September 20th 2017 letter to Mayor and Council

September 20th 2017 letter to Mayor and Council

After the 105 Keefer rezoning public hearing, members of the Chinatown community gathered together to determine productive next steps for the neighbourhood through collaboration with the civic government. From the discussions, three requests to the Mayor and Council were determined. The following letter was sent to Mayor and Council in late September, but no formal response has been received so far.

623 West 30th Avenue,
Vancouver, BC,
V5Z 2J4

20 September 2017

Mayor Robertson and Council
City Hall
453 West 12th Ave
Vancouver, BC,
V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor Robertson and Council:

We are writing to you as a network of community organizations and concerned citizens for Chinatown. Representing both ourselves and the broader coalitions of Vancouverites with which we are committed to engaging and working alongside as we move forward, this letter represents our promise to work together with you towards a renewal of Vancouver’s Chinatown as a living community that both conserves and builds upon its historical importance as a place of cultural heritage and meaning to the City of Vancouver, Province of British Columbia, and Canada.

The process leading up to the June 13, 2017 decision on the rezoning of 105 Keefer was divisive, but following the political leadership exemplified in your 8-3 vote, we recognize the opportunity and the necessity of coming together at this moment to work collectively with City Council, City of Vancouver staff, and all concerned stakeholders for the future of Chinatown.

We also acknowledge that, despite what may have seemed like a divisive Chinatown community at times, several generations of Vancouver residents came together during 105 Keefer with shared concerns about the pace of development and the displacement of low-income residents and businesses. We recognize now that we do, in fact, have a shared vision for Chinatown to remain permanently affordable, especially for seniors and low-income people. Central to making this vision possible would be to ensure that the issue of affordable, social housing becomes a priority in all neighbourhood planning and existing development proposals.

Therefore, we recommend the following immediate next steps for Mayor and Council:

1. With the reconsideration of the zoning policy for Vancouver Chinatown imminent, we call for you to impose a temporary moratorium on all rezonings and applications for new developments, including applications for development permits, within the HA-1 and HA-1A zoning districts of Chinatown until a new set of policies, as agreed upon by the community, are approved by Council and put into effect. However, this moratorium would not apply to development permits for renovations to existing buildings or for new buildings that do not exceed the height and bulk (FSR) of the existing building on that site. The call for a temporary moratorium would also apply to the new development permit application for 105 Keefer Street. The divisiveness of the 105 Keefer rezoning should not be repeated during this time when all stakeholders need to work together.

2. The creation of a formal Working Group that can communicate in a coherent, consensus-based manner with City staff and the relevant City Councilors involved in the creation and implementation of neighbourhood plans for adjacent areas—specifically Northeast False Creek, False Creek Flats, and the Downtown Eastside and Oppenheimer neighbourhoods— to help shape potential benefits for all of Chinatown. A key component of this working group’s mandate, and its integration with the NE False Creek and Georgia Viaduct redevelopment, is the creation of a coherent plan for the area around the Keefer Triangle (Chinatown Memorial Square) and building a new southeast “gateway” from False Creek into Chinatown. As proven by the original process that created the Chinatown Vision adopted by Council in 2002, the relevant stakeholders concerned with the future of Chinatown are willing and able to come together to create a consensus.

3. Alongside the Working Group proposed in #2, the striking of a Task Force comprising all relevant departments of the City, including representatives from not only downtown and development planning, but cultural services and social policy and projects, heritage, engineering, and other units, working with us to develop a step-by-step approach towards the designation of Vancouver’s Chinatown as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This will require working with representatives of the provincial and federal governments, in order to create a viable heritage conservation and infrastructure development management plan for the entire Chinatown heritage conservation area. Vancouver Chinatown has been recognized as an important heritage area at all three levels of government. We believe that this unified process of creating a proposal for UNESCO designation —whether the end goal is successful or not— will bring together all three levels of government to create a conservation and development management plan that will have much wider impact in terms of capacity-building and implementation tools for meeting the needs identified in the existing Chinatown Vision, such as comprehensive social and seniors’ housing, cultural heritage development, and spaces for intergenerational cultural and social activities. An updated social impact assessment for Chinatown done as part of this process would provide context to help guide both #2 and #3.

Chinatown continues to undergo rapid changes that threaten the physical, cultural and social fabric of one of Vancouver’s last historic yet vibrant living communities. In the coming years, the neighbourhood plans for adjacent areas call for new development activity that will bring intense pressure on the viability of important heritage businesses and iconic cultural institutions that continue to be a benefit for all of Vancouver.

We invite Mayor and Council to work together with us and all engaged stakeholders concerned with Chinatown’s future. We stand ready to advocate with you at other levels of government, and to channel the passion and commitment that has been shown by multiple generations of Vancouverites over the last three years into a comprehensive process that will truly revitalize Vancouver’s Chinatown while sustaining it as a historical heritage site and living community.