The three ABC Vancouver city councillors voted in favour of a developer who has donated to the party and is also landlord for one of mayoral candidate Ken Sim’s companies.
At the July 19 meeting, city council voted 9-1 to let the Bonnis Properties Inc. proposal for 800-876 Granville proceed to rezoning.
ABC Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, who chaired the meeting while acting as deputy mayor, began by calling for declarations of conflict of interest. None was made.
Theresa O’Donnell, the director of planning, expressed severe reservations about the impact of the envisioned 16-storey tower over the Commodore Ballroom and four buildings.
“It significantly deviates from council-adopted policies or regulations [on planning and single-occupancy accommodation],” O’Donnell said.
Meanwhile, Bonnis president Kerry Bonnis delivered an urgent plea.
“We’d like council to basically instruct staff to accept this zoning application and process it now,” Bonnis told council. “We’ve been delayed for so many years, we’re closing in on half a decade. The street’s in a dismal state. We need this done fast and we need to inject millions of dollars for post-COVID recovery.”
Kirby-Yung later handed chair duties to Coun. Adriane Carr so that she could participate in favour of the proposal. Kirby-Yung and fellow ABC caucus members Coun. Lisa Dominato and Coun. Rebecca Bligh voted in favour. TEAM for a Livable Vancouver Coun. Colleen Hardwick was opposed. Mayor Kennedy Stewart was absent.
“Happy to amend to direct staff to move 800 Granville proposal forward considering economic and cultural benefits project brings to revitalize historic block, Commodore and storied entertainment district,” Kirby-Yung Tweeted the next morning. “And to work to achieve a new music performance space, cultural amenity.”
ABC Vancouver disclosed a combined $7,139 in donations from four members of the Bonnis family, including three from Kerry Bonnis and one from his wife, Zohra. Bonnis family donations to Stewart’s Forward Together party totalled $13,632.
Land title records show that a Bonnis company, BP Real Estate Inc., is the owner of a $5.38 million-assessed building at 1350 Commercial Drive. One of the two commercial tenants is Rosemary Rocksalt, the Vancouver link in Sim’s chain of three bagel delis.
The property is listed for sale at $6.8 million through brokerage Marcus & Millichap, whose website heralds: “Stable income from strong tenant covenants, both locally owned and operated brands.”
Neither Sim nor Kirby-Yung responded for comment.
Likewise, Kerry Bonnis and vice-president Dino Bonnis did not respond.
Under the Vancouver Charter, council members are required to disclose a direct or indirect pecuniary interest, or another interest that constitutes a conflict of interest, and not debate or vote.
The biggest integrity issue for the 2018-elected council involved Coun. Michael Wiebe. The Green incumbent promoted creation of a temporary patio licence scheme in 2020 to cushion the blow from the pandemic. His Eight 1/2 restaurant became one of the first 14 permitted. That sparked a court petition from several NPA members who aimed to disqualify Wiebe from office and force a by-election.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed the case in 2021 and ruled that Wiebe shared a pecuniary interest with more than 3,000 competitors in the bar and restaurant industry. Last July, however, a B.C. Court of Appeal tribunal said the judge erred and sent the case back for further deliberation.
Chief Justice Robert Bauman wrote the verdict, which said Wiebe shared a pecuniary interest with “too small a segment of the community” for him to qualify for an exception under the Vancouver Charter’s conflict of interest section.
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