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DTES Residents stage Paint-In against Condos

"Pantages theater is ours!"

by Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC)

Let the cooking begin! [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Let the cooking begin! [Photo: Tami Starlight]
I love the DNC! [Photo: Tami Starlight]
I love the DNC! [Photo: Tami Starlight]
atistic endeavors [Photo: Tami Starlight]
atistic endeavors [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Behind the 5 sites during the paint/pancakes/petition [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Behind the 5 sites during the paint/pancakes/petition [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Sign of the times [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Sign of the times [Photo: Tami Starlight]
"flipping for 100% resident controlled social housing" [Photo: Tami Starlight]
"flipping for 100% resident controlled social housing" [Photo: Tami Starlight]
The DTES loves pancakes! [Photo: Tami Starlight]
The DTES loves pancakes! [Photo: Tami Starlight]
It's coming together. [Photo: Tami Starlight]
It's coming together. [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Police watch [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Police watch [Photo: Tami Starlight]
"checking things out" [Photo: Tami Starlight]
"checking things out" [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Multi-lingual   [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Multi-lingual [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Behind the scenes    [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Behind the scenes [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Final product  [Photo: Tami Starlight]
Final product [Photo: Tami Starlight]
DTES Residents stage Paint-In against Condos

Also posted by Downtown Eastside Neighborhood Council:

VANCOUVER- One month ago City Hall issued a demolition permit to level the historic Pantages Theatre and rumours have been flying around the Downtown Eastside (DTES) ever since. Will Pantages be a “gentrification bomb” of condos at Main and Hastings? Or will it be a “jewel in the crown” of the DTES with 100 per cent social housing and a low-income community arts centre?

On Thursday May 12th low-income Downtown Eastside residents gathered beneath the awning of the Pantages Theatre on the 100 block of East Hastings to eat pancakes, paint the sidewalk wall of the building, and have their say about the future of the Pantages site. Some speakers
referred to the “Paint-in” as inspired by the daisy painting parties at Woodward’s in the late 1990s that were an important part of the low-income community’s claim over the building as an asset. The lesson from Woodward’s though, Paint-in organizer Ivan Drury said, was, “We can lay claim to a building with protests and community gatherings, but we have to plan the project too.”

While the pancake grill heated up the Paint-In was opened by the drummers from the Aboriginal Front Door Society (AFD). People standing in line for pancakes fell silent while the drummers played and sang. The mood on the sidewalk under the Pantages awning was friendly and warm, but serious and bit somber. The first words painted on the wall were: “City buy this building for us,” “100 per cent Social housing here,” and “This is stolen native land.” The first image was a tree with roots going deep.

The first speaker at the press conference, where media huddled still within the community hubbub, was Mona Woodward, the executive director of the Aboriginal Front Door Society. Woodward acknowledged that Pantages is on unceded Coast Salish territory and said the rumored plans to build 90 condos and 50 units of social housing on the site were unacceptable. She said that AFD supports the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council’s (DNC) call for the Pantages to be redeveloped as purely social housing.

“The low-income community wants 100 per cent social housing with perhaps a community arts centre on the ground floor,” explained Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) coordinator Jean.  “If condos are mixed into this project they will contribute to higher land values, higher rents in the adjacent hotels, more homelessness, and ‘zones of exclusion’ where low income people who have felt at home in the DTES will now feel excluded.”

Tami Starlight, co-president of the DNC, talked about the potential effects of a condo project on the 100 block of East Hastings. “A condo version of Pantages Theatre would be a knife to the heart of the Downtown Eastside,” Starlight said. “The 100 block of East Hastings is the ground-zero, the centre, of the neighbourhood, and now it’s a crossroads. What happens at Pantages could decide the fate of the neighbourhood: A vibrant, diverse, low-income community… or a cookie cutter consumer area with boutiques that sell clothes for dogs.”

A DNC statement handed out at the Paint-In explained that “Inclusionary zoning” in the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District (DEOD) sub-district of the DTES means that any new development has to include 20 per cent social housing - there can’t be any pure market condo projects in the DEOD. The result? There has not been a single condo development in the DEOD, not even through the heights of the real estate investment boom. If Pantages was successfully developed as a mixed condo-social housing project it would be a model for further condo developments in the DEOD and could unleash market development on the most sensitive and (until now) protected area in the city.

The other co-president of the DNC, Paul Martin, pointed at a painting another resident did on the wall of the Pantages of a man standing on top of a hotel and explained that he is a resident of a privately owned residential hotel. Martin said, “I live on the top floor of an eight story building in Gastown and the elevator has been broken for six months. My room is not a home, it’s just a place to sleep, and not a good one at that… The city’s policy is to replace all 5,000 SRO hotel rooms because they’re not good places to live. They should build 100% social housing at the Pantages site as part of what they say is their commitment to replace the crummy hotel rooms.”

Kevin Yake, representing the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), explained that the city’s plan of using “socially mixed” housing is not good for low-income residents.  He explained that the DTES is the only neighbourhood where poor drug users feel comfortable.

“Condos here would make things expensive and take away the only place we have,” he said.

Ann-Marie Monk, speaking on behalf of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre Power of Women group, said that hotel and social housing residents need to redefine what “social housing” means. She said that she is demanding “resident controlled” social housing because, “Staff watches me so much in the building that I feel like I’m in a permanent homeless shelter, not my home. They even come into my room without asking. We need affordable housing that feels like home!”

Community groups advocated for years for the Pantages Theatre to be saved as a low-income community arts space. With the theatre decayed beyond repair residents at the Paint-In imagined the ground floor of the Pantages social housing site as an arts and culture centre. Karen Ward from Gallery Gachet said, “The Downtown Eastside has the highest number of artists per capita in the country, but we have few places to work and meet. An arts centre downtown would give residents opportunities to work and sell their art, as well as a safe space to meet and collaborate. Safe, decent housing is essential as well: you cannot create art when you’re struggling every day just to survive.”

The Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council has picked the Pantages site as one of ten sites that they are demanding the city buy and designate for social housing before the next municipal election. The first victory of their “Fight for 10 sites” campaign, announced earlier this spring, was the housing for women and children above the coming Hastings Street library. “The library was number one,” pledged Paul Martin, “Pantages will be number two.”

Beneath the green tree painted on the Pantages, by the end of the day crowded with images of people, houses, and words of community persistence and unity, someone wrote: “ROOTS: We need them to grow, don’t kill them with condos.” But by the next morning someone else, someone not from the same community that had come together to colour the broken down walls of the Pantages with a vision of a hopeful future, had ordered the wall painted over. Jean Swanson shook her head and said, “It was just too beautiful for them to leave up.”

See the article with pictures here

http://dnchome.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/paint-i/

MORE INFORMATION:

See the Paint-In call-out for more information:
http://dnchome.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/may12/

Stay tuned for upcoming events in the campaign for 100% social housing
at Pantages. Watch the DNC website for events and actions and write to
dtescouncil@gmail.com or call 604-781-7346 for more info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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