The following is a collection of speeches from members of the public, about Beedie’s proposed development at 105 Keefer Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
These speeches were delivered to the City of Vancouver’s Development Permit Board at Vancouver City Hall on May 29th and June 12, 2023.
If you would like to add your own transcript, please email it to info[at]chinatown.today along with your speaker number and the date you delivered your speech.
May 29 Hearing
105 Keefer Hearing Notes – Patrick Leong
- Thank you to the Development Permit Board, and especially Kathy and May, for providing this opportunity for the community to speak on this application.
- My name is Patrick Leong, and I completed my Bachelor’s degree in history at UBC in 2021, focusing on Chinese Canadian studies. I also hold a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Carleton University.
- Above all, I am a concerned Vancouver resident and strongly oppose the development application currently being put forth by Beedie Living.
- My Great Grandfather, Chap Kwong Leong, first settled in Canada in 1926. At the time, his address on the ship’s manifest was 108 E Pender.
- His children, their children, and their children’s children have all grown up around Chinatown and still have the fondest memories of the community to this day.
- This is all despite numerous attempts, from various levels of government, to erase Chinatown and its residents from the map. The story of Chinatown is one of resistance – resistance against the Head Tax, against Chinese exclusion, against the anti-Asian riots and racism, against RCMP raids and harassment, against urban renewal and the freeway, against the firehall and against the shutdown of its BBQ meat stores.
Affordability and Chinatown’s Seniors
- The story of Chinatown is also one of resiliency and community-building. A community that, back in the day, brought together many of this city’s marginalized peoples. That today fosters a vibrant and crucial community for low-income residents, especially for Chinatown’s seniors.
- However, this community hangs in the balance, as they face rising housing costs and a lack of sufficient housing and eldercare. In the words of UBC Public Scholar Louisa-May Khoo in the Vancouver Chinatown Seniors Affordable Housing Inventory Report, “seniors in Chinatown and its vicinity live in extreme precarity” and immediate attention is required “as a tangible manifestation of the political commitment towards cultural redress in the historical discrimination against people of Chinese descent.”
- From 2020 to 2021, I was a research assistant on a documentary called Clash on Keefer, which documented the reactions to this development in 2017 and beforehand. I helped to interview many activists and community members in Chinatown, and heard a broad range of opposition to Beedie’s proposals for this culturally-sensitive area, especially development that would directly contribute to gentrification and skyrocketing housing costs, not to mention one that removed its social housing components and provides limited offerings to seniors.
- To be honest, I am incredulous that we even have to be here today. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Did the towers at Main and Keefer save Chinatown? No. We have seen, time and again, that bad, profit-driven development did not help Chinatown’s small businesses or its residents, particularly the most low-income and elderly – who are the living heritage of Chinatown.
- Profit-driven development displaces these residents, pushing them out and destroying the character of this historic neighbourhood, rather than providing the urgent amenities and services that current residents actually need.
- I want to stress that the choice before us is not between this building and nothing. None of us here would want the lot to remain empty forever. The choice here is really between a harmful project and the potential for something better, a development that will actually serve the community instead of displacing it. HA-1A Design Policies
- With the time I have left, I want to emphasize how Beedie’s proposal fails to fulfill the standards of the HA-1A Design Policies and the City of Vancouver’s goals and priorities.
- BC Supreme Court Justice Brongers agreed with the City that the Development Permit Board, in its 2017 decision to reject this proposal, effectively concluded that the application was non-compliant with the Zoning By-law and its associated regulations after assessing the external design considerations in section 4.17 of the HA-1A schedule.
- Consideration must be given to clause (c), meaning “the effect of new visible exterior surfaces on the architectural and historically significant characteristics of the existing building on site or adjacent buildings.”
- In the words of then-Board member Dobrovolny, “more work was required to reduce the amount of massing on the building and strengthen the saw tooth pattern, including by removing the glass boxes; the buildings fronting Memorial Square did not include frontages that offered pedestrian interest; and Beedie had not engaged a professional artist, with local and contextual knowledge, for the detailed development of the building’s ornamentation, decorative panels, fittings, railings and brick work.”
- Mr. Dobrovolny also stated that significant reductions in floor area would be required in locations to mitigate view impacts and provide a more appropriate backdrop to the memorial plaza.
- I believe that the rationale that the Board provided in 2017 still stands and clearly speaks to the harm that this project will cause on the historical nature and public spaces of Chinatown and the ability for these spaces to foster a sense of community.
- Even worse, it will exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis and lack of support for current residents in the neighbourhood. For these reasons, I strongly oppose the proposal.
Hello everyone, my name is Clare Yow and I’m here today with my 3-year old son Theo. We are here as members of the Chinese-Canadian diaspora — as an immigrant, as settlers on these unceded, ancestral, stolen and occupied homelands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
I am an artist who has rented a below-market cost art studio in the Sun Wah Centre in Chinatown for over 5 years now. I am deeply concerned about 105 Keefer and the threat it presents to existing residents in the Downtown Eastside — many of whom are low-income, working class, and senior citizens. I speak on behalf of my family in opposition to this project, just as my husband Leo did in 2017 when the development was last rejected. I strongly urge the Board to do the same again.
The right to safe, secure, affordable long term housing is one that is denied to so many in the neighbourhood. I have seen it firsthand when, in 2021, I accompanied a tenant organizer through the halls of an SRO building of mostly Chinese residents, which included young students and elders alike.
My concern about this application stems from what I’ve learned about Chinese- Canadian history and my own family’s experiences — my son’s paternal great- great-grandfather came to Vancouver’s Chinatown as a ‘paper son’ during the Exclusion Era and like many, endured great pains from the Chinese Exclusion Act, defying incredible odds to eventually bring over family members from Hong Kong.
Vancouver’s Chinatown was founded on the backs of the working poor — Chinese labourers who fought to live in the face of horrific, sanctioned discrimination in a white settler society. Seeing as the HA-1A guidelines recognize the unique contextual circumstances of the site in question — especially with its proximity to the Chinatown Memorial Monument which honours veterans and labourers — I am concerned that 105 Keefer does not contextually accommodate the quote, “evolving activities that make this district an asset to the city.”
As was the case when Chinatown was first developed, it is still working class labour that makes Chinatown an asset to the city today.
This labour is still highly visible at small businesses throughout the neighbourhood and many who work in Chinatown also live there.
Citing the City of Vancouver’s urban planning focus on liveability, I ask the Board to consider, by potentially approving 105 Keefer, who is excluded from that concept of livability?
How does it meet your goals of quote, “creating urban environments where residents feel supported and engaged” when a market condo will simply bring an influx of wealth and open the door for more gentrifying businesses that are not just unaffordable, but culturally irrelevant to most existing residents?
How does 105 Keefer actually fit in with the Downtown Eastside Plan to improve the lives of neighbourhood residents and community members? It doesn’t.
I believe the development not only expedites the displacement of existing residents and workers and is not the “careful revitalization” that Beedie Living claims they are engaged in. Further to that, I refer back to Board member Kelley’s comments in 2017’s rejection that 105 Keefer is, quote, “an important site with such an important design signification in Chinatown” and that “the application has not met the design test.”
Cultural and artistic heritage is treated like a commodity to the investor class — with ornamental railings, traditional vertical signage, and whatever the ‘Spirit of Chinatown’ in Appendix E of Beedie’s application is. In 2017, Mr. Kelly further said that there was a lack of community engagement around design issues and in the six years since, there has not been any engagement with the community to learn more and do better.
Your HA-1A policies are meant to encourage contemporary new development that is responsive to the community’s established cultural and historic identity. 105 Keefer would claim to be responsive but is really an insult to the Memorial Plaza, and an insult to the historical legacy of the Chinese-Canadian community and our living cultural heritage. Many in the community have repeatedly said this over the years.
I want to end by reminding the Board of the City’s commitment to Heritage, to “not only acknowledge our past, but to identify, protect, and pass on diverse cultural values and assets to future generations.” This project is neither inclusive nor equitable for a vast majority of Chinatown’s residents.
My son is a 5th generation Chinese-Canadian. His generation will inherit the legacy of the decisions that Council and the Permit Board are making today and that will reverberate for decades to come. This is just as we inherited the legacy of our Chinatown elders who, in the 1960s, took up the fight against urban renewal and the freeway that bulldozed through Hogan’s Alley and would have continued through Chinatown and downtown. We all reap the benefits of that grassroots movement now.
To the Board, I urge you to please reject this development application once again. Let us always remember the fighting spirit of Chinatown’s roots. Thank you.
My name is Mark Lee. My Chinese name is 陳德聰.
I am the fifth generation of my family in Canada. My great great grandfather’s name was 陳穩宗, he was one of the founding members of the Chin Wing Chun Society 陳穎川總堂. His picture and the picture of his son, 陳孔墉 hang on the wall of the board room on the top floor of the Chin Society building. Pictures of my late grandfather 陳炳活 and my grandmother 陳何素英 are sitting above the mahjong tables where elders still gather to play. My grandmother is now too old to make her way down to Chinatown, but I continue to come nearly every day.
My great great grandfather used to provide translation and interpreting services for newcomers, and by what I can only
consider cosmic serendipity, I am now a Certified Translator.
I have worked as an interpreter and translator in Chinatown the entirety of my career. When the last wave of “Chinatown revitalization” began, I was 21. I am now 32. I watched from 2014-2017—a timeframe that lines up with that of Beedie’s previous applications for this site—as 6 new buildings, added 550 “feet on the street” ostensibly to revitalize the Chinatown neighbourhood. But what those buildings did was irreversibly shrink Chinatown. The entire block of Main Street between Keefer and E Georgia has been lost. It is unrecognizable as Chinatown, and features signs that say “Crosstown”. Likewise around the corner down Keefer, Chinatown does not begin again until you reach Chinatown Plaza. Across the street where the Starbucks went in when the new development went up, and which is now empty, we also see a building that is completely unrecognizable and that we have heard from seniors in the neighbourhood actually made it harder to wayfind because they could no longer recognize where they were.
I want to draw your attention to the Architectural Design Rationale on Pages 17 and 18 of Appendix E to the Development Permit Application. Here we have a couple of things talking about “Chinatown Character,” “Colours and Materials,” “Interface with Chinatown Memorial Plaza,” and then on the next page “Circulation Concept,” “Signage,” “Courtyards,” and “Lane Animation.”
I want to speak to this as someone who has a very strong connection to a very historic building in Chinatown that I have looked at since I was a small child. When I look at that building, the Chin Wing Chun Society building, I recognize that building and elements of that building that have been attempted in some of the developments that have come into Chinatown since then. When I say “attempted” it’s because they don’t hit the mark, not even one of them. I can name all six that went up in this period of time, and all of them obviously tried to pull something off that looked like Chinatown, and all of them are caricatures of Chinatown. Some of them are gold-plated, and I understand the thought is that Chinese people like gold. I see the offensive use of the colour red, and they must think “the lanterns are red, Chinese people like red.” But what we do not see, is an interaction between the design of the building and the actual history and the actual people who are connected to this place.
In “Chinatown Character” they say that “the proposal also explores the opportunity to introduce colour inspired by the classic vibrancy of the neighbourhood” and I think this was in response to some of the previous rejections of the proposal. But the colours on the models downstairs, the colours in the renderings, I don’t see any of those colours in Chinatown. We see a lot of brick, we see a lot of interesting architecture on awnings, we see very specific tiling, but we don’t see buildings that are just a big block—except for the new ones that are called “Keefer Block,” and are just a big cube on the lot.
NOTE THAT THE FOLLOWING WAS NOT DELIVERED AT COUNCIL DUE TO THE TIME LIMIT BEING REACHED
In “Colour and Materials” they say that “the inset glass panels distinguish each bay with colour drawn from Chinatown and greyed out and softened to please and caress the eye” and “the guardrails are proposed to be fritted glass with patterns inspired by Chinatown ornamental railings.” Meanwhile, the images above these paragraphs are iconic Chinatown society buildings. The proposal wants to anachronistically pluck random elements of Chinatown and bastardize them for their kitchy vibe, but simultaneously grey us out.
In “Interface with the Chinatown Memorial Plaza” they claim that “through an increased setback of the storefronts from the plaza, and by expanding the Plaza area by 26% over the service road” they are maintaining respect for the monument. But true respect for the monument would have entailed learning about the current uses of the plaza where we already routinely block off the service road and use it as part of the plaza. More egregious is their intent to “allow for retail uses to spill out onto the private frontage adjacent” to the plaza. The plaza is not a patio. Moreover, the anachronistic nature of the application is further underscored by reference to the “Chinatown Night Market,” which the Chinatown BIA, which is championing this application, cancelled in protest of expanded community consultation in Chinatown.
In “Circulation Concept” they reference something that to a passive observer may not immediately raise any flags about racist appropriation. They say that “from the Main Entrance, residents can continue through the new passage to the lane, traversing the site like the traditional courtyards of Chinatown.” What? What traditional courtyards of Chinatown? Courtyards are not a traditional feature of Vancouver’s Chinatown, but I think you can see the pattern here.
In “Signage” they seek to emulate the vertical neon signs of Chinatown’s past. This is a popular gimmick for new developments, but can easily be seen as disrespect for our heritage by newcomers. One example is the tenant of the Chin Wing Chun Society building pulling the old Sai Woo sign from storage and erecting it on the building without consent. Nowadays, most of the neon signs in Chinatown are gentrifying businesses capitalizing on our heritage.
In “Courtyards” they double down on the courtyard thing, which is clearly meant to be a Chinese element, but is completely out of character with our Chinatown. It feels very much like someone who has been to tourist sites in China before, and thinks that that is what Vancouver’s Chinatown is, without ever setting foot here. Frankly, it is embarrassingly racist.
In “Lane Animation” they propose to animate the lanes and put a cute little photo of an alley with lanterns hanging. Unfortunately, in the context of the rest of their references to passageways and the air of Chinese mysticism, this part of the proposal evokes in me a concern about the persistent racist myth that there are secret tunnels and passageways between buildings and underground in Chinatown.
At the end of the day, the proposal before you does not fit into the neighbourhood, no matter how hard these people try to make it fit. It has become such a flashpoint because this is such an insult to the people who are in Chinatown. In conclusion I urge you to work with your legal team to properly document the reasons for your rejection this time so we don’t have to come back here to beat this dead horse.
Good evening members of the Development Permit Board, my name is Rachel Lau and I’m here today to speak in opposition of the 105 Keefer St development proposed by Beedie Living. Having grown up as the child of a small-business owner in Chinatown, this neighbourhood is an integral part of my sense of belonging as a Chinese person in Vancouver. As a young adult, I have worked and volunteered in the neighbourhood serving low-income Chinese seniors in Chinatown since 2016. In this time, I have witnessed jarring changes to the neighbourhood that have been exacerbated by gentrification and development. And it is time for the City of Vancouver to seriously consider the cultural and historical significance of this neighbourhood and what kind of development will serve the City’s goals and priorities of affordability, housing, diversity, equity, and reconciliation.
I was 19 when our community fought this development, and now I’m 25. In the past six years, Beedie has made no effort to consult with the Chinatown community on the suitability of the proposed development at 105 Keefer St. And when I say “community”, I am referring to those who want to make Chinatown a place where intergenerational connection and care can thrive and not those who have a vested interest in turning Chinatown into a tokenized playground for the wealthy. If nothing has changed about Beedie’s original application from 2017, why should it be approved today? In 2017, Mr. Kelley of the Development Permit Board noted that “this is an important site with such an important design signification in Chinatown and in his view the application has not met the design test”. According to the DPB, an example of a design issue stated by Mr. Dobrovolny is that the
“effect of the new visible exterior surfaces has not fully satisfied the designed guidelines” in relation to the “massing on the building…which would require a significant reduction in the floor area in locations to mitigate view impacts and provide a more appropriate back drop to the memorial plaza”.
Moreover, Mr. Kelley noted:
“should the applicant decide to amend their application for the DPB for a development permit, he personally encourages the applicant team to more fully engage the community around the design issues. To engage the community more deeply would help to meet the design test.”
But has the applicant Beedie done so in the last 6 years? They have not. Instead, they have chosen to pursue a litigious BC Supreme court challenge so the City of Vancouver would be required to reconsider their unchanged development proposal for 105 Keefer St. I invite us all to ask ourselves, “What do Beedie’s actions say about their regard for the Chinatown community?”
It’s time to go back to the drawing board. Since 2017, the applicant Beedie Living has not made any changes to their original application that was rejected by the Development Permit Board. And as it currently stands, the proposed development does not align with the City’s goals and priorities to address affordability and the housing crisis as well as issues around diversity and social equity. Moving forward, this application and any proposed changes by the applicant cannot simply be approved at the discretion of the Director of Planning. Given the cultural and historical significance of the Memorial Square site and the importance of Chinatown to many, any changes must be reviewed by the public, residents of the neighbourhood, and city design review committees through a resubmission process. The question is: does this Board want to leave a legacy of a Chinatown for people or for profit? The Development Permit Board refused this application in 2017, and I implore you to refuse it again today.
My name is Lillian Deeb, I am a worker advocate by trade. I have many years of experience interpreting, enforcing, and negotiating collective agreements, employer policies, relevant legislation, and case law, so I know a little bit about the decision before you. I am also on the Board of the Vancouver Tenants Union, and I’ve been helping to organize in the DTES and Chinatown these last few weeks when we found out about the judicial review decision.
I read the judge’s decision regarding the so-called lack of procedural fairness afforded to Beedie by the City. The judge, in my understanding, simply said the reasons for rejecting their proposal were not sufficiently articulated to Beedie. I will not pretend to be an expert in zoning policies or guidelines – that is your role here. However, I do know that the Board had good reasons for rejecting the proposal in 2017 and, in my estimation, it is your job as the board to have fidelity to that decision and prepare a sufficient articulation.
I implore you to do this because consistency in the board’s application of the law is paramount to the whole legal system this board operates within, but for another reason that has not been discussed sufficiently in my opinion: procedural fairness for the community. Was the community notified of the opportunity to certify and become an intervenor in this judicial review? Was the community notified that the decision that was made 5 times would be overturned, simply because Beedie had enough money to throw every argument, no matter how flimsy, at the wall to see what stuck? No, we were not. So we are here now.
By November 2017, this community turned out 5 times to have their voices heard. 5 years of fighting for Chinese seniors to even have access to their rights as citizens, to speak at City Hall and the DPB. I was there in 2017 – I was completely in awe of my friends who were deeply embedded in the intergenerational organizing that was necessary to make it happen. They did all the translation themselves, until FINALLY the city began providing translation. They had to fight to extend one’s speaking time if one needed translation, where before one’s time was effectively cut in half. They had to do all the transportation, try to ensure people’s physical safety and accessibility were cared for. The community really came together to have their voices heard. And they won. 5 times. Beedie’s applications were rejected 5 times.
500+ residents of the neighbourhood came out on Thursday to affirm their commitment and need to see 100% culturally appropriate social housing at welfare and pension rates at 105 Keefer. We know what the community needs, and we know that this need has a solid footing in the zoning for the site and the legal context in which we are engaged currently.
There are absolutely solid grounds to reject this project a 6th time. It is simply your job to articulate it.
June 12 Hearing
My name is Melody Ma and my Chinese name is Ma Yun Ya, and I am here to speak against 105 Keefer.
I was born and raised in Vancouver. I learned Chinese dancing and the Chinese that I used to help elders at the hearing today
in Chinatown. Growing up, I was part of every Lunar New Year Parade and it was not until when I was much older that I saw it
for the first time.
Having never visited China until my late teens, everything I know about my culture as a Chinese Canadian was and still is from
Chinatown. This is where I learned, breathed and lived my culture to this day. I still do my grocery shopping in Chinatown, work
on art projects with seniors, and help wrap the fire dragon. Chinatown is a special place, because it is where I can live and
practice my cultural identity as a Chinese Canadian. There are few neighbourhoods in Vancouver where you can do that. Let’s
admit it, watching a lion dance in a mall – no matter how “clean” it is –- is just not the same as in Chinatown.
I’ve always accepted the built environment of Chinatown with all of its incredible cultural assets are just a fact of life and that
they’ve always been there. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that it was people like Shirley Chan, Joe Wai and Hayne
Wai who fought in these very council chambers to prevent a freeway to ram through Chinatown.
Today, it is my duty to follow in my elders’ footsteps to fight for Chinatown and oppose 105 Keefer, so that there is a culturally-
appropriate Chinatown for our elders, for the current generation, and for next generations after us.
In 2017, the Development Permit Board said, 105 Keefer is simply not good enough. The community said it’s not good enough,
the City has said it’s not good enough –- multiple times over and over again for a decade. The 2017 Planning Director clearly
said that it didn’t meet the design test, and it still doesn’t.
However, instead of working with the community or modifying the project based on the Development Permit Board’s feedback,
the reason why 105 Keefer is an empty parking lot right now is because Beedie decided to pursue a multi-year litigation process
to sue their way to be able to build their project. This shows that they’ve never ever intended to build something that is
contextual from a design, culture or social perspective.
Beedie never intended to develop a project that would be appropriate for this culturally-sensitive site that flanks the memorial
square that honours our ancestors who died and fought for my democratic right to speak to you here today.
Instead, here we are again, looking at the same project that the 2017 Development Permit Board has already rejected. I want to emphasize that the Board found Beedie’s project was non-compliant to the HA-1A zoning policies. The BC Supreme Court
Judge upheld the decision that the Board was in their statutory authority to have found it non-compliant. Simply said, the
Beedie’s development proposal does not comply with the zoning. The BC Supreme Court Judge agreed that is the case.
But here we are again, looking at Beedie’s project with slapped-on red elevators that stick out like sore thumbs painted red to
look more “Chinese”. That is culturally appropriative at its best, and racist at its worst. We’re looking at a project with glass
penthouses overlooking the poorest postal code in Vancouver, that both the Urban Design Panel and the Development Permit
Board have said should be deleted outright. On top of that, both the Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee and the
Development Permit Board have said that the project should reduce its massing for a fine-grain design that’s more inline with
Chinatown’s design context. All to say, Beedie’s design simply does not meet the zoning guidelines. Period.
New buildings in Chinatown have been a failure both from a social perspective and from a design perspective. I’ve led urban
planning college classes on walking tours in Chinatown, and everyone always gasps and shakes their heads when they see the
new developments that have culturally-appropriative design such as inappropriate dragon motifs, a massive lantern that looks
like a mosquito lantern, big gongs, garbled English letters that supposed to look ancient Chinese characters, and designs that
evokes imperial China, not Chinatown.
The claim that there’s no development activity happening in Chinatown is misinformation. There is a project that is actively being
built on Keefer St right now called Sparrow. Ignoring the fact that a condo unit there can cost up to $1.9million dollars in one of
the lowest income neighbourhoods, if you look at the concrete, metal, and glass facade of the building, it could very well be any
building on Main St. Nothing about it says it’s in Chinatown at all. Why I’m bringing this up is that Sparrow was a building that
had its final design ultimately approved by the City with discretion. And it is an irreversible failure.
This is why any design changes at 105 Keefer, which will be a gateway building of Chinatown, should not be approved with
changes at the discretion of the Director of Planning. Any design changes must go through a resubmission process that
considers the input of the community, public and the city’s multiple design committees.
Businesses can get foot traffic, and Chinatown can be revitalized in so many ways, such as opening up and activating public
spaces, and recruiting culturally-appropriate businesses to Chinatown – things which other Business Improvement Associations
actively do successfully in other neighbourhoods. Feces and graffiti can be cleaned up with some tongs and some paint, you do
not need an entire culturally-offensive condo that economically displaces its residents to do that. If this project is approved, it will
be there forever, beyond all our lifetimes here today. This decision is irreversible.
I implore you to consider the weight of your decision. The hundreds of seniors and youth gathered at the steps of City Hall today
do not have the power to make a decision that will disproportionately impact us and will inevitably erase our culture. It is you
who will decide and shape the future of Chinatown and our lives with your decision. You have the power to shape how current
and future generations of Chinese Canadians and Vancouveries will live and learn their collective culture. Please reject 105
Keefer outright once again. Stop cultural erasure. Stop economic displacement. Now, that will be true progress.
Good afternoon everyone. 大家好. daai6 gaa1 hou2. My name is ▇▇ ▇▇ . I represent myself. I have been volunteering with Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice for the past year. My parents were first-generation immigrants from China to Singapore, so I empathize with the Chinatown seniors who struggle with the language barrier.
I attended the tenant union’s rally at Chinatown memorial plaza on 25th May. It sounds like the priority for the residents in Chinatown and the adjacent Downtown Eastside is affordability. Why is housing so unaffordable in Vancouver? It is not because there is not enough supply of housing, but because privately owned homes like condos are being used as speculative assets. The rising cost of living is causing many young people to move away.
Social housing has a stigma in North America for being unsafe and attracting crime. Elsewhere in the world, there is no such stigma. In Vienna, more than 60 percent of residents live in social housing. That said, co-operative housing could be a middle ground.
In Singapore, public housing provided me with a stable childhood. The buildings look plain and utilitarian, with a void deck on the ground floor used for community activities, and sometimes artists are invited to paint murals for special occasions. There are many restrictions on purchasing units, and with government subsidizes, the average cost of a 3 bedroom apartment can be kept as low as $300,000 for first-time buyers. (Currency conversion rate is about 1 to 1.) This is how the Singapore government helps young people secure home ownership.
My question is, can Beedie Living keep prices low? If not, then the City of Vancouver should consider purchasing the land from Beedieng Living, or doing a land swap with them, to build subsidized housing on 105 Keefer, instead of letting the area remain fenced off while the development stalemate drags on.
I also note that some seniors do not mind a taller building. Building taller is one possible way to reduce the cost per unit. As of now, many high-rise condos have already been built in Chinatown, and their attempt to emulate the look of Chinatown, such as by using fake bricks, can be a bit awkward. Meanwhile, heritage buildings are in disrepair and need refurbishment. The contrast widens the divide in the community. A better way to revitalize Chinatown would be by dedicating efforts to preserving the existing buildings, rather than building new modern buildings. Cities like Singapore and Penang in Malaysia preserved entire districts of historical shophouses, which are now major tourist attractions, and modern buildings were developed elsewhere. If the entire neighborhood of Shaughnessy can be preserved for its historical significance, why can’t the same be done for Chinatown?
In addition, there are many shopfronts in Chinatown that are currently closed, while the proposed condo intends to reserve the ground floor for shops. Chinatown does not need more spaces for shops. It needs more public spaces for people to socialize. The seniors in Chinatown seem to be having difficulty finding communal spaces. I propose that the ground floor of the building at 105 Keefer be reserved for social activities, like the void decks in Singapore.
Respecting ancestors is a spiritual practice for Chinese people, and it is possible for the building at 105 Keefer to honor this. I suggest a permanent mural depicting Chinese Canadian pioneers on the side of the building facing the memorial. This would help to amplify the memorial, instead of overshadowing it. The mural artist can work alongside the Chinatown Memorial Square Redesign project to create a seamless look for the area.
Vancouver Chinatown is situated on unceded Indigenous territory. It is where marginalized people coexist and support one another. We want Chinatown to be a place for everyone. 105 Keefer is an opportunity to set an example for how urban planning could be done better.
I acknowledge that I have no control over what the DPB ultimately decides to do, so if the condo gets built in the end, the City of Vancouver has a responsibility to assist the relocation of residents who can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood. The City could partner with neighboring cities like Richmond, where accommodation might be affordable and seniors might be able to access social services and language support. And Beedie Living, the developer, should pay for the expenses of relocation, plus the emotional toll this takes. Please don’t leave it for the non-profits to pick up the pieces of a disintegrated community. Thank you.
My name is Wendy Au Yeung, and I have lived, worked in and advocated for the wellbeing of the Chinatown/DTES/Strathcona community for the past 8 years. I’m a friend and neighbour to many seniors in the Chinatown community, listening to their hopes and have supported them creating the kind of community they wish to live in.
Today I am speaking against the Beedie’s proposal at the 105 Keefer site, just as I did back in 2017. I do not believe that it in any way, design or socio- economically, will contribute positively to Chinatown’s most marginalized members – both now and in the generations to come. Chinatown already lacks accessible public spaces with amenities to nurture gathering and play that is accessible for members from a wide range of age and social backgrounds. Many, many Chinatown residents have shared with me over the years for their desire for a senior friendly public space for them to gather.
This proposal will eliminate any possibility of the memorial square being used for that in the future, not to mention great reverberating effects in accelerating gentrification, eroding other culturally appropriate and affordable businesses. Dynamic storefront culture, authentic signage and design like that – and all the human connections it supports – can’t replaced or replicated, no matter how skilled the architect. I urge you to consider how this 105 keefer proposal – will permanently displace the true character, socio-cultural fabric and spirit of Chinatown.
The monument in the square should also be treated with respect and reverence through design considerations. I agree with Mr Cheng Shu Ren,, the sculptor of the monument in his open letter, that ample space needs to be given from the centre of the monument – just like any other monument of significance in the city. The current building height and mass with its design towers over the monument like a predator over its prey. It would be a literal embodiment and representation on how profit, gentrification and developer interests are encroaching on the survival of Chinatown’s grassroots commkunity. I’m not an expert, but maybe the optics would not be ideal…?
I am also concerned that this condo development will extend the mass of condos currently on Main Street already further onto keefer street – and become a giant mass of condos, and along with it, unaffordable and culturally inappropriate businesses – forming a gentrifying core with ripple effect. It would set a visual, emotional and cognitive example of what people expect Chinatown to be – especially as the viaduct is torn down and more flow of people in Chinatown comes in through the keefer and Columbia intersections. Luxury condos – especially one in the heart of Chinatown – do not embody what Chinatown is about in any way.
With regard to what the experts have said, I resonate with and wish to reflect back these following points from the 2017 DPB board:
Mrs. Molaro, Assistant Director of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability at the time, noted that the development proposal is not informed by urbanism. Urbanism requires an understanding of culture and history, including socio- economic factors as they impact the historic and contemporary buildings of the neighbourhood.
Perhaps the fact that Beedie has chose to push their agenda and desire for profit through litigation instead of taking time and effort to truly listen to and understand the Chinatown’s context and what residents need shows that this project and their design process is not informed by urbanism at all.
Moreover, this development will decrease the livability of Chinatown for low income residents, and fails to appropriately respond to Chinatown’s established cultural, historical, and design context and identity. Any design that is not community-desired, imagined and informed is not appropriate for this site.
I also agree with General Manager of Engineering at the time, Mr. Dobrovolny’s reasons for not supporting the application due to:
- the visible exterior’s design not meeting the guidelines due to its excessive mass, weak response to the saw tooth pattern, obstruction of views from many directions
- It being an inappropriate backdrop to the memorial plaza as an open space.
- The square accommodates activities such as passive recreation, community events, festivals and memorial services.
- Buildings flagging Chinatown Memorial Square should include frontages that offer general pedestrian interests – not for private, business and exclusive use.
This is an important site with such an important design significance in Chinatown and in his view the application has not met the design test.
I would also like to reflect back the Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee’s reasons for rejecting the proposal in 2017:
- Again – the large scale and mass is not appropriate for the site
- The lack of affordable social housing offered at welfare and disability rates
- Its architectural expression does not keep in the historic vernacular of
- The lack of robust, accessible public consultation put into this development proposal – which is vital given the context of the memorial plaza.
Given the depth and complexity of these design issues, it seems unlikely that they could be addressed through the minor changes that the DPB could mandate in accepting the application with conditions. Many of the required changes would necessitate a dramatic redesign, reduction of building mass, floor-space and most importantly, robust, appropriate and sincere community consultation. As such, I urge the DPB refuse this application outright just like they did in 2017.
I trust that you will make a decision today that best serves the needs of Chinatown’s grassroots community – both now and in the years to come, and join us in co-creating a liveable community that allows all to thrive. I look forward to continue to connect, play and celebrate with at Chinatown Memorial Square in the future – and maybe we’ll see you there!
Thank you for your time.
Hello Development Permit Board,
I am speaking to you today as a concerned citizen who works in Chinatown, and as a second-generation Chinese-Canadian who grew up frequenting Chinatown to visit my grandma at her senior’s home, attend Chinese school (with pain and love), get groceries with my parents, and enjoy the variety of tastes and restaurants the neighborhood has to offer. I am speaking in opposition to the Beedie living development.
I recently watched Little Fight in Big Chinatown, a documentary that takes us into the lives of residents, businesses, and community organizers across Chinatowns in North America whose neighborhoods are facing active erasure, Vancouver being one of them. In this film, I learned about the irreversible impact of urban gentrification on Chinatown’s history, legacy, and the livelihood of its residents. The 105 Keefer site is located on the Keefer Triangle, the second most endangered site on National Trust for Canada’s Top 10 Most Endangered Sites in 2016. I believe what gets built/imagined at the 105 Keefer site (the remaining plot of land in Chinatown) will play a huge role in the direction the neighborhood will go and set a precedent for more developers to come in and build over Chinatown. None of us want this lot to be empty any longer, but approving the Beedie development is a dire mistake that will only further exacerbate social inequality through rising living costs in the area. The city or province should buy the land and work with Chinatown to create a community-imagined space with an array of social housing, community, and non-profit organization spaces, and local businesses that should be prioritized and considered. I know many urban spaces in Vancouver have open calls for community imagination – 105 Keefer in Chinatown deserves the same.
I believe in a thriving Chinatown that is equitable, and inclusive, and prioritizes its residents, that is ALSO busy with foot traffic. But I do not believe that 111 at-market-priced condos is the solution we are looking for in imagining this future Chinatown.
The concept that gentrification is inevitable is a myth – it’s permit boards and policymakers like yourselves who say yes or no that play a critical role in determining whose future is built. Developments and investors? or in this case, low-income residents?
How does the application affect the immediate surroundings?
- Beedie’s development at 105 Keefer is not contextually appropriate for Chinatown and its surroundings, which include culturally significant sites like Chinatown Memorial Square, Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden, and the Chinese Cultural Centre.
- The development’s mass is too overpowering for the area, which is culturally sensitive. It towers over a monument dedicated to Chinese-Canadian veterans. Chinese Veterans Memorial Plaza should not act as a private front yard. Important Monuments should be given ample space for reflection and gathering. An example is victory square.
- It does not respond to the cultural, historical, and design context of the area, particularly as a significant gateway into Chinatown.
- The project violates HA-1’s “urbanism” guidelines by not fitting into the surrounding area’s history, culture, and architecture.
- The development is an inappropriate use of a culturally sensitive site, located on the Keefer Triangle, the second most endangered site on National Trust for Canada’s Top 10 Most Endangered Sites in 2016.
Impact on City Goals and Priorities:
City Priority #1 – Affordability and housing crisis: The 111-condo development will increase the unaffordability, economic displacement, and gentrification in the low-income neighborhood.
City Priority #3 – Diversity, equity, and social issues/opportunities: The condo development will exacerbate inequity and social issues in Chinatown and DTES.
City Priority #5 – Reconciliation: The application is anti-reconciliation with Chinese Canadians, especially after the City’s apology to Chinese Canadians for historic wrongdoings in 2018.
City Priority #8 – Extraordinary civic amenities: The development is an inappropriate backdrop to the Chinese Veterans and Railway Workers Memorial Square, which is currently undergoing a community-led redesign.
One of your initiatives under people and programs on the city’s website is to “build liveable, sustainable, and inclusive communities”. Staff routinely advise Council on policies and strategies that offer much-needed support and services to all community members, including:
- Care and assistance for disadvantaged seniors
- Initiatives that meet the needs of Vancouver’s multicultural and diverse communities
One of Chinatown’s residents Popos Zhang said her vision for Chinatown was a healthy, vibrant community where the voiceless were heard. “I am not against developers building homes, but you have to make sure that your business plan caters to the needs of the lower-income people in the community, who now make up a big chunk of society,” she said. With 111 at-market-priced condos, this project does not reflect the city’s values in building liveable sustainable, and inclusive communities, nor does it consider the area’s primary residents – low-income seniors. I would also like to mention that there has been no community consultation or effort to involve the Chinatown community in imagining its future together.
Thus, I am OPPOSED to this development and urge the City of Vancouver’s Development Permit Board to REJECT Beedie’s proposed development at 105 Keefer and call upon multiple levels of government to construct 100% social housing on the site, providing housing at welfare and pension rates for the low-income seniors who call this Chinatown, home.
My name is Vanessa Lee and I strongly oppose this project. Chinatown is very important to me—I worked there in 2015 where I met welcoming Chinese elders and community members and visit it frequently today.
I’d like to start by quoting an open letter written by Arthur Shu Ren Cheng, the sculptor of the Chinatown Memorial Monument. He states:
“Many people have not realized the proposed design and tall buildings have catastrophic consequences on the cultural and historical site. The nine-storey high-rise building is way too close to the monument like two-meter basketball players standing next to a basketball. The significant height variation and modern exterior design of the proposed building cause the awkwardness of the scene, which is a sense of disgrace to the monument. Therefore, the critical issue in this development is for the community to consider creating an environment that fits into Chinatown’s historical and cultural features.” End quote
I strongly encourage the board to read his letter in full and consider his expert opinion that the height variation and modern exterior design of the building would disgrace this monument meant to memorialize the contributions and sacrifices of Chinese Canadians.
What Mr. Cheng’s letter emphasizes for me is the people behind the monument—in his letter, he mentions the 96 artists who submitted designs for the monument, the collaboration from the City of Vancouver and communities to complete it, and, of course, the Chinese Canadian railway workers and soldiers it was built to memorialize. Since it was unveiled in 2003, it continues to be a collaborative project; the monument is memorialized through the public activity around it—by Chinese elders exercising around it, by intergenerational communities playing Mahjong and singing karoake around it, and by acting as the site for the annual Vancouver Chinatown Festival. It also acts as a site of healing—in 2018, when the city of Vancouver delivered its apology to the Chinese community for the discrimination caused and perpetuated by previous city councils, it was broadcasted on large video screens around the monument where people watched it unfold.
I strongly believe the proposed development would significantly impede these activities. I find a cold, glass box looming over a memorial meant to inspire pride, community, reflection, and healing, to be grossly inappropriate. Further, I fear that the storefronts of the proposed development would have privatizing effects on this significant public space—I wonder if people would feel comfortable participating in the activities I mentioned previously in the presence of noisy and expensive bars and its patrons.
I urge the board to consider that the roots of Chinatown’s “cultural and historic identity” are in its people—the people memorialized by the monument, the people who contributed to its creation, and the people who continue to keep its spirit alive.
In contrast, I find no trace of this community in the proposed development. In 2017, the board suggested that the applicant include a professional artist with local contextual knowledge and the Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee recommended more robust public consultation; I don’t believe that either of these suggestions were acted upon by the applicant. Without the inclusion of community and local expertise, ornamental features in the proposed development meant to be “sympathetic to local vernacular,” are completely removed from their origins and consequently, in my view, seem to mock the spirit of Chinatown.
The development permit board refused this application in 2017 and I urge the board to refuse it again. I’d like to remind the board of the City’s principle of ‘embracing cultural heritage including both tangible and intangible aspects.’ Memorial Square provides crucial open public space for cultural activity, through which the history and heritage of Chinatown lives on—all of this is at risk by the proposed development, which is why any changes must be revised by the public, neighbourhood and city design review committees through a resubmission process.
Thank you for listening to my comments.
My name is Tim Lam. I am a community member of Chinatown, a community I’ve grown up in with my family and have considered a second home for the last two decades. I am also a board member of Chinatown Today, an organization with the mission of sharing Chinatown’s stories – past, present, and future.
I am here on behalf of my family to voice my opposition to the 105 Keefer development from Beedie. The Development Permit Board has refused it in 2017 and it should refuse it outright again.
When I think of who this development will harm, I think of my grandfather and other seniors in this community that represent the beating heart of Chinatown’s heritage. As they hold our stories, heritage, and traditions that make up the foundation and vibrancy of this community.
This is a danger my family is unfortunately familiar with. My family has previously had to fight hard to stop development forces that have tried to evict my grandpa and other seniors from affordable seniors housing in Chinatown.
When I see Beedie’s proposal, I am filled with similar anxiety and dread.
I see private development forces that will thoughtlessly displace existing Chinese senior residents, like my grandpa, and the kind of legacy businesses that make this community so special, by driving up costs via gentrification.
When my grandpa walks through Chinatown, like many of his peers, he feels a sense of belonging. I can never walk down the streets without him running into a neighbor, or a friend, or a former tai chi student in his days as a teacher.
In Chinatown: he has access to Cantonese shops, medical services, groceries and food. He can live with a sense of independence and connection with a shared language and culture. He depends on a community and support system he has developed over decades.
Developments like the Beedie proposal that introduce luxury condos into the neighborhood undermine that entire community and support system by pricing him out. Gone is the shared language and culture, gone are the shops and services and food that give him a sense of independence and connection. My grandpa does not feel welcome at the latest juice bar or vegan pizzeria.
There is no affordable housing or seniors housing, and no safeguards against gentrification in the proposal from Beedie.
Back in 2017, board member Mr. Kelley said there was a lack of community engagement around design issues and six years later in 2023, there has been no evidence of any further meaningful engagement with the community to honor the concerns of people like my grandfather.
Supporters of the Beedie development often bring up the “this is better than an empty parking lot” style of argument. I want to challenge that.
(The parking lot was a former center for the community, a site for a theater, a swimming pool, as a prior speaker said.)
And, a parking lot is a blank canvas. I think, what a gift. What an opportunity to dream bigger.
When I look at the Chinatown Memorial Square and the monument, I’m reminded of all the big dreams of the Chinese-Canadian labourers and veterans they honour.
It would be a disservice to those that we are honouring in this square to dream so small. That we believe the best we can do is a luxury development.
A luxury development that does not honor or respect the neighborhood or the plaza in terms of form, function or design. It in fact tokenizes the character of the neighborhood and does not meaningfully reflect the needs of our community members or seniors.
I implore us to dream bigger. I am asking the Development Permit Board to refuse the application outright again to give us that chance to dream bigger.
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Russell Chiong and I am speaking to oppose Beedie’s proposal for 105 Keefer.
Beedie’s proposal does not serve Chinatown, instead, it threatens our neighbourhood and community. 10t Keefer is yet another attempt to erase our community under the guise of “revitalization.” Not only would it worsen the crises of gentrification, displacement, affordability, and accessibility already facing Chinatown, but it would also seriously damage vital public spaces and Chinatown’s unique sense of place. With reference to s. 41.17 of the HA-1/HA-1A schedule, the design is inconsistent with the applicable design guidelines and the intent of the schedule, and would negatively impact the site and adjacent buildings.
Developers like Beedie try to lure us in with the promise that their projects will help bring body heat into the neighbourhood and “revitalize” Chinatown, but time and time again, we’ve seen that these luxury condos have the opposite effect – driving up rents, increasing displacement and development pressures, and accelerating gentrification beyond the boundaries of the lot line. I encourage the DPB to take into account that new developments are not built in isolation, and that an approach informed by urbanism would recognize and attempt to mitigate the harms caused outside the singular object building.
105 Keefer appears to be following the example set by luxury towers further up at Main and Keefer and elsewhere in Chinatown, which have accelerated gentrification, brought businesses that actively attempt to erase Chinatown’s identity, unaffordable rents, and empty storefronts. Walking around Chinatown today, we can see that these developments have a chilling effect on the neighbourhood, leaving in their wake an empty and uninviting streetscape.
We’ve seen this play out in Chinatowns across North America, from Seattle to Montreal, to Portland and Los Angeles.
Of course, this isn’t to mention the design issues. 105 Keefer lacks the appropriate sensitivity for its location, right atop the Chinatown Memorial Square and Memorial Monument. The memorial square is our main public open space in Chinatown, where the community comes together for mahjong, karaoke, exercise, festivals and ceremonies. The monument honours our forebears, the labourers and veterans who helped build this country and who fought for our inclusion as Chinese-Canadians.
The proposed design is out of scale and its lack of appropriate setbacks (as required in the design guidelines) and uniform roofline come together to form a monolithic mass that dwarfs the monument. Towering over the square with its overbearing massing is not an appropriate response to the site. This would do irreparable harm to the memorial square and monument as a site of community and remembrance. Not only does this demonstrate a lack of neighbourliness, this would also reduce the livability of the neighbourhood and quality of life.
Beedie’s proposal would create a uniform street wall pattern only broken up by stark glass boxes that are completely inconsistent with the cultural, historical, or even present-day contexts of Chinatown and against the design guidelines. This mirrors other luxury developments imposed on Chinatown over the years, which have reduced the liveliness and vibrancy of the community, and clearly eroded Chinatown’s unique sense of place.
The issues with Beedie’s proposed design go too far to warrant acceptance. If Beedie’s proposal were to go ahead, it would lock in this damage for the foreseeable future, giving our community no chance to see something better.
I’ll leave the DPB with these closing thoughts: Beedie and developers like it have properties all across the country and nearly endless capital. We, on the other hand, have only one Chinatown. It’s our duty to our descendants not to let it go.
My name is Eugene McCann. I’m a Professor of urban geography at SFU and I live in East Vancouver. I research urban policy-making and I teach a course on Gentrification and Urban Change. I am here to urge you to reject the 105 Keefer proposal.
I want to provide three reasons for rejection. But first, I’ll to go back in history: In 2011 the City approved a change in building height limits in Chinatown. The decision led to a land speculation boom and a damaging decrease in affordability. The decision was made after long public hearings where many neighbourhood residents opposed the change. I spoke at the hearing and, like many others, I predicted that the decision would cause gentrification.
Council ignored these warnings and proceeded. But by 2018, the City reversed the 2011 decision and downzoned the neighbourhood again, in an attempt to protect Chinatown’s physical character and intangible cultural heritage.
The 2011 mistake is the first of my three reasons for rejection: It emphasized that it is dangerous to ignore well-informed neighbourhood opposition and it stressed that Chinatown is highly sensitive to technical decisions made about zoning, development, and design — even small ones. You have the expertise to learn the lesson from 2011 and the discretion to make a better decision for Chinatown’s future by rejecting this proposal.
The second reason to reject involves the concept of Urbanism. The development application does not meet the City’s aspirations for high-quality urbanism. As professionals, you know that Urbanism does not refer only to the design of individual buildings. Urbanism is a relational concept that connects the built environment to social life. This is addressed directly on page 3 of the City’s Chinatown HA-1 Design Policies:
“Intervention in a historic urban environment requires a thorough
understanding of [the] history, culture and architecture of the place (i.e.
urbanism) … Generally, the alteration of an existing heritage resource
should not be considered unless it is fully justified by achieving identified conservation goals.” (https://guidelines.vancouver.ca/policies-chinatown-ha-1-design.pdf)
The Memorial Plaza into sharp focus. It is the “existing heritage resource” that will be significantly altered by whatever happens on the 105 Keefer lot. There is no convincing reason for turning the Memorial Plaza into the front yard of a high-end condo complex, however well-designed. That is cause enough to reject the proposal.
My third reason for rejection is that it will encourage gentrification and displacement. I have already established that decisions about building design aesthetics must take account of social and economic ripple effects, like those that happened after 2011.
Condo buildings are largely designed to appeal to people who can afford market rates. These developments and the influx of the wealthier people they attract increase property values and taxes and lead to the displacement of existing businesses and residents.
In the narrowest sense, no one is being displaced from 105 Keefer, since it’s a parking lot. But you are intelligent people. You know that’s not the point. People are displaced by ripple effects since they can no longer afford to remain in their homes. But even when people hang on in their neighbourhood, decisions made by Development Permit Boards can lead to their neighbourhood leaving them, which is an equally profound and damaging form of displacement. Their home – its affordable shops, its social connections, its language, its intangible cultural heritage, its design aesthetics — is eroded, leaving them in the same location but nonetheless displaced — excluded from their place.
Design is not innocent. It changes places and lives. Therefore, you have the discretion and right to consider the potential displacement effect of the proposed development. This is especially the case in a neighbourhood that the City has already defined as special, valuable, and worth preserving through its Heritage Guidelines.
In conclusion, I’d suggest that the developers need to be given a way out of this situation. The City should consider re-entering discussions about a land- swap or buy-out, and/or the Province should be involved. But that is probably beyond your remit. At least, in your decision, don’t replicate old mistakes, like 2011, and don’t underplay the reasons for your decision. This is your chance to do something good by rejecting the application.
I am speaking today from the perspective of a family with a long history in Vancouver’s Chinatown. My grandmother came to Canada as a servant girl for a Chinese merchant family in the early 1900’s. She married and raised 8 children in Vancouver’s Chinatown. They were denied citizenship and registered under the Immigration Act. Despite his second class status, my Uncle Bing Lee joined the army during WWII along with others of Chinese descent to prove their loyalty to Canada. On their return, they fought for citizen’s rights for all Chinese living in Canada. As a result of their sacrifices, we now enjoy full citizenship rights as Canadian citizens.
My grandmother lived her entire life in Canada in Vancouver’s Chinatown. There was no opportunity for her to learn English. She lived comfortably in Chinatown supported by an established Chinese business, social and cultural community within walking distance of her fellow villagers. Her social life revolved around her extended family and others with common roots living in Chinatown.
My father, Harry Chin, saw the need for social housing in Chinatown for Chinese Seniors to enjoy their retirement. Under the guidance of architect, the late Joe Wai, who supervised the development of the Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the Chinese Cultural Centre and many other significant developments in the Chinatown area, my Father established Golden Age Court at 145 East Cordova Street in 1980’s. Golden Age Court continues to thrive despite being overwhelmed by the social problems existing outside its doors. Joe Wai wisely designed an enclosed inner courtyard which included stones leftover from the building of the Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Gardens to ensure privacy for the residents.
Canada has always been an immigrant receiving country. Immigration continues to be a major driver of Canada’s economy. New immigrant families require childcare support. Many parents and grandparents provide this essential support. When their childcare services are no longer required, many chose to live independently. For those who are non-English speaking, Chinatown has always been a major resource and draw with its ethnically appropriate social services and support networks. The Tsz Chi Foundation, a major non-profit society, is in the process of establishing acupuncture services at the Villa Cathay, a major senior housing complex in the Chinatown area. We all know the importance of social support, especially for isolated seniors. Let us ensure that social housing is available for Chinese seniors who wish to retire in Chinatown. We owe it to these seniors who are providing essential child care service in support of our growing immigrant workforce.
After living in Burnaby for a no. of years, my father, following his stroke, made the decision to move back into Chinatown.
Chinatown nurtured and supported me as I was growing up in a racist society.
The proposed Beedie development at 105 Keefer Street does not recognize the major historical and cultural significance of the Memorial Square for Chinatown and the wider Chinese community. The Memorial Square honours the legacy of the thousands of the Chinese Railway Workers who risked their lives in the building of Canada. The Memorial Square also honours the Chinese War Veterans who fought for citizenship rights for Chinese living in Canada.
The proposed development is not compatible with the neighbouring major cultural institutions such as the Chinese Cultural Centre, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Classical Gardens which are an integral part of Chinatown.
The proposed development does not address the need for more social
housing in Chinatown.
The proposed development does not support the City Goals and Priorities of:
#1 Affordability and housing
#3 Diversity, equity and social issues/opportunities
And #5 Reconciliation with the Chinese community
I would like to end by stating that I fully endorse the recommendation and proposal by MP Jenny Kwan that Beedie Construction be offered City of Vancouver property in an alternate location in exchange for the property at 105 Keefer Street. The City could then ensure the property was developed in a culturally relevant way to include social housing for vulnerable seniors.
Beverly Nann MSW, OBC
Good evening members of the Development Permit Board, I recognize it has been a long day and I am speaker #83 so thank
you for allowing the time to hear our voices today.
I’d first like to acknowledge that I am a settler on these stolen lands of the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the
Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
My name is Kathy Chan and I am a second generation, queer, neurodivergent, and disabled Chinese Canadian and I am in
opposition to the proposal of 105 Keefer. My family arrived in Vancouver in 1978 after they fled Vietnam as refugees during the
war. In Vietnam, my grandfather owned a business in Cholon, which served as the Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh City. My family
being ethnically Chinese living in Vietnam were the first to get driven out during the war. My family were known as “boat people”
as they settled into Vancouver as refugees. My family knows displacement because we have been displaced.
My first home was in an apartment in the coop housing on Pender Street in the heart of Chinatown in the early 1980’s. My
mother worked as a cashier at the corner grocer known as Jing Wah located at 299 Pender minutes away from our home. She
later on went to work at Wai Hong another popular grocery long gone that used to live on Main and Keefer which if my memory
doesn’t fail me, boasted the only but most delicious soft serve ice cream machine in Chinatown. The store is no longer there like
many of the storefronts from my childhood, simply adding to these diminishing boundaries of today’s neighbourhood.
While my parents worked, my next door neighbhour whom I affectionately referred to as “gak lay poh poh” which translates to
nextdoor grandma, was my primary caretaker. The sights and sounds of the community were palpable; I understood that even in
my earliest developmental years. Communities help raise and support people to further develop a sense of connection. Not a
modern and unaffordable condo.
I share my stories with you today not in an attempt to evoke any emotion, but to highlight that my lived experiences much like all
the ancestors before me actively contribute to the living social fabric and heritage of Chinatown. I am enraged with Beedie
bringing this proposal up for the 6th time. In my opinion, 5 times too many.
I am 41 years old and I have lived my entire life in Vancouver, specifically I have not strayed further than a 5 km radius from
Chinatown. To say the city has changed a lot is an understatement. As a young adult, I chose to live at the corner of Powell and
Main Street from 2009 to 2011 during a time where revival of the DTES was promised along with the adjacent neighbourhood of
Chinatown. It was a broken promise. I lived in a brand new condo that brought no added value to the residents of the
neighbourhood so I can say first hand from my lived experience that it will not bring the so-called “body heat” back to the area. It
won’t. And “body heat” shouldn’t have to come at the cost of NO social housing, NO senior housing, and an overall disruption to
the already struggling neighbourhood.
I now live within a 10 minute walk to Chinatown and during the height of the pandemic in August of 2020 I became involved with
the Chinatown Foundation by volunteering for the very first Light Up Chinatown Event. Because I can speak conversational
Cantonese, I volunteered as a translator to visit Chinatown businesses in an attempt to continue the conversation about what
we could do to support them in times of dire economic strife on top of a rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes during a global pandemic.
While I visited the merchants on Pender, Keefer, Main, Gore, I was struck with a dialogue that was consistent between each
door I walked through: despair and defeat.
As I spoke to the business owners, most of them were able to be very open and expressed the frustration of not just lack of
people in the streets, but the continued economic decline paired with the rise of crime and the opioid crisis right on their
doorsteps. It struck me that Chinatown has lost its pulse as a neighbourhood once with a heartbeat of culture and vitality.
A 100 feet building in the heart of the Historical Zoning area of Chinatown will not lead to revitalization or reconciliation.
In saying that, members of the Development Permit Board, I urge you to do the right thing just as you did in 2017. Vote no. Say
no to 105 Keefer. If not for the people who have spoken today and for their wishes, then do it for the future of the city of
Vancouver that once used to be shiny and bright, a city we all at one point was really in love with. Let’s get back to that point.
I strongly oppose Beedie’s Development application for 105 Keefer Street due to its failure to comply with HA-1A guidelines and lack of respect for the local community.Chinatown is a culturally rich community known for its tight-knit bonds, filial piety, and respect. It has a history of resilience against external pressures and embraces people from diverse backgrounds, particularly those with economic needs. Unfortunately, Beedie’s application presents a generic building design that can be found throughout Vancouver and Canada. It lacks a sense of place and could fit seamlessly into other neighbourhoods like Yaletown, Kitsilano, Main Street, Fraser Street, or Commercial Drive. Beedie shows a lack of recognition and disrespect for the people they are profiting from.
The HA-1A guidelines explicitly require developers to showcase their understanding of a historic urban environment, including its patterns, fabric, and cultural significance. Intervening in such a setting demands an appreciation of its history, culture, and architecture, moving beyond the mere creation of standalone structures. Disappointingly, Beedie’s application demonstrates a complete lack of engagement with the community during the design process, while blatantly disregarding minimum government requirements. Notably, it fails to deliver an architecturally distinct ground floor, neglects traditional scales, proportions, and configurations, and superficially incorporates token Chinese elements to meet the HA-1A criteria. Such a disrespectful approach reveals insensitivity towards the community and the land it occupies.
Chinatown has already experienced the detrimental effects of gentrification, as evidenced by the transformation of Main Street between Georgia and Keefer. This phenomenon often results in the segregation of the upper class from the rest of the community, fostering individualistic self-centred thinking and car-centric streets. Countless neighbourhoods across North America have witnessed similar changes, where new developments erode the original historical and cultural significance, ultimately displacing the original inhabitants. It is disheartening to witness this process unfolding at the heart of our community, specifically within Chinatown Memorial Square. This proposed development fails to meet the community’s needs and directly contradicts the City of Vancouver’s vision for a vibrant, 24-hour Chinatown that thrives with diverse uses in close proximity. The unique and engaging Chinatown experience, characterized by its dynamic architecture, people, sounds, and smells, would be irretrievably lost.
Approving this application would establish a dangerous precedent for further gentrification, jeopardizing the livelihoods of the original residents and worsening the ongoing housing crisis. We would forfeit the vibrant street culture where people dance, sing, and engage in activities like XiangQi. The distinctive people, sounds, and smells that define Chinatown would be irrevocably altered.
I suggest Beedie explore successful examples from cities like Vienna, Barcelona, and Kyoto that have effectively preserved their cultural and historical significance while revitalizing their communities and fostering additional growth. Vienna’s commitment to harmonizing new developments with its architectural heritage, and Kyoto’s balance between tradition and modernization demonstrate how cities can strike a delicate balance between progress and preservation. By drawing inspiration from these models, Beedie can create a development for 105 Keefer Street that respects Chinatown’s cultural identity, contributes to its revitalization, and ensures a sustainable future for the community. If they fail to do so again, I suggest the government take on these suggestions and draw stricter guidelines.
Throughout Canadian history, we have witnessed the tragic dismantling of communities, ranging from Indigenous Nations to Japantown. Chinatown itself arose as a response to segregation and has withstood numerous waves of racist attacks and protests aimed at driving out its resilient community. Yet again, we find ourselves facing a profit-driven corporation seeking to gentrify this cherished neighbourhood. Let us learn from the mistakes of our past and avoid repeating them. I cherish my culture and community, and I long for this place to be home. I want to tell my future children that this is Chinatown, not a place that used to be Chinatown.
Once again, I am strongly opposed to Bedie’s application and hope the Development permit board will refuse the application outright again.
My name is 伍可名, or Minnie & I have been here since 1:00pm supporting my community.
I am a 1.5 generation Han Chinese settler of Hong Kong & Beijing ancestry & I’ve been a community member in the DTES/Chinatown for the past 4 years.
I am wholeheartedly, & passionately against Beedie’s proposal!
I worked at a grassroots organization called Yarrow intergenerational society for Justice for 3 years where I share community directly with low income seniors & now a consultant for equity & inclusion at a leading university.
I am here because I want to advocate for the community that has taught me what it means to be loved & celebrates me for who I am. A community that takes care of each other & a living example of how solidarity is the root of all liberation efforts.
Amongst everything, the DTES/CT celebrates life! To dance, to sing, to enjoy the most basic activities at its core in spaces that we have created for ourselves & not by corporations; especially greedy developers that want to harm communities that are already being attacked & demonized.
I am speaking with my the DTES/Chinatown community in my heart today; Especially Chinese seniors who feel like they do not belong in spaces like these, who have historically been excluded & intimidated due to language, income, disability, race, & age. They, as residents of Chinatown, should be speaking.
The Chinatown seniors have taught me love, compassion, & the power of community care- I don’t want the work I do in Chinatown just to be full of hardships, fighting, & tears,
I want to see my community, thrive & age happily surrounded with dancing, music, food & an abundance of love & lack of threat to their well-being & quality of life.
Constructing 111 condos will increase the in-affordability of the neighborhood, displace low income residents, & contribute to gentrification in DIRECT CONFLICT with the city’s TOP priority of affordable housing
In addition, this proposal will also contribute to INEQUITY & social issues, in VIOLATION of the city’s third priority of fostering diversity equity & social opportunities.
It is with acknowledgment that the DTES/CT is the poorest postal code of all of Canada, due to failed policy, & the increase & militarization of police. The DTES/CT is going through not just the Covid-19 pandemic, but Indigenous genocide, apartheid, a poisoned drug supply, & an increasing food desert- all exasperated by the rapid gentrification that Beedie has & will be contributing to. This proposal is directly complicit in the death & harm that comes with it.
Why isn’t Beedie meeting us where we’re at?
Why are we coming to speak on behalf of Chinatown while Beedie are unconsented guest this space?
I believe that WE know what WE need the most. Beedie are guests not only on stolen Indigenous land, but Chinatown, a safer space that was created from historical inequity, racism & exclusion.
There are many individuals who have spoken today & with no doubt, you can already see what Chinatown means to us. You will not take that away & we will keep fighting.
I would like to begin my statement by acknowledging that I am speaking on unceded and unsurrendered territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓wətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations. I raise my hands in deepest respect to the matriarchs, elders, and knowledge keepers of these territories who resist violence and displacment every day.
My name is Melody Wise, my Chinese name is Leung Yin Yun and on my maternal side I am Hakka Chinese. I am here today to voice my strong opposition to Beedie Living’s proposed development at 105 Keefer.
Tonight I urge you, the Development Permit Board, to reject this application. Moreover, I call on you to honour your obligation to address historic and current systemic injustice as articulated in the City of Vancouver’s most recent Equity Framework.
I would like to highlight to the Development Permit Board that an approval of this project runs contrary to the City of Vancouver’s commitment to advancing reconciliation, equity, and anti-racism for all people in Vancouver.
As many other speakers have already articulated, Beedie Living’s proposed development at 105 Keefer will increase unaffordability, economic displacement, and gentrification in Chinatown and the adjacent Downtown Eastside.
We have heard claims that new market condo developments will bring “much needed revitalization” to the community. Do not let this language disguise the violent gentrification that flows from developments like those proposed by Beedie Living.
Since 2013, more than 500 new condominiums have been built in Chinatown and the surrounding area. Parallel to this, our community has observed rapid displacement of affordable housing, cultural food assets, and crucial cultural meetings spaces. In my unpaid work, I Chair the Board of Directors for Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice – a non-profit which supports youth and low-income immigrant seniors in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside. Staff of our organization, who are frontline workers in the community have reported an influx in unhoused & precariously housed seniors, as well as growing unaffordability in the neighborhood as a result of new developments & businesses catering to higher income demographic. I would like to share a quote from Mrs. Kong, who participated in the 2017 Carnegie Community Action Project Report: “We Are Too Poor To Afford Anything”:
“We had all the grocery stores and herbal stores, cafes, a variety of restaurants to eat dim sum or dinner, which are important social spaces for us Chinese people… [but] there are not even a lot of grocery shops left. A big problem is that the new places opening in Chinatown are either a coffee shop or a nightclub. These places are really expensive and they don’t sell things that we need, nor are they welcoming spaces for us. They are unsuitable to our needs. I never go into these places and I drink my coffee at the Carnegie. No one needs expensive coffee or skateboards, but we need groceries.”
Is this our vision of “revitalization” for the community? Futures in which low-income, racialized residents of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside (DTES) are further marginalized by housing precarity, food insecurity, the criminalization of poverty, and the erasure of space to celebrate culture and heritage?
The violence of gentrification is not inevitable. It is planned.
Tonight, I urge the Development Permit Board to reject Beedie Living’s proposed development at 105 Keefer. Say no to gentrification. Choose a future for Chinatown that is rooted in equity, and justice.
(last updated 1 July 2023)