January 20, 2022

Revising History with Sam Sullivan: The TEAM Era

The fourth and final video of Sam Sullivan’s four-part development history of Vancouver.  Full playlist here.


An Alternative Opinion On TEAM’s Legacy 

In the 1970s, the winds of social change were blowing, more people were demanding a say and there was scepticism about the “establishment”.

The TEAM party took over Vancouver government in 1973. There has been much discussion about the many benefits they brought but not a lot of discussion about the downsides. Among their legacies are high house prices and the Downtown Eastside.

Even the belief that TEAM stopped the Downtown freeway should be reconsidered. It appears they were the only party to propose a freeway running through Yaletown and never mentioned freeways in their 1970 and 1972 platforms.

TEAM fired our first Chief Planner Gerald Sutton Brown who came from the dignified British Civil Service tradition. He refused to defend himself and his legacy and would not criticize others who came after him. My opinion is that he was an outstanding public servant and should be restored to his rightful position in our history.

This video is a reassessment of the impact TEAM had on the city and why we can still consider ourselves living in the TEAM Era.


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  1. Wow, Sam, that’s a lot of revisionism in only 10 minutes. I mean, there are some compelling and valid points here – it’s definitely worth a view – but it seems egregious to lay every problem the City has faced in the last 40 years at the feet of a TEAM administration that was in power, really, for less than a decade – especially when you acknowledge that a lot of these problems were occurring in every other Canadian city at about the same time. I also missed the part in the ’80s, ’90’s and ’00s when all those NPA administrations completely reversed these toxic TEAM policies. Oh, wait … .
    Again, you raised some really important questions here. The revisionism and ideological battering – much less helpful.

  2. Seems like a bit of a hack job, and not surprising from Sullivan (remember James Green?). But Gordon should know better. I guess the NPA have so few achievements to look back on that they have to trash a 50-year old party’s record with some questionable historical revisionism?

  3. Mr. Ecodensity is really on a roll. He says that False Creek South didn’t have enough density to support local retail, while stating that neighbourhoods like Kits, Mount Pleasant and Grandview (which support the most vibrant retail in the city) need more density. Anyone who remembers the city when Sutton-Brown was in charge – Pacific Centre, the freeway, urban renewal – will simply laugh at Sam’s twist on history. Oh, and a luxury hotel and highrises at the entry to Stanley Park would have been better than the “All Seasons Park” saved by citizen action?

  4. It appears that Sam and at least one prominent writer on Twitter claims that TEAM stopped or slowed development single headedly and made housing more unaffordable, which it did not.

    The 1970’s into the early 80’s was a high point for the development of non-market rental apartments and co-ops in Vancouver. There was also a continuation of condo and rental development (with federal incentives for market rental development such as the MURB – 1974 – 1979).

    In Vancouver, Toronto and other cities, the 1970’s was marked by gentrification with older shared houses and rooming houses being replaced by condo apartments. Some houses were ‘deconverted’ to single-family. But in Vancouver many houses were ‘converted’ to have secondary suites for tenants.

    When considering development trends in the TEAM era, one should notice that it was just four years long with party members like Mayor Jack Volrich and Cllr. Don Bellamy abandoning the party after 1976.

    There are also some notable national trends that were underway impacting housing starts in Vancouver such as a recession from 1974 – 1975. It was also a period of high inflation.

    CMHC has published a fascinating summary of national development trends in Canada which reflect what happened, to some extent, in the City of Vancouver and the region with three phases from the 60’s to the 80’s.

    1. 1962 – 1973 – Apartment Boom in Canada
    2. 1974 – 1982 – Residential Construction Realigns – multiple dwelling starts declining at a faster rate than single-family dwelling starts (also noticing this was a peak period for non-market development)
    3. Post 1982 – single-family dwelling starts recover faster than multiple dwellings.

    Source: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2015007-eng.htm

    Clearly, we are now in an era where most housing starts in Vancouver and the region are multiple dwellings. There’s also been a surge in market and non-market rental starts. 2020 was a record year for housing unit approvals in the City of Vancouver and the majority were market or non-market rentals. https://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/city-approves-record-number-of-housing-units-in-2020.aspx#:~:text=The%20City%20has%20delivered%20nearly,new%20homes%20approved%20so%20far.&text=With%20an%20emphasis%20on%20creating,2%2C430%20purpose%2Dbuilt%20rental%20units

    However, with millennials moving into a period when some will be raising children one can expect aspirations to live in ground-oriented homes such as houses or townhouses rather than apartment buildings.

  5. Well, at least in this video, Sam didn’t repeat the ridiculous claim he used to make that TEAM developed False Creek South at a lower than single-family density – which claim Frances Bula repeated a couple of times, causing the Globe and Mail to issue a correction to one of her articles last November. (Unfortunately the comments form doesn’t let me post post screenshots of Sam’s tweet and the G&M correction).

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