CCAP News Releases

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Press Release – For Immediate Release

CARNEGIE COMMUNITY ACTION PROJECT RELEASES REPORT ON LOW-INCOME COMMUNITY’S VIEWS ON “EMERGING DIRECTIONS”

DTES Residents ask whether development plan outlined in city’s “Emerging Directions” will “abolish homelessness or abolish the homeless

Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories, September 3, 2013 – Low-income DTES residents have raised serious concerns with “Emerging Directions”, the City of Vancouver’s first version of a development plan for the DTES.

The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) released two new reports on the DTES low-income community’s views on “Emerging Directions.” The reports summarize proceedings from two Town Hall meetings and a community survey held by and for low-income residents in the neighbourhood during the city’s public consultation period, which ran through August.

“We held our own Town Hall meetings because we didn’t feel that the city’s ‘Open Houses’ were a format for low-income DTES residents to work through the planning document together in an accessible way”, said the Town Hall Meetings co-facilitator Tracey Morrison. “We also felt that the nine page feedback document and online survey that the city produced were impossible to make sense of.  We wanted people in our community to be able to voice their opinions, so we created a simplified feedback form ourselves.”

At the Town Hall meetings, the Housing section of “Emerging Directions” was met with sharp criticism. One resident stated that “[Mayor] Gregor [Robertson] said that he would abolish homelessness. It looks like he probably meant he would abolish the homeless.”

“People at the Town Hall meetings felt that the plan would do nothing to stop gentrification and the displacement of low-income residents from the DTES”, explained Town Hall Meetings co-facilitator Karen Ward. “There is no concrete plan to replace SROs with self-contained social housing, or to house the homeless within a reasonable time frame. There are no measures to stop retail gentrification. This plan is a step backwards”

The results of the simplified feedback forms show that low-income DTES residents are looking to the plan to set out specific policies to stop gentrification and reverse the loss of homes and shops for low-income residents while creating social housing available to people living on welfare and basic pensions. “There is an urgency here that isn’t being acknowledged”, wrote one anonymous respondent. “Housing for the homeless and replacement of SRO dungeons should be the number one priority.”

Although many residents were satisfied with the requirement for 60% social housing and 40% market rentals in the Oppenheimer District – which is described in “Emerging Directions” as a “Community-Based Development Zone” – the measure was eclipsed by a flawed definition of social housing.

“The 60% social housing and 40% rental in the Oppenheimer District is a pretty good victory, but only if they have a definition of social housing at welfare/pension rate”, said DTES resident Wendy Pedersen. “Otherwise, we’re up a creek without a paddle. And 60% social housing in the DEOD might not be enough to replace the 5,000 SRO units. We want actual numbers – how many social housing units will be built per year? Otherwise we don’t feel comfortable with this plan.”

Residents also called for a Social Impact Assessment process to give low-income people in the DTES oversight over development decisions. “Other communities can decide whether or not they want a methadone clinic or half-way house, but we don’t have that power to decide whether we want a business or housing that’s good for our community,” said DTES resident and current VANDU president Dave Hamm.

Over 70% of the 63 people who filled out a simplified feedback form strongly agreed that the “DTES Plan should set out specific policies to stop gentrification and reverse the loss of homes and shops for low-income residents.”

“Our community has spoken against gentrification and displacement”, stated DTES resident Formerly Homeless Dave. “We’re past the saturation point for retail and condos. Until we have housing and retail for low-income people, the DTES is not open for business.”

The Terms of Reference of the Local Area Planning Process state that the goal is to ensure that the future of the DTES improves the lives of those who currently live in the area, particularly low-income and vulnerable residents.

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For more information and to arrange interviews with Local Area Planning Process low-income committee caucus members:

Tamara Herman, Researcher/Organizer, Carnegie Community Action Project: tamaraccap@gmail.com or 604-880-7860

CCAP Town Hall Meeting Report: https://ccapvancouver.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/ccap-emerging-directions-town-hall-report-08_02_131.pdf

CCAP “Emerging Directions” Survey Results: https://ccapvancouver.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/dtes-emerging-directions-survey-results2.pdf

Press Release

 – For immediate release –

Downtown Eastsiders march against gentrification and displacement

Low-income participants in City of Vancouver planning process launch alternative plan for housing crisis

LAPP Low-Income Caucus members deliver 3000 signed Social Justice Zone petitions to City Hall planners

LAPP Low-Income Caucus members deliver 3000 signed Social Justice Zone petitions to City Hall planners

June 11, 2013 – Over 300 Downtown Eastside (DTES) residents marched through the streets to demand a “Social Justice Zone” in the heart of the City of Vancouver. DTES community members and representatives from local organizations spoke at key locations along the march route, including the BC Housing office, Pidgin Park and the Woodwards Building.

The rally was organized by members of the Local Area Planning Process (LAPP) low-income caucus, which has spent two years in consultation with the City of Vancouver to draft the development future of yet-unplanned parts of the Downtown Eastside.

“The zoning and the plans will have far-reaching effects for the next 30 years”, said LAPP low-income caucus and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) president David Hamm. “We are here to call on the City of Vancouver to adopt the plan proposed by low-income DTES residents to protect the low-income community.”

The Anti-Gentrification Caucus of the DTES LAPP Committee has gathered 3,000 signatures from Downtown Eastside residents in support of an alternative “Social Justice Zone” plan for the DTES. The “Social Justice Zone” plan calls on the city to use zoning laws to stop condos in the Oppenheimer subdistrict of the DTES and to promote social housing that people on welfare/pensions can afford in the Thornton Park and Hastings Corridor subareas.  The plan calls for the city to protect land in the DTES for social housing and to advocate for senior government housing programs.  It also calls on the city to stop renovictions in SRO hotel rooms and to create a social impact assessment so low income residents can approve or deny applications for new business licenses (See attached Social Justice Zone plan).

“The 3,000 signatures we collected send the City of Vancouver a clear message”, said LAPP Committee Member Victoria Bull. “We need a plan for the DTES that really will house homeless people and replace SROs with self-contained housing.  The city needs to get behind its low income residents and make our housing crisis a priority.”

“The city has let applications for over 1000 condos go through while we have been planning the neighbourhood,” said LAPP committee member Herb Varley.  “These condos will push up rents in hotels and stores and push low income people out of the neighbourhood they feel comfortable in.  We desperately need a sign that the city really wants to deal with our housing crisis.”

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For photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.163605810478442.1073741830.157667981072225&type=3&uploaded=47

Organized by the Anti-Gentrification Caucus of the DTES LAPP Committee.

Media Contacts:  Dave Hamm, VANDU, 778-709-3507; Ivan Drury, CCAP, 604-781-7349

For Immediate Release:  If it doesn’t include the majority residents it’s not a neighbourhood plan
Carnegie Community Action Project statement on the 2012 Chinatown Neighbourhood Plan

July 25, 2012

City council is poised to accept the recommendations in a new report on Vancouver’s Chinatown going to council on July 25, 2012.  Carnegie Community Action Project recommends the plan be deferred to be coordinated with the rest of the DTES community, particularly as key aspects of the plan, especially housing for low-income people, hinge on cross-sector cooperation.

The Chinatown Neighbourhood Plan is rooted in 11 “Vision Directions” which  treat low income people as though they don’t even exist in the neighbourhood. They are implicitly referred to as impediments to economic revitalization and development.

The low-income community is mentioned in when the report tells us that the median income in Chinatown is $17,000 a year; that 67% of the population is low-income, and over half of the residents live in single-person homes. (p. 11) It sums up the demographic sketch by explaining the “neighbourhood has been and continues to be predominately low-income.” And it asks, in a way that seems to set the question for the rest of the report to answer,  “How will the existing low-income community and new residents define a new vision for the neighbourhood?” Unfortunately this question is not answered. Nowhere are low-income residents’ voices audible nor are their interests represented.

The explanations of issues and visions for each section of the report are totally missing any sort of low-income community perspective. And worse, the record of actions already taken and recommendations for future actions consistently overlook the needs of low-income people or contribute to their displacement from Chinatown altogether.

The Heritage and Culture section is focused on a “Society Building Strategy” that aims at the heritage and real estate renovation of Benevolent Society owned buildings that will also help with the gentrification of Chinatown. Two key tools have been used to accomplish this “revitalization” of privately owned buildings. The “Transfer of Density” heritage incentive policy helped renovate Bob Rennie’s Wing Sang building into an exclusive art, real estate office, and now museum space. And 5 out of 11 society owned buildings have received $100,000 each to support their “rehabilitation plans” (p. 19)

One of these buildings is the Asia Hotel, owned by the Mah Society. The Mah society recently informed its 34 low-income tenants that they will all be evicted sometime this year to allow a major renovation. The society has been tight lipped about what the rents will be in the building after the renovations are complete. Has the city directly funded a major renoviction of a society owned hotel? Are there any measures the city is using to stop renovictions from the hotels in Chinatown under the guidance of this report?

The 2005 Downtown Eastside Housing Plan’s section on Chinatown says to “recognize housing objectives when implementing heritage policies in Chinatown, and vice versa.” (2005 Housing Plan, Pg 56, section 9.3.4) This is suspect because the AECOM consultant report on economic revitalization in Chinatown and commissioned by the City of Vancouver, written in November 2011, recommends easing SRA bylaw restrictions so that societies can get rid of tenants because “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.)

The AECOM report also lists, under the category of “threats” to revitalization, “The presence of population attracted to the social service facilities on Hastings Street,” (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, “additional pedestrian activity, particularly in the evening hours, will dilute the influence of the underprivileged population.”  Imagine how it feels to be underprivileged and know that some business people think your presence has to be “diluted.”(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. A lot of the recommendations of this report pop up in the Chinatown Neighbourhood Plan with amendments only to the language that has fallen out of fashion for Vancouver planning because it is too strong and outwardly poor-bashing. The ideas, though, appear throughout the city report in a shallow code.

The Built form and Urban Structure section celebrates the Historic Area Height Review’s success in attracting to Chinatown between 600 and 700 new condo units and their residents to support the business, street and shopping climates (p. 12). It is not concerned with the effects of these condo developments on land and rent prices for tenants in hundreds of privately owned SROs or rental units, nor on the effect of a sudden massive increase in higher income residents on the cultural and social assets of the existing low-income community.

The Land Use: A living and working community explains “Chinatown has traditionally been an affordable neighbourhood with a mix of rental, SROs, non-market housing and limited owner occupied market housing.” And it explains the DTES Housing Plan calls for the replacement of “existing SROs with better quality housing targeted to low-income and aging residents” and also, at the same time, to “encourage market housing with a focus on affordable market rental and ownership housing.” (p. 33)

How does this report deal with this policy contradiction of both protecting the existing low-income housing stock (until it can be replaced) and encouraging market developments that threaten to erode that low-income housing stock through gentrification? It provides actions to encourage market development and defers the low-income housing action plan to staff “working on implementing the Housing Plan” through the DTES LAPP committee.

The Housing Plan says that 1 for 1 SRO replacement in Chinatown is unlikely and to expect for replacement to take place in other DTES sub-areas. (pg. 56, 2005 HP) Replacement then, rather than destruction, requires that the city ensures that the housing is replaced before it is lost, not just that low-income housing is offloaded to another area due to economic expedience and dropped. The Chinatown Neighbourhood Plan is plotting the destruction of SRO hotels before there is even a plan for their replacement.

The Public places and streets section. It calls for the expansion of throughways with a rail line and to open up the alley to market development in order to make the area distinctive (competitive) and attractive to “modern” entrepreneurs and consumers. It specifically targets the “clean up” and “safety” improvement of the streets, sidewalks and alleys in and around Chinatown. A pilot alley revitalization project in “Market Alley,” which runs parallel to Hastings and Pender between Main and Carrall will set the “tone for commercial revitalization in the future.” The planned “upgrade not only increases the recognition of this unique historic place, it also sets the tone for commercial revitalization of Market Alley in the future.” (page 39) Again there is no concern for the low-income communities who currently call these alleys community spaces. There is no concern for the gentrifying impact of connecting the Market Alley to Hastings St. where hundreds of low income people live.

The Community and economic development and Economic revitalization strategy focus on attracting new entrepreneurs, cleaning up and tenanting storefronts, and developing a more tourist friendly heritage based and walkable Chinatown.

The active storefronts program has already given incentives and support to six new businesses in Chinatown. The only one mentioned, as a model candidate for the program, is the high-income and non-resident oriented Bao Bei boutique restaurant on Keefer near Main St.

The conclusion of the report is as telling as the introduction. The challenges, taken from the AECOM consultant group’s report, include:

–        “Need more people on the street at night and on weekends” without saying directly which people need to be gotten rid of (not “displaced”) and which are desireable.

–        That the “revitalization strategy must lead with restaurant sector;”

–        That Chinatown “needs to be clean and safe,” and that;

–        “Renovated heritage buildings… could provide a unique competitive advantage in the long term” because “renovated heritage buildings and revitalized laneways = unique, walkable neighbourhood (competitive advantage)”.

Where are the low-income people? Why is the city not recognizing the assets and legitimate tenure of the low-income community? This report could represent a serious step backwards in Downtown Eastside planning.

CCAP’s recommendations

  1. Any restoration and renovation of society buildings must not risk eviction of SRO tenants of the buildings. The city should develop a zero evictions policy for SRO hotels before supporting further renovation efforts.
  2. Replacement of SROs must happen before losses are allowed to occur. The city should not permit any market development in Chinatown until potential ripple effects of market real estate prices and rents can be controlled and low-income housing protected, and tenancy guaranteed. Losing hotel rooms before they are replaced is not replacement, it’s against city policy. It’s displacement.
  3. Public space development must not come at the cost of low-income peoples comfort and safety. Feeling a sense of belonging in the streets is a key asset of the DTES (including Chinatown) low-income community. We cannot afford to lose this to overzealous tourist and retail development. The city should incentivize low-income serving shops and businesses and non-profit industries for a low-income friendly revitalization of Chinatown. All market businesses should go through a social impact assessment of their proposed business before being given a business license.
  4. Market alley and the boutique-ization of any alley in the Downtown Eastside should be put on hold until low-income community housing and other assets are protected and secure. Although this report does not mention the Pantages condo project, the Market Alley redevelopment is inconceivable without it. The DTES low-income community and many others have gone on record against the highly destructive Pantages condos proposal and we strongly recommend not basing any city plans around this development, which the community is committed to stopping. We recommend the city buy the Pantages lot at 138 E Hastings and build 100% resident controlled social housing where people on welfare and pensions pay 30% of their income for rent.
  5. Finally, the Chinatown Neighbourhood Plan should be deferred to be coordinated with the rest of the DTES community, particularly as key aspects hinge on cross-sector cooperation. Currently the plan calls for “sharing” the recommendations of the Chinatown plan with the DTES LAPP committee in the fall of 2012 (page 53) so that the LAPP can learn from the Chinatown plan. We believe these plans must be integrated and enrich and challenge each other by being finalized and implemented alongside each other.

For more info contact:  Ivan Drury (604-781-7346) or Jean Swanson (604-729-2380)

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Marc Williams, owner, showing off year old debris filled with rats on future condo site

For Immediate Release
July 18 2012

City orders condo developer to clear rats and rubble from demolition site, Downtown Eastside residents call for further protections

UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORIES – The City of Vancouver has issued an order to Marc Williams, owner of the former Pantages theatre site and target of community actions for over a year. The order, signed by Will Johnston, Director of Licenses and Inspections and Chief Building Official, says that Sequel 138 Development Corp must “remove the accumulation of construction debris, rubbish and discarded material on or before July 31, 2012.” It threatens legal action for “failure to comply with this order” including a threat that the city will undertake the clean-up work if the owner does not. (*see attached order)

Members of the DTES low-income community and neighbours of the Pantages site held a news conference Monday July 16 demanding the city use their power in this way. John Douglas, a resident of the Asia hotel immediately across the alley from the Pantages demolition site said, “It’s about time. It’s amazing that it took this long for the city to issue an order to clean up the site. The demolition has looked like a warzone for about a year. People who live around this site deserve an apology from the city for not taking action sooner.” Another resident of the Asia Hotel has posted video footage to Youtube of rats swarming in the alley beneath his window. See the clip here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W-V9pSi578

Mona Woodward, Executive Director of Aboriginal Front Door, said, “This is a victory for the health of our community but it’s a short term victory. Aboriginal people who live and gather around this site struggle with many health problems and the conditions of this site has made their lives harder for over a year. But the bigger problem is that our people need good housing and we need to end homelessness. The city has done one thing right, now we need them to take the next step and buy the Pantages site for social housing.”

Herb Varley, Co-President of the DTES Neighbourhood Council, said: “This is a victory for us because we made this clean-up happen. Our community’s struggle made the city do what they said was impossible. People who live here have been suffering for their inaction. Now that we made it a very public issue that is embarrassing to City Hall, now they can clean up the site? Now we’re supposed to buy their story that they can’t buy the property? We’re going to step up our fight for social housing at the Pantages and make that possible too.”

The DTES Not for Developers Coalition organized for over a year to get attention from the city to improve the health and safety conditions at the Pantages site. The Coalition will continue to fight to get the city and province to build 100% social housing for low-income residents instead of condos for higher income people.

Ivan Drury, Board Member of the DTES Neighbourhood Council and organizer with the coalition said: “Pantages owner Marc Williams has definitively proven he can’t be trusted with the health and wellbeing of low-income DTES residents. We’re still concerned that the clean-up be done according to what we call ‘West Vancouver standards’. That means the rat infestation cannot be allowed to spread. The still-standing frontages of the theatre should be safely shored up so they don’t fall into the street and the debris must be constantly sprayed down as it is removed so the dust doesn’t rise up into the homes of people who live around the site. And most importantly, our community needs long-term protection from Marc Williams’ greed and irresponsibility. We demand the city or province buy the Pantages site from Williams to stop his sequel 138 condos and build 100% low-income social housing.”

For more information: Ivan Drury, 604-781-7346

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http://dtesnotfordevelopers.wordpress.com/

Residents shut down unsafe demolition site in summer 2011. Demolition stopped and has been a neighbourhood blight since then. (Rickie Lavallie, “Warrior In Memory” holding