There is a horrifying trend in Vancouver’s Chinatown where more than fifty per cent of the green grocers, butchers and Cantonese restaurants have closed in the past eight years. When you think of Chinatown, it is these specific businesses that animate the area and give it a unique cultural character. Wanyee Lee is reporting in Metro News the results of the Hua Foundation findings that as these merchants age out of the area, replacement businesses are appealing to a different customer, not the Chinatown customers looking for inexpensive food, familiar fruits, and the social aspects of shopping in Chinatown. A copy of the Hua Foundation report is available here.
One of the report’s authors, Angela Ho states “The newer businesses don’t compensate for what is lost. They tend to service a higher income bracket even though they may be somewhat similar in offering Asian type food, they are catering to a different income bracket and that creates tension.”
Think of it-there were eight barbecued meat stores in Chinatown in 2009-now there are only three.Today there are only six green groceries (eleven in 2009) and twenty Cantonese restaurants left from the 36 operating in 2009. Rising real estate prices and the push for more condominium development is impacting the small Chinatown merchant, and there is no tax incentive or bonus to maintain culturally appropriate businesses in this area.
While the Hua Foundation is not implicit on how to ensure the viability of the diverse and unique Chinatown businesses, it has asked the City of Vancouver to include food assets that are cultural in their Food Policy objectives, not just communal gardens and kitchens. In the case of Chinatown, it is these specific cultural businesses that make Chinatown unique, viable, and a living history of the community that created it. Those businesses are worth protecting.
Found on the corner of Abbott St and W Hastings St, in a parking lot adjacent to the Woodward’s development.
Rezoning Application for a secured market rental housing project with commercial space on the ground floor – 95 West Hastings Street
The proposed rezoning details are reflective of Vancouver’s Rental 100 Policy:
132 units of secured market rental housing
commercial space on the ground floor
a floor space ratio of 7.62
74 vehicle parking spaces
167 bicycle parking spaces
a building height of 32m
The policy provides relaxations to developers who choose to build 100% secured market rental housing in defined locations. This incentive forms part of the City’s 2012-2021 Housing and Homelessness Strategy, which “identified the need for an additional 16,000 new units of rental housing, of which 5,000 are from purpose-built market rental units.”
In addition, the Strategy “sets aggressive targets for social housing (5,000 units by 2021) and supportive housing to end homelessness (2,900 units by 2021). The City is currently revising the Housing Strategy, noting targets exceeding those set in the current plan.
The Rental 100 Policy and it’s predecessor have been contentious – as illustrated by the court battle between the City and the West End Neighbours Residents Society. There is an open house for the West Hastings Rezoning from 5 to 8 pm on Thursday, January 26, 2017 at Vancouver Community College, Room 240.
Frances Bula in the Globe and Mail reports that the City of Vancouver will be requiring developers to ensure that roughly 25 per cent of units in new projects are “rented at rates affordable to those earning $30,000 to $80,000”. The City has faced some criticism for their eight year old “Rental 100” program that offered incentives for developers to build rentals, but also resulted in gaspingly high ‘low’ rents, including $1,360 for an east side studio. Developers will be offered an increased density bonus in exchange for the creation of affordable rental units.
Developers will be allowed to build this fall in an experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of 20 to 25 per cent of units being custom-built for affordable rental housing. Rents could range from $750 for people earning $30,000 to $2,000 a month for people earning $80,000.
Without the legal controls to reduce rents as in the United States, the Province has no regulation to give building owners a property tax break. Head planner Gill Kelley will experiment with increased density, lower parking requirements, and lower development fees to ensure a pro forma supportive of creating a building with 25 per cent affordable rental stock. Inclusionary zoning could also be contemplated, where developers are told outright that a percentage of the apartments in a building are for affordable rental in return for a density increase.
“Asked why his party did not move sooner on a policy like the one to be announced on Sunday, Mr. Robertson said Vision set precedents in the country with its previous incentives, which have boosted rental construction by hundreds of units a year, and with a rental-only zone in the Downtown Eastside.”
Is this too little too late? Frances Bula reports that the Mayor wrote the Urban Development Institute stating that new requirements were coming, and that they
“should avoid over-paying for land in the current out-of-control market…We are writing to express concerns about the amount of speculative behaviour in the real estate market,” the mayor wrote to the Urban Development Institute on July 20. “The purchase prices we are seeing reflect a housing market that is disconnected from local economics, and will lead to proposals that will be challenged to meet the City’s requirements for affordability.”
Affordable rental policy will require another level of bureaucracy to ensure that the units are rented out correctly to those income scales, and the incomes monitored to ensure the rents are correctly adjusted-as well as managing what could be a very very long waiting list.
A very special project in Chinatown has been attracting attention from locals and tourists alike. The CBC has written about the Chinatown History Windows which were designed to animate the vacant storefronts in the area. The large photos are historically accurate and often have been “stylized and recoloured ” to capture imaginations.
There is a heady legacy of what Chinese Canadians have done for Canada. In 1867 seventy per cent of the population of British Columbia was First Nations, with 4,000 Americans, 4,000 from Europe, Great Britain or Australia, and 4,000 Chinese. These early Chinese immigrants took on the arduous and at times deadly work of building the railway across Canada. From those beginnings Chinese-Canadians have faced discrimination, from a head tax to come to Canada, to not being allowed to vote until 1947. It was not until 1951 that all of the exclusionary laws were repealed.
The photos and the project has been curated by Catherine Clement who notes “These stories, they matter. They set context. They enrich us when we understand where we come from, and what has happened .”
In animating the windows, Catherine Clement has brought parts of a forgotten Chinatown community alive. Adjacent to the Chinese Cultural Centre a window documents Yucho Chow a photographer that photographed Chinatown’s citizens for four decades. The photos are fascinating, in that they show facets of everyday life in a part of the city that is often forgotten as being one of the oldest and most historical.
I have been talking with urbanist and statistician extraordinaire Andy Yan about the fact that there are two ends of the housing market that are severely pinched-the very young trying to get into the housing market, and the very old, who may want to downsize from the family home or rental they raised the kids in, only to find nothing available that can provide the accessibility, safety and security they require.
In an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun Andy Yan reflects on the opposition to the development of 105 Keefer Street “which proposed “one floor of seniors’ social housing for three floors of luxury penthouses” and which was “an act of tokenism and not a comprehensive strategy to house low-income seniors”. There was a legendary amount of correspondence to city hall on the subject, and over 150 citizens came to speak against the rezoning with 46 speaking for the rezoning. The rezoning was not approved by Council.
Andy Yan notes that “the Keefer Street proposal became a microcosm of Vancouver’s deficiencies in deep inclusion and engagement. The city is in dire need of a comprehensive housing strategy for a diverse population of seniors. A report in March from the City’s general manager of community services called for a “reset” to “improve housing affordability over the next 10 years. But the plan focuses on those under the age of 64. The oversight seems to ignore a growing population segment whose golden years are haunted by shadows of housing insecurity and social isolation”…
“The City yearns for leadership that transcends social, economic, cultural and political lines and possesses a civic imagination that goes beyond the status quo. The art of the deal needs to be countermanded by the art of building and cherishing existing communities. If this Council cannot offer this leadership, several hundred Vancouverites who opposed 105 Keefer showed that they could.” Paraphrasing Andy, “Development cannot be the one driving force-looking after our most vulnerable should also have inclusion”.
In a not surprising but still stunning reversal the proposed 12 storey tower by Beedie Development on Keefer Street was rejected by a Council vote of 8 to 3. In exchange for extra storeys the development was to contain 106 market housing units and 25 low to moderate income seniors’ units with public spaces on two lower floors.
There was passionate response for and against the project which in the words of one commenter, “could make Chinatown more like Gastown”. As Mayor Robertson noted “In my almost nine years as mayor, no issue or project has yielded such a passionate, emotional response as this rezoning application. The Beedie group put significant effort into this project over the years … and went to extraordinary lengths to adjust and revise the project based on public and community feedback. Yet, council heard overwhelming opposition from several generations of Vancouver residents on the rezoning for 105 Keefer, and concern about how to manage Chinatown’s pace of change. For that reason, I voted “no” to this rezoning proposal.”
While there is clearly the need for more housing for Chinese seniors in the neighbourhood, there were concerns about overshadowing the Chinese Classical Garden and detrimental impacts from allowing a large for profit strata in the area. Many of the people who came out to speak to Council against the development had also been involved in stopping the freeway in the 1960’s and 1970’s. A new generation of concerned citizens also got involved in understanding and championing the issues.
Matt O’Grady in Vancouver Magazine notes that the Chinatown conversation is also being played out in other Vancouver neighbourhoods. How do you allow density but still keep a neighbourhood relevant to locals with neighbourhood character? In his article Matt speaks about Director of Planning Gil Kelley’s observation that it is not density that will move us forward in this conversation, but a look at how to make 20 minute walkable neighbourhoods, where locals can access all shops, services and walk their kids to school. He notes that while this can be accomplished by a certain percentage of increased density in most neighbourhoods, Chinatown already is tangibly walkable for local residents. The question is how to ensure that housing affordability and the conservation of cultural attributes are preserved for the future.
As Gil Kelley says”“I think we can rescue and preserve Chinatown and revitalize it so that it’s not simply a museum but actually a thriving place again. It may not be exclusively Chinese. And that’s okay.”
It has been an interesting time to read the different viewpoints being expressed about the proposed 12 storey Beedie development proposed for the site at 105 Keefer Street. The site is strategic because it is an important iconic corner in Vancouver’s Chinatown, which is the largest most contiguous Chinatown in North America. The buildings have been owned by families and historical clans and often had scores of people on the property deeds, a fact that may have delayed the redevelopment of this area.
There is no doubt that there is an important historic place, central to the development of Vancouver and this country. The importance of Chinatown and these early folks that built the country through the railway and through trade has been checkered by abject racism, head taxes, and many other indignities. This group also stopped the freeway from going through Strathcona and Chinatown in the 1960’s and 1970’s creating the fabric of Vancouver as a livable place.
The challenge with the proposed Beedie building has been about scale, context, and size. In exchange for an additional two storeys, 26 units were going to be built for seniors (fully paid for by BC Housing) along with 106 market condos and an additional three storeys. But this tradeoff has been contentious with nearly two hundred people coming out to speak to Council over four days, with the majority being against the project. This has also been a touchstone for a new generation of interested Vancouverites with roots in Chinatown to learn about planning processes and fret about the erosion of this significant place by developer density. Why when there is a plan from 2011 is the City allowing rezonings?
Jim Lehto is a former development planner from the City of Vancouver and a graduate of the Harvard University Urban Design program. He wrote much of the policy for the heritage areas of Chinatown and Gastown, as well as the density transfer policy. In this opinion piece published in the Vancouver Sun Jim discusses the difference between “density” and “neighbourhood”. Jim states: “Vancouver neighbourhoods are under siege by densification. If done correctly, a host neighbourhood will survive and prosper. If done without a comprehensive understanding of the area, a host neighbourhood will no longer be recognizable physically, demographically or economically. Its resident culture and amenities will be depleted and altered beyond repair. What is happening in Chinatown is an example of one-dimensional application of density that does not consider the socio-economic, cultural, and amenity characteristics of this unique neighbourhood…The old adage “The operation was a success, and the patient died” can well apply to densification exercises that are not matched to their host neighbourhoods.”
While discretionary zoning in Chinatown allowed additional height and density, Jim notes it was not the “right” of a developer to just obtain the bonuses. Somehow the approved outright height of 70 feet allowed in 2003 morphed into an outright height of 90 feet, without a merit test. This was further compounded in 2011 with a strategy allowing permitted heights to 120 feet on the Keefer site and even higher, 150 feet along Main Street. As Jim Lehto notes “But as heights have been continually raised, the city has lost its leverage to test the merit of the project despite the original intent of the Chinatown zoning…The community against the rezoning wonders how many truly affordable senior’s units will be available, whether the form of the building respects the historic character of the neighbourhood, and is highly concerned about potential negative gentrification.”
“Densification alone is a crude and inadequate planning tool in every established neighbourhood, and especially within the complex socio-economic, cultural and heritage objectives of Chinatown. The fallout of the 105 Keefer project is the outcome of deleted zoning tools that formerly would have allowed the city to properly judge the merits of this project... If Chinatown, which is one of the most identifiable and culturally secure neighbourhoods, can be so significantly impacted by densification, then no neighbourhood is exempt. There is much damage possible in a rush to rezone and densify, without a comprehensive understanding of the host neighbourhood, a digestible densification phasing, and an inclusion plan to protect and value the people and amenities of the host neighbourhood that have evolved over time. In this time of hysterical land values, care must be taken to value what will be lost — as much as what will be built.”
Business in Vancouver has published a think piece by Kirk Lapointe regarding the contentious development of a twelve storey building by Beedie development on an empty lot in Chinatown. As Lapointe notes ” The city administration has made many mistakes in how it has approached the development of neighbourhoods, but none is more troublesome and telling than its rezoning of Chinatown. No neighbourhood would believe itself anything but unique. But the case of Chinatown is as persuasive as any in articulating how our city was created, how there were sacrifices made along the way, how people demonstrated compassion in sheltering each other from the storm, and in turn what our obligations are to honour those distinctive contributions to our culture and to our community.”
There is a clash of policy and thought on this proposal, done by a well-known and respected development group. The problem is not with the proposal, but with how we as society and the City of Vancouver itself is looking at Chinatown, already identified by Canada’s National Trust as one of the ten most endangered places in the country.
Price Tags has already documented the importance of this place, and the fact that Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest existing in North America. It contains a unique melange of culture and history, as well as the stories of people who built this country through the railway, have a rich and enduring legacy and created the Vancouver we know by stopping freeway expansion.
Lapointe notes that “of the 800 housing units built in Chinatown since Vision Vancouver assumed power, only 22 were non-market units”. Much of the pressure for redevelopment falls upon seniors who can no longer afford to stay in the area. The rather unfortunate design and scale of the proposed development does not so much address the need for housing in Chinatown, but creates the template for further higher density development that can further erode this precious area. Why do we not value what we can never replace and never replicate in this unique area?
As Lapointe states “The city has spent unwisely before on pet projects. It could spend wisely here to mop up the mess it has made. Making the developer whole here would be a rounding error on its mishaps. Beedie shouldn’t have to pay the price for a process the city shouldn’t have perpetuated. It’s time to take a step back, let the developer find another place for the proposal, and more considerately honour one of our city’s formative cultures bound to be through demographic change our most dominant in short order. “
Perth Ontario is located 83 kilometers from Ottawa and is an old town established after the War of 1812 in 1816. The Tay River runs through it, and it has a historical core of stone buildings and antique storefronts that are a visual delight to pedestrians. It is a perfect place to stroll and window shop, with many great restaurants and the wonder of the Gore Street Antique Market which is a huge store full of different antique vendors and some museum quality antiques. A hand painted scroll presented to one of Vancouver’s original steamship captains was found here and is now heading to the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
With all of this interest, it made sense for the Town of Perth to make some pedestrian “courtesy” crossings for visitors and others to cross the street. But “courtesy” takes on a whole new meaning here because in Ontario cars are not legally required to stop for them. You read that right. The use of the cross walk is at the users’ risk, and Police “would likely not lay a charge against a driver if the driver does not yield to a pedestrian. It is the responsibility of the pedestrian crossing at the ‘courtesy’ locations to ensure vehicles have stopped before they cross.”
Because the pedestrian crossings are really not safe pedestrian crossings where cars stop for pedestrians, the Town of Perth laid out additional signage on the poles letting pedestrians know they are liable if hit. The safe alternative under the Ontario Highway Act is a pedestrian activated light signal which would cost in the six figures. In this case, if the motorist hit the pedestrian while the pedestrian was crossing with a walk light the motorist would be liable.
It was Allan Jacobs formerly of the San Francisco Planning Department and the author of “Great Streets” that taught the “Curb Test”. That is a specific test where you step off the curb by one foot and wait to see if traffic will stop. If traffic will not stop, you again double the space between yourself and the curb. The Curb Test was applied at a “courtesy crossing” on Perth’s Gore Street-no one stopped. Once the Curb Test was applied and the pedestrian attempting to cross was photographed, traffic stopped. Clearly a witness with a camera made the difference to car behaviour.
Ontario has now amended their Highway Act to allow for “pedestrian crossovers” with a painted cross walk and overhead lights and pedestrian activated flashers. These however are generally for four lane roads with a minimum speed of 60 kilometers per hour and are a major expenditure. For those folks walking around Ontario’s small towns, those technology light, simple “courtesy” crossings are not pedestrian friendly, reinforcing that in Ontario, the “car is still king”.
Noted journalist Daphne Bramham in the Vancouver Sun has written an article that should be required reading for everyone in Metro Vancouver. She has cogently described our intentional neglect and universal ignorance of the deboning of Vancouver’s Chinatown. We somehow conveniently forget that it was the 17,000 Chinese labourers who built the railway across Canada between 1881 to 1884. Those workers, their descendants and others left the legacy of this very special part of the city. It was also Strathcona residents that were largely responsible for Vancouver not being cleaved in half by the building of three storey high ten lane highway in the late 1960’s. As a city we owe a lot to the legacy left by Chinatown and Strathcona. Where is the outrage of what is happening to this very special part of the city? Why isn’t this a civic, provincial and national priority?
Daphne describes the universality of the shiny city Vancouver has become, looking like any other place. She rues that the unique places ” are rapidly disappearing, and none is at greater risk than Chinatown, which teeters on the edge of extinction despite being designated a National Historic Site in 2011. It is so close to the edge that Carol Lee of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation fears that without a concerted local, provincial and national effort it may be lost by the end of this year.”
“The neighbourhood has been eroded one neon sign, one family-run business and one clan building at a time. But at greater risk than the bricks, mortar and unique streetscapes blending Chinese and late 19th century Canadian architectural styles is the neighbourhood’s cultural heritage. Hipsters have heralded gentrification. Trendy restaurants, skateboard shops, coffee bars and cannabis dispensaries may be the tipping point.”
“Design guidelines meant to maintain a ‘Chinatown look’ are often overlooked and building heights have been dramatically increased. … Intense speculation is driving up rents and displacing long-time residents, many of them seniors, who are central to the area’s rich cultural identity…Today, the neighbourhood is dotted with empty storefronts. Aging shopkeepers struggle to carry on with fewer customers and ever-increasing taxes. But the most vulnerable are seniors — many of whom are frail, female, Cantonese speakers living at the poverty line.
Some will be at Tuesday’s public hearing protesting a proposal to build a 12-storey, luxury condo building at Keefer Street and Columbia. The plan does include 25 units of social housing, but only eight of those will be available to those with the lowest incomes.
The building itself, according to the heritage consultant’s report to council, “respects the historic Chinatown context by not attempting to mimic or replicate its area neighbours. Indeed, the building’s form, scale, massing, materials and colours will help distinguish the building as a contemporary addition. In other words it will stick out like a sore thumb.”
“Myriad things have contributed to Chinatown’s decline, including decaying, century-old buildings that are expensive to repair, the encroaching chaos and dysfunction of the Downtown Eastside, and the disinterest and even disdain some Vancouver-born Chinese have for a ghetto that their ancestors worked so hard to leave.”
“Vancouver’s history is so recent that some of its retelling still hurts. But that is all the more reason this unique neighbourhood and community should be given the help it needs to survive and thrive.”
The CBC has reported that the number of people sleeping on the street in Metro Vancouver has increased by 30 per cent since the most recent 2014 count. On March 7 and 8, volunteers counted 3,605 folks who had no home. Of this number, 1,032 were “unsheltered, including those sleeping in doorways, alleys, parks or couch surfing.” Another 2,573 people were sheltered, “including those sleeping in homeless shelters, extreme weather shelters, transition houses, jails or detox facilities.”
“The committee will do further analysis, including demographic breakdowns of who is homeless, but they wanted to release what they had now to put homelessness on the agenda of the B.C. election.“We’re not going to solve this anytime soon but we can do a lot better than we’re doing.”
There have been calls for the Province to work more diligently with local municipalities on this issue. Glenn Schafer of the Vancouver Sun has also reported that the numbers could be four times higher, with factors like a low vacancy rate and high rents contributing to the problem. Most upsetting, one-third of all homeless identify as being aboriginal, while homeless youth are ten per cent of this total number with 378 counted on the nights of the survey.
We can talk about tolls on bridges and the lack of good transit in Metro Vancouver and rue the spotty decision-making of the current Provincial government. But when it comes to taking care of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens that are sleeping rough on the street, they can’t wait for any debate. What will it take for the Province to truly commit to help the most desperate in our society? Shelter is a human right, the first expression of dignity and something that everyone should have access to.
So what happens if there is a pedestrian “bridge” placed over a street between two buildings and those buildings have a change of use or are demolished? The New York Times explores this in the little bridge built in 1989 that connected Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall to a 25 storey parish house across the street at 74 Trinity Place. That parish house was demolished last year leaving this-rather significantly-as the bridge to nowhere.
Because the nearest crosswalk was over 200 feet away, it was decided that a bridge was needed to help parishioners cross. The bridge is made of steel but takes its reference from “the design of a cast-iron pedestrian footbridge that was constructed in 1866 outside St. Paul’s Chapel, a few blocks north of Trinity Church but within its parish.” Because the bridge was historically informed it has been treated as a significant item by the Landmarks Commission and will be reintegrated with the rebuilding of a new $300 million, 26-story parish building designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.
“Scripture tells us that faith is the evidence of things not seen,” the Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, Trinity’s rector, said. “The new Trinity parish hall will soon serve this community, neighborhood, and the City of New York for a fourth century.”
Los Angeles has traditionally had an impact with respect to urban growth issues on other cities, including ours. Speculation on what the defeat of Measure S signifies, and whether it is all that relevant to YVR, is welcome in Comments.
Labor and business leaders declared victory Tuesday night over a bitterly contested ballot measure that would have imposed new restrictions on building apartment towers, shops and offices in Los Angeles.
As of midnight, returns showed Measure S going down to defeat by a 2-1 margin, with more than half of precincts reporting. …
Neighborhood activists had championed Measure S as a way to reform a broken planning process at City Hall, arguing that it would prevent out-of-scale projects that ramp up traffic and fuel gentrification.
But opponents — including labor unions, business groups and Mayor Eric Garcetti — warned it could eliminate jobs and exacerbate the housing crisis, throwing the city into economic turmoil.
The divisive campaign doubled as a referendum on urbanist dreams of a denser, taller Los Angeles, bemoaned by critics as the “Manhattanization” of L.A. …
As the battle over Measure S raged this year, local lawmakers hustled to speed up updates to community plans that guide neighborhood development. Garcetti pledged last fall that he would ban private meetings between developers and planning commissioners …
Measure S targeted the long-standing practice of changing city rules to permit buildings that are taller or denser than the established restrictions would ordinarily allow.
It would have imposed a moratorium lasting up to two years on building projects that require zone changes and other alterations in city rules. It also targeted the controversial practice of “spot zoning” by barring Los Angeles officials from amending the General Plan — a document that governs development across the city — to make way for individual projects in areas they would otherwise be banned.
But the campaign was hardly a dry debate between planning wonks.
At news conferences and rallies, the Yes on S campaign railed against City Hall corruption, the eviction of poor tenants, rising homelessness and the health threats to children living along freeways.
Campaign director Jill Stewart argued that the city has been deviled by a “pay-to-play” culture in which politicians agree to rewrite zoning rules for real estate developers who sink money into their campaigns. …
Much of the debate revolved around whether Measure S would help or hurt tenants as rents continue to soar. Backers of the ballot measure argued that it would combat luxury towers that were displacing longtime renters.
Opponents countered it would squelch housing production and accelerate evictions by blocking development on land that isn’t zoned for housing.
And there was also this on the ballot:
Los Angeles voters also weighed in Tuesday on how to regulate marijuana: A ballot measure that would allow Los Angeles to tax and license commercial cannabis shops was leading by a hefty margin Tuesday night. A competing measure that was later abandoned by its proponents was trailing.
Carlito Pablo in the Georgia Straight reports on the expansion of the Vancouver waterfront container terminal owned by Port Vancouver. Just as in Deltaport, this proposed expansion is not in the City’s jurisdiction. Imagine-the Port is going to build an overpass at Centennial Road to “improve traffic flow on the port roadway for vehicles accessing Centerm by separating road and rail interactions,” the document stated. “This reduces delays to vehicles on port roadways as a result of rail blockages.”
Never mind that this new overpass completely blocks and obscures the lower floors and windows of one of the most iconic industrial buildings-The Rogers Sugar building facade, located at 123 Rogers Street.
This six storey warehouse is still in use, producing 240,000 tons of sugar products annually. This red brick structure was built in the 1920’s and has great significance as a primary industrial structure in an early growing Vancouver.
Viewed from the Powell Street overpass, the Rogers Sugar warehouse is one of the iconic views eastwards of the Vancouver waterfront.
So here’s the thing-is the smooth access of vehicles more important than the eastern view of this important building which plays a central part in the industrial development in Vancouver? And if the Port is determined to turn a hundred hectares of agricultural land in Richmond into port warehousing under the guise of federal jurisdiction, do they have any remote interest in protecting one of the most iconic waterfront views from the downtown?
The port authority should be holding more public consultations regarding their terminal expansion this year. For them it appears to be all business as usual.
The photo below shows the impact of the proposed overpass on the Rogers Sugar building facade.
As Chris Brown reports on the CBC there has been a major brouhaha regarding the City of Vancouver’s 12,000 homes that were built before 1940. In a city that had almost a thousand demolition permits taken out in 2016 (the majority in Dunbar-Southlands) the past is getting-well, lost. Of those demolished, two-thirds of the houses were built before 1940.
In response, the City has created a “Character Home zoning review” proposing to discourage the demolition of this older housing stock by permitting replacement houses to be sizably smaller. This has not gone over well with “Many homeowners, developers, pro-density groups and even key heritage advocates are all pushing back hard against the “preservationist” plan now under discussion.”
Arguments against the designation include stifling architectural design, and freezing much-needed locations for townhouses and family focused higher density. The City of Vancouver’s Director of Planing Gil Kelley notes “The younger generation is feeling sqSo opening up new options for affordability and different living option choices for them is really critical — even as people here who are older are trying to hang on to what they already know.”
There have been some issues regarding the character home designation-how will property owners be compensated for reduced returns on the property? And if a character home is deemed to be beyond rebuilding (and there will need to be guidelines to define that) can those single family lots be filled with more family friendly and affordable higher density housing forms? And in the end, can we create a new way of looking at density in this Character Home zoning review that can move the large single family areas of the city into something that is denser and more attainable for newly formed families? Our future depends on that.
Another article on our doomed Chinatown by Kerry Gold in the Globe and Mail:
Gentrification isn’t just nibbling at Chinatown’s edges. Thanks to rezoning changes, it’s taking major bites out of the neighbourhood. … Class inversion is happening in cities throughout North America. Urban cores used to be the domain of low-income groups, while the wealthier demographic lived in the suburbs. In recent years, wealthier groups are choosing urban living and pushing low-income groups to the outskirts, or further.
“You have to ask, ‘Where is this coming from? Who are you serving?’” asks Kevin Huang, executive director of the Hua Foundation, a non-profit for young Chinese-Canadians. Mr. Huang is also committed to supporting the people who form the tight-knit Chinatown community, and who are now under threat of displacement. …
“With this rezoning, I think this is a battle for the soul of Chinatown, and what does it mean for us as a city in terms of diversity and inclusion,” Mr. Huang says. …
“We seem to be treating Chinatown as a development site instead of a community,” civic historian John Atkin says.
The old mom-and-pop shops are already hurting, faced with mounting property taxes and aging ownership. The educated next generation doesn’t always want to take over the old business. And those new corporate retailers wouldn’t be able to buy from within the neighbourhood or from small local farms the way current businesses have for a century. The old local economy of Chinatown – a model of sustainability before it became a buzzword – would be destroyed….
Melody Ma, a self-professed “policy wonk,” grew up attending dance classes in Chinatown. Both Ms. Ma and Mr. Huang see the city’s failure to prioritize people, with their histories and traditions and lives, as the problem. Other cities have adopted culture as an integral part of their urban planning, including New Westminster and Montreal, so they’ve asked Vancouver City to consider doing the same. …
“That means developers will have to make sure they consider the needs of the community prior to even talking to city hall – that we’re recognizing the culture and history and the aspirations of the people who live there,” she says.
It’s more than the buildings. Unless the culture is preserved, the place becomes commodified and soulless, she says. To thwart displacement, the city offers up bigger building potential in exchange for a few units of social housing. But what good is social housing if a community is wiped out? …
Small businesses such as Mr. Mah’s face deeper challenges if the city doesn’t craft policies to protect them. …
But pressure on the community will only intensify because the area is in the crosshairs of future densification. A couple of blocks away, the viaducts will come down and the new St. Paul’s Hospital will transform the historic area into a hub of high-tech medical care.
Ms. Ma says “it was a mountain to climb” just getting council to agree to consider culture as a priority.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘How do we place a culture or community first – rather than just follow finance?’”
I am a loss to understand what is wanted for Chinatown – or what is even possible.
Should it be a goal to “prioritize people, with their histories and traditions and lives,” if it means we’re intending to preserve a cultural product that was a consequence of one of the most racist periods in our history. Chinatown was a ghetto in the worst sense of the word.
Is the desire to exclude anything that doesn’t reflect that era?
And even if there was an inherent racism in that assumption of exclusion, how can a zoning code preserve or even encourage businesses no longer wanted, no longer viable?
The forces of time and change mean there is essentially no hope to maintain the cultural moment of Chinatown. Surrounding development forces, the removal of the Viaducts, a new St. Paul’s and changing demographics guarantee that.
Why would we set ourselves up for failure?
Shaping urban form and use is the purpose of zoning and development bylaws. Saving a culture is not. And that’s as true for the gay village on Davie and the Punjabi Village on Main as it is for Chinatown on Main.
Price Tags asked historian and heritage advocate John Atkin how he would rezone Chinatown. Here’s his solution:
A Cultural Landscape Not a Development Area
Chinatown is both a nationally recognized historic district spanning Pender to Gore with its distinctive and unique Society buildings, and it is the surrounding business district which maintains the area’s traditional retail of bbq meats, fruits, vegetables, and live fish. Together they form a cultural landscape that ‘provides the vitality and living colour that gives Chinatown its distinctive character.’
Neighbourhoods and communities do change and evolve and while no one wants to see Chinatown preserved as a theme park-like environment (we come close enough with the dragon street lights, the ginkgo trees and the ‘village’ street-style sidewalk paving patterns) the community deserves a careful, well thought out planning approach that builds upon the existing neighbourhood’s unique and quirky streets.
However as they stand now the proposed zoning revisions offer a conflicting vision for this important neighbourhood. On one hand there is a set of guidelines that riffs on the area’s pattern of development while the other promotes over scaled frontages and heights that threaten the very elements that makes Chinatown interesting.
Why not step back and look at Chinatown through a different lens; that of a cultural landscape. As defined by UNESCO, a cultural landscape is “that of which retains an active social role in contemporary society closely associated with the traditional way of life, and in which the evolutionary process is still in progress [and] at the same time it exhibits significant material evidence of its evolution over time.” With this in mind, a more holistic approach to Chinatown which included retail retention, incremental development and new residential space within the existing fabric would begin to build a complete community.
In that light, the proposed revisions to the zoning that respond to the existing building pattern offer a really good starting point. For Pender Street, the revisions acknowledge the significance of its built form and pattern of retail which makes up the core of the HA-1 zone (also the boundary of the National Historic District) with an outright 3.75 FSR, and a 50 ft. height. The conditional FSR rises to 5.45 providing 7 floors within a height of 75 ft. These revisions along with the maximum 50 ft retail frontage for new construction works well for the street. All that’s missing is some encouragement to create opportunities to reanimate the historic Market Alley with new retail opportunities.
Outside of Pender Street, the proposed revisions offers a fine grained approach for future development calling for a 6,5 FSR with 8 floors within a height of 90ft. Street frontages are set to a maximum of 75 ft., (In an ideal world the maximum frontage would be 50ft. providing two 25ft. store fronts) while maintaining a maximum 50 ft. shop frontage.
There are other welcome adjustments in building form including the retail with mezzanine requirement and the second floor commercial which could be social or seniors housing. There is even a modest bonus for laneway retail which over time could evolve into an intriguing set of secondary streets. This could be the start of providing a framework for the entire neighbourhood outside of the Pender Street core, including Main Street which has enough over-scaled development already.
Along with the above there are a few simple measures to help the area including:
a prohibition on rezoning within the larger Chinatown boundary. What’s the point of developing a set of parameters for development if the first thing a developer does is ask for changes. This would also allow the neighbourhood some breathing space and a chance for the development community to adapt to a new and different way of building.
Retail frontages should remain as individual shop fronts and not be allowed to be knocked together
A strategy for protecting existing and vital retail, necessary for a living community, should be developed. A stable and supported retail environment could encourage other stores to open
And for new construction, the Chinatown Design Guidelines should be thrown away since they only promote an inaccurate pastiche of Chinatown character based on a lack of understanding of the architecture of the neighbourhood. Each project should be considered on its own merit.
Chinatown speaks to a larger and more complex history of migration, survival and adaptation and it deserves careful consideration, care and attention, there’s more to revitalization than just tinkering with the zoning.
Over the last few years, the price of buying a home or renting an apartment has become so burdensome that it pervades almost every issue, from the state’s elevated poverty rate to the debate about multimillion-dollar tear-downs to the lines of recreational vehicles parked on Silicon Valley side streets.
The town of Mountain View, Google’s home, wants to do something about that. Given new marching orders from a reform-minded City Council that was swept into office here two years ago, Mountain View is looking to increase its housing stock by as much as 50 percent — including as many as 10,000 units in the area around Google’s main campus.
… voters across California passed various affordable housing measures along with new transit funding, and, in some cases, rejected efforts to restrict or cap development. In Palo Alto, several pro-housing candidates were elected to the City Council. Residents in Mountain View approved rent control. …
Four years ago — as Google was swelling, rents were exploding and eviction stories were becoming commonplace — Mountain View started looking to redevelop North Bayshore. The acrimonious debate over whether to add housing included both predictions that the neighborhood would fill up with the tech equivalent of Chinese factory dorms and worries that residents would disturb a habitat for local burrowing owls.
One city councilman even suggested that if the city built housing in North Bayshore, it could create a Google voting bloc that would turn Mountain View into a factory town. But after the City Council decided against adding new housing, voters responded by electing three pro-housing candidates, including Mr. Siegel. One of the new Council’s first acts was to instruct the city’s planning department to study ways to add housing to North Bayshore. That decision was unanimous.
Since then the Council has approved about 2,000 new units elsewhere in town. In all, Mountain View is studying how to add a total of 17,000 units. Mr. Siegel said developers submitted more proposals for housing than the city could process, so the town was looking to hire more planners.
There are plenty of desks and a budget to pay them, but few want to take the job.
“They can’t afford to live here,” Mr. Siegel said.
Dr. Wu will discuss processes of studentification as a new feature and process of gentrification.
Dr. Wu’s past work has examined Nanjing, one of China’s largest urban centres, and a process that Dr. Wu calls jiaoyufication. Dr. Wu stretches his original studies to consider cities with large numbers of Chinese immigrant populations such as Greater Vancouver and Manchester, and new processes of gentrification and displacement that are being instigated by various forms and configurations of studentification.
Room 1410, SFU Vancouver (Harbour Centre) – 515 W. Hastings Street