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An open letter to City Council & Staff

by Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC)


 

Dear Vancouver City Council members and City Planning Staff,
      We are concerned with how the City's planned Social Impact
Assessment (SIA) in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) is being organized.
The SIA process in the DTES was originally generated as a concession
to Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) pressure following City
amendments to zoning policy on condo towers in the DTES. CCAP
suggested that the City undertake a process to measure the impact of
new condo market housing developments on the low income community in
the DTES before allowing any more density.  City Council agreed to the
study but didn’t stop the increased density.
Our concern:
      The negative social impact of market condo developments are
felt by low-income people in the DTES. A social impact assessment that
hopes to gather information about the effect of market condo
developments should be based exclusively on the experiences  and
opinions of low-income residents. The city's invitation list for the
workshops of the Social Impact Assessment, which will generate the
list of community concerns about development, are to social service
agencies that operate in the DTES who are each invited to bring along
one or two clients. These meetings are invitation-only. They are not
open to the low-income community as a whole.
Our suggestions:
      The SIA workshops should be restricted to self-identified
low-income DTES residents; that the workshops be broadly advertised;
that food be provided onsite; and that they be open to all
self-identified low-income residents of the DTES.
   The terms of reference generated through CCAP's extensive Community
Visioning process should be upheld as the authoritative document in
this process defining the meaning of the low-income community's
"Assets" and "Tenure". [*see  #1 below]
Our concern:
      Worse, it appears that City Hall is continuing to plan further
amendments to zoning policy and to encourage and reward developers for
planning and building more condo towers. A pro-condo tower plan is
going forward to City Council on January 20th. This plan will see more
land set aside in the DTES for more, higher and denser condos. In this
context of this full-steam-ahead gentrification plan, the Social
Impact Assessment appears to be nothing more than a token or, worse, a
distraction to hold the low-income community's attention away from the
Yaletown-ification of the DTES. If you were able to hear the concerns
and experiences of low-income residents in the DTES, you would
understand that this condo tower plan will result in more homelessness
and more displacement of low-income residents from the DTES. You would
understand why DTES residents feel that the city is out to get them.
Our suggestion:
      Vancouver City should not hear any condo developer plans until
the Social Impact Assessment and the DTES Vision (another city
planning report) are done, and until the tenure and assets of the
low-income community defined through the Social Impact Assessment,
which we expect to be consistent with CCAP's community vision, are
secured.
      Vancouver City's current policy of aiding through rezoning,
rewarding, and even paying developers to build condos in the DTES is
irresponsible and blind to the needs of the most vulnerable residents
of Vancouver and it must end. The Social Impact Assessment is an
opportunity to correct this blindspot.
      We demand that the City of Vancouver buy and designate 10
property sites [*see #2 below] in the DTES for social housing this and
each year for five years until homelessness is ended, SRO’s are
replaced with decent self-contained housing, and low-income community
assets are secured. Then, and only then, will we consider lifting our
demand for a moratorium on market condo development.
   
   Sincerely,
   
   Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
   http://dnchome.wordpress.com
   dtescouncil@gmail.com

(1)(1)(1)(1)(1)(1)

ASSETS AND TENURE of the Low-Income DTES Community as defined in
CCAP's 2009 proposal for a study on the social impact of market
development in the DTES

Carnegie Community Action Project
Terms of Reference for Proposed Study
December 2009

Title:  Study of the social and economic impact of market housing on
the low-income and Aboriginal DTES community

The study would answer the question:  What has been the social and
economic impact of the Woodwards development and other market housing
development in the DTES on the tenure and assets of the low-income and
Aboriginal DTES community?  This study should be done with the
low-income and Aboriginal community.

These are the assets identified in CCAP’s mapping report:
- Sense of community
- Needed services available
- Necessities are free or cheap and close
- Opportunities for volunteering and contributing
- Empathy for people with health issues
- Acceptance
- Some good affordable housing
- Rich culture and heritage
- Some good green space
- Many people work for social justice

Tenure relates to the ability of low-income and Aboriginal residents
who depend on welfare, disability, OAP/GIS and low wage and/or part
time work to continue to live in the DTES community.

This study would investigate questions such as:
•    Are rents in privately owned residential hotels still affordable to
low-income DTES residents who depend on welfare, disability and
OAP/GIS for their income?
•    Do new stores and services opening up in the DTES serve DTES
residents who depend on welfare, disability, OAP/GIS?
•    Do low-income residents benefit from having more condos in the DTES?
If so, how?
•    How will the assets of the low income DTES community likely be
affected by market development?
•    Are some hotels upgrading in anticipation of tenants who can afford
higher rents than current low-income DTES residents?

(2)(2)(2)(2)(2)(2)

10 SITES in the DTES for the city to buy and designate as social
housing before the 2011 municipal election

1.    Above the new Library site at 720 E Hastings (& Heatley)
2.    Buddhist Temple at 301 E. Hastings (& Gore)
3.    Police Station at 312 Main St.
4.    Empty lot at 58 W. Hastings (across from Army & Navy)
5.    Empty lots at 549 and 553 E Cordova (Across from the chicken factory)
6.    Pantages Theatre & storefronts at 114 E. Hastings (B/w the Brandiz
& Regent Hotels)
7.    Empty lot at 148 E Cordova (across from Harbour Light)
8.    The empty Stadium Hotel at 340 Cambie St
9.    Empty apartment building at 334 Carrall (across from Pigeon Park)
10.    Empty lot at 780 Main (just north of the viaduct)

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