SFU, UBC professors concerned about effect of height review on Downtown Eastside

See also

Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council voices concerns over increasing building heights

A group of professors at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia have issued the following letter:

January 19, 2011

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

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors:

Re: January 20, 2011 Council Meeting on the Historic Area Height Review Update.

We, the undersigned, are professors at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia with an interest in the fate and well being of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

We therefore note with concern the recommendation before Council to change the allowable heights in the ”˜Historic Area’, which includes much of the Downtown Eastside. The effect of this will be to increase permitted heights on several sites. Assuming, as seems inevitable, that this facilitates market housing, we fear that this will lead to a further reduction of affordable housing in the surrounding area, particularly that of the residential hotels. This will have a devastating effect on low-income residents and the continued vitality and viability of the neighbourhood as a whole. We believe that planning in the Downtown Eastside should have at its centre the interests of the most vulnerable, rather than risk further destabilizing a community that is already facing intensifying pressures.

Market development, if wisely managed with the insights of the low-income community, can bring benefits to the Downtown Eastside. However, it can, and has, also led to increasing rents, conversions and displacement. We encourage Council not to proceed with the Height Review until a more thorough community based planning process is conducted, a cornerstone of which should be the improvement and protection of the affordable housing stock of the Downtown Eastside.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Blomley, Ph.D.
Professor, Geography, SFU

Elvin Wyly, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Geography;
Chair, Urban Studies Program, UBC

David Ley, Ph.D.
Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada,
Canada Research Chair,
Professor and Head of Department, Geography, UBC

Samir Gandesha, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Humanities, SFU

Eugene McCann, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor, Geography, SFU

Jeff Derksen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, English, SFU

Nicolas Kenny, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, History, SFU

Dara Culhane, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Anthropology, UBC

Jamie Peck, Ph.D.
Canada Research Chair in Urban & Regional Economy
Professor, Geography, UBC

Donald Grayston, PhD, former director, Institute for the Humanities, SFU; theologian and public educator

Derek Gregory, Ph.D., Professor, Geography, UBC
Fellow of the British Academy; Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; Dr. h.c (Heidelberg); Dr. h.c. (Roskilde)

Steve Collis, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor; Associate Chair, English, SFU

Mónica Escudero, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
Spanish Language Program, Language Training Institute Humanities Department SFU

Graham Riches, Ph.D.,
Emeritus Professor, Social Work, UBC

Elise Chenier, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, History, SFU

Janice Matsumura, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor, History, SFU

Paige Raibmon, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor, History, UBC

Endar Brophy, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Communications, SFU

Gary Teeple, Ph.D,
Professor, Sociology;
Director of Labour Studies, Morgan Centre for Labour Studies.

Clint Burnham, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, English, SFU

Thomas Kemple, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Sociology, UBC

Sunera Thobani, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor, Women's and Gender Studies, UBC

Willeen Keough, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of History, SFU

Karen Ferguson, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor, Urban Studies/History, SFU

Pilar Riano-Alcala
Associate Professor, Liu Institute/Social Work, UBC

Mark Leier, Ph.D.,
Professor, History, SFU

Valerie Raoul, Ph.D.,
Emerita Professor, Women's Studies and French, UBC

Catherine Murray, Ph.D.,
Professor, Chair, Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies, SFU

Shauna Butterwick, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies, UBC

Comments (24) Add New Comment
Sean Bickerton
With all due respect to the learned professors undersigned whose credentials are very impressive, their concern that "market housing ... will lead to a further reduction of affordable housing in the surrounding area" is misplaced.

The Woodwards development included 200 units of social housing providing new homes for 250 people. In addition, that development has provided a badly needed supermarket and bank in the area, in addition to hosting amazing community space, extensive social services and having created jobs the area also desperately needs.

If the learned educators only lived in this area, as I do, they'd see the inhumane suffering of people abandoned to a Calcutta-like existence, to madness, left to act as human ATMs for violent gangs.

Further, if we truly believe as a city in mixed-income neighbourhoods, then why aren't we working to achieve that goal here in Historic Vancouver as well?

Rather than insisting that people are left to their suffering, I would encourage the writers of this letter to call for more housing, not none. Their concerns are not borne out by the facts.
11
15
Rating: -4
East Is Least
I looked into the social housing rates at Woodwards when they opened. 2 bedroom was $1600/m. Not exactly affordable.
15
15
Rating: 0
NDB
The vast majority of the Ph.Ds on that list not only have 0 experience about what is actually happening on the DTES, but have education which is completely unrelated to any of the social issues. You might as well have the cast from Jersey Shore sign it.

The problem on the DTES is not a lack of housing, but rather a total and complete abandonment by our government of the mentally ill coupled with lack luster approach on crime. I remember the DTES in the mid 90s prior to the bright idea of shutting down River View hospital. There were more homeless on Granville street in front of what is now Meinhardts! It was that which started the problems here which have been ignored ever since. Giving housing doesnt solve the problem of the people on the DTES, in fact in enables it....go down there yourself and have a look at them. I have lived in Gastown for 9 years, and it has only gotten worse. Lackluster court sentencing for repeat drug dealers, injection sites, and the unwritten rule that laws and bylaws simply dont apply to that area is what's causing the area to rot.

We need to get to the source of the addiction with education, tougher sentences, government support for the mentally and physically disabled. What we need is an intervention. Giving an addict a warm place to sleep does nothing for the problem.

I remember reading how Rudy Giuliani cleaned up New York by taking what is known as the "broken window" approach. Basically he made sure all petty crimes were punished i.e. graffiti, drug use, theft, aggressive panhandling etc to send message that order would be maintained. The rest as you know is history. Contrary to that the DTES is a place people can do what ever they want with no reproductions. Its actually a disrespect to those abusing our city and themselves if you ask me. They want help, they need it.

No...housing is not the problem. Its the cities lack luster approach to the order in the area, and the governments total disregard for those in real need of more then just a bed.


Any recovering addiction will tell you that in order to stop they need to leave their circle of drug using friends and enabling environment. Keeping them all there only enables the problem. What we need to do as a city is have an intervention, get people the help they need and spread the social housing across the province so they dont return to old habits.


On another note what right does anyone have to tell hard working potential buyers they do not have a right to live in the historic area because there is a restriction there not seen anywhere else in the city?


IMO this is just more about optics, then actually solving anything.

But hey..what do I know im not an Associate Professor, Women's and Gender Studies or have a Ph.D in English. I just live here.
9
15
Rating: -6
NDB
@East is Least

While I wont comment on the price because i have never looked there myself but there are many types of social housing. Its not just for people living on the street, but rather people like low income single moms etc. I could be wrong, but I believe there is a designation of social housing, and the social housing at woodwards was not meant for homeless at all.
13
11
Rating: +2
East Van Arts
SFU Woodwards has been a godsend to the DTES. After years of occupation by drug dealers and their victims, that part of our city has come back to life.

It hosts music, dance, art, students, teachers, intellect and energy. It has changed life on the streets and given hope to the good people who live there. The elderly poor who have for decades been terrified to leave their rooms now walk with confidence. It has become THEIR neighbourhood again.

Such is the power of turning away from the ghetto model, and toward a city of inclusion and welcome.
15
12
Rating: +3
Cornelia
@East is Least, where did you get your info?

A bachelor's suite with a private washroom costs $375. compare what else you can get for $375.

http://www.bchousing.org/news/features/Archives/VP053010

you also forgot woodwards has community rooms for events and gatherings for PHS.

http://ahamedia.ca/category/phs-woodwards-housing/

13
11
Rating: +2
Victor
NDB, I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but you are misinformed if you believe the "vast majority of aformentioned professors have "0 experience about what is actually happening on the DTES." Comparing them to the cast of Jersey Shore is a gross misstatement. Particularly, David Ley and Elvin Wyly have been involved with the community and done substantial research in the area.
13
10
Rating: +3
Second Nation
There's an entire industry in Metro Van that profits from perpetuating poverty and addiction in the DTES.

These "poverty pimps" want the status quo to continue and if possible grow. They've got no interest in improving the situation.
10
11
Rating: -1
NDB
Victor
I did say that vast majority, not all. While I have not met each one personally or seen them spending long periods of time in the area I will take your word on the fact there are a few who do work down here, or are aware. Having said that I have run circles around "academics" on this topic more then a few times. I find most of their opinions to be "arm chair quarter back" type of responses, rather being on the actual field. I'n addition I have yet to read a paper, study or any type of research by any of these academic which gets to the heart and takes a tough stance on the REAL problems. If you have a link to one...please post it. Would love to read it.

My analogy to Jersey Shore was jsut to add color, but the reality is I could ask 10 questions to the cast and probably get answers I felt were as in tuned as PhDs on that list...at least some.
11
13
Rating: -2
Victor
NDB,

Yes, you are in correct in that respect. I singled out the two since I am most familiar with their work. For example, David Ley spoke last year at a UBC Dialogue event where he expressed his support for the DTES neighbourhood. Particularly, Ley strongly disagreed with the sentiment of the DTES requiring revitalization as it would imply the place was dead or lacked in life, something he did not see any truth to.

Elvin Wyly recently gave a keynote at the "Right to the City" conference (where Ley was in attendance as well) organized by VANACT. He is a resident of the DTES as well.

At the very least, I can speak for the geographers that they are fairly knowledgeable or have done work relating to gentrification and housing and/or the DTES. The point being is they raise a legitimate concern in their letter.
14
12
Rating: +2
Steve Y
Hmmm, not a single economics or business professor. I wonder why? Why is it that all these English teachers know more about how to provide a good housing policy than an economist? Or is it possible that they have no clue about what they are talking about?
16
11
Rating: +5
Linda
 Conservatives favor "containment"... keeping unwashed & unwanted within certain boundaries. Progressives believe in "community-building," preserving this same group's right to housing within the same area.  Many economists believe in "efficiency of scale," again prescribing geographic limits in order to balance distribution of services & bottom line.  What these apparently disparate perspectives share should be recognised for what it is; state-sanctioned ghetto-building. Every single City Council has supported this goal in act if not in theory. Decades of such ignorant, well- intentioned decisions have effectively destroyed DTES and damaged adjacent communities.  The only reasonable alternative is for the many, less-than-diverse neighborhoods in this city to welcome their share of our city's less fortunate. If, arbitrarily,  10% of Vancouver's population is indigent, addicted, homeless, then 10% each neighborhood's housing and other services should be directed to addressing what is, in fact a civic, rather than community problem.

The issue is not building height, it is utter lack of political will, decades of it.    
     
13
13
Rating: 0
Calleen
NDB, on what basis have you claimed that the "vast majority" of the professors have "0 experience with what is actually happening"? Have you googled them to check their research and publications? I urge you to do so before disqualifying their opinions. You are right that the closing of Riverview was a major contributor to the problem--and you can read more about this in papers published by some of these academics. But there is a very ugly side to Rudy Giuliani's "cleanup" of NYC that you may want to research before suggesting that we follow his example (also other factors contributed to the improvement, for which Giuliani jumped to take credit--see Don Mitchell's ""The right to the city" if you're interested).
77
8
Rating: +69
Victor
Steve Y, there's only two English professors out of the 29 of the list.
14
14
Rating: 0
Immigrant Song/Bonzo Overdrive
Yes, there are a couple of names on the above list which make me retch, and one of them is an elitist snob who knows nothing about Art and nothing about Labour. I still remember his condescending remarks about how we idiots in his class knew nothing about Cervantes and his novel Don Quixote.

However, it concerns me that people continue, at least in some of the comments above, to perpetuate and condone negative stereotypes of residents of the Downtown Eastside. I lived in that apartment building right on the corner of Main and Hastings in the Summer of 1998. I had two part-time jobs—one of which involved teaching English to snotty rich kids. Most of my neighbours were elderly, and the people with mental health issues were no more deranged than the bosses I had at the time or since then.

It takes a long time for an addict to die from junk sickness, and I heard them scream all night in the streets below. Vancouver is definitely one of the most ugliest and heartless cities on this planet.

By the way, Cervantes wrote Don Quixote while he was in prison, and he was thrown into debtor’s prison near the end of his life just for the “crime” of being poor.

11
13
Rating: -2
Steve Y
Victor -
1 humanities professor - not related
3 english professors- not related..

actually screw it, it would be easier to talk about the professors who have some qualifications -

Elvin Wyly, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Geography;
Chair, Urban Studies Program, UBC

Graham Riches, Ph.D.,
Emeritus Professor, Social Work, UBC

Karen Ferguson, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor, Urban Studies/History, SFU

Pilar Riano-Alcala
Associate Professor, Liu Institute/Social Work, UBC

and that's it. 4 of them.
11
12
Rating: -1
SFU student
I'm proud of my SFU teachers for taking a stand!
9
14
Rating: -5
Gustaffson
Giving people housing is not enabling. It's actually one of the best ways to stabilize people who might get clean. People like that Gastown dweller who claim the DTES has gotten worse don't know what they're talking about. I've lived and worked in the Gastown area for 17 years, and I would say the DTES is much cleaner, the amount of people sleeping outside has gone down, the public disturbances have gone down as well as aggressive panhandling. Why? Precisely because of things like providing medical services, housing and the like. And the #1 thing that has contributed to the improvement in INSITE. In the the 90's you'd find needles everywhere, on Water St, Powell, at Strathcona Elementary, you name it. Also there used to be several big corners for outdoor dealing besides Main & Hastings & Pigeon Park, including Hastings and Abbot, Hastings & Carrall, and a few other spots that have no "open-air drug market. Get a clue, people. What meagre additions in social assistance is working. We need to invest more: more housing, more medical service. And talk to me about cost. Anyone with half a brain knows it costs way more money in jails, courts and emergency rooms to keep people homeless than to keep them housed.
9
13
Rating: -4
Sean Bickerton
I have publicly challenged the SFU Professors, Michael Harcourt and the Building Communities Society to a public debate of the issues. They can name the time and place and bring all of the heavy hitters they have on their side of the argument. All they have to do is name the time and place.

If they truly feel it's so important to intervene to prevent any housing being built they will agree to a full and fair and open debate on why.
18
13
Rating: +5
Immigrant Song/Bonzo Overdrive
Salvation sat and crossed herself
Called the devil partner
Wisdom burned upon a shelf
Who'll kill the raging cancer
Seal the river at its mouth
Take the water prisoner
Fill the sky with screams and cries
Bathe in fiery answers

“Lungs” – Townes Van Zandt
12
13
Rating: -1

Pages

Add new comment
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.