Anti-Gentrification Fight in Renfrew-Collingwood Begins

IMG_20160614_171226Joyce area residents resisting against the upzoning of their neighbourhood.

JARA Organizer, Chanel Ly

I don’t know what’s worse – watching my community disappear or knowing that it’s going to happen. I’m experiencing both at the same time, in Chinatown and in Renfrew-Collingwood, both communities of colour. We have been fighting, giving it our all, but now I am feeling worn out, and have been ready to admit defeat multiple times.

Two days ago, Joyce residents stood up in front of Vancouver City Council to tell their stories and speak out against the Joyce-Collingwood Precinct Review. This plan is proposing the addition of 2,800 units at Joyce Skytrain Station in the form of high-rise and midrise towers, apartments, and townhomes. For almost all of us, it was our first time and I was so proud to see my neighbours stick up for each other at city hall. Geoff Meggs discouraged us from applauding after speeches, but we continued anyway. We are a group of intergenerational majority Asian immigrants or children of immigrants and we have complex multi-generational histories of displacement and resistance. It has been an emotional rollercoaster as an organizer. The most heartbreaking thing is that the City may very well greenlight this without truly listening to the community.

With our current municipal government and political environment, the odds are stacked against us to say the least. Transit Oriented Development (TOD) supports the City’s goal to be the greenest city in the world. TOD means more density around transit stations, which encourages people take more transit. In the City’s planning process, there was never a chance to engage critically with this concept. Citizens who were provided this explanation for densification, took it for face value and further debate was discouraged. More density is the assumed solution to the housing crisis.

Three years ago, Westbank proposed a 29-storey tower of luxury condos on the corner of Vanness Ave and Joyce St, which triggered the planning process Council is now deciding on. The tower has an FSR of 14.33 – currently there is no density greater than 9.0 outside of the downtown core. Two more towers of this calibre are proposed on the other corners of the station. It is plain to see that this plan will open the doors for market development to start bulldozing the neighbourhood.

The negative impacts severely outweigh the positive. The precinct review has no social housing or rental housing requirements, no Floor Space Ratio (FSR*) cap, and no mechanisms to control the pace of development. There has been no attempt to offer protections for the small businesses we depend on. The Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) negotiation process hasn’t been clarified and remains in the power of the City and developers. The community also never received a clear answer on why this development was necessary and how the heights were determined. The plan states that the high-rise towers will “mark the station” as the sole justification for the heights. This kind of top-down planning has been very vague and exclusive.

What are the negative impacts? They can’t tell us because they have refused to provide an impact assessment. If this was a pipeline review, the whole process would be illegal, and there are parallels to be drawn. We have been stone-walled, but we do know we have to continue to resist to protect our neighbourhood and get ready to support people through difficult transitions. There’s no doubt that a 29-storey tower in a predominantly SFH neighbourhood will cause housing prices and rents to skyrocket. Upzoning has never made the housing market more stable or affordable. The positive impacts – we may get more childcare spaces, 2-3 bedroom condos, and hundreds of units of social housing. At what rents? At whose expense? We still have so many unanswered questions.

The City has adequate zoning capacity to support predicted population growth. If people want to talk about demand, I can show you the numbers of people on the waitlist for social housing. I can show you how vulnerable renters become when development comes into a neighbourhood. I can show you how low-income neighbourhoods can thrive if residents are invested through the self-determination of their community.

We want more time, we want to decide the process for collaboration, and we have the right to decide how our community is developed. We want equitable transit oriented development, which ensures that lower income people won’t fall through the cracks, and existing residents aren’t displaced for the sake of population growth.

We will continue organizing and expressing our opposition to exclusive planning and unfettered market development. When immigrant homeowners are pressured to sell, we will be there. When renters and retailers are evicted, we will be there.
City council will make their decision on June 28. We have already made ours.

*Floor Space Ratio, or FSR, is a measurement of density. It is the ratio of the building’s total floor area to the piece of land it is built upon.

Strong Opposition: Joyce Residents Take City Hall June 15

The Joyce Station Precinct Plan will go before City Council in just a few days (June 14 and June 15 9:30am at City Hall). At least 5 towers are proposed to go up right at the skytrain station. Around 179 Single Family Homes are also being targeted for zoning changes to allow for apartments and townhomes. These houses are multi-generational, multi-family and often immigrant and low income. 46% of our neighbours are renters. 73% of our neighbourhood is ESL.  Rapid development and gentrification has the ability to displace many of these families, renters and small businesses.

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Residents are spending every hour until then to reach all of their fellow neighbours who still have concerns about the plans.

Over the next few days, we will be tabling around Joyce Skytrain Station. (You can come find us today, June 12 in the afternoon-evening.)

We still have many remaining concerns:

  • We want the Single Family Homes to be protected. Many of these families want to stay in the neighbourhood but will face increased pressure from real estate agents and neighbours to sell.
  • We want safeguards to resist displacement. City of Vancouver has found 46% of our greater Joyce Station area to be made up of renters.
  • City of Vancouver has found that our neighbourhood has higher averages of immigrants and low-income people than the citywide average. Our neighbours are working-class and many could not engage with City planning processes fully because of this.
  • We want EQUITABLE Transit oriented development. My Health My Community survey found that the highest rate of transit users are low-income and immigrant. Those frequent commuters need truly affordable housing available housing, not condos.
  • Planners also want to add more density to our already congested area without giving us a reasonable traffic plan.

How can you support?

Come to sign our collective letter (Joyce Station on June 12, we’re still out here! or our June 14 Meeting 6:30pm at Collingwood Neighbourhood House). Read the long version of the letter here.

Email: 

Send an email to the mayor and city council to say that you oppose the plans. Each email will be counted by the City.

mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca

“I oppose the Joyce Collingwood Station Precinct Draft Plan being presented to City Council on June 14 and 15.”

Show up and/or Sign up to Speak!

City Council needs to see how loud the opposition is. Please consider signing up to speak. We will support you rehearse at a JARA meeting on June 14, 2016 at 6:30pm at Collingwood Neighbourhood House.

nicole.ludwig@vancouver.calaura.kazakoff@vancouver.ca, speaker.request@vancouver.ca or call 604 873 7268

Ask for your number in line so that we can keep track of how many speakers have signed up.

Get a Lawn Sign (by donation)

Email us to get your own lawn sign to show your opposition to the plan.

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Help us get the word out by sharing this post, tweeting out @joyceareaRA #JoyceIsOurHome and showing up at City Hall https://www.facebook.com/events/1704172079845839/.

I want to do MORE for Joyce residents, what can I do to help?!

Thank you for wanting to do more!!

You can help us by getting the word out:

Share this post on 6 things people should know about the plan.

We are selling very cool lawn signs that read, “This is our home. Development without Displacement.” They are by donation.

Follow us on Twitter and keep your followers updated on our story at #JoyceisOurHome this week and next week.

You can help us by volunteering:

We may need to do some last minute flyering and tabling. If you just want to hang out and person a table for one to two hours, it would help us out a lot!

Do you have expertise in presenting at City Hall? Please send us some pointers at joyceareaRA@gmail.com

You can help us by showing up!

The Joyce Station Precinct Review goes before City Council and opens up to public comments on June 15, 2016 at City Hall. Please come out to support the speakers. 

Here is the facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1704172079845839/

 

 

6 Things You Should Know about the Joyce Station Precinct Review

The Joyce Station Precinct Review is being presented to Vancouver City Council next week (June 14 and 15). Local residents have been outspoken about their concerns with the plan since last year. Here are 6 things you should know about the plans.

6 Things you should know about the Joyce Station Precinct Review 

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Joyce Area Residents Association and supporters at the Joyce Station Precinct Review Open House Feb 2016
  1. Single Family Homes (SFH) are in Danger of being rezoned for townhomes, apartments, and towers. The single-family homes in our neighbourhood are often working-class, immigrant, multi-family and multi-generational. Many of our SFH already have renters, making our neighbourhood quite dense already. 
  1. The Public Benefits Strategy will not meet the needs of the existing community. 
  1. No clear commitment to affordable, social, and below-market rental housing. City planners have discussed the *potential* for building social housing on city-owned land but there are no clear commitments in the plan outlining timelines, money allotted or number of units.
  1. Possibility of Displacement, pushing low to middle-income families further and further out of the City. Renters in single family homes will not be protected by the City’s Tenant Relocation plan.
  1. Traffic & Transit no clear traffic strategy to accommodate increasing density in an area that is already very congested and is home to many seniors, causing safety concerns.
  1. Local businesses, which are mostly immigrant owned, and residents directly impacted were not consulted until the end of the planning process with a push from the Joyce Area Residents Association

(Note that we are still updating these 6 things you need to know as we review the latest doc released by the City.)
The Joyce Area Residents Association (JARA) and all of its supporters have been working hard since November 2015 to engage hundreds of neighbours and community members to push for better planning in our area. We pushed for more language accessibility in our 73% ESL neighbourhood and more thorough consultation. JARA has also worked with other community stakeholder groups to develop a draft Community Amenity Contribution plan. 

Please come support us at City Hall on June 15, 2016 as the plans go before City Council. We appreciate your solidarity! https://www.facebook.com/events/1704172079845839/

If you are a local resident or community member:

  1. Come to our meeting on Thursday, June 9 at 6:30 pm at Collingwood Neighbourhood House
  2. Get yourself a Lawn Sign to put in front of your house (it reads: This is our Home. Development without displacement).
  3. Sign our collective letter at the meeting and get everyone in your household to sign too.
  4. Show up on June 15th at City Hall to support your neighbours speaking to City Council!

If you are in solidarity with the residents of our neighbourhood:

  1. Come to City Hall on June 15 to show your support as residents speak in front of city council.

I want to do MORE, what can I do to help?!

For more, check out the most recent document that city planners released: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/joyce-collingwood-station-precinct-plan-draft.pdf

Check out our neighbourhood survey JARA Community Dialogue Report March 2016, in which we knocked on the doors of every Single Family Home in the plans.

 

 

Meet JARA, residents group advocating for better city planning in Vancouver!

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Who is JARA?

The Joyce Area Residents Association (JARA) is group of concerned residents and community members that have been pushing for more community-oriented and inclusive planning for the Joyce Station Precinct Review. The group has been working since November 2015 on engaging hundreds of residents, sitting down with the City of Vancouver planners and connecting with other housing justice experts and advocates.

Our Vision Statement

We envision Renfrew-Collingwood as a working-class, multi-racial, and intergenerational community with affordable housing, small businesses, community spaces, and services that reflect the diverse needs and interests of local residents.

What has JARA accomplished so far?

We are proud of the work that we’ve done so far. It is always our goal to improve the ways that the City engages our low to middle income, immigrant, 73% ESL community. We have seen how our advocacy has led to additional information sessions and meetings to address specific concerns.

    • Community Information Nights (Nov 2015)
    • Distributed Leaflets Door to Door (~900 homes)
    • Conducted a Neighbourhood Survey with Single Family Homes (~179 homes) (Feb 2016)
    • Community Dialogue (Mar 2016)
    • Met with the City and other stakeholders
    • Media Coverage in CBC, The Georgia Straight, The Vancouver Courier, CKNW, 24

Hours (Nov 2015-March 2016)

Next Steps- You’re invited!!

We are holding a JARA Community Meeting on Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at Collingwood Neighbourhood House at 6pm in Program Rooms A & B to discuss our next steps.

We need to keep working together so that our voices are heard by the City of Vancouver. Get in touch! JoyceareaRA@gmail.com Website: joyceareaRA.wordpress.com Twitter: @joyceareaRA 604-445-5300

Joyce Residents: “We want Quality over Quantity for Consultations!” April 6 Event Summary

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Here is a summary of the City workshop hosted on April 6, 2016 at Collingwood Neighbourhood House. City staff and representatives from St. Mary’s, BC Housing and the Parks Board met with residents to discuss the Joyce Station Precinct Review. Residents were invited to join discussions on Affordable Housing, Transportation & Pedestrian Connections, Amenities, Heights & Housing Options 

It’s good to see the City engaging the community but we still have issues with the way its being done. It is clear from the other night that the plans should not go to City Council in June because we are still not being heard.

Below is a summary of the event with quotes from attendees and criticisms of the consultation process.

Consultation Process, still not good enough

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Residents cramped around one topic table on April 6, 2016. It was difficult to see plans and hear people speaking.

Following a powerpoint presentation by senior city planner, Paula Huber, the City allowed a very short Q&A. We were only given 5 minutes and 3 questions from the crowd. The large group of residents (around 70 people) seemed to all be on the same page as they nodded and encouraged their neighbours.

What attendees had to say about the process:

Breaking into smaller groups right away is one way to diffuse group momentum and dissension.”

“Previous planning process involved keeping topics and people together so that the group could connect all issues and form a cohesive strategy”

Transportation and Pedestrian Connections

Traffic is still a major concern for residents, especially if the City is planning more density in our already crowded neighbourhood.

“The plan is for conventional width sidewalks of 5 -5.5 meters. We suggested much wider to open up more possibilities for performance, gathering, benches, cafe tables etc etc. We suggested asking the community what width of sidewalk they want.”

“Joyce cannot be widened, traffic will block up side streets. Seems there has been little thought to the Boundary Wall development and the traffic those buildings will create on Vanness and Joyce.”

Housing Options

We are still unclear on why or how heights were chosen for the towers proposed. The only reasons that the City provides are that they want the heights to gradually go from taller to shorter and they want to densify at the skytrain stations. JARA would like to see the evidence for the need to densify. Other experts have said that density increases are being used all around the city without hard evidence to prove the necessity.

“I asked whether families desired apartment living or prefer a broader range of choice and my question was not answered.”

Affordable Housing

The commitments to affordable housing are still unclear. While BC Housing and the City have finally started to communicate, one city planner, Matthew Burke, confirmed that there is NO TIMELINE to increase the units on the BC Housing site. JARA is asking for 20% social housing to be built into the policy statement, which is fairly standard in other neighbourhoods.

“The BC Housing representatives assured us that the Vanness Avenue site is not a priority for redevelopment in the foreseeable future as other sites have more need. Her opinion was, since the requirement for social housing will not be met in the planned Towers, that objective must/could be accomplished on the City Vanness Site.“

Community Amenities

No Community Centre or Recreational Facilities

One resident raised the fact that no amenities were in the plan. Paula Huber and the City maintain that Renfrew and Killarney Community Centres (35+ minute walks for us) are good enough for our residents. The room disagreed. The City insists more people are coming to the Joyce Area. For this reason, we want a community centre with recreational facilities like a swimming pool and fitness gym.

There are still no clear amenities proposed by the City. Collingwood Neighbourhood House has been working on community amenity strategies for some time and would be a great resource for planners to connect with. There are still no cultural amenities. We would like a clear list of amenities to be built into the City’s policy statement and we want thorough community consultation for this process.

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JARA handouts given to every attendee.

Short-term actions (What can I do now?):

  • Attend Single Family Homes meeting with the City on April 13th at Collingwood Neighbourhood House
  • Send any questions or complaints to paula.huber@vancouver.ca and cc or include us in the email joyceareaRA@gmail.com
    • Cannot make the scheduled time? Write her that we need more QUALITY consultation time. Have feedback on how she can consult us better? Write to tell her how she can improve.
    • Ask for consultation sessions that deal with one topic at a time.

We must delay the process until residents really feel that they have been heard and their ideas have been implemented into the plan that will go before the City Council.

REGISTER: April 6 Workshop with City Planners on Joyce Development

Register online for this week’s Workshop with the City of Vancouver planners!

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[UPDATE: After JARA began calling residents on the phone and registering them, we were able to fill all 70 spots!! If you are unable to make it but want to have a say, please e-mail paula.huber@vancouver.ca and joyceareaRA@gmail.com. Tell the City we need MORE casual sessions like this!]

Wednesday, April 6 at 7pm at Collingwood Neighbourhood House

Mandatory Registration: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/plan-talk-tickets-24035971237

JARA and community members have had a big win. The City will host two more information sessions to engage our community about the City’s plans for Joyce Station.

Modeled after our last successful JARA Community Dialogue, the City of Vancouver will host a workshop for residents on a variety of topics:

  • Transportation and pedestrian connections
  • Housing affordability
    • We have to keep this neighbourhood affordable for the working class!
  • Amenities
    • (the City doesn’t have a clear idea of what we need!)
  • Building types and heights
    • let’s get a clear picture of what we actually need and some evidence as to why!

This is a great opportunity to have our questions answered on the spot by City staff. Please attend and bring your ideas and concerns. It is a positive sign to see the City working with us but we still need to ensure that decisions made with the community are built into the new plans.

There are 19 spots left [UPDATE: the event is now waitlist only]. Let’s keep pushing for genuine consultation and real commitments from city planners. Recognized as stakeholders by the City, JARA had a big hand in crafting these workshops.

See you on Wednesday! http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/plan-talk-tickets-24035971237

Joyce Area Residents Association Organizing Team

(more info: http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/joyce-collingwood-station-precinct-review.aspx under “progress”)