Get rid of rats, Downtown Eastside residents tell Marc Williams and City

See images from the news conference here

Downtown Eastside residents want developer Marc Williams to get rid of garbage, debris and numerous, disgusting large and small rats that have overrun his property at 138 E. Hastings for almost a year.

At a news conference this evening, residents invited the media to see rats that come out after dark and swarm over the property.

The property is directly next to two huge residential hotels, the Regent and Brandiz. About 100 residents who have only one window each, have only one view:  a garbage dump full of rats, mold and debris. “I rarely move my curtain anymore,” said Ben Smith who lives at the Asia Hotel, directly across the alley from the dump.  “I don’t like to look out after the sun goes down cause it looks like the ground is moving with the amount of rats that are out there now. I’ve seen vehicles drop things in this lot and nobody did anything.  It’s not tolerated in other neighbourhoods and we don’t want it here either.”

Residents took the media to the alley between Hastings and Pender St. to see numerous rats swarming over the garbage and debris.

The developer wants to build 79 condo units on the site.  “Would you buy a condo from someone who keeps a rat filled garbage dump in a neighbourhood for nearly a year,” asked Herb Varley, co-president of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council.

The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) says Williams should clean up the property and sell it to the city for social housing.  “This would make a great site for social housing,” said Jean Swanson of CCAP.  “Rats and garbage are illegal and the city should force Williams to clean it up fast.  If he won’t do it, the city should do the work and bill the owner, as the Standards of Maintenance Bylaw sets out.”

City Hall approves another 10-storey condo tower in the DTES

Bad news. The city has given a permit to another 10-storey condo tower in the Downtown Eastside, at 189 Keefer on the north west corner of Keefer and Main. The project has zero social housing and threatens to step up the displacement of low-income people from the Chinatown area of the neighbourhood. You can read a full report on the hearing here.

Also read the statements given at the hearing from the DTES Neighbourhood Council, the DTES Not for Developers Coalition, and from CCAP, below. The only media coverage was by the Mainlander, which you can read here.

Stop condos at 189 Keefer because city policy says so
Carnegie Community Action Project statement against 189 Keefer St development permit application

The Carnegie Community Action Project is opposed to the 189 Keefer development application because it does not consider city policies that are meant to safeguard the DTES low-income community from gentrification.

What about low-income residents?

The city commissioned a US company to conduct a survey to further the Chinatown Plan that the Chinatown Height review was ostensibly an advance component of. This survey does analyze the relationship between the revitalization of storefronts and low-income residents in the upper floors of buildings in SRO rooms: “The rents that can be charged for the ground floor retail spaces and the market orientation of the retail tenants will be influenced by the residents living upstairs.” (AECOM Project Report, “Vancouver Chinatown Economic Revitalization Action Plan.” November 2011, Page 9.) It also lists, under the category of “threats” to revitalization, “The presence of population attracted to the social service facilities on Hastings Street, one block to the north of Chinatown, discourages visitation, particularly after dark.” (Page 45) And finally, the report argues that it is important to renovate heritage and SRO buildings despite restrictive city guidelines that will not allow for the demolition of SRO rooms because, “The additional pedestrian activity, particularly in the evening hours, will dilute the influence of the underprivileged population.” (Page 53) This report clearly sees the displacement of the low-income community as a precondition to and also a positive consequence of the economic revitalization of Chinatown. Continue reading