Leadership lapse puts $1 billion in NE False Creek projects at risk

Post by Suzanne Anton in

12 comments

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CityCaucus.com is pleased to welcome NPA city councillor Suzanne Anton for another guest editorial. As we enter into election season we extend a welcome to other municipal candidates to email us about presenting their commentary here in the months ahead.

Following the great casino debate and decision last week by Vancouver city council, many casino opponents and local media believed that council's vote stopped the casino. But contrary to that perception, Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council actually approved the new casino right where it was proposed beside BC Place stadium.

What was not permitted was the expansion – no increases of slot machines or tables. Mayor Robertson's stated objection to the casino expansion was that it did not fit with his greenest city goals. But by that logic, the Mayor should have voted down the casino altogether.

Surely if the downtown casino isn't green at one size, it's not green at any size.

The bigger issue for Vancouverites is why $1 billion worth of projects – all three of the major developments proposed for that area of Northeast False Creek – have stumbled or failed in the last few weeks.

Although the casino proposal attracted most of the public attention, the PavCo project was much bigger than that, involving two hotels (one mid-market and one high-end), seven restaurants and bars, convention space and retail, built in the heart of Vancouver's biggest entertainment district. It was a proposed half billion dollar investment providing thousands of jobs in construction and ongoing employment.

Future revenues for the complex had the potential of being extremely lucrative for the City and the Province ($20 million and $200 million per year respectively).

By not allowing the casino expansion (which I would have personally supported), the Mayor has sent the entire project back to the drawing boards after three years of working its way through the system.

However, it is not just the PavCo project which is now in doubt. The neighbouring Concord project (5B east) is tied to the PavCo site, and can't proceed until it is resolved. And the site next to that (5B west) was turned back by council several weeks ago because the community was so unhappy with the benefits package negotiated by the City.

In total over the three projects, many years of work, untold costs by the City and the applicants, and almost $1 Billion investment have been put at risk. Worse, it sends an unwelcome signal to others who might want to invest in our city and help to create jobs.

It takes strong political leadership to ensure that major investments like these meet the needs of the city as well as the local community. Problems need to be identified early and staff need clear direction before they reach the critical stages. It is far better for everyone if contentious issues are dealt with in advance and community concerns addressed long before we get to public hearings.

Not every proposal is a good one. But to maintain and grow economic prosperity here we can't put more large projects like these at risk. When the private sector is willing to invest a billion dollars in housing, create jobs and support local businesses, it's the Mayor's responsibility to ensure those funds are captured for the city and channeled into projects that will benefit everyone.

The future of our city depends upon it.

- post by NPA City Councillor Suzanne Anton. Follow her @SuzanneAnton on Twitter.

12 Comments

These mega projects are bad economics, bad city planning and show a complete lack of trust in free markets and the people of Vancouver. Susan Anton and the major developers do not understand how healthy cities grow. The land should be rezoned and many small investors, architects, designers and businesses invited in. Let's have options, choice, experimentation and environments where people can make things, grow things and live in an environment that is both urban and natural.

Looking outside on Vancouver for investment is a recipe for economic colonization. Successful cities invest in themselves and give their people the opportunity to invest. Mega projects like the casino work against this. Our goal should be to grow local capital pools rather than attract external capital.

It is good to know that Ms. Anton would have supported the expansion of the casino. I hope that other people who will run in the next election will announce clear positions like this. At least we will know where they stand.

Steven:

How many companies, currently operating in Vancouver, are 'local'.

Most of the major businesses operate on a national or international level. Even Lululemon, which started out local, manufacturing local and Canadian, decided to offshore their manufacturing to China and India.

This parcel of land has sat vacant for lord know show many years. It is industrial land - right beside BC's major stadium.

This land will wither be developed for industry or more condos.

Agreed. This also points towards the desperate need to reform how municipalities are financed.

"By not allowing the casino expansion (which I would have personally supported)"

Why did she vote against it then?! Aside from the fact that she is two faced of course.

Yes. I would prefer to see taxation flow up from the municipal to the provincial to the federal level. Our cities and towns could be the foundation our polity. But how do we get the provincial and federal governments to engage on this. They don't like to give up power. We need to find some way of giving municipalities more options on how they raise revenue.

@Max "how many companies operating in BC are local"? This is exactly the question we need to be asking ourselves. And we need to ask how we create the conditions for local business creation and capital pooling. That is the only reliable path to wealth for local people. External investment will not generate local wealth, and the jobs will be low paying, add little value, and what value they do add will be captured by the investors.

If the land were rezoned for mixed use there are plenty of local businesses that would move in and create a dynamic local economy. That economy would provide a tax base. Politicians and planners are enamored of mega development. So are large external investors.

I believe we are about to enter a new phase of manufacturing using a new generation of information intensive technologies and that much manufacturing will be moving back closer to its centers of design and its markets. That is a longer discussion, but those cities that start creating urban space for manufacturing will be the ones are most likely to grow their economic base and prosper.

She didn't vote against it.

The decision was not unanimous as originally reported.

Another issue, companies grow and in many instances, get bought out or amalgamate.

So how do you retain those companies and or stop foreign ownership.

The company I currently work for manufactures roughly 60% of its product in Canada (sadly not BC) This is up from 50% last year and the overall plan is to increase that number as time rolls on.

"But how do we get the provincial and federal governments to engage on this"

Clearly delineate responsibilities for delivering public services at each level and then quit asking more senior governments to fund the more junior governments' responsibilities. Why should the federal government provide money for education and health when it is up to the provinces to deliver the services? Its not just power the senior government's have to give up but also the tax dollars (and reduced spending) to create more room for local governments to raise revenue.

@ Max - We can't of course, nor should we want to, but we do want to make sure that Vancouver companies can grow to buy other companies! That will require a maturing of our local financial infrastructure. My father used to joke that "Good Vancouver companies get bought by US companies; good Ottawa companies buy US companies." Let's change this. Glad to hear your company is increasing its Canadian manufacturing. BC and Vancouver have to think about the policies needed to foster local manufacturing by local companies. Ideas?

re: "Ideas?"
A provincial equivalent to the Bank of North Dakota.

Revenue brought in through taxes, fines, etc, is leveraged up and lent back to BC companies at low rates. As morally wrong as fractional reserve lending is, if we're going to have it we might as well use it for good rather than evil. Even if 90% of borrowers default, you still make money. Just like a private bank.

Google "North Dakota Economy", this method has worked amazingly well for them for nearly a century.

@Max:

1. Suzanne Anton voted with all the other councillors in favour of the motion--making it a unanimous decision. But while voting in favour of a motion denying the expansion AND putting a moratorium on any further expansion, Anton inexplicably said that she was in favour of granting the additional licences.

This is just an inexplicable vote that makes no sense to anyone. Why on earth vote for a motion that directly contradicts your position? Nobody can make any sense of a vote like this, and the NPA must be in total shock.

2. Interesting to see your concern about foreign ownership, given that Edgewater is foreign owned and all their earnings will be shipped south of the border.

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