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DTES LAPP, Union Street, Anti-Bullying, Viaducts and More

Hello, Strathcona friends and neighbours.

There is a lot of important news to share with you in this newsletter, much of which has the potential to bring significant change to our neighbourhood. In the spirit of that last statement, members of the SRA Council have each contributed reports on each of them.

In this newsletter:

  1. Local Area Plan - "Emerging Directions" open houses,
    and what the Plan might mean for our neighbourhood.


  2. City's plans to close Union Street to local vehicle traffic
    and response from affected communities.


  3. SRA Council support community groups
    calling for an end to bullying and harassment in the DTES.


  4. Report on Viaducts, council direction and next steps.

  5. Powell Street Overpass update

  6. Community Events and Announcements

  7. Future Projects

On a personal note, I would like to say that while I have enjoyed my last year of chairing the SRA and representing the community; it has been a tremendous, and not especially easy personal commitment and I am reminded of the hard work of those that came before me, as past chairs of the SRA, and the debt of gratitude we collectively owe them. I also owe a debt of gratitude to our new Executive Council, who have helped distribute and shoulder the weight and responsibility. Last, but not least of course, a huge debt of gratitude to my lovely wife for supporting me and giving me the encouragement and support to keep going. Same goes for the partners and families of all our council members. I look forward to another year working for the community and hope you will continue to entrust us with that duty.

With that said (and again this is coming from me personally), now more than ever, we need the community to step up, get engaged and get vocal. Together, we rallied and held the City to task over their flawed viaduct removal plan that would have seen Prior Street connected to a six lane highway as a major east-west connector in and out of downtown. Our community effort thwarted that plan, and hopefully will herald in a new, better plan. Today, we face two new challenges:

The DTES Local Area Planning Process is nearing its conclusion, and is expected to be voted on in November. Readers will remember that despite being mandated a seat by City Council, the SRA voted to boycott the process, which we had condemned as flawed based on the then co-chairs and their control of the representation and terms of reference for the committee. Since then, after reported changes to the LAPP leadership and governance, the SRA re-considered and in January, voted to formally participate in the LAPP. Since that time, we have been attending and participating in the assorted LAPP committees, subcommittees and roundtables. Despite the time commitment I've personally enjoyed working, meeting, listening and contributing with most of the committee members and staff - but with that said, I am not happy with the "Emerging Directions" document. While a city staff "gag-order" had previously prevented me from sharing this document with you, I do not feel these emerging directions reflect the aspirations of the neighbourhood, nor do they respect our established Community Plan, or our 2010 SRC Vision Statement - I urge you all to attend the upcoming open houses, make your own decisions and comments. More details on Emerging Directions and the two open houses next week can be found below.

[ In related Local Area Plan news, it would seem none of the Vancouver communities currently undergoing their own LAPPs are overwhelmingly happy with them, from the West End to Marpole, perhaps none is more poignant than the LAPP for our neighbours in Grandview-Woodland. I have read the material and in my opinion, the plan will destroy "The Drive" as we know it. Our friends at the Grandview-Woodland Area Council have mounted a campaign and petition, there's a pretty good round-up on GWAC President Jak King's blog (link) and their online petition. ]

The other challenge faced by our community is the City's plan to reduce local vehicle access in and out of Strathcona, with a goal of converting Union Street into a bikeway. According to the stated goals of the City's Active Transportation branch, they would like to create an "All Ages and Abilities" route on the Adanac Bikepath (aka Union Street). According to City Staff, this means in no uncertain terms the requirement for a significant reduction in the number of cars using Union Street. In the absence of community consultation, staff intend to start reducing cars by eliminating eastbound access into Strathcona via Union at Gore, and eliminating Union Street access to Pacific Boulevard. The proposed changes will precipitate in massive traffic reflow, safety hazards and inconvenience for the neighbourhood. The proposed changes will have devastatingly negative impacts on Benny's Market and their ability to conduct business. For many Strathconans, the high speed commuter bikeway on Union already significantly impacts feelings of safety and use of the public realm, and recent "upgrades" at Union and Hawks seem to have only served to give cyclists the right-of-way and effect faster, more dangerous speeds and little by the way of pedestrian safety. More on the bikepath, and our work with the communities in Chinatown and City Gate toward finding solutions that work for everyone can be found below.

Pete Fry - SRA Chair

1. Local Area Plan "Emerging Directions" Open houses, and potential impacts on Strathcona

Open Houses:

  • Thursday, July 18, 3:30 – 7:30 pm
    Vancouver Japanese Language School 475 Alexander Street


  • Saturday, July 20, 11 am – 3 pm (Chinese translation will be available.)
    Strathcona Community Centre, Gymnasium, 601 Keefer Street

In January, the Strathcona Residents Association (SRA) membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of taking our previously vacant seat at the table of the Downtown Eastside Local Area Planning Process (DTES LAPP). It was determined that both the membership, structure and leadership of the SRA and other DTES LAPP stakeholder groups and associations had changed significantly enough to warrant our community’s participation in the process. Unfortunately, after several roundtables and stakeholder meetings the emerging directions draft document does not reflect the contributions made by your SRA council. The following are three reasons to be concerned:

- First, regarding land use and zoning, the document recommends a “focus on singles housing with smaller suites” that would be built as high as 120 feet (8.0 FSR) on Hastings between Abbot and Heatly. For all intent and purpose, this translates into 10-12 story Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) apartments 1/2 block from Strathcona Elementary School and begs the question, would the City of Vancouver ever recommend the same zoning across the street from any other school in the City? The document also recommends zoning changes for Pender Street and most of Kiwassa in the form of increased heights and density, as a "step-down" from the proposed height and zoning increases on Hastings.

- Second, the four page document only makes reference to children and their families one time. As the SRA council advocated for our community’s children wherever and whenever possible, we are deeply concerned that children and their families seem to have been largely overlooked. Despite the fact that Strathcona (as defined by the City zoning map, ie. south of Pender's north alley) accounts for 1/3 the area's population, there limited Strathcona-representation in this plan, certainly not proportional. Our analysis finds that seniors, (Chinese nor otherwise), working poor, struggling families and new immigrants also seem to have been largely excluded from the document effectively flattening out the diversity of the community and creating an artificial narrative where there are predominantly low income residents and their service providers.

- Third, the document calls for local economic development that focuses on “meeting the needs of vulnerable low-income residents and local-serving businesses.” Again, the SRA’s position has been that a diverse local economy is the only sustainable path forward and the only path that returns Hastings into a vibrant and safe retail street for everyone.

It is imperative that residents from Strathcona attend the following open houses to hear for yourself what is being planned in your community with very little input from your participating representation:

Thursday, July 18, 3:30 – 7:30 pm Vancouver Japanese Language School 475 Alexander St.
Saturday, July 20*, 11 am – 3 pm Strathcona Community Centre, Gymnasium, 601 Keefer St.

*(Chinese translation will be available.)

More info on the LAPP here.

— John Hawkes, SRA Council

2. Plans to close Union Street to local vehicle traffic and response from affected communities.

Since the June 12th Council Meeting about the Union Street Bikeway, Strathcona residents and businesses, SRA council members, residents and business owners in Chinatown's 200 block of Union and residents of City Gate on False Creek have been meeting and working on constructive feedback and ideas in order to envision a bikeway plan that improves safety for all users, especially for pedestrians, who are currently at constant risk along an increasingly busy and fast bikeway. These community directives are based on intimate local knowledge of this complex street, shared daily by thousands of residents and commuters, in cars, on bikes and on foot. Thanks to those of you who have sent in your own ideas. All your feedback is being incorporated into the discussions.

The working group has identified, among other deficiencies, that the City's proposed plan for Union Street maintains and intensifies significant risks for pedestrians, and may actually be creating new risks for cyclists. We have come up with a practical plan called ‘A Bikepath for Everyone’ www.bikepathforeveryone.ca. A press release detailing this campaign was sent on Wednesday July 10th (link).

Notwithstanding City Council's commitment to consider the community’s concerns, City staff sent out a notification letter on July 3rd (which some of you may have received at home) announcing that ‘approved’ bikeway plans will begin this month. At the June 12th meeting, Council directed staff to consult with the community regarding improvements for ALL users between Main and Princess. To date the only community consultation has been to advise construction start. We are extremely concerned about the City’s apparent rush to schedule work crews on the ground before any consultation meetings have even been scheduled. Since our press release, on thursday afternoon, engineering staff requested a meeting with the working group next week.

— Elana Zysblat, SRA Council

3. SRA Council support community groups calling for an end to bullying and harassment in the DTES.

The Council recently agreed to lend the SRA's support to a letter calling for an end to the picketing of new businesses in the Downtown Eastside. We were initially reluctant to do so, since we did not feel the SRA could take sides without the agreement of the membership. But we were able to influence the content of the letter to avoid simple condemnation of the protesters, and to support reasoned and rational discussion of the issues on all sides. In the end we felt that the SRA should support the intent of the letter and stand together with other groups hoping to dial the rhetoric down. Will it make a difference? Probably not. But we have to try.

More on the letter and the groups in involved can be found at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/07/11/bc-dtes-pidgin-cuchillo-.html.

— Gordon Roe, SRA Council

4. Update on Viaducts Removal, Eastern Core Strategy and next steps.

On June 26, almost on full year since our community activated to have a say in the Viaducts Removal, Eastern Core Strategy and how it might affect our neighbourhood, we presented our position before the Standing Committee on Planning, Transportation and Environment. Over the course of the last year; hundreds of volunteers, two rallies, dozens of media interviews and a whole lot of work later the what, why, when and where of the report was to be voted on. In an unprecedented level of co-operation, the SRA worked together with other stakeholders to form a "Coalition of Communities", including: False Creek Residents Association, Grandview Woodland Area Council, Ray-Cam Cooperative, Strathcona Elementary School PAC, Strathcona Business Improvement Association, Downtown Eastside Neighburhood Council, and Vancouver Chinatown Revitalization Committee. Together we successfully influenced a new report, that calls for a further two years of work with the communities in crafting a plan that will determine what happens to the land around the viaducts and the traffic once it is gone, including the Eastern Core Strategy. The report was not perfect, and we argued against some of the language that attempted to minimize our safety concerns and maintained Prior Street as a significant east-west connector.

A huge thanks is owed to Councilor Adriane Carr, who every much went to bat for our community and managed to amend the report to reflect our concerns. Thanks also to Vancouver Board of Trade's Bob Laurie who helped to garner the support and consideration of his organization and thanks to the new Director of Planning, Brian Jackson who heard to our concerns, which he directed his staff to accordingly reflect in the report. Thanks to our coalition partners and lastly, thanks to everyone in the community who volunteered, held placards, wrote letters, spoke at council and stood strong for the 'hood: we did this!

You'll be hearing lots more about the Viaducts and Eastern Core over the next two years, in the meantime, here is our Coalition statement and the minutes from June 26th's Standing Committee.

— Pete Fry, SRA Chair

5. Powell Street Overpass update.

Residents have reported significant traffic changes and increases resulting from the Powell Street road closures. There has also been a great deal of concern over the construction of new separated bikelanes on Union to the east of Raymur - in an area that had been identified as a temporary road closure, ostensibly to prevent car commuters from "rat-running' through the neighbourhood as they search for shortcuts. We received the following response from the City when we asked about this:

[SRA] Hello, can you advise what is happening with the separated bike lanes being installed on Union Street - we were of the impression only temporary road closures were going in - not permanent infrastructure. Can you please advise ?

[CofV]Good Morning ,
It has been our experience that for long duration closures (greater than a few weeks) it is more cost effective to install traffic diverters using permanent materials, compared to temporary construction materials. Installations using easily moveable materials (plastic barriers, drums, signs on tripods) are often vandalized and require our operations crews to visit the locations more frequently and spend more time on the site making repairs.
Sincerely,
Alan Kerstetter.
Powell St. Project Overpass Team
Engineering Services, City of Vancouver

Residents are reminded that any concerns or questions can be directed to Powell Street Overpass Project powellstreetoverpassproject@vancouver.ca, you might consider CCing council@strathcona-residents.org if relevant

6. Community Events and Announcements
readers are reminded that events can be found on our website

  • SATURDAY, JULY 13, 2013
    Union Street Block Party!
    bring some food to share, have some good times with your neighbours and get down with the HardRock Miners

  • SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2013
    Sunshine Patch Garden Club
    Work Party!

  • SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2013
    Cottonwood Garden's Open House
    Garden tours, workshops and plant sales

  • THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2013
    Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan Open House 1 of 2
    Important opportunity for Strathconans to see what kind of big changes the City has planned for our community.
    Vancouver Japanese Language School, 475 Alexander Street, 3:30 – 7:30 pm

  • SATURDAY, JULY 20, 2013
    Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan Open House 2 of 2
    Important opportunity for Strathconans to see what kind of big changes the City has planned for our community (Chinese translation will be available.)
    Strathcona Community Centre, Gymnasium, 601 Keefer Street , 11 am – 3 pm

  • Filming of Tim Burton movie "Big Eyes" wraps up in Strathcona
    By all accounts Mr. Burton was quite charmed by the neighbourhood, and a few lucky neighbours managed to get some much-coveted autographs. The production company was quite generous and provided double the standard shooting rate as a community contribution. Residents are reminded to please let film@strathcona-residents.org know if there is a production going on in the neighourhood, and we will follow up. Collected community contributions help fund food security as well as Community Centre and SRA activities. Thanks also to the production company responsible for "Robocop" who were similarly generous after filming in April/May of this year. We would be remiss in not mentioning that the production company responsible for "The Killing" have not honoured their commitment to the community - something we will be following up on should they wish to return to film in Strathcona.

7. Future Projects

At our last council meeting a few future projects were considered, if either interest you, please get in touch.

  • Disaster Preparedness
    Of course we live in an earthquake zone, but in light of last week's tragedy at Lac Mégantic, we are reminded that like thousands of Canadian communities, we share our environment with rail lines that often carry hazardous material. Our own resident aspiring Disaster and Emergency Management professional John Hawkes will be helping to develop a community response plan.

  • Community Festival
    We're hoping to collaborate with our friends at Ray Cam to do another family friendly neighbourhood celebration for 2014. Interested? Drop us a line!