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Market and non-market housing must proceed apace

Stop the 17-story condo development at 611 Main St.

by Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP)

Gentrification Forces Graphic by CCAP
Gentrification Forces Graphic by CCAP

 

December 8, 2011

The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) opposes the proposed 17-story condo tower project at 611 Main. We are asking that any condo project at 611 Main be put on hold, along with a general moratorium on all market condo development in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), until the housing and homelessness crisis in the DTES is stopped, until no body is forced to sleep in SRO hotels, shelters, or on the street, and until the assets and tenure of the low-income community are secured.

Our main reasons for opposing this condo development proposal are about City policy. We know that rezoning hearings are not supposed to deal with policy. However City policies that support this development contradict longer standing and guiding City policies that would stop this project until social responsibilities are met. We remember Councillor Reimer's argument, when speaking to her reasoning for supporting the HAHR heights amendments in the spring, that the HAHR set heights but not uses or market or non-market character of buildings along Main Street. City council needs to clearly, transparently, and publicly prioritize which of its contradictory policies it will follow and seek vulnerable community direction over how the heights and density along Main Street are used.

1) The 611 Main condo proposal contradicts the 2005 DTES Housing Plan objective of “revitalization without displacement.”

Market SRO hotel units in the immediate vicinity of the 611 Main project could be immediately effected by increased real estate prices and an improved investment and speculation market in the area. Hotels we believe are at risk from the ripple effects of gentrification from any condo project at 611 Main include 34 rooms at the Arno hotel on Georgia and Gore; 14 at 221 E. Georgia; and 45 units at the Keefer Rooms. These units are vulnerable to the most common form of gentrification; through the holes in the SRA bylaw they can be converted to student and young worker housing.

Even more readily at risk are the approximately 30 rooms in the East Hotel and at least 45 in the Fan Tower. These low-income family residential apartments are not protected from conversion or demolition by the SRA bylaw or even rental-apartment conversion bylaws. 

There are no city laws or policies to guarantee that this 'revitalization' will not displace the more than 168 low-income people who live in immediate vicinity of this proposed condo project in vulnerable market housing.

2. The 2005 DTES Housing Plan states that market development must proceed apace non-market development.

City council's stated objectives include ending homelessness, including replacing all 5,000 units of SRO hotel rooms. To meet this objective the city seeks toslow market development and allow the relatively slow construction of social housing to catch up. Since the 2005 Housing Plan was written, this policy has failed. Rather than proceed apace, between 2005 and 2011 the rate of market to non-market housing development has been 3 to 1.

The city has work to do to correct the failing rate-of-change guidelines. Unfortunately the problem is made worse by building 171 units of market condo housing that may have 26 units at slightly depressed rates, apparently due to depressed unit-size. For low-income people this condo tower might as well be an exclusive penthouse suite as there will not be a single unit for existing residents who may be displaced from the surrounding hotels and low-rent apartments due to gentrification.

3. On January 20th 2011 City Council initiated an unprecedented DTES Local Area Planning Process. The reasoning for this initiative was council's recognition that exisiting policies and plans for the DTES are not working and that the solution lies in the rich experiences and ideas of the people who live in the community themselves.

Proceeding with a massive and exclusive condo tower at 611 Main St undermines and short circuits the credibility, effectiveness, and value of the Local Area Planning Process. We want this condo project and all other potentially destructive market condo projects to be put off until after the Local Area Planning Process can do its work and develop a vision for the DTES.

There are also zoning problems with the condo tower proposal at 611 Main St, including:

  • The design of the project is not within the historic character of the neighbourhood
  • The Community Amenities Contributions have not been determined. These rates should be set through the Local Area Planning Process and not in advance of a clear long-term plan for the DTES community.

The proposal for a 17-story condo project at 611 Main puts many critical parts of our community in jeopardy: Vulnerable low-income housing; Assets of the low-income community including comfortable street life and low-income serving shops; and it threatens the vital community building process of the DTES Local Area Planning Process just as it is struggling to get going. We are calling on City Council to stop the condo tower at 611 Main St and prioritize ending homelessness and underhousing in the DTES. Our community needs low-income affordable social housing not condo towers.

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To send a note to the city opposing this condo project send an email to two addresses:

mayorandcouncil@vancouver.cadwayne.drobot@vancouver.ca

And please copy carnegie.action@shawlink.ca so we know about opposition letters sent to the city.

Your letters don't have to be long or complicated, but they should state clearly that you oppose the proposed condo project. Also include your full name and address. Please feel free to borrow ideas from the letter below.

 

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Comments

Contradictory Policies

The two words contradictory policies sum up the venal City of Vancouver approach to so-called planning. If you can't have it your way, you need to have it both ways, or more. In other words, toss enough policy into the stew. Most of the time there is some morsel for a greedy hasty developer to devour. When there is clearly no supporting policy, just approve another contradiction. One more act in the municipal farce, where puppet councillors jerk around and dance at the end of developer strings.

A year ago in January Vancouver City Council used an "emergency" to shut up the many dozens of speakers already headed to City Hall. Their solution resembled Israel's approach to Palestine, Vancouver-style: draw a line and encompass territory. When is DTES not DTES? When it's Chinatown! To cap off the outrage, the severed "Chinatown" portion of the DTES includes the Carnegie Centre on the SW corner.

Take a big chunk of the local area right away over strong community opposition, including respected outside supporters. A map showing the boundaries of this atrocity can be inspected in Appendix A at

http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20110317/documents/phea1-YellowMemo.pdf

In the face of strong opposition, the politicos always defer, usually to more "planning" — often when the already promised planning has failed to take place. Casino, anyone?

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