Streams of Justice Letter Opposing Sequel 138 Development at Pantages Site

(We need letters like this by August 12th to the City to help stop the plan for condos at the Pantages site. For more information on writing a letter as a group or individual please visit https://dtesnotfordevelopers.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/write-to-city-against-condos-on-hastings-100-block/ )

July 25, 2011

To Alice Kwan, Scott Barker, Brent Toderian:

My name is Dave Diewert and I am an organizer with Streams of Justice, a faith-based social justice group in the city. Let me begin by acknowledging that we live and work on occupied, unceded Coast Salish territories. I am writing to express our opposition to the development permit application for Sequel 138 (DE414810). The proposed mixed use development (80% market housing; 20% social housing; commercial space) at 138 E. Hastings St. is entirely unacceptable to us.

The 100 block East Hastings is an important area for the Downtown Eastside community because it contains a substantial number of low-income housing units and many key gathering places for low-income residents that offer a variety of supportive services. Dropping market housing onto this block would be a gentrification bomb in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, setting off a tidal wave of increased rents, land speculation, more condo projects, upscale businesses, and enhanced security and police presence. We have witnessed these impacts on the area immediately surrounding the mixed development at Woodward’s, and we are certain Sequel 138 will unleash similar forces in the heart of the low-income community. The inevitable result will be displacement, exclusion and hostility for those who live the reality of poverty in this neighbourhood they call home.

Approval of this project would also be a contradiction of the City’s own policy for this area, which calls for “revitalization without displacement.” It is unrealistic to think that the displacement of low-income people could be avoided in the event that Sequel 138 went forward. Moreover, giving the green light to this development permit application before the completion of the social impact study or the local area planning process would signal a clear disregard for these community processes which the City itself has initialized.

In addition, on page 6 of the City’s DTES Housing Plan, it clearly states that the “the pace of development of new market and low-income housing” is to be similar. Yet the addition of Sequel 138 to the neighbourhood would ensure that market housing will continue to outpace social housing by 3 to 1; and if social housing were limited to those units renting at the welfare rate ($375 / month), the pace would be an astounding 11 to 1.

Finally, you are no doubt aware that the demolition of the old Pantages Theatre site has been halted by inspectors from the City of Vancouver and WorkSafe BC. This stoppage was the result of serious breaches in health and safety protocols and procedures. The demolition of the site was being carried out in a manner that showed blatant disregard for the workers on site, neighbouring residents and passing pedestrians. This shows the developer’s distain and contempt for the current residents of this community, and confirms the conviction that the project will only bring harm not benefit to the neighbourhood.

In light of this, Streams of Justice has signed on to a DTES Community Resolution that firmly opposes this development proposal. The resolution calls on the City of Vancouver to reject the development permit application, to purchase the land in question, and to designate it for 100% resident controlled social housing and community space that is to be determined by the low-income residents and communities in the DTES. To date there are over 1100 individual signatures and 37 groups and organizations that endorse the resolution. This indicates clearly the strong opposition to this project in the community and among its supporters.

The devastating fallout of Sequel 138 for the low-income community of the DTES is profoundly disturbing. As such, we ask that a decision on this application (DE414810) not be made by the Director of Planning or the Development Permit Board. A technical or bureaucratic framework for approval or disapproval on a matter of such immense consequence for the neighbourhood would be a travesty of justice, and a betrayal of the DTES community. The decision must be postponed and the matter given a public hearing before City Council. If this does not happen, you can be assured that the DTES low-income community and its allies will aggressively oppose the project every step of the way.

Sincerely,
Dave Diewert
Streams of Justice

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