Speeches that you DIDN’T hear at city hall

Just in case you wanted to know what we were going to say if we had the chance at the city’s Jan 20, 2011 Historic Area Height Review meeting, here are speeches prepared by Wendy Pedersen and Jean Swanson for CCAP:

By Wendy Pedersen: Ok everyone, this is a pivotal moment for the DTES. The decision tonight could very well put a nail in the coffin of the low-income community.

As a friend from Chinatown told Jean and I recently, this fight is reminiscent of the 1970’s fight that he was in over the freeway. …..This is our free way fight. He said that battle wasn’t won in 7 days, but 7 years.

Well, for us, the first hint of this new battle to towers from wiping out the low income community began in 2007.

In 2007, Suzanne Anton during the NPA dominated council, told me confidentially that there was talk of potentially 20 towers the size of WW in the DTES. She said to get busy positioning for social housing benefits and that heritage was way ahead of us. And in a way, I appreciated that, because if we were fighting to keep a few members of the community housed, this could have been the way to go. But we weren’t. We aren’t giving up on anyone. We want everyone. We want to save the whole community.

Later in 2007, the NPA delivered their Eco-density platform which was the ideological foundation or sales pitch framework that was designed to prepare the public for rezoning neighbourhoods including ours.

Then, in spring 2008, the city did a review of where towers could be placed in the DTES – physically. The results showed that we could fit in 16 – 30-40 story towers west of Main.

And that is when our rubber hit the road and this fight really began for us. We spent a year and ½ organizing against it.

In January 2010, in front of a huge delegation who mostly called for no rezoning at all, this council concluded that 15 stories was OK to foist in various spots in the DTES.

We ask that same council, those of you who sit before us today, to revisit that conclusion now.

We ask you to revisit your conclusions and vote against any new density increases in the area based on these 3 points:
1. The city does not have a plan in place to secure the tenure and assets of the low-income community
2. The city cannot prove to us that crumbs from these developments (or CBA’s) will amount to anything comparable to potential losses of low-income stores and housing due to collateral damage of land value increases, speculation and rent increases.
3. You already know about ccap’s rent study. Rent increases in the hotels are out of control. Where is your 2009 Low income housing report data? Where is your update on the homeless action plan? On the DTES Housing Plan that calls for rate of change mechanisms 17 times if market development outpaces social housing. Where are your rate of change mechanisms? Why aren’t you protecting low-income people from displacement and honouring their place in the centre of this community.

In conclusion, this dire situation requires courageous but actually conservative action on your part. Don’t vote for more height and density for condos. You won the election on our homelessness campaign and so far you’ve provided shelters. You need to pay attention to the indirect displacement of low-income people as a result of your development policies or this will be a huge election issue. Slow the land values. Downzone the DTES. Do everything in your power to depress the value of land. It has taken me 4 years of double time work to realize that ZONING is so crucial. It is so nebulous and so hard to explain yet it is sooooo fundamentally important. One little change can change the future of a community, the future of a neighbourhood forever — FOREVER.

My last quick point – when we surveyed 655 low-income DTES residents, one of the questions was: If you lose your DTES housing, where will you end up. They said: the street, alleys, Stanley park, the PNE park, 6 feet under, dead.

So this is a pivotal moment. Protect DTES residents from homelessness, from rent increases and displacement, from the lifesaving networks of support and their community, vote against new density tonight and show us that commitment.

*******

Jean’s speech:

Just have a few points to make

#1. “The staff report says the recommendations are consistent with the DTES Housing Plan which calls for “revitalization w/o displacement”. Yes the recommendation today will encourage revitalization part, but where is the “without displacement” part of the DTES Housing Plan in this recommendation? Where is the part with the rate of change mechanisms that control market development when condos outpace social housing, which they are doing now? Where is the part about needing to put the brakes on condo development to slow down the escalating rents that push people out of their hotel rooms or make them pay so much they have to eat free food or starve? Why is it ok to concentrate on the market housing part of the DTES housing plan and not on the part that would prevent displacement of low income residents? Why is it ok to have more height and density which helps developers who can pretty much look out for themselves and ignore the impact of this height on the low income community which has no alternatives and no cheaper place to move to?

#2. CCAP spent 2 years consulting with 1200 DTES low income residents and we identified our community assets: the volunteering, the sense of acceptance, the pride in fighting for human rights and social justice, the appreciation of the social housing we have and the fact that necessities are close and cheap or free and that that’s crucial when you have little or no money. Everyone we’ve talked to at the city, staff and councilors, say its important to build on community assets and that’s the best practice. Where in this staff report are we building on the DTES community assets? Where are these assets even acknowledged? Allowing more density is creating the ripple effects that will obliterate the low income community assets. Our report and our vision calling for more low income housing and stopping gentrification have been endorsed by 35 groups. Where’s the respect for all that work and all these groups in this recommendation?

#3. “Social Mix” may be ok in places where there is no existing low income neighbourhood, but it’s not helping DTES residents. Not one person we talked to in our consultations over 2 years said they wanted more richer people in the neighbourhood. No one asked for restaurants that sell soup for $9.50 a bowl or for more bridal stores. The old researchers who wanted social mix didn’t think of asking residents in low income communities about the good things there, the friends, social supports, cheaper prices, the life saving services, the closeness of necessities, the sense of belonging and the informal economy. The old “Social Mix” research is being discredited by a new batch of urban geographers. Loretta Lees says, “over the longer term poor people suffer more from the loss of benefits of living in a poor neighbourhood than they gain from living in a more affluent one.” Paul Cheshire shows that even kids in school didn’t do better over the long term when moved to richer neighbourhoods. Martine August says that higher income people gentrifiying a neighbourhood don’t often use their influence to get jobs and education for the poor, as the old theories presumed. Instead they often lobby to push out low income people and services. I have stacks of studies here that document this point.

#4. This is 2011. We need 6-7 years from social housing announcement to moving in day. Yes, we have a few hundred units of low income housing opening up this year and next year. But there is not one unit scheduled for 2013 or later, none. And the city didn’t buy any property in the dtes last year for social housing. Our lobbying of senior govts is useless if the city doesn’t have land. If the city didn’t have the 14 sites, we wouldn’t have one of those units that are now being built. Why do you seem to have money for parties, trees, bicycle lanes—all things that aren’t related to life and death, yet you’re not buying land for social housing in the DTES? Maybe we could handle some more condos in the dtes if the low income housing was decent and secure.

#5. Developers won’t die if they don’t get higher density. Displaced low income people can become homeless and get sick and even die. The low income community needs your protection, developers don’t. Density isn’t inevitable. There is lots of space within existing zoning for thousands more residents.

Vote no to the recommendation and buy 10 sites for social housing in the DTES before the city election in Nov.

Jean Swanson speaks for CCAP at City Hall Watch forum on taller towers at the Vancouver Public Library

1st, the DTES is an enormously creative and unique community that some of us call the Soul of Vancouver. We have problems, yes, but lots of good things too.

CCAP spent 2 years consulting with 1200 low income community members in DTES . 70 % of residents live below the poverty line. We came up with a list of good things about the DTES: our strong sense of community, the feeling of being accepted and at home, the empathy we feel for people with health and addiction issues, we like having our necessities close and cheap cause we can’t afford transportation, not even buses. We also came up with a concensus on our community vision for change .

Our vision calls for more social housing, higher welfare and minimum wage, improving safety, legal and regulated drugs, employment for local residents, involvement of local residents in decisions about the community, and a new image that honours and respects low income residents.

The mayor told us our vision was a “gift to the city.”

Now we are faced with policies that will make implementing our vision impossible. We call the Historic Area Height Review the Condo Tower Plan because it would drop at least 7 more condo towers in our ‘hood. To us this is way more important than views or aesthetics or urban design.

We have seen with Woodwards that condos have what we call ripple effects. Condos push up land prices in the surrounding area. With higher land prices, hotels increase their rents so low income people can’t afford to rent a cheap room, the last stop before homelessness. Low-income people are pushed out of the neighbourhood. More people become homeless. Only 12% of hotel rooms are now renting for the welfare shelter allowance of $375 per month.

It goes on: Rents and taxes for small businesses that serve low-income residents increase and these businesses have to close. They are replaced by expensive restaurants and stores selling dog clothes and fancy furniture. Hotels like the American and Burns Block close and are renovated for richer residents. Police and security guards harass low-income people that business doesn’t want near them. More residents start lobbying to stop the social housing and services that low-income residents need. The sense of community and acceptance that low-income people have because they are the majority weakens, and the Downtown Eastside, the Soul of Vancouver, could be wiped out like Hogan’s Alley was.
We don’t need more density in our community. Just with the existing density another 9000 people could live there.
That’s why we are going to be asking council to reject the recommendations of its staff in the HAHR report: No more density. No more height.

We also want them to:

1. Complete the Social Impact Study & the DTES Strategy with local residents;
2. Ensure that every homeless person and hotel room resident has decent self-contained housing they can afford, and the good things about the low-income community, as identified in CCAP’s community vision report, are secured.
3. Buy at least 10 sites a year for low-income social housing in the DTES.

Call out to Fight the Height!

Hello to the approximately 2000 people on ccap’s citywide supporter list,

Downtown Eastside residents, including the approximately 1000 homeless people living in our area, need your help.

The city is poised to potentially approve a disastrous plan to lift the zoning in different parts of the Downtown Eastside that will threaten the tenure of low-income people and the assets of their community. This plan will likely lead to more homelessness. It would be great if you could help by getting your groups to sign on to this “Resolution against the Historic Area Height Review” below. There is no deadline for endorsements, but ideally endorsements would come before the 20th.

Read past the resolution below to learn more about this issue. You will find a link to the city hall report, a letter from a group chaired by Mike Harcourt opposing the new density (which is a sign that we are making some headway), CCAP’s position on the new density and lastly, how you can sign up to speak, if you choose to attend the City Council meeting on Thursday, Jan 20th, 2011 at 2 pm. For those of you who want to learn even more, see the links to key articles that have been written over the last few years on this issue.

We encourage our friends from around the city to attend the City Council meeting on the 20th, even if not speaking. It will be an exciting afternoon (potentially going into the evening), you will likely learn a lot, hear DTES residents and their supporters put their heart and soul into amazing speeches and come away inspired and enthused.

In solidarity,
Wendy
CCAP

PS, there will be a media conference at Hastings & Carrall on Monday at 10 a.m. Please come if you can.

Resolution against the Historic Area Heights Review

January 13, 2011

Dear Mayor and Council members,

As individuals, resident groups and agencies concerned about:
– Hotel room rent increases (only 12% of privately owned rooms now rent for the welfare shelter allowance or less) not tracked by the city and rent increases for businesses serving low income residents;
– Hotel closures and “renovictions;”
– The displacement of low-income residents from the Downtown Eastside, contrary to city policy;
– Increased homelessness measured in the last city survey;
– More harassment of low-income residents by security guards and police;
– The erosion of unique and authentic community assets such as a strong sense of community, feeling accepted and at home, empathy with people who have health and addiction issues, connection to our cultural heritage, a strong commitment to volunteering, cheap or free necessities that are close by, needed health and social services,

We call on City Council to
– Buy 10 sites for low income resident-controlled social housing within the Downtown Eastside before the next municipal election; and
– Vote against adding any new density for condos within the Downtown Eastside until the assets and tenure of low-income residents are secured and until the Social Impact Study and DTES Strategy are complete.

We also call on city staff and Council to recognize that many groups and individuals in the DTES community, not just the Carnegie Community Action Project, oppose the recommendations of the Historic Area Height Review report.

Sincerely,

Carnegie Community Action Project
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
Power of Women
REED (Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity)
Streams of Justice
Vancouver Action
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction
W2

Letter from Building Communities Society

Building Community Society
Chair: Mike Harcourt

January 12, 2011

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors:

Re January 20, 2011 Council Meeting on the Historic Area Height Review Update. It appears that the search for higher buildings in the historic area has been motivated primarily to locate sites where increases in floor space could be achieved on redevelopment, thereby increasing the value of those sites. The Council that initiated
the study had anticipated that the uplift in value would be shared between the developer and the City, providing resources for the City to achieve some public amenities, including low income housing, while at the same time seeing new development and improvement to the DTES.

Initially, it appeared that the city thought there could be many potential high-rise sites where significantly higher densities could be achieved. However, after much staff and many consultant studies, and subsequent community consultation, council determined
not to pursue additional high-rise towers and to limit the additional heights up to120 ft.and a few sites that would be restricted to a maximum height of approximately 150 ft. The staff report now before council recommends some increases in height and identifies seven specific sites which may go 150 ft. but does not describe what
additional amounts or types of floor space would be achieved beyond what is permitted in existing zoning, nor does it describe what amount of anticipated public benefit will be achieved by the additional height (or density).

We believe that this long debate about higher buildings, (and especially the unmentioned higher densities), is incomplete without an analysis of the impacts of such densities and the associated population shifts on the overall social, economic and
environmental circumstances of the Downtown Eastside. It is well known that this is a uniquely sensitive area of the city. Shifts in its populations brought on by inadequately considered rezoning could be extremely harmful to the affected communities.

Unforeseen displacements, deficiencies in services and amenities, and disruption of community assets may well result.

We question why there is priority for this “height-only” study when there is a serious lack of overall social, economic and environmental planning for the DTES? The Strathcona Revitalization Committee and the Carnegie Community Action Project have drawn up their own plans and Council has yet to respond to them.

In a similar vein, the City has launched a participatory engagement process with the low Income community to create a locally-based Social Impact Assessment framework to “assess the effect on the existing low-income community of new developments in the historic area and where opportunities for enhanced affordability and live-ability may be achieved.” There is no explanation as to how this initiative and the Height Study relate or how both mesh with the future of the DTES.

CONCLUSIONS
Because of the major social, economic and environmental issues at stake here, the BCS recommends that no rezoning should be entertained until a local area planning committee has been established and has begun the process of analysis that establishes the priorities of planning and development opportunities for the well being of the
Downtown Eastside community as a whole.

Sincerely,

Mike Harcourt
Chair

Sign up to fight for the DTES community on January 20th, 2011 ~ by CCAP

On Jan 20th City Council is scheduled to hear speakers on what is basically, the future of the low-income community in the Downtown Eastside. Everyone who cares about the future of the DTES for low income people needs to come to City Council and speak out.

The issue is this: Will Council adopt a new policy that allows developers to build higher condo towers in the DTES?

Council will consider a staff report that recommends higher towers at these sites:
99 W. Pender (Budget car rental site): from 7 stories allowed last year to 15 recommended in the report;
425 Carrall (B C Electric Building): From 7 stories allowed last year to 15 in the report;
Chinatown South: from 9 stories allowed last year to 12 stories except for Main Street between Keefer and Union which can go up to 15 stories.

Link to the 98 page city report: http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20110120/documents/penv4.pdf

What’s wrong with higher buildings in the DTES? The worst thing about higher buildings in the DTES is that they will almost certainly be market condo buildings. Market condos have ripple effects throughout the neighbourhood as we can see already from the Woodwards development. The more expensive condos push up land prices in the surrounding area. With higher land prices, hotels increase their rents so low income people can’t afford to rent a cheap room, the last stop before homelessness. Low-income people are pushed out of the neighbourhood. More people become homeless. The Carnegie Community Action Project’s 2010 hotel report, Pushed Out, found that only 12% of hotel rooms are now renting for the welfare shelter allowance of $375 per month.

It goes on: Rents and taxes for small businesses that serve low-income residents increase and these businesses have to close. They are replaced by businesses that serve condo residents. You can see this in Gastown with new restaurants serving soup that costs $9.50 a bowl in places where low-income people feel really uncomfortable and unwanted. Hotels like the American and Burns Block close and are renovated for richer residents. Police and security guards harass low-income people that business doesn’t want near them. The power structure in the neighbourhood changes. More residents start lobbying to stop the social housing and services that low-income residents need. The sense of community and acceptance that low-income people have because they are the majority weakens and the Downtown Eastside, the Soul of Vancouver could be wiped out like Hogan’s Alley was.

This is the main point that we all need to make:
Council needs to vote against the staff recommendation for added density in the DTES. It also needs to ensure that:
1. The Social Impact Study & the DTES Strategy are done, and (more info on the DTES Strategy coming to CCAP’s blog http://www.ccapvancouver.wordpress.com soon)
2. Every homeless person and hotel room resident has decent self contained housing they can afford, and the good things about the low-income community, as identified in CCAP’s community vision report, are secured.
3. The city buys and designates at least 10 sites a year for 100% low income social housing in the DTES.

Tell city counci that you want to speak on the issue of the Historic Area Height Review (that’s what staff is calling the condo tower plan)

Historic Area Height Review Condo flood plan: Sign up to fight for your community on Jan 20th

On Jan 20th City Council is scheduled to hear speakers on what is basically, the future of the low-income community in the Downtown Eastside. Everyone who cares about the future of the DTES for low income people needs to come to City Council and speak out.

The issue is this: Will Council adopt a new policy that allows developers to build higher condo towers in the DTES?

Council will consider a staff report that recommends higher towers at these sites:
• 99 W. Pender (Budget car rental site): from 7 stories allowed last year to 15 recommended in the report;
• 425 Carrall (B C Electric Building): From 7 stories
allowed last year to 15 in the report;
• Chinatown South: from 9 stories allowed last year to 12 stories except for Main Street between Keefer and Union which can go up to 15 stories.

What’s wrong with higher buildings in the DTES? The worst thing about higher buildings in the DTES is that they will almost certainly be market condo buildings. Market condos have ripple effects throughout the neighbourhood as we can see already from the Woodwards development. The more expensive condos push up land prices in the surrounding area. With higher land prices, hotels increase their rents so low income people
can’t afford to rent a cheap room, the last stop before homelessness. Low-income people are pushed out of the neighbourhood. More
people become homeless. The Carnegie Community Action Project’s 2010 hotel report, Pushed Out, found that only 12% of hotel rooms are now renting for the welfare shelter allowance of $375 per month.

It goes on: Rents and taxes for small businesses that serve low-income residents increase and these businesses have to close. They are replaced by businesses that serve condo residents. You can see this in Gastown with new restaurants serving soup that costs $9.50 a bowl in places where low-income people feel really uncomfortable and unwanted. Hotels like the American and Burns Block close and are renovated for richer residents. Police and security guards harass low-income people that business doesn’t want near them. The power structure in the neighbourhood changes. More residents start lobbying to stop the social housing and services that low-income residents need. The sense of community and acceptance that low-income people have because they are the majority weakens and the Downtown Eastside, the Soul of Vancouver could be wiped out like Hogan’s Alley was.

CCAP’s position on the Historic Area Height Study (January 2011):
Council needs to vote against the staff recommendation for added density in the DTES. It also needs to ensure that:
1. The Social Impact Study & the DTES Strategy are done, and
2. Every homeless person and hotel room resident has decent self contained housing they can afford, and the good things about the low-income community, as identified in CCAP’s community vision report, are secured.
3. The city buys at least 10 sites a year for low income social housing in the DTES.

Resolution against the Historic Area Heights Review

This statement was put together by the list of groups below. If your group can sign on, please let us know. Deadline is January 20th preferably but later is fine too.

January 13, 2011

Dear Mayor and Council members,

As individuals, resident groups and agencies concerned about:
– Hotel room rent increases (only 12% of privately owned rooms now rent for the welfare shelter allowance or less) not tracked by the city and rent increases for businesses serving low income residents;
– Hotel closures and “renovictions;”
– The displacement of low-income residents from the Downtown Eastside, contrary to city policy;
– Increased homelessness measured in the last city survey;
– More harassment of low-income residents by security guards and police;
– The erosion of unique and authentic community assets such as a strong sense of community, feeling accepted and at home, empathy with people who have health and addiction issues, connection to our cultural heritage, a strong commitment to volunteering, cheap or free necessities that are close by, needed health and social services,

We call on City Council to
– Buy 10 sites for low income resident-controlled social housing within the Downtown Eastside before the next municipal election; and
– Vote against adding any new density for condos within the Downtown Eastside until the assets and tenure of low-income residents are secured and until the Social Impact Study and DTES Strategy are complete.

We also call on city staff and Council to recognize that many groups and individuals in the DTES community, not just the Carnegie Community Action Project, oppose the recommendations of the Historic Area Height Review report.

Sincerely,

Access Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society
Carnegie Community Action Project
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre Power of Women
Gallery Gachet
REED (Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity)
Streams of Justice
Vancouver Action
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction
W2

Mike Harcourt, Ray Spaxman say rezonings could be extremely harmful to the affected communities

This letter shows we are making some headway

January 12, 2011

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors:

Re January 20, 2011 Council Meeting on the Historic Area Height Review Update.

It appears that the search for higher buildings in the historic area has been motivated primarily to locate sites where increases in floor space could be achieved on redevelopment, thereby increasing the value of those sites. The Council that initiated the study had anticipated that the uplift in value would be shared between the developer and the City, providing resources for the City to achieve some public amenities, including low income housing, while at the same time seeing new development and improvement to the DTES.

Initially, it appeared that the city thought there could be many potential high-rise sites where significantly higher densities could be achieved. However, after much staff and many consultant studies, and subsequent community consultation, council determined not to pursue additional high-rise towers and to limit the additional heights up to 120 ft. and a few sites that would be restricted to a maximum height of approximately 150 ft.

The staff report now before council recommends some increases in height and identifies seven specific sites which may go 150 ft. but does not describe what additional amounts or types of floor space would be achieved beyond what is permitted in existing zoning, nor does it describe what amount of anticipated public
benefit will be achieved by the additional height (or density).

We believe that this long debate about higher buildings, (and especially the unmentioned higher densities), is incomplete without an analysis of the impacts of such densities and the associated population shifts on the overall social, economic and environmental circumstances of the Downtown Eastside. It is well known that this is a uniquely sensitive area of the city. Shifts in its populations brought on by inadequately considered rezoning could be extremely harmful to the affected communities.

Unforeseen displacements, deficiencies in services and amenities, and disruption of community assets may well result.

We question why there is priority for this “height-only” study when there is a serious lack of overall social, economic and environmental planning for the DTES? The Strathcona
Revitalization Committee and the Carnegie Community Action Project have drawn up their own plans and Council has yet to respond to them.

In a similar vein, the City has launched a participatory engagement process with the low Income community to create a locally-based Social Impact Assessment framework to “assess the effect on the existing low-income community of new developments in the historic area and where opportunities for enhanced affordability and live-ability may be achieved.” There is no explanation as to how this initiative and the Height Study
relate or how both mesh with the future of the DTES.

CONCLUSIONS

Because of the major social, economic and environmental issues at stake here, the BCS recommends that no rezoning should be entertained until a local area planning committee has been established and has begun the process of analysis that establishes the priorities of planning and development opportunities for the well being of the Downtown Eastside community as a whole.

Sincerely,
Mike Harcourt
Chair