City Council blocked the Condo Towers Plan, but it’s not a complete win for the Downtown Eastside
VANCOUVER: “We’re hesitant to call the council decision a victory. We blocked two condo towers but that doesn’t mean the city has stopped pushing their Condo Towers Plan on the Downtown Eastside,” said Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC) board member Paul Martin in the lobby outside council chambers on Thursday afternoon.
City council voted Thursday morning to strike the Historic Area Heights Review (HAHR) report from the agenda of today’s council meeting and refer the decision to add more towers in Chinatown to a public hearing in February. The additional height, proposed for sites in Victory Square, has been struck down with the council decision that calls for a Local Area Planning committee to “implement the existing Council approved DTES Housing Plan” in that area. The DNC was named in the council motion, along with Mike Harcourt’s Building Communities Society (BCS) as co-chairs of the planning committee.A DNC representative, Ivan Drury, said, “We have to take the city’s request to lead a planning committee to our general membership in February. The motion as it is raises a lot of questions for us: Why does this planning committee’s mandate not include Chinatown? Who is speaking for low-income residents in Chinatown? Why is BCS, a group that is not accountable to DTES communities, included in the leadership of this committee? And how much power will this committee have to shape city policy?”
DNC board member Sid Chow Tan said, “It’s good that the city finally responded to the demands of Downtown Eastside residents, but closing the doors of city council chambers against seventy-eight residents who were signed up to speak against the city’s Condo Towers Plan is an odious way to start a consultation process.”
Chow Tan said, “I think the local planning committee resolution from council shows that the city is starting to recognize that there is a new advocate for DTES residents; City Hall can’t ignore what the DNC is saying.” The campaign that DNC organized against the Condo Towers Plan gained a lot of support across the city in the days before the vote at city council, including letters from former premier Mike Harcourt’s BCS group and 29 SFU and UBC professors.
DNC Board member Fraser Stuart pointed out, “The city resolution says it is council’s priority to protect housing for low-income people in the DTES. They should say, except in Chinatown. The thing that’s changed in response to our organizing is that they’re calling it ‘Chinatown’ instead of ‘DTES’. The city is just re-drawing their maps to suit their plans.”
In an early statement drafted at a DNC emergency meeting after the council decision the DTES Neighbourhood Council asserted:
1) Our Downtown Eastside includes Chinatown:
Many Chinatown residents are living under the low-income cut off line and have not had a say in Chinatown planning. A corridor of market condo towers along Main Street will have ripple effects of gentrification that will drive up rents, increase homelessness, and replace low-income shops with expensive boutiques in Chinatown and throughout the Downtown Eastside. It is irresponsible to plan any market condo developments in Chinatown until the needs, assets, and tenure of the low-income community are secured and nobody is homeless or at risk of homelessness.
2) Make Chinatown part of the Local Area Plan:
The DNC will not sell out the low-income community in Chinatown in exchange for a prime position as chair on a Local Area Planning committee. Low-income residents in Chinatown are part of the DTES low-income community; we fear that a Local Area Plan that does not include residents in Chinatown may not be able to guarantee the rights, assets, and tenure of the low-income community as a whole.
3) Defend the low-income community in Chinatown:
We call for immediate action to defend the interests and needs of the
low-income community in Chinatown:
- Replace all Chinatown SROs with Social Housing for Chinese seniors, singles and families
- Preserve the heritage buildings and culture of Chinatown, stop the
displacement of low-income residents and their shops and services by condos and fancy restaurants
- Make Chinatown part of the Local Area Plan and actively involve
low-income residents of Chinatown in the LAP committee