Hastings-Sunrise property owner sues city over ownership of $17.7 million parking lot

Last summer, the City of Vancouver donated land to housing project

Aura Ventures Corp., which owns properties on East Hastings Street in Hastings-Sunrise, has filed a civil lawsuit in the Supreme Court of B.C. over ownership of a parking lot BC Assessment values at $17.7 million.

The City of Vancouver, which says it owns the parking lot, announced last June that it was handing it over for a future women-led housing project. The city is on the land title.

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Located at 2502 Franklin St., the lot sits between Kamloops and Penticton streets behind the London Drugs on East Hastings. It features about 180 parking spots.

Customers of local businesses use the lot, while it also serves as an event space for neighbourhood festivals and fundraising.

News the city had offered it up for the housing initiative took businesses and property owners by surprise. At the time of the announcement, the North Hastings Business Improvement Association questioned the city’s claim of ownership, saying neighbourhood businesses and property owners might have rights to it.

Now it looks like that point will be tested in court.

Simon Lin of Evolink Law Group filed the civil claim at the end of October on behalf of Aura Ventures Corp., and on behalf of all current owners of what the lawsuit describes as “benefitted properties,” which number about 60 in total. Some of the “benefitted properties” have changed ownership and/or undergone stratification between 1964 to present.

Lin is asking that the court certify the civil claim as a class action.

Aura Ventures Corp. owns eight lots of land, whose addresses include 2642, 2638, 2632, 2630 and 2626 East Hastings St., which were stratified from one or more of the “benefitted properties.”

“In short, we're seeking a court order that the city honours the deal — a deal that has been struck for decades. Our claim is that the deal has always been that the property, the parking lot, is held in trust for the collective benefit of all those property owners on Hastings, and those property owners are the beneficiaries of that property,” Lin told the Courier.

The claim, filed on Oct. 28, states that the Hastings Sunrise Parking Lot is a collective parking project formally created on or about October 1965 out of 15 legal lots, and that the concept for the parking lot was initiated through a petition under the city’s local improvement procedure bylaw for the benefit of properties located on both sides of East Hastings Street between Nanaimo and Slocan, and the east side of Kamloops Street between Hastings and the lane immediately to the north.

The 180 parking spots are intended for the use of owners, tenants and/or customers of benefitted properties, and each benefitted property is allocated a certain number of spots, according to the claim.

Back in the 1960s, it cost the city just over $255,000 to acquire the land and construct the parking lot. The lawsuit says the “benefitted properties” had to pay that back over 25 years and the cost was paid in full, with interest, by 1990.

Annual maintenance costs were also levied against the property owners, and they continue to be paid. In a previous Courier story, city records revealed that, in 2018, property owners on Hastings between Nanaimo and Slocan paid $210,629.44 in an annual levy to the city, which covered expenses such as fixing potholes, curbs and signs, as well as paying for cleaning, snow removal, electricity, maintenance and repairs. It also covered general and other taxing authorities.

The lawsuit alleges that by implementing the petition to construct the parking lot, and by managing it afterwards, the City of Vancouver was acting on behalf of, and for the benefit of, the owners of the “Benefitted Properties.”

Along with asking that the civil claim be certified as a class action, among the remedies the plaintiff is seeking is a declaration that the owners of the benefitted properties are the beneficiaries of the parking lot, and that the land title register be “rectified” with an “in trust” endorsement on the registrations for the 15 lots that make up the parking lot.

In a Courier story published before the claim was filed, the city said it hadn’t found any record of a land purchase by businesses, but if records were found, it would discuss how to move forward with those businesses.

This week, the city declined to comment as legal proceedings are underway. It is reviewing the claim but has not yet filed a response.

None of the claims have been proven in court.

noconnor@vancourier.com

@naoibh

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