This video clip on CBC from 2012, shows pre-emptive praise for future towers at Brentwood Mall. Does it suggest that Burnaby Council is rubber-stamping major developments, with its stance already decided before the legally-required Public Hearings? A Public Hearing is set for August 26, 2014 on this specific a 70-storey tower proposal. Also interesting is the role of media in the development industry. CBC here puts a positive spin on the plans, interviewing only people who are in favour, with no coverage of alternative views.
Burnaby mall could see huge expansion (CBC video, August 28, 2012)
The CBC News video shows a Burnaby councillor calling the proposed Brentwood redevelopment “the crown jewel” – with 13 towers 40-70 stories high, plus new mall and townhouses, and removal of major bus loop at developer’s request. This story was on CBC news the night before the first and only public hearing on Shape’s (the developer’s) ‘Master Plan’. (Sections of plan later go to a one-off Public Hearing as they come up. (Next up is Tuesday August 26, 2014, at 7 pm — a Public Hearing for the second tower.)
Pre-emptive praise by elected officials
This pre-emptive praise suggests that Burnaby Council is rubber-stamping mega-projects with little concern for public input. At a July 22, 2014, Public Hearing for two new towers at Metrotown, Mayor Corrigan showed similar bias, calling it “our concept” and saying we need to do this to preserve Chilliwack farmland – although he recently voted as a Metro Vancouver board director to put houses and shopping on prime Delta farmland in the Southlands, and had a major influence in its approval.
Failure to provide adequate notice to the citizens of Burnaby
The late summer timing of this Brentwood 70-storey tower (August 26, 2014) Public Hearing is obviously planned to ensure a lower turnout from the public. Also, reportedly, the only notice provided to the public for these re-zoning Public Hearings is that only property owners within a mere 30 metres of the site receive written notice – for these huge Burnaby projects. In effect almost no one gets written notice. The local paper runs the notice, and there must be one sign announcing it. That’s it. In this case that meant one sign on the 28 acre property, with the sign discreetly located — where it would not be seen by the thousands who are in or pass by the area.
Who is behind the corporate veil, and who are the enablers?
We also would like to shine a spotlight on the developer here. Shape Properties Corp., like many of the development industry players in the Metro Vancouver region, has a nice website (www.shapeproperties.com
) and lots of media coverage. But try to find any information about the ownership, management structure, and governance of the company — and you discover that the corporate veil is thick. The company website appears to provide no names of the human beings behind the company veil. Mainstream media play along with this, providing extensive free promotion and coverage of developments worth tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Under legislation, the profits or rezoning for increased height and density can only be accessed with the approval of elected officials at City Hall. But the proponent, media, and city employees often fail to provide any information to the public about the corporations themselves. Who is behind the veil that the real estate marketers, media, public servants (planners at City Hall), and even our elected officials on City Council, are so generously rewarding and protecting? What if an innocent citizen wanted to know, for example, if a developer to be benefiting from a rezoning had channeled any funds to politicians in a recent election. In the case of Burnaby and this particular rezoning, it is virtually impossible.
Also worth noting is the practice of major developers to hire real estate communications and marketing consultants, who aggressively promote the project in order to drum up public support for the rezoning. They often target people of certain profiles, present pro-development information at invitation-only meetings, and coach people what to write or say to City Council for the Public Hearing. Information is typically biased in favour of the development and fails to cover other aspects and views regarding the dramatic increases in height and density. A number of these firms are active across the Metro Vancouver region. If anyone knows who is playing this function for the Brentwood towers, please send us a tip to citizenYVR@gmail.com.
Heads up: Coverage about the upcoming August 26, 2014 Public Hearing for Brentwood Mall Tower 2
Rezoning sought for Brentwood mall Tower 2 (by Wanda Chow, Burnaby NewsLeader, Jul 24, 2014)
Rendering of first phase of Brentwood mall redevelopment. Developer has applied for rezoning for second tower (right). Image: Shape Properties
Shape Properties Corp. is proposing to build a 53-storey highrise on top of a three-storey commercial podium.
The podium will include new retail space located around a civic plaza connected to the SkyTrain station. It was approved by council earlier this year, as was another 53-storey tower to be located atop the podium at the corner of Willingdon Avenue and Halifax Street. The 288 units available for sale in that building sold out within hours last month after some buyers camped out for days in tents.
The second tower will be located at the corner of Alpha Avenue and Lougheed Highway. As in the first highrise, 300 of the 591 apartments will be rental units to be owned and operated by Shape and its funding partners. The first 25 floors will be for the rental units while the strata units will be in the upper 27 storeys.