For a long time, neighbourhood activists have believed that some development projects, involving major rezonings, had been settled in private meetings between the Vancouver Planning Department and the developer long before they were ever brought before the public. In these cases, many believe, open houses, neighbourhood “consultation”, and public hearings are just a sham.
We have been assured over and over again by planners and politicians alike that these “done deals” were just a figment of our imagination. But then along comes Westbank Corp’s Ian Gillespie to prove us right apparently. As described in a long piece by Charles Campbell in The Tyee, Gillespie was boasting to a San Francisco crowd:
Ian Gillespie, the developer of the Woodward’s project and the Oakridge site with architect Gregory Henriquez, spoke in January to a San Francisco audience about how he’s dealt with Vancouver’s senior planners in the past. According to Easy as Pie, a participant in the online SkyscraperPage Forum, he described it as freewheeling: “Gillespie said that he’d never once built a project in Vancouver that fit within existing zoning — a huge laugh line for the SF audience — and he described a somewhat astonishing development process for the Shangri-La, which basically consisted of a few lunches to get height and lot coverage settled before even acquiring the land.”
Only then, wrote Pie, did Gillespie finish a co-venture deal with the property owner “on the back of ‘a Tim Hortons napkin’… There were also plenty of other stories that reinforce the ‘discretionary’ nature of discretionary planning in Vancouver, but none so powerful as Gillespie’s flat-out admission that you get what you want as long as you buy the city off with daycare space or whatever they want.”
These extraordinary statements and others are covered in even more shocking detail in a fine piece by the ever-vigilant CityHallWatch.
It would be good to hear from General Manager of Planning Brian Jackson whether he agrees that Gillespie’s tale of “a few lunches to get height and lot coverage settled” long before any public consultation process is true. He might also want to comment on Gillespie’s claim that Vancouver’s planners can be bought off.
Or perhaps he will be willing to say that Gillespie was referring only to what happened under a previous planner Or perhaps he might suggest that Mr Gillespie was not telling the truth.
If not, maybe he could tell us which other developers get this privileged treatment while Vancouver’s neighbourhoods are pillaged to the profit of private corporations, some of whom just happen to be large donors to the ruling Vision party. Mr. Jackson might want to reflect on this connection when he explains whether or not Ian Gillespie was telling the truth.