Vancouver city council to vote on revised policy statement for Pearson Dogwood lands

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A policy statement on the proposed redevelopment of the Pearson-Dogwood lands has been revised to remove plans to house some people with disabilities in a new residential-care facility on the site.

In a memo to city council, Vancouver’s general manager of planning and development, Brian Jackson, has outlined changes to the draft statement. They include the removal of a proposal to incorporate 37 beds for current residents of the George Pearson Centre into a new 150-bed facility.

Instead, the current number of beds at the Pearson Centre will be replaced with 114 independent housing units with support services, and no current tenant will be transferred to another institution unless it is their choice, the document states.

City council referred the original policy statement back to staff for further discussion after more than 20 speakers raised concerns about the proposed plan on January 22.

Jill Weiss, chair of Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, commended the revised statement.

“I think that council was very profoundly affected by the speakers, and I think that city staff were as well,” Weiss told the Straight by phone. “So I think that’s why they deferred it, and having deferred it, I think that put a lot of pressure on Vancouver Coastal Health to do the right thing…I think they were also shaken by what they heard."

The changes resulted from meetings between city and Vancouver Coastal Health staff, the provincial ministry of health, Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities, and the Pearson Residents Redevelopment Group.

Other revisions outlined in Jackson’s memo to council include a recommendation that staff work with Vancouver Coastal Health and the city’s seniors advisory committee “to give special consideration to the housing needs of low-income seniors at the rezoning stage”.

In a statement from VCH included in the memo, the health authority states it is committed to "ensuring the UN Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] and choices for the residents of Pearson for community models of care". It also plans to incorporate the "Greenhouse model" and other social models of housing for Pearson residents on site.

"In short, the objective of the Pearson Dogwood Redevelopment is to move beyond the traditional replacement of GPC and Dogwood Lodge and envision a model of housing and health services that enables independent living and integration into a complete community," the document reads.

Weiss called the revised policy statement a major step, and noted she hopes it will “bode well for future changes in our city”.

“People with disabilities are so isolated from the rest of society, and we have such poverty, and such barriers, and I think...that that is unseen, and unseen by everyone: by decision-makers, by the rest of the community,” she said.

“I see this not just as one decision, but as a step towards council and other people starting to see that what happens here is our rights get taken away, and that’s not right, and that it can be done differently."

The revised plan will go before council on Wednesday, February 5.

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