Residents launch bold new vision for Chinatown

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Chinatown residents speak on issues they face in the neighbourhood at People’s Vision launch on July 16, 2017 at nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona Library. Photo credit: Sid Chow Tan.

Angered by the City’s failed gentrification policies and 105 Keefer, residents take action

(Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories, July 17, 2017) – Yesterday, July 16, 2017, Chinatown Concern Group (CCG) and Chinatown Action Group (CAG) launched an better vision for Chinatown called the ‘People’s Vision.’ The vision document is a response to failed City policies, such as the Chinatown Economic Revitalization Action Plan (CRAP), that continue to gentrify the neighbourhood and displace low-income residents.

In September, Vancouver City Council will consider the CRAP, a new zoning plan for Chinatown that will let developers build more expensive condos up to 90 feet tall in Chinatown without including any social housing. If it passes, more gentrifying projects like 105 Keefer will take over Chinatown and inevitably raise rents and the cost of living for low-income residents.

Instead, the community is proposing the People’s Vision for Chinatown, a strategy for the social and economic development of the community. From 2015 to 2017, 500 Chinatown residents, businesses, and community members shared their vision of the community through surveys, interviews, and facilitated “tea time” discussions. The top issues community members are concerned with are: increased cost of living, unaffordable housing, social isolation, safety, political marginalization, and racism.

The People’s Vision proposes bold solutions to tackle these issues. For example, they would like to see new, purpose built rental housing for working-class families and independent seniors.

The two organizations have created a petition calling on City Council to cut the CRAP, put a pause on new market-rate developments in Chinatown until the number of social housing units match, and ensure 50% of all new residential housing to be social housing at welfare and pension rates. Click here to sign the petition.

Read the report by visiting chinatownaction.org or download the PDF by clicking here.

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Chinatown Action Group is a collective of people of Chinese descent fighting for social justice in Chinatown and building a progressive left voice within the Chinese community.

Chinatown Concern Group is an organization of Chinese residents in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside working to address neighbourhood issues. CCG is supported by the Carnegie Community Centre Association.

VICTORY: Chinatown’s low-income residents and community groups celebrate historic victory as Vancouver City Council rejects condo project at 105 Keefer

105 Keefer Victory

Low-income Chinatown residents celebrate the defeat of Beedie’s 105 Keefer rezoning application. Photo credit: Lenee Son.

Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories – The Chinatown Concern Group (CCG) and Chinatown Action Group (CAG) applaud the Vancouver City Council’s 8-3 decision to reject Beedie Living’s rezoning application at the 105 Keefer site in Chinatown.  This decision is an important victory for the Chinatown community, but CAG and CCG vow to continue the fight until 100% welfare-pension rate social housing and a public intergenerational community space are secured for this site.  Council echoes the needs of the community to look for deeper solutions to the housing crisis in Chinatown instead of another condo project that would provide a measly 25 units of social housing.

“We commend Vancouver City Council for choosing the side of Chinatown’s low-income residents over corporate profit, but the fight is not over. There is a housing crisis for Chinese seniors and other low-income people in the neighbourhood, and we are unwavering in our demand that this site can only be used to meet the pressing needs of our community,” Beverly Ho, CCG Organizer, says.

Together, they vow to continue their efforts to bring together low-income residents to implement the People’s Vision for Chinatown, a collaborative effort between youth and elders that has been several years in the making.  The People’s Vision is a strategy for social and economic development in Chinatown that centers on the needs and aspirations of working class residents.  The report outlines the top issues as defined by community members, which are lack of affordability and housing, increasing social isolation, lack of safety, racism and lack of democratic decision-making.

“The People’s Vision is a community response to the crisis in Chinatown that 105 Keefer has revealed, which is the crisis of affordability and housing for poor people and seniors.  It is a call to action for the Chinatown community and people all over Vancouver to take our future into our own hands,” says Sophie Fung, CAG organizer.

CAG and CCG will be organizing a series of actions in the upcoming months to call on all three levels of government to implement the solutions in the People’s Vision. We invite community members and residents to join us in our efforts.

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Contacts:

唐人街關注組 Chinatown Concern Group
何盈欣 Beverly Ho

華埠行動小組 Chinatown Action Group
馮淑Sophie Fung

Low-income residents and community groups turned out in force to oppose 105 Keefer condo project, pressure Vancouver City Council to defer decision

(Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories, May 29, 2017) – In the face of major opposition and community mobilization, Vancouver City Council deferred the decision on the rezoning application to June 13th, 2017. This follows a week-long public hearing at City Hall, where Chinatown residents, organizations, and community members packed City Hall to voice their opposition to the proposed condo development. Chinatown Concern Group (CCG) and Chinatown Action Group (CAG) continue to call on Vancouver City Council to reject Beedie Living’s rezoning application at the 105 Keefer site in Chinatown.

“If Vancouver City Council approves the rezoning, they will have chosen corporate profit over the needs of Chinatown’s low-income residents. Our fight is not over,” Beverly Ho, CCG Organizer, says.

The battle against 105 Keefer symbolizes the broader ongoing struggle against gentrification which was accelerated by the upzoning of Chinatown in 2011 by City Council. The rezoning process also reveals a deeply flawed process of democratic engagement.

For instance, the public hearing for 105 Keefer showed that Chinese-speaking residents are currently not able to participate equally in consultation processes, as Council declined to provide language interpretation of their proceedings. Council also decided that any interpretation into English would count within each speaker’s 5-minute time limit, effectively reducing how much Chinese-speaking residents were allowed to comment. Furthermore, after three nights filled with hundreds of speakers, Mayor and Council decided to reconvene at 9:30 am on Monday, which effectively barred the attendance of many speakers and the public, particularly working-class residents. Over the course of the week-long public hearing, CAG and CCG members, along with other speakers, called out these racist and exclusionary procedures, which seemed to have fallen on deaf ears at City Hall.

CAG and CCG vow to continue the fight for much-needed social housing in the neighbourhood while City Council wavers on a decision. In addition to opposing the condo development at 105 Keefer, CCG and CAG have developed a broader long-term strategy and vision for Chinatown to safeguard affordability and quality of life for Chinatown’s seniors and low-income residents.

Sid Tan, CAG Organizer and Chinatown resident, sees the recent mobilization against 105 Keefer as part of a long history in the Chinatown community: “The struggle of today’s residents honours the legacy of founders, who heroically battled and overcame generations of legislated racism. If this continues, the heart of Chinatown will again be strong and its soul full.”

Jannie Leung, CAG Organizer: “The strong community mobilization at this public hearing demonstrates the overwhelming desire for a Chinatown where seniors and low-income people are valued, their needs are met, and their voices are heard. CAG and CCG will continue to build an intergenerational community of resistance, drawing on the collective strength of low-income residents, seniors and youth united in action until this vision is realized.”

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

唐人街關注組 Chinatown Concern Group
何盈欣 Beverly Ho
Cell: 778-321-7027

華埠行動小組 Chinatown Action Group
Jannie Leung
Cell: 604-782-7068

 

Chinatown rally and festival against Beedie condo project at 105 Keefer St. Photo credit: Lenée Son.

Media Release: Unpopular Chinatown Tower Draws Ire of Thousands

2430 Petition Signers Demand Social Housing and Community Space Instead

(Unceded Coast Salish Territories – May 23, 2017) On Tuesday, May 23rd, Chinatown Concern Group and Chinatown residents will deliver a petition with 2430 signers directly to Mayor Gregor at Vancouver City Hall demanding protection of low-income residents, not corporate developer profits. Just in the past week over a thousand people have signed the petition in anticipation of the Public Hearing on May 23rd.

The petition, which is hosted on Leadnow.ca’s advocacy website, reads:

“Protect the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown by:

  1. Rejecting Beedie’s 105 Keefer Rezoning Application and
  2. Acquiring the 105 Keefer St. site and
  3. Developing the site to meet community’s needs, including low-income seniors housing and an intergenerational community space!”

One petition signer noted: “Protecting communities is important. Communities make us human in a way that sterile, impersonal towers don’t. People must come before profits.”

Another petition signer is concerned about the housing crisis in Vancouver and B.C.: “At a time when this province and city desperately need an increase in affordable housing, we need to stop this luxury development!”

To visit the petition page online, click here.

WHAT: Chinatown residents will deliver a petition with 2430 signatures demanding Mayor Gregor reject of 105 Keefer St. Rezoning Application at the Public Hearing and protect low-income residents, not developer profits.
WHEN: Tuesday, May 23rd, 5 PM Press Conference (City Hall – South Entrance),
6 PM Public Hearing (Council Chambers)
WHERE: Vancouver City Hall – 453 W. 12th Ave, Vancouver, BC
WHO: Chinatown Concern Group is a group of Chinese residents organizing to ensure Chinatown is thriving, livable and affordable.
VISUALS: A box of petitions and 100 residents, seniors, and community members with colourful signs, noisemakers, and a large banner, chanting and speaking on the steps of Vancouver City Hall.
CONTACT: 何盈欣 Beverly Ho, Chinatown Concern Group organizer, cell: 778-321-7027, email: info@chinatownconcerngroup.ca

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Media Advisory: Low-Income Residents: Mayor Gregor, Protect the Heart of Chinatown!

LOW-INCOME RESIDENTS: MAYOR GREGOR, PROTECT THE HEART OF CHINATOWN!
Hundreds Demand Rejection of 105 Keefer St. Luxury Condos at Public Hearing

(Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories – May 16, 2017) On Tuesday, May 23rd, residents, organizations, and community members will descend on Vancouver City Hall to demand that Mayor Gregor protect low-income residents and the heart of Chinatown, not corporate developer profits.

After four revisions and over two years of consultations and mobilizations, Chinatown Concern Group, Chinatown Action Group, and other youth organizations won small concessions from the 105 Keefer St. project: 25 senior units, temporary space for a private seniors’ organization, and a 23% reduction in market units (137 to 106 units).

Still, the project threatens to displace Chinatown’s predominantly low-income community. 106 market units will dramatically increase rents in the neighbourhood and the token 25 senior units are likely to be still out of reach for low-income tenants. Instead, Chinatown Concern Group is calling for 100% welfare-pension rate social housing and public and permanent cultural community space.

Beverly Ho, Chinatown Concern Group Organizer: “New luxury condos are going up at breakneck speeds in Chinatown while residents living on a knife’s edge of affordability are being pushed out. Mayor Gregor has the responsibility to protect the heart of Chinatown and ensure Chinatown is thriving and affordable. Our ask is simple: reject Beedie’s 105 Keefer Rezoning Application.”

WHAT: Community members will speak at the 105 Keefer St. Rezoning Public Hearing to demand Mayor Gregor protect the heart of Chinatown, not developer profits.
WHEN: Tuesday, May 23rd, 5 PM Press Conference (City Hall – South Entrance),
6 PM Public Hearing (Council Chambers)
WHERE: Vancouver City Hall – 453 W. 12th Ave, Vancouver, BC
WHO: Chinatown Concern Group is a group of Chinese residents of organizing to ensure Chinatown is thriving, livable and affordable. Chinatown residents will also be available to speak to media at a rally and festival the day before on May 22 at 1 pm at Chinatown Memorial Square (at Keefer St. and Columbia St.).
VISUALS: 100 residents, seniors, and community members with colourful signs, noisemakers, and a large banner, chanting and speaking on the steps of Vancouver City Hall.
CONTACT: 何盈欣 Beverly Ho, Chinatown Concern Group, Cell: 778-321-7027

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1 Day Left – Protect the heart of Chinatown!

ma-tai-bevTake action before it’s too late!

You have 1 day left before Vancouver city staff’s comment deadline on 105 Keefer. Send in your comments by clicking on the link below by Monday, February 27th:

Click here to submit your comments to city staff on the rezoning application of 105 Keefer Street

You may use the following letter (below) to cut and paste into your comment form. Feel free to personalize and make the letter your own.

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“Prospective buyer wants to help save Chinatown’s historic May Wah Hotel”

November 21, 2016 – CBC News

The May Wah Hotel is a City of Vancouver-designated heritage building that houses more than 100 low-income tenants.

The May Wah Hotel is a City of Vancouver-designated heritage building that houses more than 100 low-income tenants.

Chinatown’s historic May Wah Hotel may be saved after all.

A prospective buyer has stepped up to try and purchase the heritage building with the intention of preserving its low-income housing units.

The Vancouver Chinatown Foundation says it is in serious talks with the Shon Yee Benevolent Association, the hotel’s owner, to purchase the building on East Pender Street. Continue reading

“The Atkin Solution for Chinatown: A Cultural Landscape”

November 21, 2016 – Price Tags

Price Tags asked historian and heritage advocate John Atkin how he would rezone Chinatown.  Here’s his solution:

A Cultural Landscape Not a Development Area

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Chinatown is both a nationally recognized historic district spanning Pender to Gore with its distinctive and unique Society buildings, and it is the surrounding business district which maintains the area’s traditional retail of bbq meats, fruits, vegetables, and live fish. Together they form a cultural landscape that ‘provides the vitality and living colour that gives Chinatown its distinctive character.’
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“Plan for giant buildings in Chinatown comes under fire”

November 18, 2016 – Vancouver Sun

Nov. 10, 2016. For sale sign in the 700 block of  Vancouver's Chinatown.

For sale sign in the 700-block of Vancouver’s Chinatown

Chinatown has traditionally been a low-rise neighbourhood of small stores on 25-foot lots.

But heritage activists fear much of the historic neighbourhood will be demolished if a new city proposal to allow buildings up to 200 feet wide goes through.

“When you’re talking 200-foot frontages, that’s eight lots, that blows out half the block,” said civic historian John Atkin.

“That’s actually greater frontages than what’s allowed in the Downtown South area. Pender Street seems to be respected, but everything outside of Pender seems to be bulldozer bait.” Continue reading

“Jenny Kwan and Chinatown groups appeal to three levels of government to purchase site next to Chinese Workers Memorial to Build Affordable Housing” (Translated)

Sept. 1, 2016 – Translated from 明報 Ming Pao (thanks to Youth Collaborative for Chinatown volunteers!!)

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Chinese Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan and several new and old Chinatown organizations have gathered together to vocalize an appeal for three levels of government to work together to purchase a site directly adjacent to a Chinese Workers Memorial statue that commemorates early Chinese immigrants, workers, and veterans in Chinatown. They suggest that the site be used to develop social housing and community facilities.

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