As artists residents and allies working in the Downtown Eastside Community we are writing to oppose the development application DE414810 “Sequel 138: A Downtown Arts and Housing Project” and to demand a public hearing to address the future of the Pantages Theatre site at 138 East Hastings.
In response to the offensive claims made by Marc Williams in his July 27th press release we state the following:
CLAIM 1. “target market is artists who work in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), or would like to do so”
Downtown Eastside resident who are artists are predominantly low-income renters. It is clear that these are not the artists being targeted by this proposal. The cost of purchasing a unit in this property is generally unaffordable to members of this community. This proposal serves to capitalize on the growing identification of the area as an “arts district”, ignoring the viable, significant community presence and this community’s rich and extensive history as artists. The “artists” being appealed to are out of area and upwardly mobile investors.
CLAIM 2. “Sequel 138 residents will also include employees of DTES non-profits who would like to live where they work.”
Another false premise of the developer is that workers in the community can afford condo property prices or further, that workers would desire the displacement of community members we work with in order to access these 450 square foot properties. This statement emphasizes a problematic model of “community development” and seeks to further entrench divisions between communities and social services. As Jean Swanson has pointed : “we work with a lot of DTES artists and they could never afford a $227K condo [and] There was a similar project at 60W Cordova. Union workers at Carnegie applied and their incomes were too low to qualify. Low cost is a relative term.”
CLAIM 3. “Additionally, there will be 18 units of social housing operated by a recognized non-profit housing provider.”
The City’s Development Plan requires this minimum inclusion of social housing. This inadequate concession is dismissive of the dire need for low-income housing. We do not need another segregated, mixed-housing facility with only a small contingent of social housing available.
CLAIM 4. “Uniquely, there will also be 2500 square feet of space created for art and gallery work,” Williams said. “And there will be retail space on the ground floor.”
Downtown Eastside community resident artists have been calling for a collective studio and exhibition space for decades. This proposed project presents a top-down facility with no indication of its accessibility to community members. This backroom deal’s involvement of the “Art Space Action Society”, a non-profit profit investor formed to support the developer’s interest in saleable social enterprise, has no relationship with the majority of community members or established community arts groups in the Downtown Eastside. There has been no reasonable points of outreach or support for existing programs – including various programs that have been operating for over decades. Communication with the broad community has only happened with the launch of the project itself. This attempt to secure space while glossing the participation of DTES artists is instrumental and insulting and should not be accepted as representative of this community.
CLAIM 5. “This part of Hastings is a dead zone. Apart from drug-dealing, it has seen no activity for 30 years. “There will be no displacement of anyone”, “No one lives there now. Not one person. Only rats. No one will be displaced.”
Most devastating is the developer’s characterization of this area and community.Clearly ignorant of the various services, residents and people who live and dwell in this block – and by indicating the inhabitants as “only rats” Marc Williams and partners are entirely unethical in their attempted erasure of the community of people who occupies this space. The further claim of “No displacement. Not one person” then, is a blatant lie. As a whole these sentiments undermine any of the claims being made by the Sequel 138 proposal.
WE CALL ON THE CITY OF VANCOUVER To hold a public hearing allowing for community input regarding this space and this offensive development proposal