A Sullivan legacy: the transfer of control and cash from the city to the province

France’s Bula’s review of the troubled Streetohome Foundation in the latest Vancouver magazine spells out how a city homelessness initiative, launched under the Sam Sullivan council, may generate a windfall for the province.

In effect, more than a year and a half after it was launched to raise money from the wealthy to fund investments to end homelessness, Streetohome was proposing to turn its cash over to the Province of BC.

Architects of the Streetohome scheme: Ken Dobell, former city manager and former deputy to the Premier, and his partner in consulting, Don Fairbairn.

If it happens, it won’t be the first time the city has been the loser in a partnership with BC.

The Little Mountain agreement approved during the Sullivan era conceded half of the value of the density generated by future development to the province for social housing outside the city. Normally that benefit would remain in Vancouver(This new video tells the Little Mountain story from the perspective of Ingrid Steenhuisen, a resident and lead activist in the fight to save the original project.)

Then there was the rezoning for BC Place stadium, in which the Sullivan council conceded all development cost levies and community amenity charges as a contribution to the stadium’s new roof. That saved Victoria millions of dollars.

Dobell, of course, was deeply involved in the joint city-province studies of new “cultural precinct” in the city’s core. That arrangement led to charges of conflict of interest and an absolute discharge for violations of the lobbyist act. (Correction: the conviction for violations of the lobbyist act flowed from Dobell’s activities on the Streetohome file, not the cultural precinct project. GM March 27, 2010.)

Premier Gordon Campbell jumped to the head of that parade in 2008 with the announcement that the Vancouver Art Gallery would move to the Plaza of Nations site in False Creek.

Although there were many obvious reasons why that site would not work, VAG loyally studied it for more than a year, fearful the Premier would pull his $50 million funding commitment if the gallery showed any sign of ingratitude, or independence. (VAG has since indicated it wishes to move to Larwill Park next to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.)

The common thread in all these sagas: a transfer, during the Sullivan era, of control and money from Vancouver to Victoria.