They wouldn’t take ‘Yes’ for an answer, and WV council bowed
By TREVOR LAUTENS
It’s no fun being the Village Scold. That was great journalist Bruce Hutchison’s wry term for print vendors – like himself – of criticism of public personages and affairs, sometimes public personages’ affairs. It is a disagreeable task. But someone has to do it.
So it is a relief to say something very nice about three West Vancouver councillors for defending a principle. They are newcomer Marcus Wong, oldcomer Bill Soprovich, and midcomer Peter Lambur. All praise for them. They honoured a sacred principle. Even better – vote for them next time out, if they’re still around.
And, re-set to my Village Scold normal, I hereby slam Couns. Craig Cameron, Nora Gambioli, Sharon Thompson and of course Mayor Mary-Ann Booth.
As persons I like all of the above. (Vice-versa is likely something else.) And I have no reason to doubt that Cameron, Gambioli, Thompson and Booth are chock full of principles. But not this one.
That principle is: A deal is a deal.
It’s a deal if it’s an older-era gentlemanly or gentlewomanly handshake. Or if it’s slugged out by competing armies of seven-piece-suit lawyers. A deal should be a deal – unless proven criminal, fraudulent, made in bad faith etc. and thus eligible for the court lineup.
Short version: The deal was WV council’s 4-3 approval – after intense closed-doors and community wrangling – of Lalji family-owned Park Royal’s application to build two towers of 11 and 14 storeys on the northeast corner of the shopping centre.
Soak up the blood? End of tale?
No. Park Royal wouldn’t take Yes for an answer. It wanted Yes-Yes. For another five storeys on each of the towers. (Is there Yes-Yes-Yes some time in the future? And did other eagerly watching developers smack lips over the decision?) As my well-informed Agent 4kTck7a2 noted, the addition will glaringly tower over, so to speak, the earlier approved buildings’ profile.
Almost immediately veteran Park Royal executive Rick Amantea went cruising for political and business support around town, where the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce is rich turf for WV’s two dominant mega-megas, Park Royal and London-based Grosvenor – big sponsors of mayoral State of the Municipality-type speeches. It’s a breezy, bluff, blustering audience of the well-heeled and well-connected. (How they loved Mayor Michael Smith. And Mayor Booth is cut from even costlier build-them-and-they-will-come-in-Bentleys cloth, but with a blinding smile.)
And lo, in less than a year Park Royal pitched an application to town hall for the five added floors.
Only Coun. Soprovich, who hasn’t enough fingers to count his years on council, had the jam to instantly scorn the breathlessly contemptuous application. Don’t even accept it, advised Sop.
Is this even more unique? Town hall staff also initially opposed it. But, my Agent O8sqH2 advises, along the way staff subtly changed its collective mind. Saw the light. Bowed to reason. Or felt pressure, possibly self-imposed.
So in June council scrapped the old deal for the new deal – Booth breaking a three-three deadlock and casting her utterly predictable Yes-Yes vote.
Remember: Three who held to a prime principle, Lambur, Soprovich, Wong. Four who didn’t, Cameron, Gambioli, Thompson, Booth.
Both federal and B.C. governments are currently talking up election. Mere municipalities aren’t and can’t. That’s why they’re far more unassailably powerful than the senior governments in their respective spaces. And why cronyism and abuse of power are so easily slipped past an electorate without time or energy (or flaming desire) to follow local politics.
Also why they don’t bother, or feel conscientiously well-informed enough, to vote – leaving local government largely to special interests and the thoughtful who can be numbered in the hundreds to turn up on any specific issue.
A word of fairness, even sympathy, for the Laljis: Their nasty experience might make any family wary of politics and guarded of its wealth.
As is well known, they’re Ismaili Muslims who were among the ethnic East Indians (for some reason currently styled Southeast Asians) expelled on short notice from Uganda in 1972 by autocratic Idi Amin. He was furious that the East Indians had more wealth and entrepreneurial savvy than black Ugandans. Amin exploited their resentment.
Odd, I thought it was the white people who have a monopoly on racism. When “racism” appears in the media, I always see the invisible word “white” in front of it.
As for the Brissenden decision, the Navvy Jack issue – I’m told the West Vancouver Historical Society weren’t consulted, didn’t even hear about it until days before council’s revelations – the renewed proposal of the Ferry Building architectural crime, and much else, they’ll have to wait for another day of sunny reflection.
The charming overline on the heading – “What Fresh Hell is This?” – is borrowed from a favorite phrase of the late Dorothy Parker, and is used without her permission.
Holland House Ltd.