Business & Economy
April 1, 2019

Expansion Back On? It’s Bait & Switch “Big Berth” Time at Deltaport

It’s not over until it’s over and Peter Ladner has forwarded this article from Business in Vancouver reporting that GCT Canada Limited (that’s Global Container Terminals) wants the Federal Court to make a decision regarding plans to grow container cargo handling capacity at Deltaport.

As I have previously written “Environment and Climate Change Canada’s statement to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency clearly outlined the catastrophic impact of a new terminal eradicating this sandpiper feeding area…  finally, Environment Canada has come out with a definitive statement that should stop this project in its tracks.” 

That 2 to 3 billion dollar Terminal 2 would also mean creating a reclaimed paved over industrial island of 108 hectares (266 acres) west of the existing Deltaport, supposedly in water deep enough not to impact the sensitive migratory bird and intertidal habitat.

So the good news was that Global Container Terminal who leases the docks from Deltaport had stated that the Terminal 2 complex proposed at Roberts Bank was “outmoded and no longer viable.” But of course GCT has  now dropped their new manifesto, and you can kind of see where they are going in the following  words:

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You may have caught wind of the District of No Vancouver’s — how shall we say — odd approach to doing their part on the region’s housing issue.

Young people, seniors, low and fixed-income folks are struggling to live near services, employment and schools. Without sufficient or reasonable housing options in town centres and near transit, these vulnerable segments of our society are not just experiencing the stress of housing insecurity, they’re getting pushed out.

DNV is quite simply saying no to efforts to accommodate people in need. Repeatedly. Over and over again.

But Councillor Jim Hanson of team “No Vancouver” (pssst….this domain is available) has a solution.

Since it doesn’t look good to say no to people in need of housing, try saying yes, but in a different way. As in — “Yes, we’d like to give housing to people in need. We’ll just take it away from others.”

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Wikipedia was launched in 2001 and is now one of the most popular general reference source on the internet. It has “openly editable and viewable content” which can be a good thing when events or references are rapidly changing.

But it can have another use too, and that is of revising history to suit other purposes. While researching an article I was writing on Vancouver’s greenways (which I was proudly a team member of for many years) I found this surprising entry on Wikipedia:

The Vancouver Greenway Network is a collection of greenways across Vancouver, B.C that was planned and initiated by the City of Vancouver’s Vision-Party-led City Council in 2011 to reduce car use despite continuous citizen opposition.[1] Greenways are streets where pedestrians and cyclists are prioritized over motorized vehicles, through structures such as road closures and road diverters to prevent or limit motor vehicle traffic, widened sidewalk-promenades, narrowed road space, speed restrictions, bike lanes, raised sidewalks and speed bumps.[2] Vision Party City Councillors hope to create and maintain the trend of constructing new greenways to establish a network where, potentially, every citizen could access a city greenway within a 25-minute walking or a 10-minute cycling distance of their home rather than by car. The Vision Party hopes to achieve this goal through restricting motorist accessibility, use and parking.[1]

Of the three sentences in the Wikipedia quote above only the middle one, taken from an interview with the American Society of Landscape Architects is correct. And I know this because the second sentence is  a quote from me.

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What a difference four years make, and some apologies need to be made by several people to the Duke of Data and Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program Andy Yan. It was the Fall of 2015 when Andy first crunched the numbers and in his very straight forward way told the CBC that his review of 172 property sales on Vancouver’s west side found 66 percent of owners had “non-anglicized Chinese names” suggesting they were recent arrivals. At that time 18 percent of these residences were purchased without a mortgage which is a pretty jaw dropping feat for many local residents. That was potentially a significant group of people entering the local housing market, and could represent the commodification of housing as a holding, not a place to live in.

Despite the fact Andy was basing his analysis on real data,  real estate pundits were quick to fingerpoint about “intolerance, racism, singling out certain groups of people …to blame” and even the past Mayor of Vancouver fell into the rhetoric stating “This can’t be about race, it can’t be about dividing people. It needs to get to the core issue about addressing affordability and making sure it’s fair.”

Well we all know where that logic took us in terms of housing affordability and it revealed an interesting cultural trait of Canadians about not wanting to offend, even when data suggested there was a trend that should be examined.

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Much continues to be said and written about the District of No Vancouver’s compulsive nixing of social and non-market housing projects.

In particular, current Councillor Mathew Bond is a frequent critic of the actions of his counterparts on Council. His Twitter feed serves as running commentary of No after No after No…somehow, he manages to keep an even and rational tone. Maybe just a hint of strain. The sound of one head slapping. Do you hear it?

Bond can’t afford to flame out at his colleagues too hard, because, much like a certain Federal ex-cabinet minister, he still has to work with these people, no matter how ethically challenged.

The parallel ends there, however; he’s member of an elected council, not of a party. He can’t hand in his card, cross the floor, and still keep his power. It’s a District council, and there’s no aisle to cross. He’d have to climb over the Clerk, and then where’d he be?

But he’s not the only one speaking out. Steven Petersson is a former DNV planner, and not only did he write a Master’s thesis on affordable housing provision, he worked as a residential support worker for disabled people for seven years.

In a recent letter to Mayor Little and his NIMBY cohorts — Councillors Muri, Curren, Forbes and Hanson — Petersson lays it on the line:

There’s a desperate community need for social and affordable housing.

Why put the needs of elites who already have homes over the disadvantaged who need your help?

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There is a very short video clip showing a member of the public in the City of Seattle that went to address his city council. In Seattle there is a twenty-minute time weekly for comments from the public, and Richard Schwartz had an allotted two minutes  to make his prepared remarks.Regardless of what this individual has to say, it is his right to talk to City Council in that time slot.

But when Mr. Schwartz started his presentation and noticed that no one was paying attention to him, he did what anyone would do~he politely asked for the councillors to put their phones down and give him eye contact while he spoke.

That did not go well, with the chair reminding Mr. Schwartz he was on a two minute timer and “Let’s go”. When he asked for the timer to start again, he was told no. When Mr. Schwartz began to talk about the right to speak and democracy, you can hear an audible sigh from one of the councillors.  The camera work for the City of Seattle clearly shows the deportment of the councillors, with their phones on their keyboards, looking like those school kids just waiting for the buzzer to announce detention was over.

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By the post-election decisions being made by some of the smaller, more affluent municipalities in Metro, the messages seem to be: no more density, no more height, no more affordable housing (and, rarely stated but assumed: the people who might live in it if they come from ‘outside’).

In North Vancouver District, as previously reported in PT:

District of North Vancouver council has spiked another affordable housing project, this time before plans for it were released to the public.

Council voted behind closed doors in January to terminate a proposal from the non-profit Hollyburn Family Services Society for a 100-unit, all-below market rental building on a piece of district-owned land on Burr Place.

In Port Moody:

A proposal to build 45 townhomes on six properties along St. George Street in Port Moody is “far too dense,” with not enough green space, said city councillors who rejected the project at their meeting last Tuesday. …

Mayor Rob Vagramov criticized the proposal for being too dense even though it’s located in Port Moody’s Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zone, which encourages higher density living.

In White Rock:

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Only they call it the ‘pied-à-terre  tax.  

From the New York Times:

A plan to tax the rich on multimillion-dollar second homes in New York City has rapidly moved closer to reality, as legislative leaders in Albany and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have all signed off on the idea as a funding stream for the city’s beleaguered subway system. …

Under the Senate’s bill, a pied-à-terre tax would institute a yearly tax on homes worth $5 million or more, and would apply to homes that do not serve as the buyer’s primary residence.

 

Same arguments too:

Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said the tax would not be well received within the business community. She suggested that such a tax … could further push the wealthy to reconsider living here. …

But Moses Gates, a vice president at the Regional Plan Association, disputed the notion that New Yorkers would leave the city. The association believes that most wealthy pied-à-terre owners would pay the tax. If they chose to sell, then the property has the chance of being purchased by a full-time city resident, who would then be subject to income and sales tax.

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One of the greatest things you can do is volunteer, and even better learn about your city while doing that. The City of Vancouver is now seeking volunteers for their Civic Advisory Committees for the following committees:

Arts and Culture Advisory Committee
Children, Youth and Families Advisory Committee
Civic Asset Naming Committee
LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee
Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee
Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Advisory Committee
Renters Advisory Committee
Seniors’ Advisory Committee
Transportation Advisory Committee
Urban Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Committee
Vancouver Food Policy Council
Women’s Advisory Committee
Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee
First Shaughnessy Advisory Design Panel
Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee

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In the Good News, Bad News department, Delta Optimist’s Sandor Gyarmati reports on the face-saving exercise being undertaken by Deltaport’s current container terminal operator Global Containers (GCT).  I have written about the Port of Vancouver’s  continued push for this terminal despite the fact that it is the resting grounds of hundreds of thousands of western sandpipers migrating to spring Arctic breeding grounds. These birds feed solely on an algae that is only available on the Roberts Bank mudflats. That algae cannot be moved or replaced, meaning that this important bird migration on the Pacific Flyway would be extinct with port expansion.

It was  Larry Pynn in The Province who pointed out that the written response from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency clearly outlined the catastrophic impact of a new terminal eradicating this sandpiper feeding area. Last year the Port of Vancouver said they wanted to work on these issues, but as a representative from B.C. Nature said “I’d say the … port has been holed below the water line. We clearly have an environment at Roberts Bank that is fragile, that cannot withstand any more port development, and, finally, Environment Canada has come out with a definitive statement that should stop this project in its tracks.”

But back to the Terminal operator’s and the Port of Vancouver’s spin on ditching the terminal expansion, and no it is not to save the migratory birds.

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