34 SFU, UBC, and BCIT professors

15 March 2011 

Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Councilors
City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver, BC   

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councilors:

 Re: Historic Area Height Review (HAHR)—Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside

We, the undersigned, are professors and instructors at local universities and colleges who are concerned about the impact of relaxing height restrictions in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood—an area that includes Chinatown.

We commend Council for revisiting its plans for height rezoning in 7 of the 8 sub-districts in the DTES and for reaching out to the neighbourhood to create a Local Area Plan.  However, we question Council’s exclusion of Chinatown from the mandate of the Local Area Planning Committee.  Socially, economically, and culturally, Chinatown is part of the broader DTES community.  While tidy lines can be drawn on city maps, there are no such boundaries in the lived experiences of the people of the area.

On 17 March, Council will hold a public hearing to consider a proposal to relax height restrictions in Chinatown that will enable the development of buildings with condos and retail space ranging in height from 7 to 15 stories.  In architectural terms, this would surely destroy the heritage character of the neighbourhood.  But far more harmful will be the impact on current residents and merchants, unless they are brought into the planning process.  Chinatown, like other parts of the DTES, currently provides a significant amount of affordable housing to low-income individuals and families.  It also offers a great deal of retail space for small shop-owners (many of whom cater to the larger DTES community).  Historically, when renewal projects have taken place in similar contexts without full and meaningful consultation with local residents, a number of troubling patterns have emerged:  increasing property values; increasing rents with a concomitant decline in affordable housing stock and in reasonably-priced rental spaces for small business owners; rising food prices in local outlets; the exclusion of low-income residents from certain neighbourhood spaces; increasing homelessness; and, ultimately, loss of human dignity.

The intention of Council’s “revitalization without displacement” policy is a good one, and there is potential here to create an inclusive and sustainable neighbourhood that will locate Vancouver at the cutting edge of ethical and creative community planning.  Council has already taken important steps in this direction.  We now urge that Chinatown be included in the purview of the Local Area Planning Committee for the DTES.  Moreover, we ask for a postponement of any consideration of height rezoning in Chinatown until more comprehensive public consultation has been completed.

Yours sincerely,

Willeen G. Keough
Associate Professor
Department of History
Simon Fraser University

Elise Chenier
Associate Professor
Department of History
Simon Fraser University

Eugene McCann
Associate Professor
Department of Geography
Simon Fraser University

Shauna Butterwick
Associate Professor
Department of Educational Studies
University of British Columbia

Mark Leier
Professor and Chair
Department of History
Simon Fraser University

Mary-Ellen Kelm
Associate Professor
Canada Research Chair, Aboriginal Studies, Medicine, and Health
Simon Fraser University

Janice Matsumura
Associate Professor
Department of History
Simon Fraser University

Steven Ng
Instructor
School of Energy
British Columbia Institute of Technology

Amanda Bidnall
Limited-Term Instructor
Department of History
Simon Fraser University

Christiana Miewald
Adjunct Professor
Centre for Sustainable Community Development
Simon Fraser University

Sunera Thobani,
Associate Professor
Centre for Women's and Gender Studies,
University of British Columbia

Gary Teeple
Professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Simon Fraser University

Jamie Peck
Professor
Department of Geography
University of British Columbia

Graham Riches
Professor Emeritus
School of Social Work
University of British Columbia

Peter Hall
Associate Professor
Urban Studies Program
Simon Fraser University

Clint Burnham
Associate Professor
Department of English
Simon Fraser University

Enda Brophy
Assistant Professor
School of Communication
Simon Fraser University

Allyson Clay
Professor, Visual Art
School for the Contemporary Arts
Faculty of Communication, Arts, and Technology
Simon Fraser University

Stephen Collis
Associate Professor/Associate Chair
Department of English
Simon Fraser University

Catherine Murray
Professor and Chair
Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
Simon Fraser University

Dara Culhane
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
Simon Fraser University

Valerie Raoul
Professor Emerita of French and Women's Studies
Centre for Women's and Gender Studies
University of British Columbia

Samir Gandesha
Associate Professor
Director, Institute for the Humanities
Simon Fraser University

Geoff Mann
Assistant Professor
Department of Geography
Simon Fraser University

John A. Brohman
Faculty
Computer Information Systems Technician Program
School of Energy
British Columbia Institute of Technology

Sarah Walshaw
Sessional Instructor
Departments of History and Archaeology
Simon Fraser University

Nicolas Kenny
Assistant Professor
Department of History
Simon Fraser University

Kirksal Icoz
Instructor
School of Energy
British Columbia Institute of Technology

Arthur Giassa
Instructor
School of Energy
British Columbia Institute of Technology

Karen Ferguson
Associate Professor
Department of Urban Studies and History
Simon Fraser University

Laura Marks
Dena Wosk University Professor in Art and Culture Studies
School for the Contemporary Arts
Simon Fraser University

Colin Browne
Professor
School for the Contemporary Arts
Simon Fraser University

Judy Radul
Associate Professor
Graduate Chair
School for the Contemporary Arts
Simon Fraser University

Jacqueline Levitin
Associate Professor
School for the Contemporary Arts (Film)/Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
Simon Fraser University

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Professors and instructors of Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, and BCIT have rallied behind residents and small business owners of Chinatown, asking Vancouver’s City Council to postpone any decision about rezoning Chinatown until full and meaningful consultation with local residents has occurred.   Twenty-nine academics have signed a letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson and Council expressing concerns about the effects of gentrification on low-income residents and urging that Chinatown be brought into the Local Area Planning process that has already been established for the other subareas of the Downtown Eastside.

A copy of the letter to Council, which was delivered this morning, is attached.

Thank you for your consideration.

Media contacts

Eugene McCann
Associate Professor
Department of Geography
Simon Fraser University
778.782.4599 / 604.617.8322.

Ivan Drury
MA History student, Simon Fraser University
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council, Board of Directors member
604-781-7346

 

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