With the U.S. in tough times, one would think that American charities would be doing all they can to help out at home. The last thing that I would have expected is that the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation ("Tides USA") would pay over a million dollars for a 150 acre park on Cortes Island, in British Columbia. But to my surprise, this is precisely what Tides USA recently announced. Tides USA initially purchased the land in 2007 and held it in a numbered company in Vancouver, tax returns show (see below).
Locally, this 150 acre property is known as Hanks Beach.
In September of 2011, Tides USA announced that it had purchased Hank's Beach along with Renewal Partners, and was donating it to the Strathcona Regional District, under the Ecological Gifts Program of Environment Canada.
One of the larger projects of Tides USA is a "Tar Sands Campaign" against Alberta oil. In 2009 and 2010, Tides USA paid $10 million to 43 small, environmental groups for their involvement in this campaign, tax returns show. Tides USA and Tides Canada also spend roughly $20 million annually on consultants, $15 million and $5 million, respectively. Who they are and what they do is not made public.
In the run-up to the 2008 election, Vision Vancouver's biggest financial backer was the former chair of Tides USA, Joel Solomon. He's a central figure in a tightly knit web of organizations funded by Tides USA and Tides Canada. In a rather candid interview last year, Solomon told the Huffington Post, that the election of Mayor Robertson was the result of "nearly 20 years of moving in a purposeful direction."
Even before this new 150 acre ocean-front park, Cortes Island already had two large parks and vast tracts of crown land - and only 1,150 residents.
By way of comparison, Stanley Park, Vancouver's biggest park is about 1,000 acres. In terms of size, buying Hanks' Beach is equivalent to buying about 15 percent of Stanley Park. That's a lot of land.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding between Tides USA and the Strathcona Regional District, Tides USA will provide an endowment of $150,000 towards the maintenance of Hanks Beach. Indeed, tax returns show that in 2009, Tides USA paid $20,444 to the Vancouver Foundation to be granted "to support the Land Conservancy of B.C.'s endowment solely to benefit the 'Hanks Beach' property."
A few years ago, there was a tussle over Hank's Beach. As the story goes, some of the locals feared that their access to the waterfront was going to be restricted by new owners. Other locals say that there was more to it than that. Some even go so far as to say that the concerns about access were exaggerated as a means of intimidation in order to get the new owners to move on. Rex Weyler chronicles his view of it all in The Tyee which, incidentally, is partially funded by Tides USA as part of its $10 million dollar "Tar Sands Campaign."
Tides Directors In the Neighborhood
I find it interesting to note that the property that Tides USA chose to purchase is within walking distance of private properties owned by Drummond Pike and Joel Solomon. Going back even farther and further than Joel Solomon, Pike is also a central figure in the Tides network of charities. Pike was the CEO of Tides USA for 34 years before quietly departing in 2010. Pike is also the founding chair of Tides Canada, the chairman of the Endswell Foundation and a senior advisor to Renewal Partners. That's in addition to the 26 organizations of which Pike was a director, according to U.S. tax returns.
Hollyhock, a high-end, ocean-front charity facility which has been funded by Tides USA and Tides Canada - to the tune of at least $445,000 - is also within walking distance of Hank's Beach. Hollyhock appears to be a mix of non-profit work and for-profit business, such as the "Bodywork" offered by Hollyhock Farm Ltd. (Looks like a spa to me). Prior to entering B.C. politics in 2005, the treasurer of Hollyhock Farm Ltd., was Gregor Robertson.
Back in 2006, in a Cortes Island newsletter, Carol Newell, the alleged founder of Tides Canada, gave the impression that she would personally buy the Hanks Beach property "in order to return our beach and trails to the community forever," she said. But did she? Who actually bought and paid for Hank's Beach?
Title searches and other records show that Hanks Beach was:
- Bought by Weyerhauser on June 8, 2000
- Sold by Weyerhauser to Island Timberlands on June 6, 2005
- Sold by Island Timberlands to Monkey King Enterprises Ltd. on January 4, 2006
- Sold by Monkey King Enterprises Ltd. to Renewal Land on June 1, 2006
- Sold from Renewal Land to 0793406 B.C. LTD on June 1, 2008. That's a numbered company in Vancouver that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the U.S. Tides Foundation (see excerpt from U.S. tax returns, below).
At the request of Mrs. Dana Bass Solomon, the map at the right does not indicate the location of properties owned by herself and Joel Solomon. (Interestingly enough, of all the e-mails and letters that I have sent to Joel Solomon, the only response that I ever received was this e-mail from his wife, asking that the location of her home not be disclosed).
Treedom Ventures Ltd. Owned by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson
A title search and other documents show that Hank's Beach is immediately adjacent to an 82 acre ocean-front property owned by Treedom Ventures Ltd., a B.C. company which is owned or co-owned by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, according to his financial disclosure statement.
How much of Treedom Ventures is owned by Mayor Robertson is not clear to me but I have noticed that from 2002 to 2006, the directors/officers of Treedom Ventures Ltd. were Gregor Robertson and his wife, Amy, company records show.
Why Hank's Beach?
Of all the countries in the world where Tides USA could create a million-dollar, 150 acre park, why Canada? Why Cortes Island? And why Hank's Beach?
Tides USA says that the land is "pristine," a "sensitive ecosystem" with "mature forests" but locals say that its far from pristine. Its been logged on and off for 70 years.
One thing is for sure, it won't hurt the property values of the vice-chair of Tides Canada and Mayor Gregor Robertson to be next door to a 150 acre park.
Excerpts of U.S. Tax Returns of the U.S. Tides Foundation (2008, 2009, 2010):
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For the June 16, 2011 Staff Report from the Strathcona Regional District, click here.
For the announcement, click here.