955 E Hastings condo rezoning hearing results

City Council ignored the voices of many Downtown Eastside residents and approved a rezoning for a condo megaproject across the street from Raycam in the Downtown Eastside.  The vote came on Oct, 30th. The project will have 282 condos, 24 units of welfare rate social housing, and 46 units of social housing with higher rents.

DTES residents sitting through the 955 E Hastings condo rezoning hearing

Many Downtown Eastside residents spoke against the project on two nights of public hearing, October 16th and 18th.  Herb Varley and Michael Clague, co-chairs of the DTES Local Area Planning committee asked council to defer the project until after the Plan is finished.  They said the Hastings Corridor needs to be preserved for social housing, that there are no regulations in place to protect hotels close to the new development from rent increases, and that this project will set a precedent for the type of development in that area.

 Ivan Drury of the Carnegie Community Action Project said that SRO residents in nearby hotels hadn’t been notified of the project by the city.  He said their housing was in jeopardy from the condo mega project because it would push up land prices and hotel rents.  24 new social housing units at welfare rate wouldn’t make up for the lost of 154 SRO units.  “Woodwards increased land speculation,” said Drury.  “It could be worse with 955 E. Hastings.  Property combinations are going off the map.”

Harold Lavender told Council that there had been no calculation of the losses the project would create.  He said there was no way to control the increase in land values, that the low income people in the project would be segregated from the condo owners, a model that “insults the dignity of low income people.”

Victoria Bull gave Councillors a petition opposing the project with 109 signatures she had collected in the neighbourhood.  “We need stores and services low income people can use,” she said.

“Gentrification is accelerating faster than anyone could have imagined,” said Tami Starlight.  “The 24 units are a pittance.”

DNC co-president Tami Starlight speaking at 955 E Hastings rezoning hearing

Terry Martin told Council, “Profits are huge when rezoning from industrial to residential.  All rents will rise and be more unaffordable for Vancouverites.”

Tracey Morrison was on a safety patrol and talked to the sex workers who work under the bridge next to where the new development would be.  “This is the only place they think is safe,” said Morrison.  “If this project goes in people won’t want them there.”

“That site for me is like my home,” Louise Boilevin an artist, student and sex worker, said.  “I don’t want to go right out in public and it’s not too isolated and I’ve known the girls there for years.”

Even people who supported the project wanted changes.  Judy McGuire wanted an affordable grocery story, a guarantee of housing for local families, and a new Raycam Centre.  Fern Jeffries said the low and higher income residents should be in the same building.  Scott Clark said that social housing should be a big issue for the next election and that people should be seen as citizens, not clients.

A member of the 40 member woodworker’s co-op that is in the building that’s on the site now opposed the project, saying it would increase their rents and also rents in the neighbourhood.

In the end Council added 8 toothless points to the staff recommendations approving the project,  The points mostly related to what residents had told them at the public hearing.  One called on the applicant and staff to work to maximize the welfare rate component of social housing.  Another called on the developer to provide interaction between people in the social housing units and condos.  Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr voted against the rezoning, saying she was “particularly concerned about gentrification and the cost of housing, land values and increasing rent.”  She was joined by the 2 NPA council members.  Vision Vancouver members all voted for the rezoning, some claiming with great emotion that they were “voting for housing.”