The City of Vancouver admits it screwed up.  And today groups fighting gentrification in Vancouver in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympics fought back. 

The Carnegie Community Action Project and other groups in the Citywide Housing Coaltion held a rally to express outrage that the City had evaded the legally required consultation process for a 7 story condominium development on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Canada’s poorest postal code.  Rick Michaels, the Director of Planning delegate for the City of Vancouver, has already apologized for what he calls an “inadvertent shortfall in the notification process for this application,” and an “incomplete notification process”, according to Wendy Pederson (in photo above with red loud speaker), a full time paid organizer with CCAP.

CCAP and the Citywide Housing Coalition, groups fighting loss of housing stock for low income people and pressuring governments to keep their promise to provide social housing as a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics, today held the consultation that they say the City of Vancouver was legally required to hold but didn’t.  About 50 community members and housing advocates gathered at the offices of Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (a group that organized North America’s first Supervised Drop-In Drug Injection Site in the Downtown Eastside) on East Hastings and marched to a vacant lot at 58 West Hastings Street owned by Concord Pacific, Canada’s largest developer.  The proposed project is called “Greenwich” and contains 154 market housing units, from two-bedroom to studio units. No social housing or other community amenities are currently proposed to be located on the site.

“This project got a rubber stamp from the city, even though it doesn’t comply with the Downtown Eastside housing plan,” noted Pedersen. “How can the City approve this project without talking to the elected officials that set the plan, or the community that relies on that plan?”  

Joyce Rock of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House was equally disappointed in the approval, suggesting it would lead to displacement: “In what other neighbourhood in Vancouver would the City tolerate 32% of residents being at risk of displacement because of new development?” A meeting scheduled for today by the City to approve additional density for the site was cancelled after CCAP wrote to the planning department to express concern about the lack of notification that the project was moving ahead. 

Taking a jab at the City’s lack of a consultation process for the Greenwich condo project, protesters jotted down answers to questions such as “What do we need on this site?” on three huge signs at the vacant lot where the proposed project is to be built.  In the above photo, Jean Swanson, an organizer with the Carnegie Community Action Project and author of the book, ‘Poor Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion’, can be seen getting the process started.  

(In the above photo, Citywide Housing Coalition leader Mel Lehan, wearing a red and black jacket, talks to a protester at the site of the proposed Greenwich condo development.  In the background are the three signs on which protesters could express their views.)

Pederson reminded protesters at today’s rally that the City has also not given up their plan to build highrise towers on the Downtown Eastside.  If they go ahead with that, she told the crowd, “we’re hooped!”

There was a strong media presence at today’s rally.  Housing is a hot button issue in Vancouver as the 2010 Olympics approach. Housing advocates blame the Olympics for accelerating gentrification of the Downtown Eastside, an area where cheap hotel rooms and rooming houses rented by the poor are disappearing.  Housing advocates have been successful in pressuring the provincial government to purchase a number of residential hotels in the Downtown Eastside to ensure that they remain available to house people who are poor and/or have health problems including addictions.   

Downtown Eastside Enquirer  

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