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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The ownership of Vancouver’s C.B.D., 1951-1971 Ball, Brian Kent

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the ownership of Vancouver's Central Business District. Primarily because the type of C.B.D. property owners can affect the growth and development of the C.B.D., knowledge of ownership patterns can be a useful tool of government. As the C.B.D. is a primary source of property tax revenue, local government is concerned with promoting the viability of this urban district. This aspect of urban economics, property ownership, is relatively unknown, and comparatively little practical research has been undertaken. A review of relevant publications produced C.B.D. ownership statistics relating to only two cities -- Seattle and San Francisco. It is proposed then to ascertain who are the owners of Vancouver's Central Business District. The analysis will be conducted as of the years 1951, 1960 and 1971. This era is one of great growth of the C.B.D., and it is hoped that some insight into the ownership pattern behind this growth, will be gained. The ownership patterns will therefore be compared over the three study periods, in order to evaluate changes that have evolved. The owners will be classified in a certain way that will clearly reveal any changes in the ownership pattern. Finally, the results of the analysis of Vancouver's C.B.D. will be compared to that of Seattle and San Francisco. The method of analysis begins with delimiting the C.B.D. for each of the three study years. The means of delimitation is the Murphy-Vance technique, which has been slightly modified to meet the requirements of this investigation. For each of the properties within the C.B.D. boundaries, the property owner is determined first by legal and then by beneficial classification. Essentially, this type of classification reveals whether the owner as registered legally (by assessment roll), is in fact the person or organization which controls the use of and receives the benefits from the real estate. Within this structure, the two owner-classes are each divided into several groups which distinguish various types of owners as individuals, corporations, estates, governments and so on. Once the raw data are classified, coded and processed by computer, the results are compared with each of the study years and with that of Seattle and San Francisco. Basically, it was discovered that realty and business corporations enjoyed the legal ownership of the majority of Vancouver's C.B.D. in 1951, I960 and 1971. When beneficial ownership was considered though, it was found that individuals owned the majority of C.B.D. properties, although their share of the total declined over 1960-1971. The beneficial ownership of the C.B.D. by property value generally was dominated, over the three years, by business corporations and two or more individuals. Individuals and governments also owned property representing a relatively large percentage of the total C.B.D. assessed value. Over the two decades, the position of the individual non-corporate owners declined while that of corporations increased. The analysis also revealed that the three levels of government (federal, provincial, city) play a prominent role, both in number of properties owned and by value of property. The ownership structure of the Seattle and San Francisco C.B.D. revealed that the majority of properties were beneficially owned by estates and corporations. These owner-classes, as would be expected, tended to hold their properties for a relatively long time. It was suggested that this pattern had some effect on restricting the growth and redevelopment of the C.B.D. As these two studies are now nearly fifteen years old, subsequent events indicate that factors other than ownership patterns can induce expansion and redevelopment in the C.B.D. Once the ownership structure of Vancouver's C.B.D. was determined, it was possible to evaluate the feasibility of using this knowledge to formulate a policy to guide the C.B.D.'s future. By classifying beneficial owners as active or passive investors in real estate and analyzing the turnover of real property owned by these investors in the C.B.D., it was discovered that active investors did in fact own the majority of C.B.D. properties. Therefore, it is a possibility that policy guidelines directed to maintaining the involvement of active investors, or to encourage passive investors to at least redevelop "their property when necessary, could ensure continued growth of Vancouver's Central Business District.

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