Condo towers = gentrification

Download the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) ad-hoc report on the Chinatown heights review: Chinatown is people, not just buildings or view all the sections of the report in the sidebar under "Chinatown Social Impact Report"

Check out the "Zones of Exclusion" report on gentrification in Chinatown

UPDATE: The hearings are over, the votes are in... the community fight against gentrification and for the soul of the city continues!

Everyone's favorite speaker Homeless Dave addresses council at the last hearing on April 14th

April 19, 2011

Vancouver City Council votes to gentrify Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside

 VANCOUVER – Today Vancouver City Council approved the plan to increase building heights in the Chinatown sub-district of the Downtown Eastside (DTES). The “Historic Area Heights Review” (HAHR) plan increases overall building heights in all of Chinatown except Pender Street to 9 stories, without application, and to 15 stories on the Main Street corridor and 12 stories in the rest of the area by application.

 One hundred and sixty-seven people spoke at 5 public hearings about the HAHR. The great majority of these speakers were low-income residents of Chinatown and the DTES and supporters of the low-income community, all who whom spoke out against the plan.

 Explaining why he opposed the motion to increase heights in Chinatown, Councillor David Cadman said that he heard Chinatown business leaders point to gentrification pressures coming into the DTES from the West. He said that the council decision to encourage and subsidize condo development in Chinatown will mount similar real estate market pressures from the south and will drive real estate speculation in the poorest community in the country. Fraser Stuart, a DTES resident and member of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC) board of directors agreed. After sitting in on all five public hearings and the final council meeting Stuart said, “I feel like I live on a chessboard and the city and the developers are playing together to take over my home.”

 Mayor Gregor Robertson explained why he supported the motion to increase heights, “Saying no to the Chinatown neighbourhood who has brought this forward will only increase divisions in the DTES.”  Ivan Drury, a DNC board member and DTES resident who lives on the eastern border of Chinatown wondered if Robertson had been at the same hearings he had. Drury said, “I was at all the five public hearings and I did not hear even one Chinatown resident speak in favour of the heights increase.  City staff started the hearing process saying that heights were unanimously supported by “Chinatown”, and today they made their decision to exclude the low-income residents of Chinatown from that community.”

 Wendy Pedersen, also a resident of the DTES and board member of the DNC, who has been working on the Local Area Planning Process that council initiated in January, said, “This is going to make our work uniting the DTES community behind a community development plan much, much harder. We tried to say, come on you guys, give us some time and we can save the heritage buildings and get good housing for Chinese seniors.”

 Pedersen explained that the heights increase will negatively affect the whole DTES, “Vision councilors voted to gentrify the Downtown Eastside.  Council just foisted 12 to 15 story towers on us and this will cause bad ripple effects like property value increases, rent increases, more yuppie stores.  The end result is poor people get pushed out.”

 Homeless Dave, a DTES resident who, on the first night of public hearings threatened that more gentrification would create a “little Tunisia” in the streets of the DTES. After the decision to increase heights in Chinatown he said, “City council has finished the easy part, they passed a zoning change in City Hall. The hard part is yet to come. What developer will dare be the first to come down and fight the low-income community in our neighbourhood?”

The low-income community's three-year long fight against gentrifying building heights increases in the Downtown Eastside hit a high pitch in the first few months of 2011. Against the city's "Historic Area Heights Review" (HAHR) we argued that the low-income community in the DTES would be devastated by the plan to land more and higher condo towers in the neighbourhood. The HAHR went before city council twice in these months, and although city council finally voted for the HAHR in Chinatown and against us, the DNC and CCAP are organizing a party to celebrate the beautiful coalitions we built in the fight against these proposals.

Come celebrate our community's fight against gentrification and displacement…

Entertainment program starts: 6pm
Dinner: 6:45pm
(600 Campbell Ave, in Strathcona)

This venue is wheelchair accessible and there will be a "handicapped port-a-potty" restroom facility available just outside the building.

Bring food to add to a potluck if you can, if not then just bring your beautiful self. An amazing volunteer food-crew is preparing a feast that everyone's potluck additions will add to.

(See more details, like the entertainment program, below the image)There will be a chance for some speeches and reminiscences from the stage, but the focus of the night is a celebration of our community's strengths, and to reinvigorate ourselves for the coming battles because the fight against the condo towers is far far from over! So that means there will be more music and poetry than speech-making, and lots of time for mingling, eating, and chatting with each other.

Here's the entertainment program, curated by Diane Wood:

- Aboriginal Front Door Drum Group
- Dalannah Gail Bowen
- Sean Gunn
- Gena Thompson
- Jim Dewar
- Ricky Lavallie

Poets and performers:
- Stephen Lytton
- John Douglas
- Sandra Pronteau
- Diane Wood
- Marc Laurance
- Teresa Vandertuin

Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC)
For more information: 604-781-7346

Final report on the Chinatown Towers Decision
What happened?  What's next? Yes, a party! Read on to find out more.

We lost the vote on the towers in council 9 to 2.  After a three year
struggle, culminating in a series of dramatic decisions in January and March
of 2011, Council decided to go forward with staff's recommendation to change
the zoning policy in the DTES's historic area to allow applications for
potentially 5 fifteen storey towers along Main in Chinatown and an unknown
number of twelve storey towers that will likely increase rents in the
surrounding areas and wipe out our low-income shopping streets in Chinatown.

But we put up a stellar fight.

An amazing amount of organizing was done to draw the low-income community
together, including Chinese speakers, around this issue and those strong
relationships will serve us all very well in the future.   Plus we did get a
few concrete things as a result of the 3 year struggle against the Historic
Area Height Review, like shorter, fewer towers and a couple of towers that
look like they'll be stalled for awhile.  And, although it is hard to get
excited about this, we did gain some potential tools that could stop future
towers in other parts of the area and could mitigate the impacts of existing
and impending towers on the low-income community -- the social impact study
and co-chair-ship of the local area planning process.

A big thank you to.

Chinatown residents, DTES residents and supporters who turned out to speak
at City Hall in gave your history, analysis and personal stories
so freely, with passion and intelligence, in the hopes of influencing city
councils decision on the towers.  Ivan is putting together a booklet of your
amazing speeches (please send them to us) and we're planning a party for you

And, thanks to..

..CCAP members and the DTES Neighbourhood Council for their analysis,
reports and organizing of actions leading up to the decision; thanks to all
the groups that signed the resolutions and spoke against the towers; thanks
to the Aboriginal Front Door Drummers and to the many speakers and
performers at our city hall rallies; thanks to Dave, Richard, Beth, Stan and
others for their research and report on the "Zones of Exclusion", to Murray
and Tami for pics and articles in the Vancouver Media Co-op, Sid for his
fantastic you tubes of tabling in Chinatown, Harsha for her article
published in the Sun and to Nate and Tristan for their Mainlander articles;
thanks to Richard, Stacey, Paul, Fraser and Fred who knocked on virtually
every low-income resident's door in Chinatown, twice!;  thanks to Craig,
Bob, Rider, Dave and Steven for shuttling seniors to city hall and for
bringing food and water and to Grant for bus tickets; thanks to Rider, Ray,
Kirsten, Yifan and Claudia for petitioning Chinatown businesses and to the
big gang that worked the tables collecting signatures on petitions; thanks
to the Tangs for their spirited speeches that roused the crowds and for
their work with the media; to Steven, Eugene, Jeff, Nick, Willeen, Elise,
Clint and the other academics who spoke at council and to the media and also
thanks to the folks that are teaching us about zoning, and who stood up for
planning process that are fair to all: Joe, Dan, Ned and Bette of
Neighbourhoods for Sustainable Vancouver and Ray of Building Communities

And a special thank you to...

COPE Councillors Woodsworth and Cadman for their great questions, speeches
and vote against the towers at the end of the debate.

Stuff to read..

1) The go-to website for everything related to the Chinatown Towers fight
including statements from groups, media summaries, reports and more:

2) Vancouver City Council votes to gentrify Chinatown and the Downtown
Eastside, Media release by the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council:

3) History of the Historic Area Height Review.  Many of you were part of
various stages of this 3 year fight!  Remember how the city started with a
proposal for 16 towers in the Historic Area?   Go to this page for the full



Around 64% of Chinatown residents are low-income; there are around 1,000 people in close to that many rooms. There are at least 10 private hotels and two major cheap apartment buildings in Chinatown that would be vulnerable to rent increases from the ripple effects of condo towers. This community is vulnerable to the ripple effects of gentrification, especially considering that many of them are seniors.

The ripple effects of gentrification  cause real estate prices to go up. The same way that rents go up for hotel residents, they go up even more for small businesses that serve the low-income community. The cheap grocery stores we shop at (and which many  community seniors rely on) could be replaced with fancy restaurants and boutiques. Raise welfare and pension rates and the community will spend more in the shops we love.

The only people who heights increases will help are non-resident millionaire developers whose condo sales profits will increase with every foot of added density in their projects.


    The community opposition led by low-income DTES residents had some major victories on January 20th. See the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council statement on what happened at the January 20th council meeting here and the CCAP statements here and here

    On March 12th the first meeting of the Chinatown Residents Committee was held at the Carnegie Theatre. Read the declaration drafted at that meeting and read by Chinese Canadian National Congress president Sid Chow Tan at the press conference co-organized by DNC and CCAP on March 14.

    Council moved that a Local Area Planning committee should be convened for all of the DTES in order to protect the low-income community... except for in the Chinatown sub-district. That's right; there are 8 sub-districts in the DTES and seven of them should be covered by the local area plan, but not Chinatown. So that means:

99 W. Pender (Budget car rental site), recommended to go from 7 stories allowed last year to 15 recommended in the report has been STOPPED.

    The 425 Carrall (B C Electric Building); recommended to go from 7 stories allowed last year to 15 in the report has been STOPPED.

    But, in the Chinatown sub-district of the DTES, Council has decided to throw caution to the wind and sacrifice the low-income community to the gods of condo development. The recommendations for heights increases will go to a public hearing, including that towers in Chinatown South go from 9 stories allowed last year to 12 stories, except for Main Street between Keefer and Union which can go up to 15 stories. It seems like Council does not value the low-income community in Chinatown.

    The link to the 98 page city report is still mostly applicable, except for those areas outside of Chinatown.

    Between February 1 and March 17 2011 the DNC collected more than 1,000 signatures against the Chinatown towers. See the petition signatures here