Archive for November, 2004

Average price of a BC home soars past $300,000

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

Even with a decrease in sales in October, house prices continued to rise. Is an end in sight?

Bruce Constantineau


CREDIT: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun

Realtor Peter DeWitt stands in front of a west-side home that’s for sale. House prices haven’t dropped, DeWitt says, but buyers are taking more time to decide on purchases.


The average price for a B.C. home soared to a high of $301,600 in October, even though selling activity continued to fall, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Monday.

CREA said the average Multiple Listing Service selling price in B.C. in October was $13,000 higher than the September average and $10,000 above the previous record set in April this year.

But the number of MLS sales throughout B.C. in October fell by nearly 18 per cent from a year ago to 7,128.

B.C. Real Estate Association president Gordon Maroney said house sales were down in the Lower Mainland and Victoria but up in the rest of the province.

“By historical standards, there’s still a limited inventory [of homes for sale] so price increases are to be expected,” he said in an interview.

The national MLS average house price also hit a high of $232,400 in October.

Vancouver real-estate analyst Oswald Jurock said that despite the recent falloff in sales, October was still the second strongest October the B.C. market has seen in the past six years.

He said the market is still far from oversupplied now because while the number of monthly MLS listings has climbed from about 8,500 to 12,000 in the past year, that’s still well below the 21,000 properties that were for sale during some months in 1998.

“So it’s not like we’re suddenly being swamped with product,” he said.

“It looks like we’re slowly going back to a normal market.

“That’s a good thing because it’s not normal to wrestle each other to the ground in the vendor’s living room and emerge victoriously paying too much.”

Multiple offers on properties and selling prices that exceeded asking prices were fairly common earlier this year, but that frantic activity has subsided in most markets.

Jurock said the Greater Vancouver market is still not balanced because a balanced market would see homes being listed on the MLS for 60 to 90 days before selling instead of the current average of about 45 days.

He said B.C. house prices will likely be “much higher” 10 years from now as inflation makes hard assets like real estate an attractive investment.

But Jurock feels prices could fall back slightly in the next year, particularly in the condo market because 11,000 new units are expected to be completed in B.C. by next May.

Re/Max Real Estate Services president David Andrews agrees prices may have peaked in the downtown Vancouver condo market but feels rising incomes, low interest rates and an improving B.C. economy will prop up most B.C. property prices for a long time.

“That’s what happened after downtown condos peaked in 1989 — those prices went down but the house market kept going for years after that,” he said.

Vancouver realtor Peter DeWitt said city house prices haven’t dropped but buyers are taking more time now to decide on purchases because there are more homes for sale.

“There was a listings shortage earlier this year and people were making offers with no conditions attached whatsoever,” he said.

“But now they’re being a lot more conservative and making offers conditional on inspections and other things.”

Maroney said rising house prices in B.C. have clearly caused affordability concerns but feels price increases next year will moderate at around two to four per cent, compared with the 15-per-cent and 20-per-cent increases experienced in some markets.

A Royal Bank report this month said Vancouver house prices are the least affordable in Canada and the least affordable they have been in more than five years. It said it takes nearly one-half of the average family’s pre-tax income to cover the costs of owning a Vancouver bungalow.

The report said the deterioration in housing affordability will slow the pace of first-time home buying, but an improving B.C. economy will continue to boost new home construction.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Association VANCOUVER SUN B.C. home sales lower, but prices rise
B.C. recorded the largest percentage drop of any region in
Canada in residential MLS unit sales, Sept./Oct. 2004. But B.C. also recorded the largest percentage gain of any region in Canada in average home price year-over-year.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

RAV line builder shaves $42m off price

Monday, November 29th, 2004

‘I think we have a fully financed project’: McCallum

Jonathan Fowlie

The proposed Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid-transit line is a hair’s-breadth away from being fully funded after the company bidding for the massive project knocked $42 million off its price tag, TransLink chairman Doug McCallum said Sunday.

“I think we have a fully financed project,” McCallum said, clearly satisfied at efforts to close a $106-million gap in funding.

The remaining money for the line is expected to be committed by the province in a meeting Tuesday.

McCallum said that to bring the cost of the system down, top employees from SNC-Lavalin/Serco — the group whose newly priced $1.72-billion bid will be put to a crucial vote by the TransLink board Wednesday — worked around the clock for close to eight days to find ways to make the project more efficient.

During this process, the company looked at minute details, McCallum said, trying to reduce waste and determine details such as exactly how much concrete will be used, and the exact curve of the rail at all points of the system.

McCallum added that beyond finding those efficiencies, SNC-Lavalin/Serco cut money out of its bid to allow the cost of the line to meet the level of money currently available.

SNC-Lavalin/Serco spokeswoman Zdenka Buric said she could not say specifically what the company had done until after the bid is officially accepted, but it has been “working diligently to close the gap.”

McCallum also said that, because the contract stipulates that any construction cost overruns will be paid for by SNC-Lavalin/Serco, the $1.72-billion figure is the final price of the RAV line.

“I think we have a good project for the region,” he said.

Given the reduction by SNC-Lavalin/Serco, the only missing piece of the funding puzzle is the $65-million contribution being considered by the province.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said Sunday about the province coming up with that money.

Falcon will take a request to the provincial government’s treasury board Tuesday asking it to contribute the $65 million needed to finish the financial side of the RAV deal.

Falcon said Sunday he believes it will be easier to sell his colleagues on approving the funding now that the private sector has offered help.

“[The $42 million cut] demonstrates that everyone is doing their bit to try and manage down the $106-million gap,” he said, “and that goes a long way towards doing that.”

As details of the price reduction were made public on the weekend, however, so too were some of the concessions that had to be made earlier in the process to reduce the cost of the RAV line from SNC-Lavalin/Serco’s original bid price of $1.899 billion.

As a result of those cutbacks, the bid will no longer cover several elements, including: the replacement of selected areas of overhead trolley lines; 59 ticket vending machines and 38 ticket validating machines; and a police unit to operate on the RAV line.

While this off-loading helped to reduce RAV’s pricetag, some argue it simply hid the cost by shifting necessary services onto TransLink’s operating budget.

“As far as we’re concerned, what they’ve done is handed millions and millions of dollars off to TransLink from the RAV project, which means GVRD taxpayers lose again,” Don Toffaletto, chair of the Rethink RAV coalition, said Sunday.

TransLink can’t afford this,” he said.

In response, McCallum said the items that have been cut from the original contract are things that logically should not actually be part of the pricetag for RAV.

“It’s not something where we will have to spend more money,” McCallum said. “What we have said is that those [elements that were cut] really don’t fit into this project.”

As an example, he pointed to the removal and replacement of overhead trolley infrastructure.

“We’ve just approved a new trolley building down in south Vancouver and we have our trolley buses coming in,” he said. “When you are looking at costs, we’re going to have to do that anyways, so why should it be part of [RAV]?”

But Toffaletto said TransLink would not have to incur these expenses if the RAV line was not being built, and even though there may be overlap with other parts of the TransLink system, the money should be included in the budget for RAV so people know the total cost.

Others continue to be upset about the cuts as well, including Coun. Harold Steves of Richmond, who is upset that the line will not go as far into Richmond as originally planned. He said it will effectively cut out the most densely populated portion of the area.

To bring awareness to the issue, Steves said he plans to join with others at about 2 p.m. today in a protest along the proposed line that will involve stopping a bus.

“I think the significance is to show where the line is going to end,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in Richmond knows that it’s not going the whole route.”

Steves and most other Richmond council members are opposed to the plan for the RAV line to be elevated along Richmond‘s No. 3 Road because they say it will be ugly and hurt business in the area. They will meet Ravco and TransLink today to discuss the issue.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

‘It’s time to scrap the current RAV concept’

Monday, November 29th, 2004


Once upon a time the TransLink board went shopping.They chose a company called SNC-Lavalin to build us a shiny new RAV Line.The Olympics were coming. All was right in the world.
Suddenly the plotline of our story takes a turn.We hear that the “best and final offer” from SNC-Lavalin (our private “partner”) is going to cost $106 million more than was originally proposed and that, despite the huge increase in the purchase price, we will have one less station in Richmond and there will be no direct connection between the Waterfront Station and the cruise ship terminal.
The drama continues as the RAV proposal goes to a “do-or-die” vote of the TransLink board Wednesday. If you believe that the fourth Translink vote on RAV will be the last, please raise your hand.
This has become a horror story for the people of the Lower Mainland. It’s time to scrap the current RAV line concept once and for all.
   Derek Wong, Maple Ridge
End gridlock. Say “yes” to RAV
Not moving ahead with the rapid transit line would be the most expensive decision the City of
Richmond and the TransLink Board could make.The price tag will only increase as time goes on.
The level of funding from the federal government is unprecedented. I wouldn’t count on the feds leaving that money on the table for future projects,particularly when we can’t even come to an agreement on how we are going to spend it.
The cost of having more vehicles on the road will be measured in loss of productivity, traffic congestion and, most importantly, deteriorating air quality and health impacts. But we all know that the main reason for the hold-up is that it’s not aesthetically pleasing.
It’s time for the city of
Richmond and TransLink board to end the political gridlock and let this project move forward.
   Dean Beauvais, Richmond
Elevated RAV is the way to go
The Richmond councillors who are against an elevated RAV line along No. 3 Road need to come to terms with reality. The councillors believe an at-grade system would be more suitable for the area.I work No. 3 is bad at the best of times, an at-grade line would result in a dangerous traffic nightmare that would see trains crashing into cars and people. Proof of this can be found in Calgary where several people die each year as a result of collisions with their LRT. How many cars crash into the SkyTrain each year? None. How many business people complain about SkyTrain hurting their business? None.
   The people of
Richmond have been surveyed and most of them are in favour of an elevated line, that’s what they should get.
   Paul Jones, Delta
Fast ferry fiasco, part two
The bid for the Olympics 2010 has been won. What’s the hurry? I believe in rapid transit as a solution to the increased traffic and congestion in the Lower Mainland but the RAV project is a fast ferry fiasco all over again — with the price tag being triple that of the fast ferries. The RAV plan has had serious problems from the beginning. To proceed at this time,with all this uncertainty, would be folly.
   Gerry Weeks, Burnaby
Arthur Laing fiasco, part two
I hope that Richmond City Council will not block this RAV project like they blocked the original proposal for the
Arthur Laing Bridge years ago.
The connection to
Richmond was eventually made,but it was an indirect connection because the bridge could not be redesigned.
Gridlock now occurs each rushhour because of that original bad decision! An elevated RAV on No. 3 Road is much better than no rapid transit to
Richmond for years!
   Donald Allen,Vancouver
Transport needs are great
As a commuter from Maple Ridge to
Langley, I am nowhere near the RAV line. However, I will benefit greatly from the new Golden Ears Bridge at 200th Street crossing the Fraser River. Isn’t the essence of a regional transportation plan ensuring that all areas of Greater Vancouver have their needs met?
No one can disagree that rapid transit to
Richmond and YVR is long overdue.I may not benefit from the RAV Line but they need it, just as I need the bridge to Langley.
   Iain Nicol, Maple Ridge
Richmond deserves a line
Now that the bid price for the RAV line has been announced I find it interesting that so many people say the project is already over budget. At this stage I would say that it is better for the selected bidder to publish the true cost in advance of construction. If steel and concrete prices have inflated,this fact should be included and reflected in the initial bid price.
Among others, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan states that this may become another fast ferry fiasco. However, he fails to mention that the fast ferries were constructed for more than $450 million and sold by the government for a little over 10 cents on the dollar back to the initial builders Seaspan. Furthermore, they remain tied up at the North Shore docks.
Basically, the B.C. taxpayer paid 450 million for an experiment that failed. For Corrigan to compare it with the RAV line, which is based upon proven technology and which will help to alleviate traffic gridlock in the Lower Mainland for generations to come, is unfair.
He is using the projected cost for the RAV line as an excuse to oppose
   . I find it strange that he never opposed the building of the Millennium line through
Vancouver needs a modern transportation infrastructure and we have to be prepared to pay for it.
   B. Barden, North Vancouver
My autistic son should be home
   My autistic son has had partial treatment funding since April,2003 and he has made measurable gains in that time.
   He currently lives in a group home but we love him and want him back home. It would be a huge taxpayer saving. I would much prefer treatment over custodial care.
I match the $500 per month partial funding for Lovaas-style ABA therapy every month and our son is getting more out of life now.I know
   can be done much more cost effectively to include medical Lovaas treatment at home.
   Susan Burns, Maple Ridge
George W. can go to
   So George W. Bush is afraid to address Parliament when he visits
Canada this week because he might be “booed.” How pathetic, even the Cowardly Lion displayed more courage. And this from a selfdeclared “War President.”
   Alex Boivin Vancouver

Virtu: Clean lines, minimalist design

Sunday, November 28th, 2004

NEW HOMES: Smack dab in trendy South Granville, Virtu units are all style and substance

Jeani Read


CREDIT: Wayne Leidenfrost, The Province

Virtu is granite counters and sleek spaces.

CREDIT: Wayne Leidenfrost, The Province

Above, kitchen

Just a spit away from the eternally-trendy Diane Farris gallery on 7th Avenue at Granville, not to mention Industrial Revolution a block over, where you can probably buy all your furniture, Virtu is one of the niftiest new gems in the heart of the city.

They’ve subtitled this development The Collection (for the tons of galleries in the area, we’re thinking) and described it as “boutique living,” which is either a really, really nice way to skirt the issue of size — or a seductive term to hint at class for people who don’t instantly know how great this location is.

We think it’s simply the best when it comes to Vancouver proper. It’s a fabulous spot where no, size really doesn’t count. If you’re going to be living in what people have called their little piece of New York on the West Coast, you won’t be home much anyway. And when you do go home what you will want to experience is exactly this: a sophisticated apartment in which to kick off your Jimmy Choos and fling your Max Mara coat. Or, conversely, do cocktails with the buyers for your latest canvas (there’s an art studio in the amenities building).

Oh, OK, you don’t really have to strain this hard to be part of the atmosphere to live here — you just have to relax and appreciate it. You can shop all the way from Granville Market to 16th Avenue, along a street where fashion stores accommodate all budgets from jet-set to college set. Here, too, feel smug about avoiding the noise and crowding of downtown (this is a particularly quiet block). Make reservations at West, pick up crepes from a storefront as you stroll, patronize Linda Meinhardt’s cool new Picnic cafe — heck, even if you suddenly find yourself in a fast-food mood there’s even a Macdonald’s, heavily disguised as a restaurant. Theatres beckon. How can you pass Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn or Country Furniture without popping in? South Granville is a whole little world.

Meantime, back in the Virtu display suite, it’s all clean lines and minimalist design. Although, naturally, home decor can be anyone’s taste, the choices the designers have made, from big plasma screen in the living room to leather throw pillows in the bedroom really invite you to envision yourself as hanging your hat in the ultimate urban flat. The entertaining area is a concise open space with the kitchen (the “new living room,” remember) as a focus, so today.

The big plumbed island with eating bar invites friends to perch and chat, the granite counters (standard) and sleek cabinetry allude to the all-round high quality of the appointments. Engineered hard maple flooring is standard in the townhomes and the three penthouses, and available as an upgrade in some plans.

Most of the units are corner units, allowing for lots of floor-to-ceiling window space, because there are only six homes on each floor. There are still homes left with big patios, and the townhomes have courtyards in the front and outdoor space at the back. Besides the art studio, the amenities building features a gallery for displaying work, a fully-equipped gym, and a lounge with fireplace opening onto a landscaped garden courtyard.

CREDIT: Wayne Leidenfrost, The Province

Sleek hallway and bedroom (bottom)

CREDIT: Wayne Leidenfrost, The Province

Below right, Virtu rises in South Granville, close to galleries and shops.

Buyers are moving up or downsizing, migrating from Kits, Fairview or the City Hall area, making for a wide range of dwellers. Storage space and one parking place is standard: two parking spaces for townhomes and pentouses.

Occupancy February 2006.

[email protected]


What: Virtu is 56 condos and seven townhomes in South Granville.

Where: 1650 West 7th Ave., Vancouver.

Developed by: Amacon.

Sizes: One-bedroom plus den, two-bedroom plus den and three-bedroom homes, 525 sq.ft. – 1,334 sq.ft.

Prices: $239,900 — $699,900 and up.

Open: Daily noon go 5 p.m. except Fridays, 1775 Pine Street, Vancouver, 604-731-7779.

© The Vancouver Province 2004


Penthouse offers all-season viewing

Saturday, November 27th, 2004



CREDIT: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun


CREDIT: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun

(Livingroom with floor to ceiling windows)

Viewed from the right height and perspective, a Yaletown penthouse, for example, the approach of another Vancouver winter might be a welcome experience.

For $759,000, this eyre-in-a-storm experience is yours to know, at 1703 – 189 Davie in Vancouver.

The penthouse offers all-weather, all-season viewing-choices. Four decks, one of them a roofdeck, are available for better days; window views, some of them from openings that measure 11 feet floor-to-ceiling, for all the rest.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter layout, not your typical suite,” Cheryl Solomon of Dexter Associates Realty reports of her two-bedroom-plus-den listing.

Contact: Cheryl Solomon, 604-228-9339 or [email protected]

Realtors: Westcoast Homes welcomes news of unique resale homes on the market. Email [email protected]

© The Vancouver Sun 2004


Insurance woes trim inspector numbers

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

Kim Pemberton


Bill Sutherland of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors says the B.C. chapter requires members to carry insurance.

While home inspectors continue to be in demand there is a concern some inspectors will leave the profession because they can’t get insurance, according to a Canada Mortgage and Housing Insurance report released this month.

Between 1997 and 2003 there were a total of 238 legal claims made against members of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors, which has approximately 1,040 full-time working inspectors in Canada. Of the legal claims against members, 15 involved B.C. members of the association.

The majority of the claims, nation-wide, concerned structural foundation (49) and water problems (46) that were missed.

These statistics would not include home inspectors who are not affiliated with the association.

“As of the date of this report, fewer companies are available to insure home inspectors for errors and omissions. This is forcing a significant change in the Canadian home-inspection market, with a possible result of a large number of home inspectors leaving the profession,” the report states.

Kamloops home inspector Bill Sutherland, who is also the president of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors, said there are 150 B.C. members but approximately 200 others in the province who are not affiliated with the association.

The B.C. chapter requires all its members to have general comprehensive liability as well as errors and omissions coverage and provides a group plan. To become a member in the B.C. chapter home inspectors pay a $749 initial membership fee, and must pass an exam.

“We obviously like to think our people are well qualified to do the job,” said Sutherland.

“Home inspectors are in demand and hopefully the new ones coming on stream will meet the standards to do home inspections.”

Sutherland said he is aware of a few horror stories regarding unqualified home inspectors poorly advising clients, and that is why it is helpful for consumers to at least seek the services of an inspector affiliated with the association.

Vancouver lawyer and author of the Condominium Manual, Michael Mangan agrees.

“Home inspectors are not a regulated industry so there’s no authority saying you have to have insurance. There are some non-profit organizations of home inspectors and they’ve basically said we’re going to have certain standards you have to agree to if you want to be a member.”

He added some of these non-profit organizations do arrange group insurance for members in case there are legal claims made against them. Realtors also need to be careful when recommending inspectors, he said.

Mangan noted the Real Estate Council of B.C. advises realtors to always recommend an inspection before purchasing a property, and suggest the names of two or three possible home inspectors.

“That way the realtor is not directing the home owner to a particular inspector but rather directing them to a choice,” said Mangan, who has trained about 18,000 realtors over the years on legal matters.

“I suggest to realtors to talk to inspectors and find out if they are insured and the names of client references and even any unhappy clients the inspector is willing to let a prospective client to talk to. Like anything the more thorough you are the better the result.”

He said if a home inspector is insured it’s likely he or she belongs to an organization, and is keeping up with new developments in the industry.

“Many inspectors have you sign a contract (that) typically includes a statement ‘I will not be liable for any errors, or if I am the most I’m liable for is the return of the fee.’ But the courts look very carefully at these disclaimer clauses and there are various ways of legally defeating them.”

Jim Robar, director of technical research for CMHC, said relief is coming for consumers to better determine whether their home inspector is competent.

By the fall of 2005 this unregulated industry, which can have considerable influence on a consumer’s biggest investment, will be required to perform at least to the minimum of national performance standards.

The standards are currently being developed by members of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors, the Alliance of Canadian Building Officials Associations, the First Nations National Building Officers Association, and Canada Mortgage and Housing Association, under the chair of the Construction Sector Council. (Municipal building inspectors, who enforce city building codes and regulations, will also benefit from national standard guidelines.)

“This is good news for the consumer,” said Robar.

“Right now for the consumer it (obtaining a qualified home inspector) is very confusing and there is a lot of uncertainty to the competency of home inspectors.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2004


Procedure helps reading

Thursday, November 25th, 2004

Radiofrequency energy waves correct a common problem

Pamela Fayerman

CREDIT: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun Dr. Francis Law of VisionMed frees Eric Wan from dependency on reading glasses.

Source: Marketscope, an independent research firm that follows the vision correction industry. Eye-opening numbers • Canadian industry observers expect a 15-per-cent increase in vision correction procedures in 2005 over 2004.

Fifty-five-year-old Burnaby realtor Eric Wan should be able to read this newspaper article about himself today without reading glasses, for the first time in years, following a brief and painless procedure Wednesday morning at a Vancouver clinic.

VisionMed is the first eye care facility in Canada to offer the three-minute, $1,500 NearVision procedure for presybyopia, a condition that half of Canada’s 10 million baby boomers are now experiencing and the other half will eventually experience, due to the aging process that affects the eye’s ability to focus on words and numbers at close range.

Wan said he was frustrated with being so dependent on reading glasses. “I am looking at a computer and at contracts all the time in my job. It is awkward with reading glasses and I wanted to get away from them. Now I can give them to my wife,” he said gleefully, minutes after the procedure took place at VisionMed on West Georgia.

(VisionMed, a subsidiary of Family Vision Care Ltd., has another clinic in Edmonton that is not yet offering the procedure.)

Demonstrating the technique to a news media audience, Vancouver ophthalmologist Dr. Francis Law first anesthetized Wan’s eye with drops, then used a lid speculum to hold it open.

Using a probe powered by radiofrequency energy, Law applied it in a circular fashion to eight points around the periphery of Wan’s cornea. The radiofrequency energy waves shrink the corneal tissue to cause a reshaping, or increased curvature of the eye.

Typically, only one eye needs to be done and Law said the procedure will not compromise the treated eye’s ability to see objects in the distance.

The NearVision CK (conductive keratoplasty) technique received approval from government authorities in the U.S. and Canada earlier this year for presbyopia. Dr. Michael Melenchuk, chief executive officer of VisionMed, hailed it for its potential to allow aging baby boomers “to turn back the clock on their eyes.”

But he acknowledged the procedure does not provide permanent results and patients may need less costly “enhancements” three to five years later.

Referring to a two-year clinical trial of 150 patients led by Stanford University doctors, Melenchuk said 98 per cent of participants could see newspaper and magazine print without reading glasses after the procedure while 87 per cent could read names and numbers in the phonebook.

There were no serious, sight-threatening events reported in the clinical trial, he said.

The procedure is recommended for those over age 40 who have excellent eye health and require glasses only for reading, not distance, Melenchuk said

VisionMed has invested more than $100,000 in the technology and he expects a 10- to 12-per-cent return on investment.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Future delays at Port of Vancouver could send Asian exporters elsewhere

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

Improvements needed to road, rail and port facilities to cope with booming China trade

Bruce Constantineau

CREDIT: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun Vancouver Port Authority chief executive officer Gordon Houston faces an explosive growth in trade with China.

Source: VANCOUVER SUN GVRD, Port of Vancouver Shipping crunch

Congestion at the Port of Vancouver threatens to scare business thousands of miles away to the U.S. Eastern seaboard, Vancouver Port Authority president Gordon Houston said Tuesday.

He said some port customers are considering longer “all-water” routes to bring products from Asia to North America, using either the Suez or Panama canals to reach ports like New York and New Jersey in order to avoid delays in Vancouver, even though the Asia-Vancouver voyage is several days shorter.

It hasn’t happened yet, Houston stressed in an interview, but the fact it’s even being considered should concern everyone in the B.C. port community.

“If we don’t get the road and rail infrastructure and our own infrastructure in place, that all-water route starts to look very attractive,” he said after a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Congestion at Vancouver’s port facilities has become a major issue as port business booms as a result of huge increases in trans-Pacific shipping traffic. Houston said the total volume of trade with China shipped through Vancouver has increased by 56 per cent in the past year, with lumber exports climbing 46 per cent and sulphur exports rising by 63 per cent.

Growth in Asia-Pacific trade will provide a huge stimulus to future economic growth in B.C. but the province has to be ready, he said. The port and its business partners plan to spend $1.4 billion to triple the port’s container terminal capacity by 2020 and Houston said major capital investments are also needed to boost capacity in the region’s road and rail networks.

“If we build it, they will come,” he said in his speech. “But if we cannot accommodate their growth, we will be left behind as they seek other gateways.”

Houston headed a 25-person trade mission to Asia this month and he came back with a newfound respect for the “incredible dynamism” driving that continent’s economic growth.

“Until you have seen these things first-hand, and experienced the energy that drives these contemporary Asian economies, it’s all just a bunch of numbers,” he said. “The people in Asia are hell-bent on business and I believe the growth we’re seeing today will not slow down or flatten out in the foreseeable future. If anything, it will increase.”

The provincial government will release a report next month on plans to develop a provincewide ports strategy to get the greatest benefit from Asia-Pacific trade but ports are a federal responsibility and Houston noted the federal government does not have a national strategy to optimize Canada‘s trade relationship with China.

“Unless we have a national vision of what we’re trying to achieve, we’re not going to make it,” he said.

Greater Vancouver Regional District officials have expressed concerns over the Port of Vancouver‘s expansion plans, fearing air quality will be threatened by increases in marine traffic while congested road and rail networks will be under even more pressure.

A joint Canada-U.S. study recently forecast that marine traffic emissions would surpass air pollutants from motor vehicles in the Georgia Basin and Puget Sound regions by 2010.

GVRD chairman Marvin Hunt said district officials want the region to receive a special designation that would force marine vessels to use more expensive, cleaner-burning fuels but Houston said it would be unrealistic to force that on the industry overnight.

“It’s going to take the GVRD 50 to 70 years to change the system to get cleaner sewage and the shipping community is no different,” he said. “Ships last about 20 years and it will take them 20 years to change the engines so they can use better fuel with better burning capabilities.

“Ship engines weigh 150 tonnes and cost tens of millions of dollars. You don’t just throw that away.”

Houston said urban congestion in Vancouver has made it extremely difficult for port industry officials to find the land necessary to develop new infrastructure. We still use rail corridors that were developed in 1910 and those constraints have to be lifted, he said.

Vancouver has become a society that loves to live on the waterfront but people don’t want to see anything when they get there,” Houston said. “It’s a very difficult position for us. People who live on the waterfront here have a responsibility to that farmer in Saskatchewan [who has to get his wheat to market].”

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

‘If we build it, they will come’

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

PORT: Houston sees

Hirise to be built at north end of Lions Gate Bridge

Monday, November 22nd, 2004

Nothing West Vancouver can do to stop it, says mayor

Kent Spencer


The Squamish Indian band plans to build highrises near the north end of Lions Gate Bridge.

The band says the land is worth about $750 million and needs to be developed for the band’s future.

The band’s website shows three plans with a mix of highrises, commercial and single-family development on both the west and east sides of the bridge’s north end (go to

The band says it intends to bring the plans forward within five years.

But West Vancouver residents are dismayed at the prospect of losing a rare bit of park in an already built-up area of Park Royal.

The land is west of the Capilano River in an area called the Dog Park Walk, but does not include the grass fields at Ambleside Pavilion, which are municipally owned.

“Residents have been visiting this unique environment for decades,” said Keith Pople, director of a group called Preserve West Vancouver.

“I know people who go down twice a day to watch an eagle family. How many places are there in Vancouver with a natural setting for a big river? This would be a tremendous loss.”

But West Vancouver Mayor Ron Wood said the district can’t stop the band.

“We’ve always known the area is going to be developed,” Wood said. “It poses an issue for us with additional traffic on the Lions Gate Bridge. The reality is we have no control over what they do.”

He ruled out a so-called choke-point response, where the natives would depend on the good graces of the GVRD to bring treated water to the site.

“Water couldn’t be withheld,” Wood said. “The sewage plant is on native land. Presumably they could tap into that or expand it.”

Squamish Chief Gibby Jacob told BCTV News on Global the highrise plan is for the “needs of our membership.”

“With our population doubling in the next 20 years, the need to develop has become more apparent.”

Apartments considered at mouth of Capilano River

Glenn Bohn

Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Squamish Nation makes plans
The property in its Capilano reserve would be developed with a mix of homes.

WEST VANCOUVER – High-rise apartment towers near the Capilano River and Ambleside Park are one of the developments being pondered by the Squamish Nation for its Capilano reserve at the mouth of the Capilano River.

Variations of some kind of “high-density residential” development on the now-forested land between Park Royal South and the West Vancouver municipal park are outlined in a Capilano Master Plan brochure posted on the Squamish Nation website. But Gibby Jacobs, a Squamish Nation councillor and hereditary chief involved with development plans, said Monday that it is just one of the options that a future band council will consider.

It’s also possible that part of the Capilano reserve could remain undeveloped, he said.

The time frame for the development isn’t spelled out, but master plans usually refer to a 25 or 30-year period.

The web-posted brochure also doesn’t say how many people could eventually live on the reserve, if the high-density option is chosen.

Jacobs played down speculation that as many as 30,000 people might reside there if the land is developed to generate revenue, saying the figure is probably smaller.

“I’m not going to guess, because you’ll put it in writing and it will become gospel,” he said in an interview. “Things might not get built, but everyone will remember the number I say.”

Jacobs also said that residential high-rises — if they are in fact built — won’t all be built at the same time.

“Things have to make sense on the business side, based on whether there’s an actual market for the kind of product we’re developing,” he said.

He then referred to development proposals the Squamish Nation had received in the past.

“We could have developed that land 50 times over, with the number of developers who walked through our door and had the best thing since sliced bread,” he said.

The Squamish Nation does not need rezoning approval from its nearest municipal neighbours — in this case, the municipality of West Vancouver.

But it does get services from West Vancouver — things like fire and police service.

Dave Stuart, West Vancouver‘s municipal manager, said the municipality hopes to schedule a meeting with the Squamish Nation to discuss the development plans and its current service agreement.

“If they’re planning to do any developing, we’d want to know that,” Stuart said.

According to the municipal manager, one of the main issues may be the transportation “challenge” of new developments near the western entrance of West Vancouver.

Stuart said the traffic-clogged intersection at Taylor Way and Marine Drive is already in “failure mode” much of the time, so it would be a challenge to handle any additional traffic going to new residential developments.

“You can plan a high-density development there,” Stuart said. “The question is, how are they going to get in and out?”

The Squamish Nation is asking its members to comment on the three options summarized on its website.

Jacob said a small committee of Squamish Nation officials has been working on the plan for the past few years and hopes to have a final draft of its Capilano master plan some time early in the new year. No public meetings are scheduled for residents of adjacent municipalities.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004