The following is a collection of speeches from members of the public, about the development project at 105 Keefer Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
These speeches were delivered to the Development Permit Board at Vancouver City Hall on October 30th, 2017.
If you would like to add your own transcript, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your speaker number.
This speech is also available here.
Good afternoon everyone. My name is King-mong Chan and I am an organizer with the Chinatown Concern Group and Chinatown Action Group. I acknowledge that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. I am asking the Board to reject the development application.
At tomorrow’s City Council meeting, the General Manager of Community Services will be recommending to City Council to acknowledge past discrimination against Chinese people and to offer a formal apology. This discrimination however has not passed and is actually the point of discussion today. 105 Keefer is situated by the Chinatown Memorial Square within Chinatown, a working-class Chinese neighbourhood whose livelihoods are being threatened by gentrification, caused by market housing projects such as 105 Keefer and zoning polices that allow these projects to be built.
To approve this project is to continue this history of racism against Chinese people by saying Mr. Beedie’s profits are more important than the lives of the Chinese working-class residents. To approve this project will go against Council’s motion on May 27, 2014 that directs staff to recommend steps and actions in support of reconciliation. But the Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee voted to not support this project on Oct. 12th. The permit staff committee report for this application indicates that 78% of respondents were opposed to this application. Close to 3,000 people have signed a petition rejecting market housing at this site. Since 2014, the community has loudly vocalized opposition to Beedie’s market housing applications at this site. To approve this project is not supporting reconciliation! Instead it means you are deciding to escalate hostility against the Chinese community!
And so Development Permit Board members, I call on you to stop the discrimination against Chinese people. Reject Beedie’s application, recommend to City Council a zoning policy at 105 Keefer that support justice and reconciliation such as no market housing and put people before profit!
This speech is also available here.
My name is Leo Yu. I was born in Vancouver, and I am the fourth generation in my family to live and work here. I’m here to let you know that the proposed 105 Keefer development is culturally inappropriate, insensitive and disrespectful for residents and stewards of tong4 yan4 gaii1 (Chinatown), and it will be seen as a major setback in reconciliation efforts with Chinese-Canadian families like mine.
As the affordability crisis in Vancouver continues to escalate, your decision will also have an impact on the cultural assets and food security of Chinatown, and will set a precedence for other neighbourhoods in Vancouver that are also at risk.
Allow me to explain Chinatown’s legacy as I see it, and what constitutes the heart of our culture in this community.
My taai3 gung1 (great-grandpa) immigrated to Vancouver as a “paper son”. He worked hard in Chinatown, saved everything he could, and eventually bought the Hazelwood Hotel on Hastings and Gore. With great difficulty he slowly brought over his immediate family, including his beloved daughter, my po4 po2 (grandmother), despite racist immigration laws. I’m thinking of both their legacies as I speak to you today.
My ancestors lived and worked in Chinatown because they were marginalized and racialized. At the heart of this community was the desire to take care of our elders, each other and the needy. This community is where our culture thrived, and continues to thrive.
This is the cultural and historical context that we’re in, which is why so many of us strongly oppose this development. It is completely disrespectful to our families and our culture to build market condos in Chinatown that Chinese seniors and low-income people can not afford to live in. It is harmful to open retail stores in Chinatown that do not meet the needs of Chinese seniors and low-income people. Just try to imagine how insulting it is for descendants like me to see this happening over and over again. We have to stop this greedy behaviour. No means no!
I’m 36 years old. I’ve seen a staggering loss of Chinese cultural assets and food security in Chinatown over my lifetime, which was recently documented in a report by the Hua Foundation, of which I am a Board member.
Yet Chinatown’s community members have a successful record of resistance. You need to listen carefully: We will not allow this disrespect to continue. A critical question to ask the community is whether this proposed development is culturally-appropriate. The answer from descendants like me is no.
The way to honour our ancestors and respect our culture is to build social housing and public spaces in Chinatown so that Chinese seniors and low-income people have comfortable homes to live in, culturally-appropriate shops to buy from, and sufficient space to be in community together.
Try to imagine what Chinatown could look like if we used the 105 Keefer site and others to build more social housing for low-income Chinese seniors instead of expensive condos.
Their children and grandchildren would visit them regularly. They would proudly introduce their shun1 (grandchildren) to friends and neighbours. They would walk down the street to buy groceries, pastries and meats, or yum2 caa4 (dine out). They would take their shun1 to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens, or to learn about art and history at the Chinese Cultural Centre.
You see, it’s not hard for me to imagine this — it’s part of my family history, my culture, my ongoing experience. The for-profit market will not save Chinatown — it takes A People’s Vision, a collective effort and courageous leadership. It is entirely possible and reasonable. So it is with hope that I speak with you today.
The 105 Keefer development is culturally inappropriate, insensitive and disrespectful for tong4 yan4 gaii1 and will absolutely harm the social fabric of this community. Approving this project will be taken as a setback in reconciliation efforts with Chinese-Canadian families like mine who experienced racism and discrimination in Vancouver.
Reconciliation requires mutual respect from both parties. It’s time for the City of Vancouver to put the demands of Chinatown’s residents and stewards ahead of developers.
Do1 Ze6. Thank you.
My name is Louis Lapprend. I am a Web Developer.
Today, I am speaking as someone who lives, works, and plays in Chinatown.
I am against the development proposed at 105 Keefer.
Let’s have a look at some of the new businesses that opened in Chinatown since the last public hearings about 105 Keefer.
That’s the name of the restaurant. Since we already had a new sandwich place called “Say Hey Café”, it looks like adding ‘hey’ to a restaurant’s name is a new trend.
According to their website, Hey Kokomo is “A plant-focused cafe in support of you. We are on a pursuit to bring the energy and warmth of summer to your daily life through fresh, nourishing, plant-based bowls”
I visited once. Had a bowl of rice with vegetables and a side of soup, to go. It cost me $24.
The food is good, but definitely not affordable nor attractive to Chinatown seniors.
According to their website: “The magic of Umaluma started with the simple desire to create a super healthy, organic, non-dairy alternative to traditional Italian gelato”
They charge almost $8 for an ice-cream cone.
According to their website: “Started by vegans, for vegans (and of course all those who also enjoy vegan foods!)”
I have been told their staff is instructed to never answer questions about gentrification.
Look, I have absolutely nothing against young entrepreneurs or vegans.
I support a healthy mix of stores. Old and new.
Keep the legacy businesses running and also bring in new blood to keep things interesting.
That was the idea behind Chinatown Revitalization.
Most of the new businesses are unaffordable for the local community. They are not culturally appropriate and make no effort to make their menus accessible to non-english speakers.
A bizarre number of these establishments are vegan. If you wanted to be alienate a low-income community united by a love for barbecue meats, flooding it with expensive vegan shops would be a masterpiece of trolling.
By othering their low-income neighbours who don’t speak English, these businesses rob them of their dignity.
There is something very disturbing with a city in which people of a certain class have the privilege of displacing the less fortunate.
I suppose some of you are wondering what this has to do with 105 Keefer.
The new businesses I was talking about, only started appearing after new residents moved into the luxury rental buildings at 188 Keefer, 189 Keefer, 183 East Georgia, and the various spot-rezoned developments on Georgia Street.
Before that, no bank would have loaned anything to a young white vegan entrepreneur who wanted to open a store in Chinatown.
Now that the demographics in the neighbourhood have been changed, Chinatown is open for new business.
I do not have enough time to explain the basic principles of gentrification and displacement, and I hope most of you are aware of how unethical it is to stand idle, while this is happening, instead of correcting the course of things, striving to make Vancouver a better city.
The proposed development for 105 Keefer is one more luxury condo building. It will dramatically contribute to further demographic change in Chinatown, without any redeeming quality.
Having such a tacky glass tower sitting in what is going to be the main gateway to Chinatown is an insult to Community, History and, plainly, Good Taste.
You, members of the Development Permit Board, may tell yourselves that you are just doing your job by checking boxes validating appropriate bike-rack placement, and parking-space distribution.
You may hide behind guidelines.
You can argue that you did not write the rules.
But you are free citizens, like all of us.
You have a right to take a stand against unfair rules and rules that don’t work for the community anymore.
You have a right to demand change.
Indeed, officials challenging the current rules would send a strong message that these rules need to change.
This is not business as usual: we are in the middle of an affordability crisis.
This is not any neighbourhood: this is Chinatown.
People are fed up with officials blindly approving developments without assessing the socio-economic consequences.
Some of us are working hard to find a better path for Chinatown.
I am hoping you will reject this development proposal, which goes against the interest, health, and true potential of the neighbourhood.
I’m going to read out a letter from my colleague Kay Higgins, but I want to say that I share its concerns, all the more so because I live on the edge of Chinatown and have witnessed what she describes, the rapid distortion of the neighbourhood through unchecked development. I also want to remark that you have been telling people that their remarks have addressed issues outside your terms of reference. But the reason people are addressing issues outside your remit is that there has been a wholesale failure of city planning at every level with respect to Chinatown. This is not merely my own observation but the observation of city planners and professors of planning. Because of the dereliction of duty in planning, you are hearing about crucial issues in this meeting, because they have not been heard and addressed where they should have been, which in earlier assessments of this project.
Dear Members of the Development Permit Board,
First, I feel I should apologize for not being present at this hearing. The application being considered is important to me, and if there were a way for me to attend, I would be there.
I oppose the current application for a development permit at the 105 Keefer site. I am the Executive Director of the UNIT/PITT Society for Art and Critical Awareness, a 42-year-old cultural organization which has been located in Chinatown since 2010; I am also co-proprietor of a publisher and bookbinder, Publication Studio Vancouver, which has been located in Chinatown since 2013. Chinatown, and the surrounding Downtown Eastside, have long provided a sort of refuge for cultural activity that is unusual, difficult, or contentious and which would be rejected by, or met with hostility in, other neighbourhoods of the city.
During the past nearly eight years, I have seen the neighbourhood become more difficult for the people who live in it and who depend upon it, and the reasons for this decline can easily be traced to the pace of development. As I explained during the rezoning hearing for this site earlier this year, new residents who have moved into recently-constructed condos do not, on the whole, augment the existing neighbourhood, but have established a parallel neighbourhood of their own, where they out-compete low-income residents for goods and services, and for space. This is leading to a sharp increase in the loss of affordable sources of culturally-appropriate food, especially to the elimination of vendors of fresh produce, fish, and poultry whose goods are affordable to lower-income residents.
The other effect precipitated by the explosion of development is a sharp increase in land values. For investors, this increase in equity or resale value is desirable; for everyone else, it has been a disaster. My organization, UNIT/PITT, entered into a 15-year lease on our current premises five years ago. During those five years, the assessed value of the property, and therefore the amount of tax that we pay as “additional rent” has more than doubled. Local businesses with impressive longevity have had to close or move, or are about to. And as each one of these closes – a restaurant supply company, a grocery store, a specialty importer – another element of Chinatown’s economic system is eliminated, causing changes for all of the others, and adding to economic stress.
And we must also think of the residents. A few doors down from where I work is the May Wah Hotel, which houses many low-income seniors. Besides the May Wah, buildings belonging to some of the historic clan associations also provide housing of this type. The City has invested in the rehabilitation of some of these buildings through the Chinese Society Legacy Program, as Jenny Kwan has pointed out. But what good is it to stabilize the buildings if the people who live in them have diminishing opportunities to feed themselves, and buy affordable everyday goods, in their neighbourhood?
It is clear that the pace of change is overwhelming Chinatown, and I believe that the City has at least partly understood this in its efforts to create new zoning policies for the area. I also believe that City Council was correct in its rejection of a previous version of this proposal. The previous version was in some ways superior to the current one, in that it made a very small effort to provide housing and cultural space, and yet after listening to submissions Council concluded that the building was not right for this important site. The importance of the site has not diminished, and the concerns expressed by the community have not been met in any convincing fashion.
Council turned down the 105 Keefer rezoning application earlier this year, and that action filled many people with hope that a meaningful new approach to housing and redevelopment was on our horizon. I ask that the Development Permit Board and the Director of Planning fulfill that hope by rejecting the current development permit application and seeking ways to address community needs and aspirations for what this site could be.
Sincerely, Kay Higgins
This speech is also available here.
Good afternoon Development Permit Board,
I urge you to reject the 105 Keefer Development Permit application. It does not meet the intent of the City’s own policies, which is the HA-1A District Schedule and the HA-1A Design Guidelines, because it does not meet the requirement that all new developments must be contextual development in Chinatown.
Context is more about the physical site, the plot of land which the building will stand on. Context is the cultural context, historical context, social and economic context where the proposed building will be in.
HA-1A District Schedule
The HA-1A District Schedule states:
[Chinatown] is a distinct community, which was established in response to the cultural and social needs of its Chinese population.
The intent of this Schedule is to encourage the preservation and rehabilitation of the significant early buildings of Chinatown, while recognizing that the evolving activities that make this district an asset to the city need to be accommodated contextually.
First, let’s look at cultural context — This 105 Keefer site has a cluster of cultural assets surrounding it that is unique to Chinatowns in Canada and even North America. Is putting 111 market condos at the cultural gateway of Chinatown culturally contextual? No, it will diminish the cultural significance of the surrounding cultural assets by its sheer size and mass.
For historical context — Is putting a building over four times taller than the Chinese Veterans and Railway Workers Monument right next to the Monument Plaza historically contextual? No, it will completely reduce the significance of the blood, sweat and tears of the people who built our nation.
For social context — Is putting in 111 condos with 61% being small tiny studios and 1 bedrooms, along with commercial retail units that will be likely occupied by gentrifying businesses (as in all new developments in Chinatown) socially contextual to a community that wants to raise families and take care of its elders, and depend on affordable retail and food services?
Lastly, for economic context — Is putting in unaffordable market condos in one of the lowest income neighbourhoods in Vancouver with a high percentage of low-income seniors and children living in low-income families economically contextual?
HA-1A Design Guidelines
The HA-1A Design Guidelines states on page one that
the intent of these guidelines is to encourage contemporary new development that is responsive to the community’s established cultural and historic identity.
You have a community that is coming in mass angry and raging to speak against this project, not once, but twice — meaning this proposal is not responsive to the community’s established cultural and historic identity.
Even the City’s own Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee filled with people who are experts on the context of Chinatown voted non-support for this project, not just once, but twice. And they don’t vote down everything.
In summary, this project does not meet the district schedule or design guidelines and therefore should be rejected. It is not an “appropriate backdrop” to Chinatown.
Dear Development Permit Board:
I apologize for my absence at City Hall today. I am writing this from another city and have asked my dear friend Vince to deliver my views on this development application, because it is urgent to exercise civic mindfulness, even if I cannot be present. Surely, the effort I have extended must articulate the importance I feel to act and speak, even if one is confronted with an obstacle. My obstacle is geographical. Yours, is merely bureaucratic, an invisible obstruction that exists between sustaining people’s lives and coldy maintaining that which we might call “order”. I have overcome mine, and you can overcome yours.
Ours is a city that is built on lines drawn between classes. I am a citizen whose means, and access to a meaningful standard of living will not be directly impacted by the repercussions of this decision, but by acknowledging that I am in a position of privilege, I hope to use it responsibly to demonstrate that the lines you have drawn should not discourage us from relating and helping one another. Today, I urgently implore you to do the same with your own.
It’s obvious. “The fifth time’s the charm” is not a thing—it’s an expression by someone who doesn’t know how to hear the answer “no”.
Beedie Living needs to learn how to be told “No, you are not going to have Chinatown.” Even if they have done all the paperwork right, the outcomes will be so, so wrong. Protocol doesn’t surpass your responsibility to attend to the life of a community. You are all in position to teach a lesson to developers who run amuck in our city blind to a housing crisis. You possess the clarity to see that this application is held together by petty aesthetic details on the shape, colour palette, and decoration.
It’s obvious. The application’s emphasis on its exterior details as the conveyor of its “cultural sensitivity”* reveals a superficial agenda.** In the application’s appendix under the heading “Development Permit Rationale” Merrick Architecture claims that “the proposal responds to the community desire for a clear response to the historic scale of Chinatown” But scale is not the real issue here. The rationale goes on to include “public benefit through provision of DCL’s, art and to public realm improvements that will improve the urban landscape of Chinatown” which all again, pertain to surface or visual amenities, “while reinforcing its rich cultural fabric.” Again, that word, cultural.
Yet, when comments from the Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee expressed concerns that the project is not a cultural fit with the neighbourhood and asked them to speak to the community’s desire for social housing, Staff responds with “The cultural space is a voluntary community contribution by the applicant, and would not typically be secured under a Development Permit application. There is no requirement under the HA-1A regulations and policies to provide social housing.” *** This rationale is repeated again when asked about suggested alternatives to the site.**** To Beedie Living, this is a matter of checked boxes.
Judging by the language in this application, they have no idea what culture is and use it describe both the skin they wrap over a condo nobody wants, as well as the space they so self righteously offer as a pittance amenity to the existent community. I’m not trying to be melodramatic with my language, but when I look at this application, I can see that this building is dead inside. This is how I, a citizen of this city and a “cultural” worker in Chinatown, must tell you about the plans for this building, and its relationship to our “culture” in Chinatown, which has always been so much more beneath the surface. It raises the question, what does culture look like to Beedie if they are not making any money?
It’s obvious. This development, in its apparent logic of frontierism, is surely considered a blatant act of housing violence. It will systematically erase people from the area. I say erase, because displacement suggests that they have somewhere else to go. They don’t. If this application is approved, surely that too is an act of housing violence as it actively denies housing where it is needed. It will tell us that the city cares more for its policies than it does for its people. Do not approve this application based on checked boxes, reject it because it effaces life.
This is an exceptional tension between a community and a developer. Treat it as exceptional, do not absolve yourselves of civic mindfulness, just because protocols have been mechanically met. We know there are also exceptional ways to govern. We have seen pardons given, land expropriated, we have historically seen laws bend against people in unforgivable ways. Reverse the negative convention and apply exceptionalism towards the sustainability of life, not profit and violence. I’m not asking you to break the law, or defy your civic duty. I’m just saying, you are all public servants, so, serve the public.
Please and thanks,
* “Building massing has been set back…to mitigate views from Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens, and the Keefer St elevation has been composed to be a complementary backdrop to the memorial plaza.”
** “The layering of patterns in the exterior elevations speaks to the character of Chinatown”
*** The cultural space is a voluntary community contribution by the applicant, and would not typically be secured under a Development Permit application. There is no requirement under the HA-1A regulations and policies to provide social housing.
**** Suggested alternative uses for the site included, social housing, park, community centre, intergenerational community/cultural space
Staff Response: The proposed uses – “Dwelling Use” and “Retail” – are both outright uses in the HA-1A District Schedule. In principle, the alternative uses listed above could also be considered on this site, but they are not required to be included in the DP application.
This speech is also available here.
Firstly let me acknowledge that we’re on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, & Tsleil-Waututh nations, & that this government is a colonial machine that subsists on the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, both on Turtle Island & beyond.
I want to respond to your repeated requests for us to limit our comments to the merits of the application in terms of zoning requirements, because I think it speaks to a fundamental tension at play here. On the one hand, you are expected, by the city, to assess zoning requirements — nothing more. On the other, we are asking you to respond to this application in terms of its actual effect on marginalized communities in Chinatown. How are you going to respond to these contradictory pressures? Here are my thoughts on your fraught position, which I earnestly believe is a position we all share, insomuch as we live in a world where we are constantly implicated in all sorts of systemic oppressions that make the ethics of personal culpability & agency quite dizzying to think through.
Bureaucracy makes the systemization of violence possible through both instructive & instrumental means. It’s instructive because it tells us what we can & can’t do, what is or is not relevant in a given context. It’s instrumental because it compartmentalizes responsibility, thus absolving us of the imperative to fully exercise agency. Bureaucracy conflates true possibility with prescribed possibility, rendering itself, among many things, a system of imaginative foreclosure. Limiting my dissent to zoning parameters would mean sacrificing my ability to imagine alternatives to the status quo, & I’m depressed enough as it is. I just can’t do it.
When I think about the ways in which the State depends upon bureaucracy to enact violence, Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil” comes to mind. Her work on moral philosophy contends that under certain, if not all, circumstances, systemic violence is defined by a lack of widespread moral revulsion. In other words, systemic violences are perceived, by those who carry them out & benefit from them, as completely non-violent. Most people recognize evil as evil when it is constructed as historically distant, but it is much harder to confront the violences that we are bound up with in any given present, precisely because they are normalized by various institutions, including municipal governments.
The HA-1A zoning policy requires new developments to be contextual & culturally + historically responsive. Before we go any further, I think we need to acknowledge that context is always plural & that deciding which context takes precedent over another is a political act. Don’t let your job description fool you into thinking that the decision you make regarding this application isn’t inherently political & laden with value judgments.
So how do we determine what the context of this particular site is? I suggest that we cannot extricate colonization & gentrification from the context of 105 Keefer. Just as colonization begins with the judgement that racialized bodies are subhuman, so does capitalism deem bodies that are superfluous to capital as worthless. Only a deeply colonial imagination can perceive gentrification as benign & inevitable. The normalization of gentrification, its construction as an unremarkable & legitimate marker of “progress”, is not just a byproduct of its violence, it’s part of its structure.
If Beedie’s development goes through, it will fuel the ongoing, violent displacement of poor & racialized peoples both materially & ideologically. That means that this condo building will not only force people out of their homes onto the street, it will also naturalize its own banal violence, ensuring that the public continues to accept that the marginalization & death of certain classes of people is inevitable. This is the most pressing context of 105 Keefer: not the height of the building or the size of its retail frontage, but its material impact on the poor, the homeless, & the racialized, as well as its ideological foundation, which is rooted in the complementary logics of colony & capital.
If we are to live ethically, we have to go beyond recognitions of wrong that are predicated on an assumed distance. The reality that our lives are compartmentalized by a capitalist State is no excuse to divest ourselves of the responsibility to care for one another. Please reject this application.
Good evening everyone, my name is Yulanda Lui and I want to begin by acknowledging that I am speaking on the unceded and occupied lands of the musqueam, squamish, and tsleil waututh nations. I want to thank these Indigenous nations and all of you for the opportunity to speak in front of you about this application for a development permit at the 105 Keefer site in Chinatown.
I am a Chinese Seniors Outreach Worker in Chinatown and the coordinator of Youth for Chinese Seniors, and I am asking you to reject this development permit application. Youth for Chinese Seniors works with low income Chinese Seniors in the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown, by providing necessary services, such as interpretation, medical accompaniment, and other programming. We see first hand the impact new development in Chinatown that is not culturally appropriate or responsive to the community’s needs, is having on seniors in Chinatown. Unfortunately, this development application for the 105 Keefer site does not fit the physical, economical, social, cultural or historical context of Chinatown, it will not serve the needs of the existing community, and should be rejected.
The 105 Keefer site is crucial to the cultural and historic identity of the Chinatown neighbourhood. It is right at the Chinese veteran’s and railway workers memorial plaza, a site that signifies the many years of oppression and struggle that Chinese Canadians lived through so that we could all be here today. That is the history of Chinatown, a community built through resilience and resistance to the racism and marginalization from the dominant community and from the government itself. Chinatown today is still fighting against racism, against having their history and community erased, and against developments like this one that threatens the existence of Chinatown as a cultural, historic, and thriving neighbourhood. Building a 9 storey condo at the Chinese veteran’s and railway workers memorial plaza, an essential community space that marks the identity of the neighbourhood and a place of reverence for our ancestors, is not culturally appropriate. This proposed development is not contextual development or responsive to Chinatown’s established cultural and historic identity, which is the stated intent of the Chinatown HA-1A design guidelines.
As a Chinese Seniors Outreach Worker, I have the privilege of connecting with many seniors in Chinatown everyday as well as with other community groups, organizations, and service providers that serve the Chinatown community. Some of the big issues Chinese seniors are facing include losing essential services and businesses in the neighbourhood to meet their basic needs, language barriers to accessing many services that are not provided in their language, lack of affordable and appropriate social housing, and discrimination because of their race, age, gender, class, and language ability. As more and more luxury condos and high end businesses that serve the people who can actually afford to move into these condos, like this proposal, are coming in, I hear from seniors that the neighbourhood is changing, that there are more stores that they are not welcome in, that their friends are moving further and further away, and that they don’t feel cared for by our government. If you approve this development application for 105 Keefer, this will get worse. Another market condo will only speed up gentrification in Chinatown. It will be harder for our low income Chinese seniors to survive in Chinatown. Our seniors will get pushed out of a neighbourhood that is their community, their home, one of the only neighbourhoods they can still afford to live, eat, and be in community. Don’t let that disappear.
This 105 Keefer development application is inappropriate for this site. It does not fit into the physical, economic, historic, and cultural context of Chinatown. It will contribute to the marginalization of our low income Chinese seniors who are living in Chinatown today. Reject this development proposal for 105 Keefer. Thank you.
My name is Marielle Wall-Sam. I am here to tell the story of my family, and relate it to the events occurring today to my elders.
I am the great-granddaughter of Low Wong Shee, a former child slave who was sold to a man here in Vancouver. My great-grandmother gave birth to 9 children in Canada, each who never knew their father.
One was sold to a rich family, one managed to open a restaurant in interior B.C., one got meningitis at an early age and was left disabled. Five died in tuberculosis sanitorium, and one, my grandmother, Sam Lo Sui Oi or Lilian, recently passed away this August at the age of 98.
When my grandmother was born, she was not considered a person under law and she didn’t gain that right until 1947. She grew up watching the city pass laws that marginalized and scrutinized her humanity.
- She watched the only country she ever knew ban people that looked like her in 1923
- Predominately white labour unions protest her ability work and accumulate wealth because she was a “race deemed unsuited to the climate of Canada”
- and the city expropriate land from the Chinese immigrants who bought it
This city and country told her that Chinese is bad, is dirty, and is shameful. Something she internalized and taught to my mother which was then taught on to me, stealing my culture and stealing my language.
So when my grandmother passed this August, I – a child with no tongue and no culture – didn’t know how to say goodbye to the woman I love so much. My mother didn’t know, and neither did my aunts or uncles. I had no one to turn to for me to understand how my people, my culture, would say goodbye. This is where I am so grateful to the people of Chinatown, because without them, her and my soul would be lost.
A shop owner told me the way I could say goodbye to my grandmother, she taught me the practices and words I must speak to send her off to reincarnation with good luck. I am forever grateful for this, but without Chinatown I wouldn’t ever had access to that.
So now I worry, because I am seeing more and more storefronts close. More shops that use my culture as just something pretty, and not doing anything for the people of this area. Because of increased land-prices and rent prices my elders are being pushed out of the neighbourhood, and these are 70-80 year old elders.
Chinatown is nothing without the people who inhabit it, if we keep of raising prices of living there by putting in luxury condos, we are going to lose it and children like me will never be able to reconnect with their culture.
Mr. Beedie, when your family immigrated here they were given rights and privileges my Chinese elders, were not. Your family was able to accumulate wealth while many of my elders couldn’t because of their race.
Your family was in Canada during Chinese Exclusion Act, and I am asking what did your family do to help the Chinese then? To make sure they had the same rights your family had.
Mr. Beedie, you are not a bad person, I have been told that you are a very kind and charitable person, but that doesn’t mean history was not favourable to you.
History, Mr. Beedie, effects our everyday lives. History stole my culture, and history empowered yours. So I am asking you what can you do now as reparations of the past? What can you do to help my elders and the people of the DTEs who are facing racism on the daily, who aren’t getting enough food, and are living in sub-standard housing?
Yesterday I told my grandfather I was coming to speak to city council about 105 Keefer Street. He looked at me and said, “The chinese people are good people, Marielle. You must protect Chinatown”. So here I am, opposing 105 Keefer Street, protecting Chinatown.
This speech is also available here.
My name is Jannie Leung and I’m also known as 梁泳詩. I’m an organizer with the Chinatown Action Group.
I grew up here on unceded Coast Salish territories, and Chinatown has always been an important part of my identity, culture, and community. I am indebted to the elders of Chinatown — many of whom you’ve met today — who teach me my language and history, and teach me to speak up for what is right.
I’m here today to ask you to do the right thing and reject Beedie’s application at 105 Keefer on the grounds that it will cause devastating social and economic harm to the neighbourhood.
Building condos at the Keefer triangle will not only disrespect a culturally and historically important site in Chinatown, it will further threaten the livelihoods of the neighbourhood’s most marginalized residents. In the neighbouring 189 Keefer building, we have seen 1 bedroom condos being sold for just under half a million dollars. In a neighbourhood where the median household income of the area is $27,000 and social housing waitlists are years long, and with over 2000 homeless people in Vancouver, it would be completely inappropriate to allow more condos to be built instead of affordable social housing.
Since 2014, Beedie’s previous 4 attempts to build on this site were unsuccessful because of overwhelming community opposition. We have voiced again and again that this community does not need more condos, but what we desperately need is affordable social housing. Yet, this developer has demonstrated that their sole interest is in making profit, and they do not care about or respect the Chinatown community. They especially do not care about the low-income people in this neighbourhood who struggle daily to meet even their basic needs. It is a selfish and greedy act that their current application has 111 units of market condos that will be completely unaffordable for these residents, and zero units of affordable social housing.
In this current version of their development application, 78% of community members giving feedback oppose this development. It is not appropriate to allow a building into a neighbourhood that will cause harm to the community and where the majority have rejected it.
And while I have your attention here, I also need to speak on the discrimination and exclusion I have seen within this Development Permit process. We know that a very high proportion of residents in Chinatown are unilingual Chinese speakers. And it is inexcusable that many of its residents can’t participate equally in these city processes about their neighbourhood because they speak a different language. Language accessibility is something that can be so easily addressed with appropriate interpretation services.
As we have seen today, the Chinese speakers only get half the time to speak as everyone else because they need English interpretation. There has been no interpretation of the proceedings into Cantonese and Mandarin for them, so they watch other people talk about their community and make decisions about it, but they cannot understand what is happening.
Chinatown has a long history of the city making decisions about them, for them, and enforcing regulations that threaten their livelihoods without their consultation. Even today, I commonly hear from Chinatown residents and businesses that they feel like their voices do not matter, and even when they participate in city processes, the city does not listen to their needs.
This is unacceptable.
As the City of Vancouver is making efforts towards reconciliation for historical discrimination against Chinese people, it is appalling to me that there continues to be systemic racism to this day. It is appalling that you discredit the community members telling you the very real and harmful impacts on their lives. It is appalling that you think you can ignore social impacts in assessing this development.
And despite the accessibility barriers, some of our courageous Chinatown elders have come here to speak their truth to you. Can you tell these elders to their face that Beedie’s profit is more important than their lives? Can you, in good conscience, approve a development that the Chinatown community has so definitively opposed?
I ask you to show us that these city processes are not a sham. I ask you to show us that we no longer live in a time when Chinese voices are silenced and our needs ignored. I ask you respect what the Chinatown community has so clearly asked for and do your duty to protect the community against a development that will cause irreparable harm to the community. I ask you to reject Beedie’s development application.
I also ask that you undertake a review of your procedures to end these discriminatory practices and ensure that community members have equal opportunities to participate and their accessibility needs are addressed. You can do better. You must do better.
My name is Belle Cheung and I serve on the City of Vancouver’s Arts and Culture Policy Council. I am currently out of town, and have asked someone to speak in my place. I am speaking today as an individual, and not on behalf of the policy council, to bring an arts and culture perspective to the discussion
I spent many years working in Vancouver’s arts and culture industries, and it’s imperative for the City to recognize that the 105 Keefer development permit is not separate from everyday discussions about arts and culture in this city. Culture exists beyond our libraries, theatres, public art, and museums because it’s in the very spaces we occupy. People participate in arts and culture that speaks to and represents who they are and their culture.. But this support of culture must extend beyond what is traditionally seen as “the arts” and artistic expression, because art does not exist without culture.
On October 17, Cultural Services presented the new Creative City strategy to Council. The new strategy is intended to support long term artistic and cultural sustainability in Vancouver, not only so that artists can afford to live and work in this city, but also to bring focus to communities and groups that have not historically been heard or captured. I am optimistic about the new strategy, and am looking forward to working with Council and staff as next steps begin. I also know, however, that Cultural Services cannot do this alone if other departments do not also recognize their relationship to culture. Developments – and the Development Board – have the capacity and tremendous responsibility of making decisions that ultimately impact communities and their culture. Culture extends beyond murals and festivals, and lives in the spaces and communities that are impacted by developments. If the new strategy is not supported across City departments, and does not start with a recognition that culture extends beyond the visual and performing arts and digital industries, then we have already failed.
The Chinatown Design Guidelines and the HA-1A zoning both point to context and fit for new development in Chinatown, but then only assess the physical building. The building’s site frontage, density, and number of storeys all violate new proposed zoning policies for Chinatown. The City of Vancouver has a responsibility to recognize that heritage extends beyond the physical preservation of buildings and design technicalities. The responsibility lies in creating policies that protect and support the intangibles of culture that make heritage – that is, a community’s values, history, traditions, and sense of belonging. The Chinatown Design Guidelines state that “the intent is to encourage…new development that is responsive to the Chinatown community’s established cultural and historic identity.” The Chinatown community has told the City for 4 years that the proposed tower at 105 Keefer does not fit the context of such a historically significant area. Today, the City of Vancouver has an opportunity to carry out its duty to its citizens and do better, as stipulated by your own guidelines and zoning.
The Chinatown Historic Planning Committee has rejected this proposal because it does not meet the needs of the community and is not culturally relevant or respectful for the site. As an individual who currently serves on a Council for the City, I would not hesitate to question whether the City values the voices of those they have asked to guide them, if the Development Board chooses to approve this permit application.
I am speaking today as a citizen dedicated to this city’s artistic and cultural sustainability and longevity, with grave concerns for cultural sustainability in Vancouver. Chinatown is no doubt a part of this City’s arts and culture, and the City needs to recognize the threat that this application poses to our culture. When I say “our,” I don’t mean it only as a Chinese-Canadian, but also as someone who has grown up in this city. The real question then is not whether this building has met technical and design requirements, but rather what kind of a city do we want to be? Do we continue to reject culture to fabricate it instead, or do we choose to be a city that not only hears and supports, but also embraces our existing cultural communities? I urge the Development Board to listen to the Chinatown community and reject the 105 Keefer development application to keep Vancouver’s culture alive.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. My name is Angela Ho and I am a concerned Vancouver resident here to oppose the 105 Keefer development application.
It is clear that with each new iteration of their proposal that Beedie simply does not meet the needs of the community. We’ve seen that in the way the community has mobilized over the last four years against 105 Keefer, and especially with the overwhelming community opposition to the most recent rezoning application this past summer. Chinatown has, and continues to be a safe haven for some of the most marginalized residents in our city, and this neighbourhood does not need another luxury condo that is beyond the reach of the local community.
The proposed building violates contextual development requirements and intent in the Chinatown HA-1A zoning policy, whereby new development must be responsive to the Chinatown community’s established cultural and historic identity. As you may know, an important part of Chinatown’s historic and cultural identity is grounded in the the local, affordable and culturally appropriate businesses that services residents from Chinatown, Strathcona and the DTES. In my work on food security with the hua foundation, our organization has found that cultural food assets are being lost from Chinatown at an alarmingly rapid rate. 50% of Chinatown’s fresh food stores — greengrocers, fishmongers, barbecue meat stores and butcher shops— were lost from the neighbourhood between 2009 to 2016. 32% of Chinese dry goods stores, and 56% of the food service retailers in operation in 2009 were also lost during that timeframe. These staggering losses have coincided with the recent and intense developmental pressures in Chinatown. New condo developments in Chinatown are not responsive to the historical and cultural context, as they exacerbate pressures of gentrification in Chinatown by increasing rent and property values, making it increasingly difficult for traditional businesses to operate and remain in the neighbourhood. Beedie’s development proposal for 105 Keefer is no exception.
Last week, I had the opportunity to present the findings from our Vancouver Chinatown Food Security Report to City staff. In the conversation that followed, it was apparent to me that City staff from across different departments — Social Policy, BIA, rezoning, economic development, and DTES planning — are keen to support the long term viability of cultural food assets and small businesses in Chinatown. While I remain hopeful of their well intentions, I also believe that these intentions must be grounded in concrete and progressive action. We need coordination and cooperation from across different City departments, and rejecting the 105 Keefer development proposal is a crucial step that the Development Board can make to protecting longstanding traditional Chinatown businesses from displacement.
As I stated five months ago at City Hall, 105 Keefer must be considered carefully in relation to the rest of the neighbourhood. Although the Development Board is considering an application for one site, it is critical to remember that the board will be making a decision for the rest of the neighbourhood, one that will shape Chinatown’s pathways in the years to come. I urge the Development Board to take leadership and demonstrate to us that the City is truly committed to inclusive, equitable and socially just planning and development in Chinatown by rejecting Beedie’s development proposal.
Full report: huafoundation.org/foodreport
I am here to speak against Beedie Living’s development application at 105 Keefer St. I ask you to listen to a community that has voiced, many times, over many years, that they do not want this building at this site. Building another luxury condo in Chinatown/Downtown Eastside is an act of violent displacement. It is destructive to a community that has a right to remain where they are. I want to remind you of the effect of doubling and tripling property values in a historically low-income neighbourhood. The effect that this has had on those who have been historically marginalized, on low income, working class people, on racialized people especially those who have been affected by settler-colonialism, on drugs users, on sex-workers, on those who struggle with mental heath issues. That is to say, I want to remind you of the negative impact this development will have on those who should draw the greatest care and consideration on your part.
Starting in the 1980s, my grandfather practiced Chinese medicine out of a herbal shop in downtown Toronto. What drove him to quit working there after decades of service was when the shop wanted to charge $50 dollars for a medical examination, which was unconscionably unaffordable for the low-income Chinese seniors who relied on this service. I think of him when I see how gentrification is changing Chinatown/DTES so that it no longer suits the needs of the people who live there. Chinese seniors deserve access to the medicine, groceries, and amenities that are appropriate to their needs. Low-income residents deserve access to safe and affordable housing. At-risk people deserve access to culturally appropriate support and community services. This is the kind of infrastructure that should be endorsed and developed in the neighbourhood, not another luxury condo.
I recently spoke with a friend who, having grown up here, recently moved back to Vancouver after several years away. He spoke of the disturbing changes in the city, not only in landscape but also in attitude in the time he has been away. He talked about walking down Hastings St and seeing a man who had fallen out of his wheelchair. No one helped this man get back in his chair. He was ignored, people just walked around him. This is the callous attitude that I find is becoming more and more endemic in this city. As a cultural worker, an artist, I see this manifest as people struggle to make things happen. When there is no affordable space, there is no room for diversity or creativity. A recent census shows that East Vancouver is becoming less diverse, is being whitewashed, as household incomes increase. Vancouver’s cultural and social landscape is flattening into something far less interesting. I’ve been attending a lot of the open houses around this development and I am struck by the attitude of those who are invested in the development of this site. Their narrative is that change in this neighbourhood is inevitable, never mind what kind of change, never mind that they happen to be the ones who stand to benefit from this change. Never mind, no regard, no care for the vibrant, beautiful, and complicated community that already exists here. This is a horrible and selfish attitude.
We have already seen the effects of the Woodward’s development. Despite promises of sustainability and consideration for the neighbourhood, the building had a direct and negative effect in Chinatown/DTES. We have seen a dramatic increase in rentals and the closure of SROs. The ripple effect of this and other developments, of inadequate income assistance, of poor rent control and poor eviction protections, can be felt across the city. Personally, in the seven years that I’ve lived here, I’ve been renovicted twice, and also lived out of a tent and a vehicle for one year. I can tell you first hand that such precarity is terrifying and exhausting. It is very easy for problems to spiral into larger and larger issues. I can only imagine how much more difficult this would have been for those with less support than I had. All people have the right to a safe home. The proposed development at 105 Keefer St is a threat to this right and this safety. The only possible housing that should be considered for development in Chinatown/DTES is social housing.
I’m going to begin by apologizing – I lost my voice yesterday. I will try to speak as clearly as possible. I appreciate being given the opportunity to speak.
I want to acknowledge my privilege in that I am able to speak in the way I can; in order to give a voice to the Chinese seniors who cannot.
My name is Amanda Huynh. I am a design educator and resident of East Vancouver and am here in opposition to the current 105 Keefer development application.
You are asking us to address the merits of the application, but I’m asking you to consider the context of Chinatown beyond technical drawings and what can be concretely recorded on paper and with checklists. This site is symbolic for people who live in and frequently visit chinatown — situated next to the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens and the Chinese Veterans & Railway Workers Memorial.
We know that market-priced housing in Chinatown results in an increased loss of cultural food that supports the Chinese seniors and a continuation of cultural legacy for ethnically chinese people who visit. Consider what this means for the seniors.
I was born in Southern Alberta in a city that was 90% white. I tell this story as I am trying to ground these arguments in my lived experience in order to encourage you to look beyond building heights and shadow studies. My paternal grandmother lived out her final years in a overwhelmingly white senior care home with her daughters (my aunts) taking turns delivering her 3 meals a day. She didn’t want to eat macaroni and cheese. I can tell you, she would not have wanted to eat vegan pizza. She wanted food that tasted like home, or she refused to eat at all. It’s about giving our elders a good quality of life, including the comforts of culturally appropriate food availability. I urge you to consider that if you approve this development, that is what you are ultimately taking away. In new developments around Keefer & Main, none of the commercial retail units are culturally appropriate to the area or accessible to local seniors.
I am also concerned about lack of regulations in place for holding developers accountable for the amenities and concessions they offer in order to appease this development approval board. Previous promises for community amenities frequently go un-kept or “scaled down” once zoning / development approved.
For me, as an Canadian born Chinese woman, Vancouver’s Chinatown has provided a sense of belonging, support, and identity. It is a part of Chinese people’s collective heritage and history, which has created a social network and a cultural fabric for the community. We talk a lot about ecological sustainability in Vancouver, Greenest City 2020.. I want to live in a city that plans around cultural sustainability, committed to maintaining the vibrant neighbourhoods we have left. If we want to be able to brag about a vibrant city with unique and distinct neighbourhoods we have to show up to protect those things. Chinese people still live in Chinatown and rely on it to serve unique needs. Our history shouldn’t be erased, or literally overshadowed.
The will of the Chinatown community even the wider Vancouver community for this development to be scrapped is clear and unambiguous. To go against that will and approve a proposal slipped in under the wire before new zoning regulations go in so wealthy developers can further their wealth would be an embarrassment for our city and also for this board, specifically. If you cannot see that this development should not be approved, you are choosing not to see it.
Based on your vote, you can decide whether 105 Keefer can be a symbol of meaningful community engagement and inclusive city-building OR a symbol of the willful ignorance of the municipal government and its deference to wealthy developers.
As you consider the colours of the façade, the building height requirements and the number of electric car parking stalls, please also consider the livelihoods and the quality of life of the very real people that live in, work in and love Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Here are related speeches that were not delivered during the meeting of the Development Permit Board (DPB).
To city permit board staff,
Please accept this e-mail in opposition to the proposal from Beedie to build condos at the 105 Keefer site. I stand with the Chinatown Action Group and the Chinatown Concern Group (amongst many others) when I say NO to condos in Chinatown.
I have worked in the DTES for 8 years and have seen the rapid gentrification in the neighbourhood causing the loss of lower income units, Chinese speaking health care providers, Chinese grocers, and more. I have seen the increased condo development, expensive grocers, and trendy cafes. These resources do nothing FOR the community, instead they HARM the community by pushing up rents and forcing residents out of their neighbourhood.
If the City of Vancouver is honest about it’s goal to end homelessness and preserve the heritage of Chinatown then they should first and foremost preserve the wellbeing of the low-income residents of Chinatown.
Despite the City of Vancouver’s New Beginnings (old photos in business windows) program, Chinatown isn’t dead, it isn’t a faint memory, and we should not treat this neighbourhood as a living museum. Instead of replicating historical harms (forcing marginalized communities out of neighbourhoods, choosing profit over human lives, and therefore prioritizing higher incomes and mainly white lives over the lives of the poor and racialized) City council must refuse this application and deny Beedie the opportunity to force people out.
If you APPROVE of this development, you will have assisted in the destruction of this neighbourhood, the demise of this community, the increased levels of homelessness, and the promotion of money over human lives.
Why oppose Beedie’s condos:
1) REJECTED by community over and over and over. This is Beedie’s 5th application because of community opposition since 2014. Almost 3,000 people signed a petition calling for low-income seniors housing and public intergenerational community space on this site.
2) ZERO affordable housing. Despite touting non-market housing in previous versions, Ryan Beedie is now pushing for 111 units of expensive market housing in Chinatown with no affordable housing at all. This profit-driven project will worsen the housing and homelessness crisis in a neighbourhood where incomes are among the lowest in the province.
3) INCREASES gentrification. More expensive condos will increase rents and costs of living in Chinatown and push its low-income residents out, especially Chinese seniors.
4) NOT ENOUGH community benefits. The private seniors’ space will be rented out to only a few groups and is not accessible to the wider community.
5) DISRESPECTS a culturally and historically important site in Chinatown. Luxury condos should not be built beside the monument for Chinese-Canadian war veterans and railway workers, Chinese Cultural Centre and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. The Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee does not support Beedie’s condos at this site.
This speech is also available here.
Hey, I’m Vince Tao, speaking on behalf of Chinatown Action Group.
You know why we’re here today. Beedie is attempting to push through its latest, and likely last, development application to build on the 105 Keefer site. For the last four years, the Chinatown community has come together in opposition to Beedie’s designs to construct a tower of market-rate, luxury condos that would cast a long shadow over the Chinese Worker’s Memorial and the Sun-yat Sen Garden. If built, the condos on 105 Keefer will accelerate the destruction and displacement of Chinatown as we know it — where communities of workers, immigrants, and the marginalized, of all backgrounds, have laboured to make homes in their image.
This is Beedie’s fifth application. We’ve beaten them back four times now. They’ve seen our strength. The community has spoken. No Beedie at 105 Keefer.
You would think after four years of mounting community resentment and four rejections from the city, billionaire developer Ryan Beedie would have the sense and dignity to cut his losses and crawl back to the gilded cave he came from. But he’s bitter. He can’t stand that the poor, the working, the youth, and the elders of Chinatown have banded together to run him out of city hall. He wants revenge. Beedie’s last failed application promised 12 storeys of market-rate condos with 25 units of social housing. We called his bullshit; 25 is a drop in the bucket in this city, and only 7 of those units were actually affordable to seniors living on welfare and pensions. Today: Beedie wants to railroad through a 9-storey tower with zero units of social housing. Zero units. This is the cruel last resort of a man vindictive of the community that has grown stronger than ever together in struggle and opposition.
But Ryan Beedie will do as Ryan Beedie does. He is a pathetic, greedy little man — his contempt for the poor should not surprise us in the least. The city, however, had a rare opportunity to buy the land back from Beedie and, with BC Housing, build 100% social housing on the site. Just three days ago, we were notified that this negotiation had ended, and the latest application, featuring a stunning 0% units of social housing, will proceed to be reviewed by the Development Permit board, not city council. The cowardice of the city and BC Housing on this matter, at a time when the homelessness crisis has reached unimaginable heights, at a time when the homes and livelihoods of Chinatown’s most marginalized hang dangerously at the brink of disappearance, their failure to seize this opportunity is nothing more than a crime by the rich against the poor, the violence of profit over people.
Ain’t nobody going to save Chinatown. Not the developers, not the non-profits, not Chinatown “stakeholders”, not even the city. Chinatown doesn’t need to be saved. United, the working and the poor of Chinatown have the power to determine what happens to their homes, and we’re going to fight like hell for our right to live and prosper in the neighbourhood.
They have the money, but we have the power.