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.

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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.