Low-income residents fear being expelled from the community
By Eric Chan
Translated by James Pao
Originally published in Ming Pao news Vancouver, April 24 2012.
The Vancouver Development Permit Board had a meeting on April 23 about a new condo project in the Downtown Eastside. Formerly known as the Pantages Theatre, the site has a 100-year-old history. It was previously called the Sing Sing Theatre, which showed Chinese movies. Now it is an empty lot full of broken bricks waiting to be developed.
Because the site is in a predominately low-income resident area of the Downtown Eastside the project has been very controversial. Activists in the Downtown Eastside worry that condos at Pantages will attract more development projects, resulting in gentrification that will force residents out of the area. A large number of organizations have signed and appealed to the city to overturn the project. Opponents of the project focused their efforts on the April 23rd Development Permit Board meeting.
Before the meeting began at 3pm protesters had already put up their banners and blocked the front door of city hall. The city, anticipating a large protest, had a large number of security personnel and police officers present.
At 3:00pm when the meeting was called to order the several dozen seats were quickly filled. Police began stopping others from entering the hall. Those protesters who were blocked from entering lost their patience and started to make noise, chanting slogans, and requesting the meeting to be moved to a bigger hall on the third floor.
Ivan Drury, of the DTES Neighbourhood Council, raised his voice just outside the meeting room and requested the Development Permit Board to move to a larger room. He resisted but police forcefully dragged him away. The dozens of protesters outside in the hallway made noise again. Police officers formed a wall blocking access to the meeting, and started pushing and bumping with protesters. Police wrestled one protester onto the floor and pinned him down. He was released soon after when the situation quieted down.
At 9:40pm after hearing the opinions of more than 20 persons the Development Permit Board unanimously approved the project to go ahead.
Ivan Drury pointed out that the city decision to restrict the number of persons attending the meeting showed the Development Permit Board had already determined to approve the project. He pointed out that the struggle in the Downtown Eastside would not cease. The protest groups are considering legal and other actions to stop the progress of the building project.