Olympic overruns: the NPA’s legacy

The remnants of Sam Sullivan’s NPA administration are deeply offended by the suggestion that the NPA — and only the NPA — is responsible for the implosion of city governance that led to the tens of millions of dollars of overruns at the Olympic Village.

But the facts are clear.

Sullivan’s administration reopened the Southeast False Creek Official Development Plan at its first full meeting in December 2005.  By the following June, Millennium had been selected to build the market housing and the city’s parts of the project, including the affordable housing.

The entire affair — final design, budget approval and most of the construction — occurred on the NPA’s watch. It’s the NPA’s overrun, and its legacy.

Today, council paid more of the resulting bills:

  •  another $15 million for the 252 affordable housing units, bringing the total to $110 million. In 2006 Sullivan’s council thought the cost would be $68 million, including free land. By 2007 it was $95 million, now it’s $110 million and BC Housing estimates achieving affordability could cost between $55 million and $77 million more.
  • Preparation of the Salt Building for commercial use was estimated at $6.5 million by the NPA but the current figure is $15 million.
  • The Civic Centre was budgetted at $25.5 million in 2006. In 2007 council approved a budget of $30.5 million in camera. Today, council agreed to close the gap to bring the final figure to a staggering $36 million.

Finally, and most disturbingly, council approved an increase in the SEFC Project Office budget to $4.8 million from $3.5 million. The project office was out of money in the spring of 2008, but staff quietly funnelled money in from the Property Endowment Fund without formal council approval.

Was Mayor Sullivan aware of this arrangement? No matter.  It happened, in secret, as so much did on the NPA’s watch. The council that exulted in the “returns” it was generating to the Property Endowment Fund, with its revised ODP and the Millennium proposal, was laying the groundwork for the biggest setback to the city’s finances in Vancouver history.

The Vision council is beginning the rebuilding, first by refinancing the project, at a saving of about $90 million, and with a comprehensive review of the city’s budget processes. In the meantime, however, some big bills are due, bills incurred by the NPA.