2012 in Review: Richmond's top stories of the year

Clockwise from top left: Sahar Biniaz, Michael Marti, Alice Wong, funnel cloud, Lindsay Anderson, Mary Gazetas, Darcy  Marquardt, Margaret Dragu. - Richmond Review
Clockwise from top left: Sahar Biniaz, Michael Marti, Alice Wong, funnel cloud, Lindsay Anderson, Mary Gazetas, Darcy Marquardt, Margaret Dragu.
— image credit: Richmond Review


•Real estate news began with B.C. Assessment figures that revealed the average residential property assessment rose 16.5 per cent, as measured in the summer previous. While the rapid rise in prices has slowed, some single-family neighbourhoods in the city continue to be highly sought after.

•Proponents of a jet fuel pipeline continued with their plan in 2012, pitching a new route for the underground line that now includes using the Highway 99 corridor. Opposition from a citizens’ group and city council continued, however, both insisting any plan that barges jet fuel up the Fraser estuary is flawed. Council demanded a public hearing be held for the pipeline, suggesting Port Metro Vancouver is in a conflict of interest having reviewed the proposal’s impacts for environmental assessors, while acting on behalf of the federal government.

•At the turn of the calendar, the Vancouver Police Department announced charges against two Richmond residents for their role in the 2012 Stanley Cup riots. More charges would come throughout the year, with 1,040 charges recommended against 315 rioters by year’s end. Of those charged, 22 are from Richmond.

•A year of weird weather was given an exclamation point in mid-January with a rare funnel cloud forming in Richmond’s skies. A local resident captured nearly a minute’s worth of footage of the swirling cloud, which generated plenty of debate among weather-watchers.

•Just in time for Chinese New Year, a massive 3.7-metre stainless steel sculpture of a dragon arrived at River Rock Casino Resort. The temporary sculpture, the work of Kevin Stone, took two years of seven-day work weeks for the artist to create. All 3,629 kilograms of the work were displayed for six months in Richmond.

•Vancouver Airport Authority boss Larry Berg announced $1.8 billion in improvements to the Sea Island airport, prompting a 33 per cent hike in the airport improvement fee. The 10-year project is part of the airport’s bid to remain competitive amid rising competition south of the border.

•Civic politicians across the region took notice of Port Metro Vancouver’s plans for growth after port CEO Robin Silvester told Metro Vancouver that more Agricultural Land Reserve farmland should be sacrificed for port expansion. Richmond Coun. Harold Steves categorized the port’s hunger for farmland a ‘declaration of war.’


•The first purpose-built rental apartment building in Richmond over a decade opened at Riverport. Riverport Flats, an 80-unit project, offered some relief to Richmond’s tight rental market, which has had an average vacancy of just 1.5 per cent for the last 10 years.

•Richmond’s home for plays, Gateway Theatre, announced its replacement for outgoing artistic director Simon Johnston. Jovanni Sy came from Toronto to take on the challenging role of selecting entertainment that appeals to a community with diverse interests.

•Richmond’s dismal vacancy rate remained top in the region in 2012, a year when landlords brought out carrots to lure office tenants. Free rent and generous renovation allowances have been employed in an attempt to reduce a vacancy rate that’s three times higher than the region of Metro Vancouver.

The Richmond Olympic Oval hosted its first Hockey Day event, drawing an estimated 16,000 hockey fans to the River Road venue. Hockey trophies and players were a part of the attraction, including the likes of Vancouver Canucks great Trevor Linden.

•Richmond’s own Margaret Dragu won a prestigious prize for her unique work as a performance artist. Dragu netted a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, and was among just eight winners of the $25,000 prize for 2012.


•The Richmond Review revealed Vancouver Airport Authority’s plans for a 340,000-square-foot outlet mall on Sea Island that would boast the world’s leading fashion brands.  Original plans called for the mall to be located along Russ Baker Way, just south of the BCIT Aerospace Technology Campus. But after city council expressed concerns with the location choice, airport authority officials relocated the mall’s site near Sea Island’s Canada Line arm.

•Disgraced Paralympic curler Jim Armstrong received an 18-month ban from the sport courtesy of the World Curling Federation. The news followed a failed drug test, and came a little more than a year after a U.S. court fined the Richmond man $30,000 for selling counterfeit erectile dysfunction drugs. Armstrong won curling gold in the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games.

•A city hall report laid out the hopes and dreams of civic politicians for this council term—ending November 2014—but offered few details of how to achieve them. New civic facilities ranked high in the list of priorities, including a waterfront destination museum, memorial garden and replacements for the No. 1 Fire Hall, Bridgeport Fire Hall, Minoru Place Activity Centre and Minoru Aquatic Centre. No new facilities, however, are budgeted in council’s 2013 capital plan.

•The Ethel Tibbits Women of Distinction Awards honoured local women for their contributions to the community. Winners were named in five categories at the event, presented annually by The Richmond Review. Richmond East MLA Linda Reid won in the community category, Denise Coutts in sports, Tiffany Kirk in business, Adrienne Moore in arts and Maggie Kong in youth. Olive Bassett and Jennifer Larsen were also honoured for their 100 years of combined volunteer work in Richmond.

•A second charity walk in Steveston raised another $15,000 for Japanese children affected by a devastating tsunami in 2011. A similar walk that year raised more than $100,000. The money went to help school children in Onagawa, Japan, a small village near Sendai, which was rocked by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami.

City council unanimously backed various bylaw changes around filming, including a requirement for commercial filmmakers filming on private property to apply for a $200 permit. No exemptions were made for those turning marginal profits, such as bloggers or YouTube video creators. Even videographers or photographers filming on public property for personal use—streets, soccer fields, community centres—would be required to get a $50 permit. But after The Richmond Review contacted the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the watchdog group sent the city a letter outlining concerns with the legislation. Council subsequently shelved the bylaw change.


•A coroner’s report obtained by The Richmond Review shed new light on the factors that precipitated a murder-suicide at a Richmond hotel room the previous year. A 55-year-old man believed to have murdered his 50-year-old partner before turning a knife on himself, lost nearly $200,000 in a little more than a day of gambling before their bodies were discovered by police in a Richmond hotel room.

•A new 20-year deal with the RCMP got a frosty reception at city hall. Elected officials initially refused to sign the contract, as Richmond has no direct input into drafting it. The deal gave Richmond little in the way of change, save for the fact policing would cost more. City council eventually relented later in the year, however, and signed the contract. The deal does allow Richmond to part ways with the RCMP, provided 25 months notice is given and the notice is given in the month of March.

•Steveston merchants bristled at the city’s suggestion of parking meters on village streets in an effort the city said would increase turnover of spaces on the waterfront. Council eventually decided against parking meters, electing instead to increase enforcement of parking time limits.

A food truck caused a stir in Steveston when it began selling Mediterranean style street food despite a bylaw that doesn’t allow mobile food vendors on city streets. Street Meet, a fast food business that operates from a bright yellow truck, set up shop on Bayview Street during a sunny weekend. Despite the operators’ insistence they were abiding by rules, the city said they weren’t given permission to park on-street for any length of time. Later in the year, the city issued a request for proposal for mobile food vendors to operate at one of Richmond’s busiest intersections—Westminster Highway and No. 3 Road—possible by sometime in 2013.

•Mary Gazetas, an artist, writer, activist and lover of the outdoors and her community, died at age 68 after a six-week illness. Hundreds packed Britannia Heritage Shipyards to celebrate her life—much of it dedicated to making Richmond a better place. Gazetas, a former columnist with The Richmond Review, was a founder of the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project, which evolved into the Sharing Farm.

•Mayor Malcolm Brodie revealed details of what would be Richmond’s largest single development—19 times larger than the Richmond Olympic Oval’s footprint—in area of City Centre north known as Duck Island. Jingon International Development Group is seeking to rezone 30 hectares (73 acres) of land next to River Rock Casino Resort to allow several floating restaurants, six high-end hotels, shops, bars, clubs, theatres and marina office space.

The opening of the new IKEA store in East Richmond attracted huge crowds—along with many interested in the spectacle the Swedish furniture maker created on the sidewalk. The new store is 334,000 square feet—65 per cent larger than its old Sweden Way location.

•Xiamen, China became Richmond’s third sister city, after Mayor Malcolm Brodie signed an agreement with Mayor Liu Kequing in the Chinese city. The Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra marked the occasion with a concert hours earlier in a 700-seat concert hall at Xiamen International Conference Centre. Richmond hopes the relationship will further promote and develop exchanges and co-operation in culture, education, tourism, science, technology, business and trade.

•Richmond MP Alice Wong refused to provide an accounting of her use of a personal driver in Ottawa, despite an investigation that found federal ministers had racked up a $600,000 bill for chauffeur overtime charges in a single year. As Minister of State for Seniors, Wong has access to a vehicle and driver.

•Brothers Shane Moses, 19, and Jess Moses, 16, died when the BMW they were riding in crashed into a tree on a twisty section of No. 4 Road, south of Steveston Highway. The teens had long roots in Richmond, and the crash prompted some calls for road safety improvements in the area.

•After a four-year hiatus, the original Richmond Night Market returned to a new location near River Rock Casino Resort. The rival Summer Night Market, which had picked up where the other market left off, also returned to its Vulcan Way location. Both operators said they welcomed the competition, and both said their markets were successful throughout the summer season.

• The Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay rolled into Richmond as the Man in Motion himself greeted supporters on the final leg of the cross-Canada journey. Volunteer medal bearers—chosen for making a difference in their respective communities—made the nine-month journey possible, marking 25 years since Hansen’s original 40,000-kilometre Man in Motion world tour ended.

•Richmond city council took a bold step by passing a resolution to oppose the cultivation of genetically engineered plants and trees in Richmond. Apart from three existing dairy farms growing genetically modified corn, no further such crops are welcome. The city doesn’t have the power to enforce the resolution, but made the statement nonetheless.

•Richmond’s Sahar Biniaz won the Miss Universe Canada 2012 crown, a rare pageant feat. Biniaz has used her platform to raise awareness of bullying, something she was subjected to in high school. Biniaz was scheduled to represent Canada in the larger Miss Universe pageant in December, but decided to bow out after a foot injury, allowing another Canadian to take her place.

Sonali da Silva won the annual RichCity Idol singing competition, which pits high school singers from across Richmond against one another on the Gateway Theatre stage. The Matthew McNair student sang her way to top honours, with second place going to Kris Aquino.


•Lindsay Anderson won a highly-sought-after job from Tourism Richmond, besting 1,506 candidates for the Richmond Foodie Blogger job as part of the organization’s 365 Days of Dining campaign. Anderson has been taking in local sights and events while eating at a different Richmond eatery each day, chronicling her adventures online.

•City council took action against idlers by introducing bylaw changes to allow enforcement officers to hand out $60 fines for motorists idling on city streets. Under the new rules, motorists who exit their vehicle while it’s running—for any length of time—are now also committing a bylaw offence.

A tornado touched down in East Richmond, making the sighting the first one reported in Richmond in a half-century. The weather phenomenon caused a swirl of debate, and given its rarity, led to questions about whether a video taken by a nearby roofing worker was authentic. Whatever it was—a tornado, dust devil or figment of one’s imagination—witnesses were blown away by the sight.

•Uncertain weather forced the largest tall ship on course for Steveston’s Ships to Shore festival to cancel. The two-masted Kaisei didn’t arrive in time for the three-day festival at Imperial Landing, but did make an appearance later in the summer. The ship’s crew brought with them a message about caring for the planet, having recently returned from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.


•It’s a longtime tradition in Steveston, but this year’s Salmon Festival had some people believing it was the best ever. The Canada Day celebration lasted for two days and coincided with the city’s Ships to Shore festival at Imperial Landing, which drew an estimated 20,000 spectators.

•A proposal to change federal electoral boundaries is revealed—a change that would give Richmond its own two seats. The two ridings would be named Richmond West and Richmond East,. The change would mean Richmond would no longer share a riding with Delta.

•Fur was flying in Minoru Park this summer after rabbit defenders decried a move by city workers to fill in rabbit holes in the bunny hotspot. Bandaids for Bunnies accused the city of “burying rabbits alive.” For the city’s part, it said crews routinely fill holes because they pose a tripping hazard. The group has since called on the city to create legislation to fine rabbit dumpers—something the Corporation of Delta did this year.

•Authorities certainly had a bird in hand at Vancouver International Airport. A Vancouver man was caught trying to smuggle 30 songbirds in his carry-on luggage. The birds came from China, and a number of them died as a result of the smuggling effort. The importation of songbirds from China is prohibited for fear of disease they might carry.

•The debate over shark fin came to the door of civic politicians—and stayed there for the rest of the year. It started with a presentation in council chambers by Vancouver Animal Defense League member Anthony Marr, who called for the city to enact a ban on the Chinese delicacy. Some restaurateurs want to maintain tradition, clashing with activists. City council so far hasn’t voted on the matter.

•A pajama-clad crowd was treated to a show in the wee hours Wednesday as a truck hauled a 13,000-kilogram house from their Seafair neighbourhood. It took crews approximately three hours to move the house from the neighbourhood and onto a barge in South Richmond. Cameras for the HGTV series Massive Moves captured the drama.

•A 63-year-old Richmond man suffered a fatal injury when he fell from his bike and struck his head on the ground on a steep ramp of a Highway 91 overpass in Hamilton. The man was with his two children, ages 6 and 12, at the time. None were wearing helmets.

•A Richmond-based design studio added froth to the fire breathed by some Bellingham residents upset over an invasion of cross-border shoppers from Canada. Creative Apparatus designed “Milk Piranha” T-shirts in response to an anti-Canadian-shopper Facebook page where the term was used to describe Canadians scooping up milk from an American Costco store.

•Potato thieves dug up an estimated 2,250 kilograms of a Richmond farmer’s crop. Bill Zylmans said the stolen crop is about the size of a football field. In the past, local berry farmers have reported small quantities of fruit disappearing from their fields, and Zylmans himself had seen the odd bunch of vegetables swiped from his land. But this is the first time he’d been hit by a crop theft of this magnitude.


•Longtime local politician Rob Howard announced he won’t seek re-election in the provincial riding of Richmond Centre. Citing a recent health concern of his wife Trudy, Howard said he wants to spend more time with family.

•Richmond Steveston MLA John Yap received a promotion in the provincial legislature, moving to the post of Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology in Christy Clark’s cabinet. Yap previously served as minister of state for Climate Action and as chair of government caucus.

•Marnie Odette had a one in 119,365 chance of winning it big—and she did. Pacific National Exhibition officials drew the Richmond resident’s ticket and awarded her the 2012 PNE prize home. The annual Vancouver fair’s grand prize has a value of $1.3 million. The 3,000-square-foot home—built by Britco Structures with a fully outfitted interior designed by former TV Bachelorette Jillian Harris—was slated to move to the Sun Peaks Resort area.

•With the TV show Once Upon a Time proving popular, Season 2 of the series returned to ABC—and to Steveston. The show’s street scenes are filmed in Steveston Village, where film trucks, TV stars and Storybrooke signs have become a regular reality.

•Premier Christy Clark pledged to begin work to replace the George Massey Tunnel and ease traffic congestion on Highway 99. Speaking to civic politicians at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria, she said planning for the 10-year project has begun, but wouldn’t say whether the new structure would be a bridge or a tunnel.


•Six ICBC employees were dismissed with cause, and a Richmond body shop has lost its status as an approved ICBC repair shop, following an internal investigation. An investigation unearthed some irregularities that led to one estimator at the Richmond claims centre to be fired. Five other estimators were also found to be not following company procedures and policies and were also dismissed with cause. The fired estimators were accepting damage estimates over the phone without inspecting the vehicles themselves.

Justin Trudeau packed a hotel ballroom with supporters in Richmond, one day after announcing his bid for the leadership of the federal Liberal party. Organizers estimated over 1,000 people came out to hear the 40-year-old former school teacher make his half-hour speech. He told the diverse crowd the road to rebuilding his party, which has just 35 of 308 seats, will be a long one.


•Vancouver Airport Authority announced longtime CEO Larry Berg will retire early 2013. Berg has been with the authority for 20 years—15 of them as president and CEO. A search for a new leader is scheduled to conclude by the end of March 2013.

•A smell that has been filling Richmond’s air became too much for residents to bear in November, prompting 245 complaints to Metro Vancouver by mid-month. Metro Vancouver investigators fingered Harvest Power as the probable source of many of the complaints. The company, which takes yard and food waste from cities and turns it into compost, expects the smell to go away as the facility moves its composting process into a closed-air system.

•Civic politicians decided to further probe the possibility of setting up an independent municipal police force to replace the RCMP. City councillors considered several alternatives to the Mounties this fall, including amalgamating with another municipal force such as the Vancouver Police Department. Ultimately, politicians ordered staff to research an independent Richmond force, which would contract specialized police units from another city.

•Desperate to find a solution to the growing scourge of snow geese in Richmond, the city turned to volunteers to help. City hall put out a call for volunteer dog handlers with well-trained dogs to help scare snow geese from city parks from November to April. The seasonal visitors traditionally feed on intertidal marsh plants, but in recent years have moved inland, feeding on farmers’ fields, parks, sports fields and even residential backyards—leaving muddy, goose-poop land behind.

•Media personality Fred Lee took care of hosting duties this year at the Richmond Chamber of Commerce’s 35th annual Business Excellence Awards, which recognized the difference-makers of Richmond’s business community. In all, 36 finalists were judged in 10 categories, along with Steveston Barbers, which was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

• The chair of the Richmond library board, Pat Watson, told city council the board is conducting a “thorough review” of procedures, following criticism of the library’s handling of a large donation of Chinese language books. Kwok-Chu Lee, also known as Master Lam Chun, donated nearly 47,000 Chinese books to the library earlier this year. The library valued the collection at $1.2 million and issued the donor tax receipts of an equivalent value. But critics have questioned the value of the donation.

• Two Richmond men, ages 20 and 21, 21, died from injuries they suffered when the Mazda sedan they were travelling in crashed into a West Vancouver transit bus late Wednesday night on the Lions Gate Bridge. The pair were heading north on the bridge when they apparently lost control of their vehicle, which struck the oncoming bus.


•A piece of Richmond hardwood history went up for sale in Riverport. The new owner of the building that once housed the Vancouver Grizzlies practice facility listed for sale an original NBA-quality court floor—complete with the Grizzlies logo—for $13,000. The court was previously part of Gold’s Gym, and the last of three courts to survive.

•City council unanimously approved a three per cent tax hike for property owners in 2013 on top of an increase to fees for water, sewer, garbage and recycling. The average homeowner can expect to pay at least $100 more in property taxes and utilities in the coming year.

•City officials unveiled plans for a new Walmart-anchored shopping mall in West Cambie. If built, the mall would boast as much retail space as five soccer fields, and planners say it would become the commercial heart of the Alexandra neighbourhood. The Walmart shopping centre was first proposed 10 years ago, spawning dramatic change to a neighbourhood that had largely been untouched by redevelopment.

•A volunteer team led by Brian Williams of Ashton Service Group levelled a Steveston house that was home to the de Boer family. Williams and contractor Ken Johnson have helped rally the community to build the family a new home, after their 12-year-old daughter Emily was paralyzed from a surgery gone wrong. At least 30 organizations or individuals are on board to help what’s being called “Project Emily.”

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