City staff began preparing an update on the Chinatown Economic Revitalization Action Plan (CRAP) in October of last year, which included two open houses for the public to share feedback regarding the proposed changes. As per usual with consultation processes, the City failed to notify residents in many buildings in Chinatown, Strathcona, and the Downtown Eastside. Those who received the small notice cards thought they were spam, or could not understand the Chinese translation. At the two open house dates, the vast majority of the displays only had the titles translated into Chinese, and very inadequate interpretation done by City staff, in addition to the absence of a Mandarin interpreter.
When Chinatown Concern Group asked for the materials to be fully translated, it took over a month to get the translations, and the City’s excuse to the request for certified interpreters was a shortage of funds and time. The City’s complete disregard for the language rights of entire migrant communities that already face barriers to accessing information seems purposeful; the consultations are merely a front.
After Chinatown Concern Group held a press conference last November calling out major problems of accessibility and undemocratic consultation processes, the City agreed to hold a third open house in early 2017, as requested. However, the timing was within the first week of lunar new year (festivities last for 15 days) so many residents were busy, and notices were sent to the same buildings that were flyered for the October 2016 open houses less than two weeks prior.
We strongly oppose the CRAP because, contrary to its goals of supporting “innovative heritage, cultural and affordable housing projects,” “preserving Chinatown’s unique heritage,” and “bringing community members together to address issues such as economic growth and heritage retention,” the proposed policy will systematically displace and marginalize the low-income Chinese community even more than the Historic Heights Review of 2011.
Major changes include raising the maximum building height all around, with developments of up to 150 ft (or about 14 stories) on Main Street that will no longer need to apply for rezoning or hold public consultations. New developments also do not need to include any social housing. Buildings over 90 ft only need to include 20% of units as social housing, but not at 1/3 of the renter’s income or at welfare/pension rate.
Another incentive for developers is the proposed 200 foot wide building site fronts. The main reason why condo developers were not attracted to Chinatown in the past was because of height limits from the Historic Area designation and the 25 foot wide lots. City Council, during its public consultation period of the Heights Review in 2009, received feedback of “strong opposition to taller towers.” It also heard that “heritage character and scale [were] most important” and a “concern for impact of development on the low-income community.” But Council still passed it and opened the floodgates for market development in Chinatown. Our elected civil servants have ignored public feedback (that they had knowledge of) in the past, and they are doing it once again with the unpublicized CRAP open houses as a façade for democracy.
Chinatown Concern Group is not opposed to development, but we want equitable development that is in the hands of community members who need it and led by their voices. Our demands are:
- For new buildings of any height to have at least 50% of the floor space dedicated to social housing. In the past we called for a percentage of housing units to be dedicated to social housing, but the City is making social housing units smaller and smaller!
- For all social housing units to be affordable to people on welfare/pension, and to employed low-income people at 30% of their incomes
- For a height restriction of 50 feet across all of Chinatown (in all Historic Areas) for any market development
何盈欣 Beverly Ho, 華埠行動小組 Chinatown Action Group
鄧國煇 Godfrey Tang, 唐人街關注組 Chinatown Concern Group