CANY case dismays entire Green Team; possibility of “done deals” for “developer friends” proves need for transparency and accountability
Green Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr says everything that supports the culture of secrecy and possibility of “done deals” for “developer friends” must stop in Vancouver. Carr has challenged the lack of transparency at City Hall over many issues including a proposed Yaletown tower project now before the courts.
Carr and all Green Party of Vancouver civic candidates are dismayed to see yet another neighbourhood group challenging the City of Vancouver in court. The BC Supreme Court is currently hearing the Community Association of New Yaletown’s (CANY) legal claims against the City of Vancouver — the most recent in more than a dozen community-based lawsuits against the City.
The CANY lawsuit alleges a secret deal and land swap between City Hall and the developer, and a failure of public process over two properties at Helmcken and Richards, adjacent to Emery Barnes Park.
During both the July 13, 2013, Public Hearing on 508 Helmcken and the February 19, 2014, Council debate on the Housing Agreement for 1099 Richards, Carr argued unsuccessfully that the deal between City Hall and the developer that links the Helmcken and Richards properties should be publicly discussed.
Carr voted against both the 508 Helmcken and 1099 Richards developments over concerns about height, density and the charade of calling unaffordable apartments “social housing”.
Carr has repeatedly called for clearer definitions of social housing. In the case of the social housing being proposed for the Yaletown tower on Richards Street, only 54 percent of the proposed units will be available for fixed income tenants. The rest are to be market rentals.
“The City must revise its definition of social housing to be housing for people on fixed incomes and social assistance, especially for those on welfare who can only afford the $375 per month shelter rate,” says Carr. “Any definition of social housing that includes market rental housing is a sham and dupes people into thinking we’re creating more social housing than we are.”
“Vision Vancouver's machinations and secretiveness have frustrated the right of Vancouverites to a fair and open review of development projects, so everybody’s suing the city and we’re all worse off for it,” says Green Vancouver City Council candidate, Cleta Brown. She is formerly general counsel to the B.C. Ombudsman and a Crown prosecutor, and the daughter of Rosemary Brown, the first black woman to sit as an MLA in Canada, and recipient of the Order of Canada, Order of BC and a UN Human Rights Fellowship.
“We need Council members who put the public first and believe in people’s capabilities to make fair decisions when they are given all the relevant information,” says Brown.
“The land swap deal was central to the Yaletown development and Vision's refusal to inform everyone at or before the public hearing was not in the spirit of genuine public consultation.”
The case also points to the need for political parties to fully disclose campaign contributions.
The Green Party of Vancouver is essentially in a three-way heat in the polls with NPA and Vision Vancouver (http://www.insightswest.com/news/vancouver-municipal-government-gets-mixed-reviews/). But the Green Party is the only currently elected civic party that does not accept contributions from developers.
"Both Vision and the NPA are compromised by taking money from developers to run their campaigns. People need to be confident elected officials are putting public interests first. That's why Greens won't take contributions from developers,” says Green Vancouver City Council candidate, Pete Fry. He is Strathcona Residents' Association’s former chair and representative for the DTES Local Area Planning Committee and Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, and the son of Hedy Fry, seven-term Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre.
“This CANY case is fairly typical of the kind of experience we hear about from citizens, small businesses and neighbourhood groups across the city,” Fry adds. “Vancouverites really want a consultation process that collaborates with communities as well as fair dealings and transparency, especially when dealing with developers.”
In another of the dozen cases against the City, today, Concord Pacific’s application to be admitted as a party regarding False Creek Residents Association’s lawsuit against the City over the much-delayed promise for a park on False Creek near Science World will be heard by a judge. As well, Vancouver Aquarium has filed a legal challenge in B.C. Supreme Court against Vancouver park board regarding its ban on breeding captive whales and dolphins.