As the main points of the City’s coming DTES Local Area Plan (LAPP) begin to emerge from the highest offices of city hall, a caucus of low-income people who have been involved in the consultation process around the LAPP are developing their own plan. The City’s Developer Plan will likely prioritize continuing the “revitalization” and “social mix” development of the DTES through making profit for corporations. The caucus’s Community Plan lays out the main points of what City Hall would have to do to make the Downtown Eastside a Social Justice Zone where low-income people are safer and more comfortable and where people come before profit.
Herb Varley, who is also co-chair of the city’s DTES LAPP planning process, representing the DTES Neighbourhood Council, explains the need to put pressure on the city planning process from the streets. “Our community fought for years to be part of planning the future of our own neighbourhood, saying ‘nothing about us without us,’” he said. “But after two-years of working with the city I wonder what we have been included in. It feels like the only questions we get to answer are about how we would like to die, slow or fast, not whether we want to live.”
Herb said the Caucus’s community plan for a Social Justice Zone is an important alternative to the City’s misrepresentation of the needs of those most vulnerable to homelessness and displacement. “We don’t want to be homeless, we don’t want to rely on charity to survive, we don’t want development that doesn’t include us,” he said. “We don’t want to be included in a decision making process if we can’t say no, and which can’t change the power structure that is crushing us.”
“There’s no evidence that the city plans to stop gentrification which has and will continue to cause displacement,” said Karen Ward, member of the LAPP committee representing Gallery Gachet. “They want to make space for condos and development first, and put low-income residents second, if there’s space for us at all. We need our own plan to make low-income people the priority.”
The DTES LAPP Anti-Gentrification Caucus launched the Downtown Eastside Community Plan for a Social Justice Zone as a campaign at a town hall on May 20. It will include a door to door petition drive in buildings throughout the DTES, and an “all-out to defend the DTES” demonstration to launch the plan as the “truthful outcome of the Local Area Planning Process” on Tuesday June 11 at 1pm in front of the Carnegie Community Centre at Main and Hastings.