouver’s future.

The 52-storey Westbank project alongside the north end of Granville Bridge is slated to open in 2018 and is being aggressively marketed in Asia, with up to half of the owners expected to buy from outside Canada.

According to the South China Morning Post, two sales offices were opened in Hong Kong in June.

Sales agents then visited China’s largest cities in search of buyers. And in July, Vancouver House units were marketed in Singapore. According to Singapore publications, Vancouver House condos were reserved for overseas buyers.

This week, Singapore-based website Property Guru reported there was an “overwhelming response” to the launch of Vancouver House, one of “Canada’s iconic buildings.”

“Vancouver House … saw more than 30 units transacted — far more than expected,” according to Property Guru.

“The response surprised us and surprised the developer,” an “excited” Singapore agent was quoted telling Property Guru, which reported a second “showcase” event was planned this week in Singapore. In mid-July The Business Times reported that of “388 units in the 52-storey tower, 30 units are reserved for the Singapore market, said Westbank’s marketing director Michael Braun.”

Westbank spokeswoman Jill Killeen said an initial September date to start selling to locals had been brought forward after Westbank received its disclosure statement last Thursday, ”making it legal to sell.”

“Our tracking indicates that more than 50 per cent of buyers will come from the Vancouver marketplace,” Killeen said in a prepared statement. Sales for local buyers will begin this week. Killeen said Westbank had been marketing to locals through print and television and had hosted an arts event under the bridge to generate interest.

In a story featuring an interview with Vancouver House developer Ian Gillespie, the South China Morning Post noted the building will have an “asset management” program for absentee owners, with staff periodically turning on taps and appliances in unoccupied units.

Gillespie said Vancouver House will be the most expensive building ever in Vancouver and units will be for art-collector-like buyers looking for “live-in sculpture.”

Vancouver House’s star architect, Bjarke Ingels, suggests the building — which will include revitalizing the space under the Granville Bridge at the 1400-block of Howe Street — is symbolic of “a giant curtain, at the moment of being pulled back to reveal the world to Vancouver and Vancouver to the world.”

Before the project was approved by Vancouver council some residents complained that Ingels’ tower design, rising from a thin triangular wedge and torquing into a top-heavy structure with zigzagged Lego-like units stacked high over the bridge, will be “unsettling,” “overzealous” and “an architectural eyesore.”

If the rumbling debate over foreign ownership in Vancouver and complaints such as one submitted by a Province reader are an indication, then density and design won’t be the only concerns raised in council for future developments. Locals may question where buyers are expected to come from, and whether they will live here.

“It’s shocking that this building, which has been marketed to us as the iconic Vancouver House, gets sold two months in advance to Asia,” a reader told The Province, in reaction to reports from Singapore. “I wouldn’t call that iconic, I’d call it insulting.”

UBC real estate expert Tsur Somerville said he is not sure if Vancouver’s current housing market demands that projects like Vancouver House be marketed mostly to overseas buyers.

Somerville said in his view, the important question for Vancouver’s future is not where buyers are from, but how they use their new homes.

“I’m not ready to say we are becoming like some ghost city in Outer Mongolia,” he said. “The question is, do you become like the Aspens or Whistlers of the world, where the people that work there don’t live there?”

scooper@theprovince.com

twitter.com/scoopercooper

Glen Chernen complicates Vancouver mayoral race for Non-Partisan Association

Residential condos are seen among the city skyline in Vancouver on Jan. 16, 2018.

Rafal Gerszak

Members of Vancouver’s Non-Partisan Association – as well as several political observers – believe the time is right for their party to emerge from the political wilderness in a fall election left open with Mayor Gregor Robertson’s decision not to run again.

But an unusual candidate aiming for the mayoral slot with the once-powerful NPA is threatening to shake up the party with his vocal opposition to foreign home buyers and antagonism toward developers.

The NPA ruled the city for decades, until the recent Vision Vancouver era, with a series of development-friendly mayors and councillors who have tended to support the provincial BC Liberal Party and its policies that favour economic immigrants.

But Glen Chernen, the first of several rumoured candidates for the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral nomination to declare his candidacy, isn’t a typical party member, much less a typical leadership candidate.

“It’s clear to me that what the city has done under Gregor’s watch is just build a lot of luxury condos,” he said in a recent interview, articulating a viewpoint that has become popular among many from both the right and left in Vancouver. “I would do everything that was legally possible to protect housing options here from being harmed by offshore money.”

Pressed for an example of something he would do differently from the current administration, he cited the case of a local development company, Onni, that was mistakenly given a $1.5-million rebate on fees. Mr. Chernen said Mr. Robertson never ensured that that mistake was properly investigated.

The 48-year-old Mr. Chernen, who earns his living by managing personal investments, also indicated he’s willing to challenge candidates with a more traditional NPA view.

Mr. Chernen excoriated the NPA’s most recently elected councillor, Hector Bremner, who campaigned last fall saying the city needs to densify its single-family neighbourhoods. Mr. Bremner repeatedly argued that it’s dangerous to target foreigners as the cause of the city’s housing problems.

“Hector is clearly out there on the far end. I do not agree at all with him. I think he’s harmful to the city,” said Mr. Chernen, who created his own party in 2014 and ran for mayor before dropping out and endorsing an independent.

Mr. Bremner, who is considering a run for the mayoral nomination, is equally concerned about Mr. Chernen.

“He’s playing to a certain message, that we should blame Chinese people,” Mr. Bremner said. “I represent a voice that is going to resist and reject becoming some extremist alt-right version of ourselves.”

The question is whether those being signed up daily as NPA members in anticipation of a mayoral nomination in March agree with him or more classic NPA candidates, such as Mr. Bremner.

Besides Mr. Chernen and Mr. Bremner, other candidates who have expressed interest in the mayoral position are former Conservative MP Wai Young, and the NPA’s mayoral candidate from 2014, media executive Kirk LaPointe.

The nomination race is sure to generate a great deal of interest because of a widespread feeling among opponents that Vision Vancouver’s era is over. Besides Mr. Robertson, three of the remaining Vision councillors have indicated they are not running again. They include Andrea Reimer, the party’s youngest councillor; veteran Tim Stevenson; and, as of this week, psychiatry professor Kerry Jang. The only current councillors that will carry the party’s flag are Raymond Louie and Heather Deal.

Mr. Chernen, a west-side resident and Churchill high-school graduate, began appearing as a public opponent to Vision Vancouver policies about five years ago. He and his brother, Nicholas, created the Cedar Party for the 2014 election.

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NPA nomination contest for Vancouver seat marked by controversy

FILE PHOTO Glen Chernen, shown here on January 20, 2014, is challenging to be the NPA candidate in Vancouver’s coming civic byelection. Wayne Leidenfrost / PROVINCE

A would-be Vancouver city council candidate has lobbed a political grenade into the Non-Partisan Association’s nomination meeting Wednesday, asking the civic party to remove energy company lobbyist Hector Bremner from its nominee ballot.

NPA members will vote Wednesday to select a candidate to run in the upcoming Vancouver city council byelection, in which a number of civic parties are vying to fill the seat vacated by former Vision councillor Geoff Meggs.

On Tuesday, Glen Chernen — one of three potential nominees on the NPA ballot — filed a complaint asking party executives to oust Bremner, the party’s apparent nomination front-runner.

Bremner is a former B.C. Liberal candidate who worked in various roles in 2014 and 2015 for former deputy premier Rich Coleman, government records show.

Chernen told Postmedia his complaint points to Bremner’s lobbyist registration for Vancouver-based energy company Steelhead LNG. The February 2015 public filing shows Bremner indicated he “is not a former public office holder.”

According to B.C. lobbying laws, the definition of public office holder includes employees of the government of B.C. and people who work as staff for MLAs.

“I have asked the NPA to remove Hector Bremner for the good of the party,” Chernen said. “I’m asking this based on inconsistencies and potential false declarations concerning his employment history working for Rich Coleman at the Ministry of Natural Gas Development and Housing, and lobbyist disclosures while Hector was lobbying for Steelhead LNG.”

On Tuesday Jane Zatylny, spokeswoman with the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists for B.C., told Postmedia she couldn’t disclose “whether or not this office is conducting an investigation or hearing.”

“I can tell you that we are aware of the issue and are looking into it,” Zatylny stated in an email.

Bremner said that any suggestions that he broke B.C.’s lobbying disclosure rules are “complete nonsense.”

“I’m sure they (the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists) will look into it and quickly see it is a baseless allegation,” Bremner said.

Bremner confirmed that he worked for Coleman and said he left the job in January 2015. Bremner said he made a mistake in an online employment profile in listing when he stopped working for Coleman’s office.

“It was just an error on my LinkedIn profile, and Glen is trying to spin it into a capital case,” Bremner said.

Bremner added that his campaign has “worked very hard” to sign up hundreds of new NPA members, and he believes Chernen’s campaign has challenged the standing of some members that allegedly listed addresses at a Sikh place of worship, rather than home addresses.

“We may have had some data entry errors,” Bremner said. “It’s complete nonsense … I think that people that are not Caucasians are being targeted.”

In a brief phone call NPA president Sarah Weddell told Postmedia the only thing she could say about Chernen’s complaint is: “Our green light committee is reviewing the information.”

scooper@postmedia.com

 

https://web.archive.org/web/20180105033505/http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/npa-nomination-contest-for-vancouver-seat-marked-by-controversy

 

 

 

Take our city back! Elect Glen – Mailout #2

Dear NPA member,

I’m a proud Canadian with solid roots in Vancouver and you can feel safe that I will be looking out for the best interests of you and your family.

I want to offer my years of experience in investment and financial analysis, to guard your best interests at city hall. The time of backroom deals and Vision Vancouver cronyism has to end and i’m just the guy to make it happen.

And now, at the urging of many of the party faithful, I am honoured for the chance to run as the NPA Party Council candidate.

Now is the time to bolster our existing NPA Councillors with someone that can actually help them and the public. Now is the time to elect someone who has been fighting for our community. Now is the time to elect a Councillor with years of experience identifying financial irregularities. Now is the time to elect someone to help take our city back!

On the other hand, Gregor Robertson’s priority these days seems to be jetting off to foreign destinations while preaching about reducing emissions. Meanwhile his squad of transportation wizards are intent on continuously messing up our roads as Vision mismanage his quiet firesale disposition of the City’s valuable real estate. Vision has been a total disaster. Despite this, the NPA has had a tough time keeping them accountable and now is not the time to elect an unknown candidate like Mr. Bremner who actually seems to be dancing to the same tune as our Mayor, with his own ideas to dramatically increase densification.

Hector Bremner has said he wants to replace every single door with 30 new doors, which does not sound much different than Vision. But he neglects to say at what cost? How we are supposed to believe he disapproves of the current administration when he sounds the same? Hypocrisy will confuse voters and become an NPA liability. The NPA does not have the luxury to gamble on this type of candidate when the public are outraged with this type of thinking.

In the last 9 years under Vision we have seen the Burrard Bridge constantly under renovations and construction, which makes me very concerned about their plans for the viaducts. There can’t be a single Vancouver voter who believes this outrageous Viaducts land disposal idea can be accomplished without imposing massive traffic gridlock for at least a decade and increase your taxes? Voters don’t want the Viaducts dismantled and our roads further clogged up, so you should elect a candidate that understands this. I suggest you ask my competitors if they think we should leave the viaducts alone.

Voters want the experience and integrity I have to protect you from ill conceived plans that would cost you dearly. I am the only NPA nominee who can appeal to all voters in all areas of this City enough to deliver election victory.

With the support of NPA members I will win a new NPA seat in Council where I will work with NPA Councillors, Affleck, DeGenova, and Ball to level out the playing field for everyone, and point Vancouver back in the right direction.

A Vote for me on Wednesday September 6th is a vote for the safe candidate.
Let’s take our city back! – and have yourself a great, safe long weekend.

Sincerely,

Glen Chernen

NPA Council Nominee

GLEN CHERNEN ANNOUNCES CITY COUNCIL CANDIDACY

Glen Chernen is seeking a seat on Vancouver City Council in the upcoming October 14, 2017 by-election to replace Vision Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs. Glen has been encouraged by many supporters to run with the NPA and Glen is strongly considering that option. Glen Chernen founded and ran with the Cedar Party in 2014. After the 2014 election he withdrew his Cedar involvement and membership.

Glen is running to provide a viable winning choice to provide a Council member with independent thought, an eye for detail, and who will demand accountability from the City. Glen feels that Vancouver is being harmed by bad recommendations and bad management by top City officials, that appear designed to benefit investors. Glen has been unrelenting in his push for honesty, integrity and transparency from the City of Vancouver and will continue pushing from Council for a strong ethical foundation that benefits you and your community.

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Oakridge group asks court to review assessment decision

An artist’s rendering of the redevelopment of the Oakridge Centre shopping mall at Vancouver in a March 2015 handout. Handout / Vancouver Sun
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A Vancouver neighbourhood group has asked a B.C. Supreme Court judge to review B.C. Assessment’s decision to drastically reduce the appraisal value for Oakridge Centre, a massive redevelopment site.

In 2014, after Vancouver council approved a site rezoning that would conditionally allow developers to build a mixed-use village, including 45-storey towers and about 3,000 condos, the property was assessed at $867 million. Site owner Ivanhoe Cambridge successfully appealed to the Property Assessment Review Panel, and the eight-block Cambie Corridor site was reassessed at $500 million. Under B.C.’s assessment act, land owners and the review panel can come to private agreements on reassessed value, which don’t have to be made public.

The South Vancouver Parks Society believes that B.C. Assessment’s procedures weren’t transparent and didn’t fairly account for the development value of the site. The society is arguing that Vancouver citizens have lost significant property-tax revenue with the reassessment decision. President Glen Chernen said the society estimates the annual tax revenue lost will be about $1.94 million. Chernen said he believes there are a number of similar cases involving reassessments of lucrative development properties in Vancouver.

“This is much more than a single, privately arranged, $367-million value reduction,” Chernen said. “It’s a small piece of a wider B.C. problem, where government-owned land interests are traded, valued and dealt, without public knowledge or involvement.”

The society challenged the Oakridge Centre reassessment with the Property Assessment Appeal Board this summer, asking to know the reasons behind the site’s value reduction. The board rejected the disclosure request, saying the reasons weren’t relevant.

The board upheld the assessor’s decision to revalue Oakridge Centre at $500 million. Now, the society has applied in B.C. Supreme Court for a review of the board’s ruling.

The society’s lawyer in the case, Bob Kasting, said he will argue the board failed to acquire the proper evidence to fulfil its purpose of finding the true value of Oakridge Centre.

“The board is supposed to get the true value of the property. But the assessment act allows for the property owner and the assessor to make a deal that doesn’t go public. And that is really what they’ve done here,” Kasting said. “Somehow the $867 million went down to $500 million. We don’t know why. And in this case, the board said, ‘I don’t even need to know why.’ ”

A central point to the board’s ruling this summer, Kasting said, was the board had two accepted ways of assessing the “highest and best-use” value of Oakridge Centre: either as vacant land with redevelopment potential or in its current commercial usage as a rent-producing mall. Chernen argued to the board that Oakridge Centre should be valued for its maximum rezoning potential. Using the estimate of an independent assessor, Chernen said the site’s true value was between $750 million and $1.1 billon.

Generally, in B.C.’s assessment system, the “theoretical focus of highest and best-use analysis is on the potential uses of the land as though vacant,” the board wrote in its ruling. The board, however, ruled that Chernen and the independent assessor didn’t support their rezoning-value case with reliable evidence, including feasibility studies.

“It may have been helpful to the board to have had a highest and best-use analysis that reflected the subject’s reality as a transitional property that was continuing its successful operation over the course of its planned development,” the board wrote.

The society will argue that the board should have asked for such an analysis or agreed with Chernen’s request for the board to review B.C. Assessment’s original 2014 analysis valuing the Oakridge Centre site at $867 million.

“We’re saying that is not good enough,” Kasting said. “They, the board, have the right to go back and ask the parties to provide that evidence.”

Ivanhoe Cambridge is expected to make applications in early December to have the case tossed out, Kasting said. If the society proves its right to argue the case in B.C. Supreme Court, the case will be heard next spring.

A spokesman for Ivanhoe Cambridge said the company will not comment on the case.

scooper@theprovince.com

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Glen Chernen: Legitimacy is my basic expectation for Vancouver

The Georgia Straight

by Glen Chernen on October 10th, 2014 at 4:01 PM

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  • Glen Chernen is running for Vancouver council with the Cedar Party.

I am running for Vancouver city council to provide principled leadership to our local government. I have been compelled to act, as I and many others have questioned the authority and the legitimacy of our current administration. The more I looked into various issues, the more it seemed that something was broken with our city hall. I have found that the same set of rules do not apply to all of our residents. It is time to ask what kind of basic expectations should we have of our local government.

We have a limited amount of options as citizens to disagree with city hall. Until recently we had the option to vote the government out every three years which has now been extended to four-year terms without public consultation. The average resident expects to have a small degree of influence on our politicians by communicating with them by petition, speech in council, letters or peaceful protest, etc. In the past three years all of these methods have failed for citizens regardless of how disproportionate their objection has been against city policy.

The concept of a fairly run public hearing in Vancouver is now widely understood to be impossible. It seems like most projects have been approved before the hearing and vote take place. Many that follow Vancouver rezoning now understand that if you want to get the highest density and highest profit possible, then holding a fundraiser for an influential politician might be your best bet. I can not accept to live in a city which changes the rules daily and is rewriting or ignoring contracts when they suddenly become too inconvenient. A government like this cannot have the “legitimate” support of the people.

I want to live in a Vancouver that protects some basic ground rules of “legitimacy” as argued many decades ago by celebrated American philosopher John Rawls and recently retold by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, David and Goliath. They both described a government in which most people could live without having to protest when confronted with disagreeable decisions because the government was operating with these three basic ground rules of legitimacy:

1. The people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice—if they speak up, they will be heard;

2. The law has to be predictable;

3. The authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.

I believe that it is up to our leaders to act in best faith without playing any favourites. We must all have the hope that our government can treat us all equally and that when we speak we will be heard. Our laws cannot randomly change daily behind closed doors and without disclosure. These are some of the basics that I am standing up for to help bring a principled and legitimate government to the residents of Vancouver.

Glen Chernen is running for Vancouver council with the Cedar Party

Vancouver brothers Glen and Nicholas Chernen dismiss Ford analogy

by Carlito Pablo on August 13th, 2014 at 10:48 AM

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  • Glen and Nicholas Chernen are running for mayor and councillor.

Like the Ford brothers in Toronto, the Chernen siblings of Vancouver want to take City Hall.

Mayoral candidate Glen Chernen will have his older brother Nicholas running at his side as councillor with the Vancouver Cedar Party on November 15.

If fortune smiles on them, it will be like Toronto, where Mayor Rob Ford has older sibling Doug sitting on council.

Chernen broke up with laughter during a phone interview about how he will field questions during the campaign about the merit of having family members running in the same election, like the Fords in 2010.

“I really don’t know much about the Fords,” Chernen told the Straight with a chuckle. “Just because we’re two brothers in politics doesn’t mean we know anything about them. I don’t know how I can compare it, like, other than just say that, you know, we have the same mother.”

Doug Ford has been protective of Rob, who has been embroiled in controversies, including smoking crack cocaine. Like Rob, Chernen is the youngest of four.

“Will we always back each other?” Chernen asked. “You know what? I don’t think we always will. It depends whether my brother’s making sense, and it depends on whether I’m making sense.”

Rob Ford is seeking another term as mayor in Toronto’s October 27 election. Doug is taking a back seat, with nephew Mike Ford hoping to replace him as councillor in the Etobicoke North ward.

“I don’t know,” Chernen said when asked how they’re different from the Ford brothers. “We appreciate each other’s hearts and talent and both of our love for Vancouver. That’s the only reason why we’re doing thing this.”

For sale for $36.1 million: Land by Granville Bridge

News / Vancouver

For sale for $36.1 million: Land by Granville Bridge

The property beside the east off ramp of the Granville Bridge is for sale.

An upstart political party is accusing the city of secrecy over plans to sell a chunk of land by the Granville Bridge in hopes of getting a windfall of cash, a new aquatic centre, affordable housing or a mixture of all three.

The Cedar Party claims the sale of the land by the bridge’s east loop should involve public consultation because it could involve relocating the 40-year-old Vancouver Aquatic Centre that sits on prime waterfront real estate on Beach Avenue, council candidate Nicholas Chernen said Wednesday.

“It’s a massive project that will affect a major transportation line and impacts a major community amenity,” Chernen said. “We think this requires public awareness, public dialogue, and that hasn’t happened.”

But the city’ general manager of real estate and facilities management Bill Aujla says it’s too soon to discuss what would happen to the aquatic centre because renewing the centre is just an option for bidders.

Potential buyers could simply offer cash – the property is valued at $36,135,568 – or a mix of money and amenities.

The city’s wish list for amenities in the area was developed with help from the park board. It includes 120 non-market housing units, a renewed Vancouver Aquatic Centre on the property (complete with three pools and a universal change room) and a West End facility for Qmunity, the LGBTQ resource centre.

The only requirement for prospective buyers is to remove the off ramp as outlined in a 2010 plan for the bridge.

The city decided to sell the surplus land because it was getting unsolicited offers for the property from international and local developers, Aujla said.

“We’re looking at a hot market at that site in particular,” he said, noting the high development in the area. (Its neighbours include the prestigious twisted Vancouver House tower, which stirred controversy by marketing to rich buyers in Asia before sales opened locally.)

“We’re trying to get as many competitors to make a bid on the property, we’ve been doing everything to make it public,” he said.

The city has advertised the sale in three local newspapers and with the Urban Development Institute since it put up the invitation to offer bids for the property in May.

So far, nearly 100 sales packages have been distributed for the property. (For the record, Metro picked one up. And no, we’re not interested in buying.)

Buyers can make offers until Aug. 15. Council must approve any offer before the city sells the land. Buyers would have to go through the city’s public hearing process if they wanted to rezone the land.