The Two Towers: one gets Gregor's thumbs up, the other not

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

21 comments

Telus gardens.jpg
Mayor Gregor broke the news last week that Telus will need a rezoning

Last week the announcement that Telus was about to construct a couple of big towers in downtown Vancouver garnered a lot of headlines. It also attracted the attention of Vancouver's Mayor who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Telus' CEO to make the announcement in front of a room full of media and company staff.

It's quite likely that Mayor Gregor wanted to attach himself to this announcement due to the fact it was full of "green" goodies. After all, the project includes lush rooftop gardens, low flow toilets and will eventually attain LEED platinum status. For heaven's sake, they even named the project "Telus Gardens".

Only a few blocks away, there is a tale of another tower. Paragon is in the midst of a controversial public hearing process regarding a proposal to construct a couple of towers next to the newly renovated BC Place. Proponents say the casino/hotel complex will create up to 1900 permanent jobs, generate $23 million dollars a year in revenue for city coffers and become a magnet to draw even more people into the entertainment district.

So was Gregor also seen at a news conference with Paragon trumpeting the benefits of their development? Nope. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that development doesn't have the same "green credentials" the other one does. Or that it is linked to the expansion of gambling.

The Mayor's public cheerleading of the Telus tower proposal has raised more than a few eyebrows at city hall over the last week or so. That's because I'm advised by another local developer that the Telus tower proposal will also have to go through a rezoning process. The project encompasses an entire city block.

Leading up to this public hearing, civic officials are required by law to "keep an open mind" before they make a final decision on whether they can support the development. That's likely why you rarely if ever see public officials attending developer sponsored news conferences, or championing one rezoning request over another.

With the knowledge that Mayor Robertson attended the news conference and was quoted everywhere in the media stating he supported the project, how can the public believe he will "keep an open mind" when it comes to this rezoning? To the outside world, it would appear that his Vision caucus have already made a decision to give this project a "green" light.

Just imagine if in a few months from now a community group decides to oppose part or all of the Telus Gardens project. Do you really think they will get a fair hearing from Vision Vancouver after they have already publicly declared the project has the support of the City?

In his drive to attach himself to everything green, Mayor Gregor may have forgotten there is also something called due process that needs to be adhered to in Vancouver. There is a time and a place to stand side-by-side with a developer seeking a re-zoning, and that's at the ribbon cutting ceremony when construction is set to begin.

Mayor Gregor's attendance at the news conference was likely a big blow to planning department staff who are now in the unenviable position of negotiating the finer details of this project with Telus. Who do you think is in the driver's seat when it comes to making demands? He's big, he's round and he looks like a hippo. As one city planner quipped "that news conference was the public hearing, why bother going through motions?"

What do you think? Was it appropriate for Mayor Gregor to be on stage with a developer asking for a rezoning? Should he be participating in media conferences with other developers seeking rezonings and permits from the City? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

- Post by Daniel

21 Comments

And in related news, the City of Vancouver today made redundant the planning department. Rezoning applications will now be routed directly through mayor and council, significantly reducing the city payroll.

Developers will see a significant reduction in application fees and levies. To reduce further the city's dependency on corporate banks, applicants will have the option of now paying with cash. Future rezoning considerations will be reviewed on a case by case basis as the brown envelopes are received.

Daniel, this is not news to anyone who lives on Hornby Street. This mayor and council make all their decisions behind closed doors and then bring out sham public hearings. Even their own Andrea Reimer calls them "theatrics".

November is coming, the voters in Vancouver have to ask themselves, do we really need another term from a mayor who has removed the public from the public process. My hope is it will be a resounding NO.


I noticed this week at Council the Paragon folks also tried to appear to be on the Green train when addressing Mayor and Council.

One speaker advised us that his company held the cleaning contract for the Casino and expressed (stressed) that recently he had finished, specialized training in green cleaning procedures....commendable to be sure.

However I get the definite feeling, after listening to any new development proposals,developers are becoming very savvy to the fact that if the words "Green" "Leed" "Platinum Leed" are emphasized it will have sway with the Mayor and Council...

I worry that in haste to be Green we aren't being prudent. When I think of the massive size of these projects, I can't help but feel it is an oxymoron in the Green revolution..

Well put George! The only truly Green building is the one you do not build.

I only saw the headlines and a brief few moments on the local news and did not realize the project had not passed rezoning yet. Good thing you brought this up and no, it is not appropriate for the Mayor to have been at the press conference.

If a reporter had called him for a quote, then fine he can say he supports LEEDs construction and other general stuff about being green in Vancouver's building industry, but his presence gives the perception that this project already has the "green" light (pun intended).

Very good article! Amazing how nobody else in the media picked up on this. I think both the Sun and Globe ran stories, but nobody talked about rezoning part. I think Gregor should not have been at this news conference. Clearly not appropriate.

Just a thought here Frank, do you think the attention that is being focused on the Casino Development right now distracted us from really paying attention to the Telus project...

I ask this only because at the public hearings for the Casino development I keep hearing the comment by citizens and certain councilors as well, when did the expansion part of this Casino deal slip in....the explanation, there was an election going on....everyone was distracted...

Timing is everything...

"November is coming" Paul, but there is going to be a huge amount of very hard work required by all those who have taken the time to inform themselves of the damage this Vision Council is doing. The polls still show VV 20 points up. The word has to get out to the larger population ladies and gentlemen.

The "green' is good message, even when hollow, still resonates with the public at large. It can be predicted that VV will try lulling voters to sleep over the next 6 months. It's already started. They will either vote to defer this casino spot rezoning application until after the November election, as they have for the DTES spot rezonings, pending City-wide public consultation, or will vote no.

The Mayor did the same inappropriate thing he obviously insisted his Director of Planning do when Mr. Toderian appeared at his press conference with a very nervous looking Mr. Wall. This is yet another example of abuse of process.

By the way, an initial take on this Telus PROPOSAL, is that the office tower is jammed right up against the Georgia property line. This, IMO, is very unwise and goes against 40 years of planning policy. And, surely, if this is going to be a truly 'iconic' green shining light, the massing of this project could be a bit more inspiring.

Didn`t Telus also announce that they have brought the parking lot at Ricards and Georgia from the City - do we know the details of that sale - what did the City get for it and where will that money go - general fund or stay in the Property Endownment Fund.

Also - from the drawings it looks like the Kingston Hotel is saved - what were the details of that deal.

No the Mayor shouldn`t have been there if a rezoning is necessary.

Also - the Mayor couldn`t quite come out and say it but I suspect one of the reasons that Telus choose to develop that site as it Head Office is the fact that BC`s Corporate Tax rate is I beleive the lowest in the Country because it might upset his NDP anti-business friends.

The mayor shouldn't have been there. Full stop. Looks like he goofed up and will not be able to participate in the public hearing process. What an embarrassment for him when his leadership rival Raymond Louie has to chair the public hearing.

Very valid point on the Wall centre. What was the Director of Planning doing there at the news conference? This is all getting so bizarre.

Early electioneering is all it is. By the time this proposal works it's way through the system GR and his merry band of fasco-environmentalists will be writing resumes. November is coming very quickly, but there's still lots of time for the public to recognize that these would-be Emperors are undressing them.

The Thought of The Day

“A Tale of Two Towers... ‘It was the best of towers; it was the worst of towers’, aaah, the good old Chuck Dickens. Then, they asked Gregor. Huh?”

It doesn’t make any sense. What-So-Ever!

After long debates, professional panels (architects and engineers and planners) approvals,$$$ spent on public consultation, designs, and open houses...they ask for Grigory Ilych Robertsonovitch’s opinion. Wow.

I suggest then, to the people who are saying that Punxsutawney Phil - of course, the Groundhog from Gobbler's Knob...the Shadow Seer, The Prognosticator of Prognosticators is overrated...to shut up.

After looking over the Towers Shadow Analysis drawings The Mayor was heard saying "I can definitely see a shadow, here, here, and here!"
Yes folks, we'll still have another 8 months of winter.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Just imagine if Sam Sullivan had attended that same news conference with Telus after they made a big donation to his campaign.

Vision would be blowing a blood vessel, calling for his head and getting some of their media friends to crucify him. What a double standard. Now Gregor is praised for helping to create jobs. What a joke.

Sam Sullivan would have been up on the stage with Telus, as would every other mayor we have had in recent memory.

Bill, so what is your message on building, rebuilding, a sustainable city and economy?

As politics 101 correctly noted, the key to making this project work is the developer's (potential) acquisition of the city-owned parking lot. I think the terms of this sale should be made public...presumably the price is not tied to the ultimate density approved for the site!

Another interesting twist...While I applaud and generally support a significant new office development in this location, this project is only viable because it is being 'subsidized' by a very large residential tower....in a location that Council rezoned two years ago to remove residential development as an outright use! Why, because it wanted to ensure there was adequate capacity in the downtown for future office development.

As an aside, I spoke against this rezoning, since I thought residential development would add to the vitality of the area and help subsidize office development. Hopefully this project will prove this to be true.

Really Steven, can you point to any examples in the last 15 years? Proof please.

Looks like Gregor is the new Super Director of Planning for the City. Great professional credentials too.

Steven, what is my "message on building, rebuilding, a sustainable City and economy?"

That is a very large and complex question. The answer to that, from my perspective, is reflected in my various comments here and elsewhere over the past year, and will continue to be clarified as we approach 19 November. Safe to say, I support continuing to 'build a sustainable City and economy.'

The Telus proposal is an important one for the CBD, the City and the region. With some refinements, it appears it can continue be a positive, newly energized Downtown neighbour.

But, it is also obvious that Mr. Entwistle did not make his corporate headquarters decision simply based on Gregor's 'greenest city in the world' notions.

Gregor is still contaminated after bathing in the Hollyhock/Tides Canada swamp and drinking the global warming Kool Aid for so long and he can only filter issues through his ever so greenie filter.

His legacy will be quite hilarious in hindsight. Future folks will think us & him nuts, right bonkers to have actually believed it was a good idea to plant trees & grass on our building roofs.

Glissy,

LMAO again and again but here "I can definitely see a shadow, here, here, and here!" you had me in stitches.

"Yes folks, we'll still have another 8 months of winter."
It's going to be a long winter indeed. But then...spring will come!

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