Thursday, July 11, 2013

Updated: Duplex for a Doula, Man-cave for a Mayor

Some interesting questions have been raised about Mayor Gregor Robertson’s real estate transactions by the Whispers from the Edge of the Rainforest blog. 

Also known as the Village Whisper, it broke the story about Robertson and his wife Amy (aka “The Bicycling Doula”) selling their 912 West 23rd house. Asking price is $1.95 million. 

I was tipped by a reliable source that the city’s “first couple” is moving into a duplex at 1645 Stephens St., near the proposed Point Grey separated bike lane. My source says it cost them $1.575 million. 

Why it is relevant is because the Mayor’s office reacted to the Village Whisper piece by saying he sought a legal opinion over the perception of conflict of interest and has decided to abstain from voting on the bike lane. (The Georgia Straight also noted that the house is in the Vancouver-Quadra riding held by Joyce Murray, who lost a bid for the federal Liberal leadership. Robertson is being wooed to run in the 2015 federal election for the Grits under Justin Trudeau. Before Trudeau became leader, Robertson had met on several occasions with Bob Rae.)

The 1979-built, 2007-renovated pad has two bedrooms plus a den and office with “showstopping ocean and mountain views” on a quiet street, a half-block from the beach. It was featured in the Canadian House and Home 2008 Makeover Issue and includes a one-year-old home theatre system with built-in surround-sound and a 42-inch Samsung wall-mounted TV and single-car garage. If the bicycling mayor doesn't park a car there, he could certainly use it for his bikes and perhaps even tuba-honking jam space.

The property has an interesting pedigree. It was sold by BMW dealer Brian Jessel in August 2006 for $1.111 million, sold in September 2008 for $1.503 million by L. Young and R. Hodgins and sold in June of this year to the Robertsons, by David Farrar and Susan Addario.

Farrar and Addario are former University of Toronto administrators. Farrar is the Provost and Vice-President of Academic for the University of B.C. Addario was the Director of Student Services and Registrar for the Justice Institute of B.C. and was appointed the College of Massage Therapists of B.C.'s Registrar and CEO in February 2012. 

B.C. Land Title and Survey records list the registered owner in 2008 as the University of B.C.

UPDATE (July 15): We may never find out when Robertson made his querty query to the city solicitor for a legal opinion related to his move -- unless Robertson volunteers that information, which led to his decision to abstain from voting on the proposed bike lane.

City Solicitor Francie Connell said the timeline and the advice given both fall under information protected by solicitor/client privilege.

“Opinions of this kind may be withheld from release under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and we do not publicly release them,” Connell wrote in a July 15 email.

The province has a Conflict of Interest Commissioner that reports to the Legislative Assembly. There is no similar watchdog for municipal councils in British Columbia. 

“The Legal Services Department reports to the City Manager, is not an independent body and is not authorized to make rulings regarding any alleged breaches of the Vancouver Charter's conflict of interest rules,” Connell wrote. “We provide legal advice, protected by solicitor/client privilege, solely to our client.”

UPDATE (Sept. 10): The public registry of B.C. Land Title & Survey has been updated. The application was received Sept. 4 and entered on Sept. 6. Under "registered owner in fee simple" are two names: Gregor Angus Robertson, Mayor, and Amy Oswald Robertson, doula, as joint tenants. A mortgage was registered Sept. 4 (CA3330724) with Vancouver City Savings Credit Union In Trust (DF BL051963). The legal description is: "Strata Lot 2 District Lot 192 Strata Plan VR. 745, together with an interest in the common property in proportion to the unit entitlement of the strata lot as shown on Form 1." Declared value is $1.575 million. 

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