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CCAP News bulletin January 2013

Waldorf hotel closure a case of gentrification? Or is it appropriation to call it gentrification?
Interview with Carnegie Community Centre Association president Gena Thompson and Tristan Markle from the Mainlander on The Rational, Coop Radio See Monday January 21 2013, at the 21 minute mark

BC Housing accused of bailing out condo development
Interview with CCAP’s Ivan Drury on Redeye, Coop Radio January 11 2013
“Freedom Now!” panel on housing struggles in Downtown LA and Downtown Eastside Vancouver at the Social Science History Association meetings from November 3, 2012.
Featuring speakers from LA and Vancouver housing movements past and present organized by St. Mary’s University Professor of History John Munro:
– Pete White, LA Community Action Network co-director
– Mr.. Jack O’Dell,  editor of Freedomways magazine and adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
– Harsha Walia, DTES Power of Women group and No One Is Illegal Coast Salish Territories
– Ivan Drury, Carnegie Community Action Project and DTES Neighbourhood Council member.
The LA Community Action Network has released a book called “Freedom Now” about their struggles against gentrification and for housing justice. Ivan from CCAP responds to this book by putting the anti-gentrification struggle in the DTES in an international context and argues that, in terms of community struggles for justice, the DTES is closer to DT LA than it is to Kitsilano. A theme of this is discussion is for greater collaboration between low-income communities struggles across Vancouver, along the West Coast, and throughout the world.
Social Housing Coalition BC has released demands, research and coverage of the emerging province-wide social housing movement as momentum builds towards the BC election in May. Other  online resources for this coalition:
Twitter @stand4housing  Facebook  socialhousingbc@gmail.com

Do we want a Social Justice Zone in the Downtown Eastside?
All over the world, low income areas are being gentrified and low income and vulnerable people pushed social justice zone heartout of their neighbourhoods.  Could Vancouver be different?  If so, what could happen here that would respect the basic human rights of low income people to chose where they want to live and to have basic needs met?   Could we get the city, other levels of government, business and agencies to adopt a special Social Justice Zone in the DTES?  If we did, would exactly would that mean? Social Justice  Zone 
Fat Dragon failure a lesson to would be gentrifiers: DEOD is for low-income people
We don’t read about it in the news when low-income peoples’ hotels close down or upscale and throw low-income tenants out. And there was no public outcry, twitter trend, or feature articles when Flowers or Uncle Henry’s closed down. Not so for Fat Dragon restaurant, a short-lived (just 10 months) and never-successful boutique restaurant across from the Downtown Clinic and beside the Living Room on Powell St. Like the more recent second gentrification of the Walforf Hotel this restaurant has received the full media treatment and analysis throughout its life and death. The media and restaurant-going class are interested in the story of Fat Dragon because it is a story of how gentrification can fail.

Gentrification and pipelines what’s the connection?
What’s the connection between gentrification in the Downtown Eastside and the fight against oil pipelines in the interior of BC?
That was the topic at a town hall meeting at Carnegie on Jan. 8th.  The meeting was sponsored by the DTES Not for Developers Coalition to muster support for a demonstration against the Enbridge Pipeline project on Jan. 14th.

King-mong Chan CCAP’s spring intern
Hi everyone! My name is King-mong Chan and I’ll be a practicum student with CCAP from January until early April.  Last year, I had the opportunity to do my practicum at First United Church; drawn by the spirit and inspiration from this community, this year I am excited to back in this neighbourhood again.  I’m currently in the final year of my bachelor degree in social work.  I am eager to learn from all of the people here in this community (including those who are reading this – like you!) as I stand in solidarity with you all in our fight for justice.  So enough about me…I want to get to know you as well!  So if you see me at Carnegie Centre or on the streets of the neighbourhood, please stop me and say hi; I would love to meet you and hear what you have to say.

BC Housing subsidizes Sequel condo project
Should BC Housing subsidize a Downtown Eastside (DTES) condo developer when our neighbourhood has 850 homeless people and 3500 living in crummy hotel rooms that need to be replaced?  Is Condo King Bob Rennie, also on the Board of BC Housing, behind a sweet deal that will probably increase property values two blocks away from his own office?

Members of DTES Local Area Planning Process committee start discussions on peoples’ planning
As they approach the one-year anniversary of the DTES Local Area Planning Process (LAPP) committee some low-income community members of the committee are reaching outside the official city process to welcome the broader community in.

DTES Not for Developers coalition starts survey and discussion series about cycles of displacement
CCAP is part of the DTES Not for Developers Coalition which has been organizing for over a year and a half against condo developments at Pantages theatre, in Chinatown and, recently, at 955 E Hastings. The coalition has started a survey and discussion series about the threat that underlies all these condo development projects: displacement; in its Downtown Eastside form of gentrification.

Is Save On Meats’ token gesture to the poor still a money maker for gentrifier Mark Brand?
This November Mark Brand, the Downtown Eastside gentrifying restaurateur, entrepreneur and enfant terrible behind the Save On Meats cultural engine celebrated on the western Canada lecture circuit, launched $2.25 breakfast sandwich tokens to “provide nutritious food to those in need.”

Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) Newsletter – Aug 1

Coast Salish Territories                                               Aug 1, 2011

DTES community works to stop condos at Pantages and to get 100% social housing

These groups have endorsed the community resolution calling for 100% social housing at the Pantages site:

Coalition organizers:

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

Endorsers:

1. Indigenous Action Movement
2. Latin-American Collective – Vancouver
3. ACCESS (Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society)
4. Harmony of Nations Drum Group
5. Longhouse Ministry Church
6. PHS Community Services Society
7. Lookout Emergency Aid Society
8. Citywide Housing Coalition
9. Purple Thistle
10. Pivot Legal Society

11. Vancouver Catholic Worker
12. Teaching Support Staff Union Social Justice Committee
13. Mosaic @ the Space
14. DTES Neighbourhood Helpers Project
15. Council of Senior Citizens Organization of BC
16. First United Church
17. Oppenheimer Park Ladies Tea Party
18. Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter
19. Vancouver Transgender Day of Remembrance Society
20. Spartacus Books
21. Carnegie Community Centre Association
22. Interfaith Institute for Justice, Peace and Social Movements
23. Women Elders In Action Society
24. Vancouver Action
25. St. James’ Anglican Church Social Justice Group
26. End Prohibition Committee
27. DTES Neighbourhood House
28. Jacob’s Well
29. PACE Society
30. Impact on Communities Coalition
31. Jen’s Kitchen
32. Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society
33. Solidarity Notes Labour Choir

We’ve had a mini victory!

It’s day 27 since we shut down the unsafe demolition site at the Pantages. Thanks to the DTES Neighbourhood Council and CCAP, inspectors ordered the owner to put up mesh to protect residents of the Regent and Brandiz from contaminated dust, to put in better hoarding to protect pedestrians and to implement better safety equipment and procedures for the workers. The owner’s disregard for the safety of our community does not bode well for the future. Every day that goes by without demolition is one step closer to winning 100% social housing at that site.

Campaign for 100% social housing at Pantages site is growing!

So far 40 groups have signed a community resolution calling for 100% social housing and no condos at 138 E. Hastings.  See the list of the groups above on this post.

These are the groups that are organizing the campaign for 100% social housing:

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

Worthington Properties has proposed to build 79 condos and 18 social housing units at the site.  They want the bottom floor to be an art space run by a group that includes David Duprey who is involved with the Rickshaw.  The Director of Planning may try to OK the project as soon as August or September.  But planners have told the Carnegie Action Project that if the project is “contentious,” it may go to the appointed Development Permit Board instead.  This would take a bit longer and the Development Permit Board hears members of the public.So far the actions taken to preserve the site for 100% social housing include painting the building with the community’s vision for the site, shutting down the demolition of the buildings on the site because it was being done unsafely, forming a coalition to organize the campaign, getting groups to endorse the community resolution to stop the condos and build 100% social housing, and getting petitions signed by neighbourhood residents (so far about 1200 signatures have been collected).

The coalition also organized a news conference with about 40 supporters at the office of Studio One architects, the architect for the condo project.  Right now the coalition is urging everyone concerned to email

mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca
Writing the letter is simple and only takes a few minutes!

  • State your firm opposition to the developer’s proposal for 79 condos at 138 E. Hastings.
  • State the low income community in the DTES is against this project and condo development
  • List some of the reasons for opposition, for example:
    • People in the DTES need social housing and can’t afford condos;
    • Condos cause gentrification which pushes up rents in hotels and brings in businesses that exclude low income residents with high prices and security guards
    • Condos in the 100 block of E. Hastings are especially bad because nearly 400 SRO residents live in that block and could be pushed out if gentrification pushes up their rents;
    • Building more social housing as well as defending and preserving our DTES community are more important – and more life saving – than letting developers make millions in the DTES.

For more information, check out this website:

http://dtesnotfordevelopers.wordpress.com/aboutpantages/

More actions are planned for August and September.

Stop condo project say DTES residents

For Immediate Release to all media:
(Vancouver Coast Salish Territory)

Stop condos in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) until we have decent housing for the low income residents who live there now. That was the message that low-income DTES residents and their supporters brought to Studio One Architects today at 11 am.

“Housing first for the people who need it,” said Anne Marie Monks, social housing resident who was recently homeless and board member of the DTES Neighbourhood Council. “The rich can buy somewhere else. They can go up to Whistler. DTES belongs to the people.”

“I only know one person who lives in a condo and she lives in Winnipeg. Their world is totally different than mine. We need social housing here, not condos,” said Sandra Pronteau, another social housing resident and member of the Carnegie Community Action Project.

Studio One Architects has submitted a development proposal to the city for 79 condos, 18 more condos that would be sold to a non-profit group, and commercial space on the bottom floor. The development would be at 138 E. Hastings, bringing gentrification to the heart of the DTES.

Forty (40) groups support a community resolution calling on the Pantages developer to sell his lots at this site to the city for the 2010 assessed value of $3.7 million. The resolution calls for 100% community controlled social housing at the Pantages site. Over 1100 additional people have signed a petition calling on the owner to sell the Pantages site to the city for the 2010 assessed value. At the action today DTES residents and groups called on the architects to withdraw their proposed development.

“Condos displace low income residents by pushing up land values and hotel rents,” said Fraser Stuart, SRO resident who was recently homeless and board member of the DTES Neighbourhood Council. “The city has promised that low income residents won’t be displaced but they are ignoring that promise. We still have hundreds of homeless people in our neighbourhood, and 5000 SROs that need to be replaced with decent housing low income people can afford.”

“We have a right and a responsibility to protect our neighbourhood from changing into a rich neighbourhood. Most people don’t know what is happening at these demolition sites and by the time they do, it will be too late,” said Kim Pacquette, social housing resident and member of the Carnegie Community Action Project.

Dave Diewert of the interfaith social justice group Streams of Justice said: “The utter disregard for the health and safety of workers, adjacent residents and pedestrians during demolition, and the architects’ poor-bashing rhetoric of social mix that accompanied the visual of Sequel 138 on their website, reveal 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.”

“We have already stopped the demolition at the site,” said Beatrice Starr, of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre Power of Women. This community will use whatever ways we can to stop this project. It won’t be easy for the developer to put condos here.”

City Council sets up Task Force on SRO Maintenance

On July 14 City Council voted to set up a Task Force on maintenance standards in hotels.  The motion came two weeks after the Carnegie Community Action Project, DTES Neighbourhood Council, VANDU and tenants of the Wonder and Palace Hotels spoke to council about deplorable conditions in those two buildings and others.

At the Council meeting DNC volunteer Richard Marquez, who has been helping Wonder tenants find decent housing, spoke about the Code Enforcement Outreach Program in San Francisco.  With that program hotel tenants get stipends to work with community groups and city property use inspectors to keep building maintenance standards up to par.

Al Fowler, a former Wonder Rooms tenant, told Council that tenants should be on the Task Force and about how hard it is to find an affordable place to stay.

Jean Swanson of CCAP put forward recommendations of the DNC, CCAP and VANDU that the Task Force should include these groups:  Power of Women, DNC, VANDU, CCAP, Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction, TRAC, Aboriginal Front Door, Pivot, Native Health, and SRO tenants.  She also said that it should recommend procedures, policies and bylaws the city will implement to upgrade living standards in SROs.  Councillor Ellen Woodsworth amended the motion to include these points and they were accepted.

So….soon we should have a Task Force on SRO maintenance and maybe it could have some good results.

Council also passed another resolution on the same day to set up a working group with a number of professional groups and “other stakeholders” to address alleged abuses at the Wonder and Palace Hotels.

Vivienne  Bessette of VANDU told Council that the methadone treatment system has failed because no consumer groups have been there to talk about the abuses.  “If the [working group] doesn’t include users it could do more harm than good.”  She added, “VANDU is expert in addictions.  Doctors are not always experts in addiction.”

Charlie Boyle of the BC Association of People on Methadone also argued that methadone users should be included in the methadone working group.

Dave Murray said there were 2000 Downtown Eastside residents on methadone and 11,000 in the province.  He said that VANDU and BC APOM have to be on the working group.  This time, however, the motion was not changed to add in the two groups.  Although Councillor Kerry Jang said in his remarks that they would be consulted.  So, the city is now going to have a working group on methadone maintenance abuses that is dominated by professionals and where user groups will hopefully be consulted.

This task force wouldn’t have happened without the work of CCAP and residents of the Wonder and Palace Hotels who, at a previous council meeting, spoke out at council and launched a class action suit against the landlords.

Eek O’Density Crowd Packs Theatre

On March 20th about 60 people without homes, who live in hotels and in social housing packed into the Carnegie Theatre to discuss condo towers and zoning changes in the DTES with city hall Planning Department staff, Brent Toderian (Senior Planner), Jessica Chen (DTES Planner) and Ben Johnson (Housing Centre). City plans for eco-density can be viewed here.

The Carnegie Action Project is really concerned about a proposal to let developers build dense condo towers or blocks on “signature sites” in Chinatown, Gastown and on Hastings Street. The staff at city hall have a lot of power. They could put forward amazing progressive recommendations to the elected mayor and council to be passed or rejected. In the past we have not always been listened to, but we have examples to show that in some cases we were. Lobbying staff is important but also politicians—staff usually won’t put forth anything that they anticipate politicians will disagree with.

We hope the collective wisdom and concerns of those attending (we represent 10-12,000 of the DTES population) will influence the city staff as they help council decide the fate of our hood. We don’t have the same kind of influence that Developers have. It’s no surprise that developers give their dough $$$ to City politicians because it’s the City that controls land use and the ability of land-owners to make more money. Those of us in the theatre last Thursday don’t have any money, but we outnumber developers and our need is greater.

Each person in the theatre on Thursday had a chance to speak about their concerns. Also, most people wrote a question down for City Staff and these questions were drawn out of a box for the planners to answer. Here is how the planners answered some of the questions:

CCAP has heard developers and others say that the DTES could be home to 10 40 storey, mostly condo towers. Brent Toderian, the head planner told our Town Hall meeting that “The Planning Department has not proposed and won’t, 10, 40 story towers.”

Later Toderian added, “We focus on density, not height.” None of this means that we should relax about having more condos in our ‘hood without social housing. Developers will still be pushing council for bigger and bigger condo buildings. And you don’t have to have towers; the city could simply increase density (allow more square feet of building) and keep a height limit.
Toderian replied to a question about condo towers increasing land prices and creating homelessness. He said, “You potentially increase the assumed value of the land (with condo towers). We’re seeing that already. I don’t know if that causes homelessness directly. It could be offset by building social housing.” While that is true, right now no level of government is building enough social housing to meet the need.

We were also concerned that if condos start to overwhelm the neighbourhood, business will start coming with services for the rich, like the Nestors grocery store at Woodwards. Toderian said, “I know what you’re nervous about, gradually creating an environment and culture to push out residents.”
DTES planner Jessica Chen acknowledged what people at our meeting were saying. “We heard the fear: do we have the tools to actually achieve “one for one replacement of SRO’s”?
Could rezoning create a “march of towers down Hastings? I share that fear,” said Toderian.

In general, the planners seemed to hear some of our concerns but it remains to be seen if they will make strong recommendations to council to save our community for low income residents.
There were many more questions collected in the box and those will be typed up and sent to city staff. We hope to get some more answers and then publish more in the next newsletter insert.

City Council will decide what to do with action item number 12 for eek o-density, which could allow towers in the DTES. Some of us should attend council to witness their decision making. Contact Wendy at CCAP if you are interested to go. Notes from this meeting are avail at our office too.

Originally published in Carnegie Newsletter, April 1, 2008