Letter to Studio One Architecture – Stop condos

Letter to architect
Studio One Architecture
#240 – 388 West 8th Ave
Vancouver, BC
V5Y 3X2

July 20, 2011

Tomas Wolf and James Wong,

We are residents, organizations and supporters of the Downtown Eastside who first and foremost want to acknowledge that we are located on occupied, unceded Coast Salish territories.

We have come together as a community to oppose the development permit application that you have submitted for Sequel 138. The mixed use development that is being proposed (80% market housing; 20% social housing; commercial space) is unacceptable to us.

The 100 block East Hastings is an important area for the Downtown Eastside community because it contains a substantial number of low-income housing units and many key gathering places for low-income residents that offer a variety of supportive services. Dropping market housing onto this block would be a gentrification bomb in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, setting off a tidal wave of increased rents, land speculation, more condo projects, upscale businesses, and enhanced security and police presence. We have witnessed these impacts on the area immediately surrounding the mixed development at Woodward’s, and we are certain Sequel 138 will unleash similar forces in the heart of the low-income community. The inevitable result will be displacement, exclusion and hostility for those who live the reality of poverty in this neighbourhood that they call home.

We are also disturbed by the paragraph on your website accompanying the Sequel 138 project. Most problematic is the statement, “Affordable ownership of residential homes will bring vitality and crucial element of belonging and accountability to the community.”

Here home ownership is presented as capable of generating vitality, belonging and accountability in the community. This is a statement remarkable for its ideological audacity (property ownership produces the common good), its lack of understanding of the current DTES community (which already exhibits vitality and belonging), and its overt poor-bashing (low-income renters are inherently irresponsible). It promotes the idea that middle-class home owners moving into the neighbourhood will normalize the behavior of poor people, making them more “accountable,” though it is unclear to whom and for what such accountability is directed. The entire paragraph demonstrates a profoundly deficient grasp of the complexity, vitality and strength of the low-income community in the DTES, and its rhetoric masks the suffering such a project will inflict on the current residents.

Finally, you are no doubt aware that the demolition of the site has been halted by inspectors from the City of Vancouver and WorkSafe BC. This stoppage was the result of serious breaches in health and safety protocols and procedures. The demolition of the site was being carried out in a manner that showed blatant disregard for the workers on site, neighbouring residents and passing pedestrians. This reveals the developer’s distain and contempt for the current residents of this community, and confirms the conviction that the project will only bring harm not benefit to the neighbourhood.

In light of this, we have drafted a DTES Community Resolution that firmly opposes your development proposal. In the resolution, we call on the City of Vancouver to reject the development permit application, to purchase the land in question, and to designate it for 100% resident controlled social housing and community space that is to be determined by the low-income residents and communities in the DTES. To date we have over 1100 individual signatures and 33 groups and organizations that endorse this resolution. This indicates clearly the strong opposition to this project in the community and among its supporters.

So we are asking that Studio One Architecture immediately withdraw its development permit application for Sequel 138 (DE414810). If this does not happen, you can be assured that the DTES low-income community and its allies will aggressively oppose the project every step of the way.

Sincerely,
Aboriginal Front Door
Carnegie Community Action Project
DTES Neighbourhood Council
DTES Power of Women Group
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
Gallery Gachet
Streams of Justice