Andrea Reimer: Let’s act now to ensure the best future for the Downtown Eastside

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      As Vancouverites, we all care about the Downtown Eastside. No matter what neighbourhood you live in, we all know that we can never be a truly great city until we take care of our oldest and most vulnerable community.

      That’s why the Downtown Eastside inspires strong opinions and passionate debate. This is a very complex community, with a diversity of incomes, experience, and perspectives, some of which are very hard to reconcile. Over the last 40 years, city hall, community organizations, residents, and social advocates have engaged in what seems like an endless to and fro over the neighbourhood. Some things have worked, others have not.

      Despite all this, the Downtown Eastside has never had a comprehensive community plan, like those which guide the growth of any other community in Vancouver. With the neighbourhood now facing changing demographics and pressures on historic buildings and housing, it’s time we had one.

      The plan, which will be debated at city council on Wednesday (March 12), has already begun to stir more debate. A lot of it. And we welcome that. The community consultations have generated substantial insights, and I encourage everyone to take a close look.

      Here are the highlights:

      1. This plan gives residents a say in the future of their community. It’s true that in a sense the Downtown Eastside belongs to all of us, but as with any other neighbourhood plan, the people who live there deserve to lead the process. That’s why city staff have worked with a resident-led committee to hold several hundred meetings, workshops, and interviews over three years, gathering input from a broad range of residents and community leaders.

      2. The plan will build a healthy, mixed community without gutting low-income housing. The fact is that 67 percent of residents live well below the poverty line; that’s why a “rental only” section in the heart of the community is needed to prevent land speculation and reduce pressures that have been forcing these residents out of their own neighbourhood. At the same time, the plan will add middle-income residents to the community using new rental housing and allow for new home ownership in areas of the Downtown Eastside that won’t displace existing residents.

      3. It will not trap residents in a “ghetto”. Like everyone else, low-income families deserve a choice about the neighbourhood they want to live in, and that’s why this plan doesn’t just focus on low income housing in the Downtown Eastside. Over the next 30 years, one-third of the housing needed for low-income residents now living in the Downtown Eastside will be built throughout the city.

      4. It doesn’t just focus on low-income individuals. Balanced with strong advocacy for renters, it recognizes the concerns of middle and upper-income residents and protects the look and feel of existing neighbourhoods like Strathcona. There won’t be a wall of towers along Hastings. Instead, new development will be concentrated where it makes sense, like Hastings and Clark.

      5. The plan doesn’t just focus on housing. Healthy communities depend on economic activity, transportation, education, open spaces, culture, and more. That’s why, for the first time, this plan provides the Downtown Eastside with a framework to deliver these integrated needs, developing a strong local economy to re-establish Hastings as an economic engine while offering community facilities and services for every age and income. The plan also nurtures community health and well-being by moving away from reactive crisis intervention and towards a focus on the support people need to be healthy in the long term.

      6. This plan provides accountability to people who live in the community and to residents across the city. Everyone has a right to know the goals set out by the plan, and whether we’re reaching them. That’s why it builds in an innovative monitoring system that will check on the status of key indicators like housing affordability, public spaces, mental health and addiction supports, reported crime, and more. After three years, a social impact assessment report will show how the neighbourhood is evolving, and if necessary, we’ll be able to make adjustments.

      This is an historic opportunity. Working together, as a city, we need to act now to preserve the best of the Downtown Eastside, introduce solutions that meet the test of today’s realities, and make the heart of Vancouver a place we can all be proud of.

      Andrea Reimer is a Vision Vancouver councillor and the chair of city council's standing committee on planning, transportation, and environment.

      Comments

      8 Comments

      Lance

      Mar 11, 2014 at 5:18pm

      What person has no one to lend a helping hand?....usually a reason these people have completely destroyed their lives...if their loved ones have given up why should I care?

      Mark

      Mar 11, 2014 at 7:03pm

      This is a pipe dream, especially coming from a Vision Vancouver member. Vancouver as a whole does not have a community plan since Gregor Robertson has been ruling the city. Letting developers build condos wherever they feel like is not a community plan, it's just greed.

      10 years from now DTES will be packed with condo towers. There's not much space to build in downtown Vancouver, so this is the only place left in which developers will move.

      Let's face it, this plan is just a distraction from the fact that many in Vancouver have faced enormous cost increases in the cost of living. And given that this is an election year, Gregor and his henchmen have to create a distraction from the reality on the ground.

      vancouverite

      Mar 11, 2014 at 9:50pm

      we should look toward the future with an optimistic attitude.

      and those that can not see that optimism can look to those who are putting forward plans for us.

      if some people do not have the wisdom to listen, that is too bad but should deter those who are working hard to improve the quality of life for everyone.

      i send those working on these plans the strength to keep going!

      as an average person on the street who has a heart and a mind, i feel for those in the downtown eastside.

      i care about their well being as anyone with a soul does.

      i do not follow this issue, but from a quick glance over the response to this new plan i have seen the raw greed of the cannibals who don't care who they fuck over to keep building more condos. but these arrogant pigs want all sweet and no sour and that is not realistic.

      these types of people say is that they don't like what they see in the DTES, but they aren't able to articulate anything more. it's just superficial, ignorant hate.

      we need balance. this plan is reasonable and the people in charge are listening with considerable subtlety and you can't really ask for more.

      exacerbating suffering is a pig-headed thing to do.

      let's come up with some good new plans to see ourselves through the 21st century.

      stevep

      Mar 11, 2014 at 9:57pm

      Andrea Reimer is a friend of developers. She has proven to be nothing more than a rubber stamp for never ending condo developments to be built in towers that clearly exceed the community bylaws for height and density. I have no respect for VISION anymore. From Point Grey Road to the Mayor calling a West End Community group a bunch of NPA hacks, to the Mayor using closure to shut down a hearing on a city plan for Chinatown because of the overwhelming objections of residents. Finally for approving the new Casino by BC Place even though the citizens of this city and the head of Coastal Health said this would lead to destruction of families and suicides due to addicted gamblers.

      VISION is only focused on developers and densification. That is not a green mandate.

      Yeah right

      Mar 12, 2014 at 7:49am

      @vancouverite

      "i do not follow this issue, but from a quick glance over the response to this new plan i have seen the raw greed of the cannibals who don't care who they fuck over to keep building more condos. but these arrogant pigs want all sweet and no sour and that is not realistic."

      You should have stopped at "i do not follow this issue" because the rest of your comment is just pure hatred towards anybody who is more successful than you. Loser.

      Rocky

      Mar 12, 2014 at 12:26pm

      People LIVE in those Condos...How is Vancouver any different than 20 years ago? We used to have Richards now on Hastings we have the Rickshaw...communities always change and adapt and "The Good Old days" never really existed.

      Martin Dunphy

      Mar 12, 2014 at 12:30pm

      Yeah right:

      Some people see wealth and poverty.
      You see winners and losers.
      With respect, one must wonder to which group you belong.

      cuz

      Mar 12, 2014 at 3:39pm

      Funny how throughout this whole article the Mayor's mouthpiece didn't mention drugs once. How can anybody discuss the DTES without mentioning drugs. Hell, there's an open air drug market down there, yet the police and the mayor's office do NOTHING to help. But hey, I can understand. Since the most vocal people in this town think that being addicted is okay since it's a personal choice. If it was your child, perhaps you might feel differently. Nothing is going to change until people in Vancouver stop enabling people who have chosen slow suicide. Maybe then the DTES might have a future. I feel for all the people below the poverty line who have to put up with such garbage because "enlightened" people who don't live there think they are helping by helping people stay addicted. Helping people stay addicted does not help them overcome their addiction.