Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘Cambie Street merchants

The Cambie Street Saga’s Final Chapter

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There is a story today in the Vancouver Observer which brings to an end the sorry tale of the many small businesses that failed due to the cut and cover construction of the Canada Line under Cambie Street.  Some of these merchants will be able to recover a little of the money they lost as compensation is limited to “injury to their leases”. Not nearly enough, and far too late, but mostly due to the intransigence of the constructors. And, of course, the province of BC though they were not named in the suit but they are in my blog post. I did try to document what was happening and some of the outcome. But you might find the Siskinds Law Firm a bit more authoritative on the Canadian law.

To claim compensation, former merchants and landlords affected by the Canada Line construction are urged to contact the Cambie Village Business Association before May 1, 2016, as the deadline for filing with the Court is May 31, 2016.

And, as most people know, winning a legal case is not the same thing as getting justice. My impression is that there are other places who deal with such cases in a more generous fashion, but perhaps that is going to require more historic research, as the world has steadily become less concerned about the people in general as opposed to the very few People Who Matter.

I thought I wrote more about this – as I also thought it would be easy to find better examples. But then maybe I am using the wrong search terms or the wrong search engine.



An architect’s rendering of the new dentist office and five residences that will replace the building currently occupied by Pronto/Prontino on Cambie Street. (City of Vancouver)

“Final” is a bit of an error. The story is not over, since the redevelopment of Cambie Street is moving forward. The CBC has a story of a business owner impacted by a proposed redevelopment. The single storey building which she occupies is going to be replaced by one with four storeys of residences (presumably condos, but might be rental apartments) over commercial at grade. And the intended use is a dental office, not a the cafe and bar that’s there now. I suppose because a dentist is able to afford a very much higher rent. Most suburban medical dental buildings seem to be owned by dentists.

Increase in density by replacement of single storey buildings is something I have long thought overdue for Vancouver. However, it does seem to me that the planner quoted here has a solid argument. Someone should be giving some thought about how to maintain the quality of street life in Cambie Village and similar locations. The current regulatory framework seems to be inadequate.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 4, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Ministers in court?

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The story of the Cambie Street merchants (covered here earlier) will be in court next week. And according to 24 hours so could some of the politicians responsible for the mess.

Former B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor may be compelled to testify in a court case brought by an ex-Cambie Street merchant seeking compensation for losses caused by Canada Line construction, a judge ruled yesterday.

Justice Ian Pitfield will decide this morning if Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon can be made to testify as a hostile witness.

When the RAV line – as it was then called – was originally approved it was supposed to be bored tube. This, it was claimed, would mean that there would none of the disruption associated with construction. Many places have experienced disruption when rapid transit is built – subsurface, surface or overhead all cause major issues. “Tube” construction is much more expensive but needs much less surface access. Cut and cover – the method chosen by the Canada line P3 is the most disruptive – but is cheaper for the builder if they do not have to compensate those inconvenienced.

The Canada Line has been built down to a price not up to a standard. This is not unusual for P3 fixed price contracts. They may come in “on time and on budget” but usually this can only be achieved by building much less than the original specification called for. In this case the plans changed once the P3 partner was chosen but of course by then the rush was on. While the proponents (the province of BC) claimed it was not an Olympic project they insisted that it had to be completed well before the games started. The fact that what was now to be built was materially different to what had been approved mattered not at all.  Equally, Translink’s approval had only be achieved by the suggestion that the Evergreen Green line would be built concurrently. Of course that was not a solemn and binding contract either – it was a pie crust promise – easily made, easily broken. The then Board of Translink was then replaced by a more compliant “professional” board more likely not to raise awkward questions in public.

I am not going to make any predictions since judges are notoriously fickle. This could go either way. But I do like the timing. It is just the sort of issue that needs to be raised immediately before a provincial election. Actually it would be much better resolved through the constitutional convention of ministerial responsibility – but of course that is thought to no longer apply in British Columbia, which is why people now resort to the courts.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 17, 2009 at 7:26 am

Posted in politics, transit

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Premier changed his tune on helping merchants hurt by transit construction

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Vancouver Sun Editorial

I have passed along here several times the general complaint of the merchants impacted by Canada Line construction. They have not got anywhere

the response, whether from the province, TransLink or InTransit BC, has been consistent: Each has adamantly denied any responsibility to compensate business owners for their losses.

In the case of “Cambie Village” this is egregious, since the only reason Vancouver accepted light rail along Cambie (home of the “heritage boulevard” a designation invented to frustrate an earlier surface LRT proposal) was Ken Dobell’s solemn promise that it would be in bored tube and thus would have no impact on surface businesses. This promise was forgotten once the P3 was awarded and the In Transit BC consortium came up with a cost saving proposal for cut and cover along Cambie (not something they talked about for downtown either, but once again bored tube only related to running tracks not station boxes – detail, details) . Despite this major change in project scope, nothing was to be allowed to slow the indecent haste of the project’s progress, as it was “essential for the Olympics”. So essential that they don’t work on weekends, or at night. In other cities 24/7 construction schedules for major infrastructure projects are not uncommon. Indeed, with underground projects’ surface impacts, night shift working is often the only way to avoid massive disruption to traffic. The extent that this is avoided in cities like London would probably surprise the merchants of Cambie Village.

But what the Sun’s leader writer has noticed is that there is a precedent.

In 1987, construction on the Expo SkyTrain line extension was creating many of the same negative effects that the Canada Line is creating today. In an effort to seek compensation for declining property values, many homeowners thought of taking legal against against the province.

But ultimately, it was the City of Vancouver that stepped up to the plate, and decided to launch an action against the province. And who was the mayor of Vancouver at the time? Why it was none other than Gordon Campbell.

But Gordon Campbell has shown that he has an infinite capacity for holding two conflicting priorities at the same time. He is after all the man who has adamantly insisted that Highway #1 will be expanded and at the same time that we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Perhaps what is most damning is that the people who think they are represented by the BC Liberal Party and the Vancouver NPA, and who vote for them and provide both monetary and volunteer support are small businesses. A lot of them are shop keepers – or were until the road outside their shops was dug up. Because those two political organizations calculate that they can afford to offend quite a few of these people since they will not likely turn to the NDP or COPE respectively.

And because the BC economy is still seemingly going great guns, the BC Liberals are riding the crest of a wave of electoral invulnerability at present. And Gordo seems set to win a third term even without Carol Taylor. Who might also prove to be a better Mayor of Vancouver than Sam Sullivan – which is not such a high standard, after all.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 30, 2007 at 2:49 pm

Posted in transit

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