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)