Chinatown residents are increasingly proactive in debates around developments planned for their neighbourhood.
This week, two community groups, the Chinatown Action Group and the Chinatown Concern Group, announced they are cooperating on a project called “the People’s Vision”.
“It is centered around the needs of the community members of Chinatown and the solutions they have identified for sustaining the existing neighbourhood,” reads a new website the groups put together. “It is a call to action for our Chinatown community and all the people of Vancouver, including our elected officials at all levels of government.
“Unlike other reports and plans about Chinatown, the People’s Vision for Chinatown proposes not just buildings and parks, but also ways to develop democratic decision-making and the leadership capacity of community members,” it continues. “Communities across Vancouver want to lead decision-making for their neighbourhoods and the Chinatown community joins their voices.”
The Chinatown Concern Group is associated with the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) and has made itself a vocal participant in Chinatown-development debates for more than two years. The Chinatown Action Group has, meanwhile, focused on intergenerational relations in Chinatown and has worked to give residents who might not speak English a voice in public affairs.
Both organizations recently played active roles in opposing a Beedie Group proposal for a 12-storey apartment building at 105 Keefer Street.
A rezoning application for the development attracted passionate speakers on both sides of the debate. Vancouver city council eventually rejected the proposal on June 13. On July 14, the Beedie Group resubmitted revised plans for 105 Keefer.
In a telephone interview, Sophie Fung, a community organizer with the Chinatown Action Group, said the two groups have reviewed that amended application and now oppose it as well.
“In our joint petition, we are calling for a pause on market development,” Fung told the Straight. “Until there is a matching number of social-housing units, we don’t want to see any more market development in the community.”
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In November 2016, the Straight published a detailed study of recent or planned residential developments in Chinatown, Gastown, and the Downtown Eastside.
It found that 708 social-housing units had come online in recent years or were in the planning stages. However, for market-rate units, that number was 1,147.
Then, in December, an update to that report found that in just one month, the gap between the two had increased to 708 social-housing units compared to 1,279 market-rate units.
Fung said that until a balance is restored in Chinatown, where fully half of housing units in the neighbourhood are rented as social housing, the Chinatown Action Group will oppose any new market-rate development.