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Spring into action - your voice on neighbourhood matters

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hello neighbours,

With everyone starting to come out of their winter caves, lots of activity and news to report to you. Especially, there are a few topics on which we have been asked to give feedback. Please read this message and voice your opinion! Our next meeting is Wednesday, March 4th at 7:15 pm. Mark your calendars and come on out. It’s going to be interesting…

1. Atira development at 420 Hawks Ave:

OPEN HOUSE: The open house scheduled for last month was postponed and a new one has just been announced for Monday, March 2nd from 5-8 pm at the Ukrainian Hall, 805 E Pender Street. A model of the proposed 7 storey building will be available to see at the open house, as well as representatives of ATIRA and the City to hear our questions and concerns. If you can’t make the open house, here is the information posted by the City and here is an online form you can fill out with your feedback.

INSIDER NEWS from ATIRA: Elana Zysblat and Pete Fry were invited to meet with Atira CEO Janice Abbott earlier this week. She asked to hear what the SRA’s concerns may be with the proposed development. Conveying what was voiced at the Feb 4th meeting we quoted residents concerns about the development:

  • A ‘high rise’ (7 storeys) on a residential street, unfortunately permitted north of the lane between Pender and Hastings under the new LAP guidelines, that towers over the Rice Block, a heritage building
  • A ‘wall like’ complex that is not relevant or accessible in design or function for the residents around
  • The configuration of units which seems to be geared to bachelor suites for single women (20 of 26 units) and not for women with children (only six 2-bedroom until in the building)
  • Atira’s reputation for management of their housing for at-risk women which have seen violent incidents and have attracted illegal activities in their surroundings
  • Neither 420 Hawks nor the corner store space in the Rice Block (also run by Atira) will be contributing to the revitalization of Hastings through street level retail that is relevant and accessible to local families such as grocery stores or coffee shops.

Janice’s responded to these concerns both on the spot and in follow up e-mails. She has offered the following adjustments:

  • Openness to negotiating a ‘good neighbour agreement’ about the management of the new complex at 420 Hawks
  • Atira is striving to adjust the unit configuration to reflect more family housing by providing half bachelor suites and half 2-bedroom suites at 420 Hawks
  • Atira plans to use the corner store in the Rice Block as an art studio for local women artists and an EWMA gift shop. Janice invites local women artists, who are not Atira residents, to help plan this new studio space and use it. She also said they would consider the idea of including ‘inexpensive coffee and kid-friendly menu’ at the store to increase its relevance and potential frequenting by neighbours. They are also open to renting the space out for children’s birthday parties and other craft related events. If you are a local female artist who is interested in working in the studio space at the Rice Block please contact us and we’ll put you in touch with Atira.
  • Atira is very open to the idea of making the ground floor of 420 Hawks a small retail space as well providing ‘inexpensive coffee and kid-friendly menu’ and is speaking to Mark Brand about helping out with this.

PLEASE ask about these possibilities at the open house and in your online feedback form. Right now they are ideas and not commitments. It is up to us to follow up with Atira and the City to make sure new developments on contribute to the revitalization of Hastings and integrate well with the neighbourhood.

2. Strathcona residents working with the VPD:

SRA Executive Council members Elana, Rick, Chris and Roberta met with our Neighbourhood Police Officer Constable Graham Edmonds and with Sergeant Kevin Bernardin VPD Liaison with Community Policing Centres. The VPD is asking us if Strathcona residents want to get involved in:

  • Volunteering at one of the nearby Community Policing Centres (Grandview Woodland or Chinatown) http://vancouver.ca/police/community-policing/index.html
  • Starting our own local Pooch or Stroller Patrol
  • Learning about Block Watch and starting new block watches in the neighbourhood

If you are interested in learning more about any of these, or volunteering, please contact us

3. News from the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN)

From Chris Coleman, our rep with the CVN: The below letter was received by the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods on Feb 16th. Congratulations to all the Association representatives who worked hard to secure this meeting with the Mayor. There seems to be a big emphasis in the coalition to ensure our representatives be people who are active participants and familiar with the Principles and Goals of the CVN. With 25 community associations making up the coalition there are a lot of suggestions, advice, nominations, explanations, pleas, etc. etc. I feel as though this meeting with the Mayor is about engagement and "building the relationship" rather then grinding an axe about one particular issue.

Ms. Jeffries and Mr. Benge
Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Dear Ms. Jeffries and Mr. Benge,

Thank you for your request on behalf of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods. I would like to invite you to a meeting to discuss the role your organization can play in supporting the City's ongoing efforts to improve and enhance public engagement in the planning process.

I'd also like to discuss with you how we can ensure broader representation and diversity of voices - including youth, aboriginals, renters, new immigrants, visible minorities and people living on low incomes - in the public consultation and engagement process. These are voices that are routinely under-represented in public meetings and I'd like to discuss some ideas with you on how to rectify this.

If you could please provide a list of who will be attending on behalf of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, my office can work to arrange a meeting date.

Yours truly,

Gregor Robertson MAYOR

How do you think we could improve the way our City plans for its future growth and development?

The Mayor says he wants to ensure there is "broad representation" and a "diversity of voices" in the public consultation and engagement process.
Let's do a little brainstorming and send our ideas to the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods to help them prepare for this meeting. Let’s make sure our voices are heard in planning the future of Vancouver. If you have any ideas or questions for the CVN in regards to their meeting with the Mayor please contact us and we will pass it on.

4. Invitation to Chinatown Character Workshop on Feb 25

Please see invitation from Helen Ma, one of the planners who spoke at our last meeting:

Dear community members,

What are the most important parts of Chinatown’s character? What are the best ways to protect them? We have heard that these questions are at the top of the community’s mind, as Chinatown undergoes changes not only in how it looks, but also in how it feels.

Since the approval of the Chinatown Neighbourhood Plan in 2012, City Council has approved over $1.6M in grants and funding towards economic revitalization and heritage initiatives. At the same time, 6 new construction projects have been approved, bringing in new residents and business opportunities to the neighbourhood. The community’s responses to these new developments have been mixed. While some are supportive of the opportunities they bring, other were concerned about the loss of Chinatown’s character.

To better understand the community’s concerns, City staff together with the Vancouver Chinatown Revitalization Committee hosted a workshop last week to discuss Chinatown’s character. We understand that there are people who are interested to join the conversation, hence we are organizing a second workshop. Community feedback from these two sessions will be shared at a meeting with the Urban Design Panel and the Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee (CHAPC), two bodies that advise City Council on new construction applications.

Chinatown Character Workshop
Date: Wednesday February 25, 2015
Time: 5 -7pm (light refreshments provided)
Location: Chinese Cultural Centre Boardroom, 50 E Pender St


Attendance will be limited to 40 people due to the capacity of the room. If you have attended the first workshop, you are welcome to attend this one, but priority will be given to those who have not attended the first workshop.

To help us plan for the event, we ask that you RSVP to confirm your spot. Please RSVP by writing or calling Helen Ma before February 24 at 5pm.

Helen Ma - Planner, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhoods Group, Planning & Development Services
Tel 604.873.7919
Email helen.ma@vancouver.ca

5. 2015 Neighbourhood Small Grants / Greenest City Grants - applications open Feb 23!

The 2015 NSG program launch and online application opens February 26th, 2015. Deadline for submissions is March 31st, 2015. Please go to http://neighbourhoodsmallgrants.ca/grant/neighbourhood-small-grants to apply for both Neighbourhood Small Grants and the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Grants. Grants from $50.00 - $500.00 are available to make your neighbourhood a better place! As well, hard copies of the applications will be available at RayCam, Strathcona, Carnegie and Britannia Community Centres.

6. Minutes from Wednesday, Feb 4th SRA meeting with guest speaker City of Vancouver senior planner, head planner for DTES, Tom Wanklin.

The opportunity to have a conversation with Tom, head planner for our area (DTES) is very timely as the 2nd edition of ‘the community update for the Downtown Eastside (DTES) Plan’ just came out a few days ago: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/downtown-eastside-plan-implementation-newsletter-2-jan-2015.pdf

Tom Wanklin was introduced by Judy McGuire, who described him as the man who had been in charge of LAPP and had done a very good job of consulting with the neighbourhoods in the process.

Tom thanked her and then he introduced his partner in planning, Helen Mah. He began by saying the City was now committed to implementing the LAPP but this will be meaningless unless its components, and its commitment to the needs identified, are not implemented. Part of the plan is an implementation chapter which commits the City to bringing the Plan back for consultations with its partners in the neighbourhoods. This meeting is part of this continued consultation and more are planned. The Plan also requires regular checks on whether the targets in the Plan are met, and reporting to the partners. A newsletter (copies of which were available at this meeting) was part of this and it was the second they have put out. More will be produced as time goes on.

He then moved on to a quick summary of how the Plan affects Strathcona in the short and long term. The Plan makes it clear that some industrial lands will be preserved for industry, to protect jobs and economy in the area and prevent land speculation. Some industrial land has been opened up, but most preserved. He acknowledged that community consultations had reduced the height of development along Hastings. The community also felt that housing be preserved for family and affordable housing, and retail on the street level. Future consultations will be focusing on this.

They have identified a variety of community assets- generally known historic buildings, but also low-cost community services like grocery and restaurants, non-profits, places of value to aboriginal community, and most of the remaining old and historic buildings in the city. Preserving these have been part of the discussions with developers and they have had some success in incorporating these assets into the developers plans. The identification and fate of the these assets is part of their consultation process.

DEOD has had strict requirements that development had to include 60% social housing if the building is over 1 FSR, to preserve affordable housing. This has changed the developers expressing interest in the area and opened up interest in preserving the many historic sites there. Gastown and Victory Square were little changed.

Chinatown has had big changes in the height requirements and new building of condos. Now concern is that the changes are radically changing the areas character and erasing its history, so the City is re-opening talks with the community to determine if any changes are needed/possible. For Strathcona the concern is preservation of the community historic character. The sale of Stamps Place caught everyone by surprise. The possibility of it happening within the next 20 years had been considered, but no one had expected it now. It was “a bomb in the pond”.

Community Economic Development is something they have been examining and this year they will be becoming more active in facilitating and encouraging community based business, small businesses, and social enterprises..

From the floor

A question about absentee landlords/owners and speculative purchases- how to keep these empty units from pushing prices up and interfering with community. He replied this is difficult to assess because the exact nature of the problem is unknown. He stated that this was not his purview and that it was a task for the politicians. He agree that should be examined but stated that it consistently hasn't been, and that there hadn’t been a consistent methodology developed.

A concern about a lack of community amenities, particularly parks and a neighbourhood swimming pool. Tom says the City has decided that Brittania will be the destination for this neighbourhood. Jack mentioned that SCC is trying to get a redesign and rebuild which includes a swimming pool. The difficulty is not the money for building, its long term maintenance repair

Next to Rice Block a building and the 7 story building for Atira that seems to be going up in. He noted that it was not in Strathcona but is technically on Hastings, because the alley is not part of Strathcona and greater heights are allowed. There will be an open house in that development and further urban design workshops, Tom urged people with concerns to go to them and raise them

An audience member noted that it has been more than a year since the Plan was shown and received a great deal of criticism. What happened/how ere those integrated or not I the plan? Tom said the Plan has been passed and since that time they have been working with/consulting with critics of the Plan to improve it. A number of non-profits and community groups have been consulted and their needs are being addressed through grants and other assistance. Historic and community assets are being given capital grants and assistance to repair their buildings, implement new programs and expand their capabilities. They regard this as a first phase, and more phases are planned. They are continuing to gather data to ensure that the targets are being met, community needs identified are being met, etc.

Have had you any failures? He replied, of course yes. He singled out PACE which has a terrible building and that they have not been able to help yet. VANDU is also looking for space and they haven't found any. 312 Main has been taken over by VanCity.

Patsy from CityGate. Creekside Park is an ongoing concern, haven't gotten anywhere in 30 years. This has been further derailed by the viaducts debate and the possibility of even more high density towers in the Roger's Arena territory will make the entire area a traffic nightmare and all without any new amenities. The viaducts are needed for traffic congestion,

DEOD , how was the 60% arrived at? Tom said the discussion was extremely difficult; one side wanting 100% at welfare rate, the other wanted multiple levels of 'affordability'. Council decided how to define social housing at 60% at varying rates of affordability, 'housing that is owned and operated by a govt approx. 30% at welfare rate, 30% at HILS ($860 for a bachelor) or affordable, 40% market.

Implications of the recent Yaletown court judgement. That judgment only affected a portion of the Downtown plan affecting the West End, quashing a bylaw change that affected one development, saying that bylaw amendment lacked adequate consultation. A similar amendment was done at Victory Square, so they are reexamining that. But the general plans developed are still going ahead.

Retail strategy on Hastings, and the lack of help to Hastings small businesses. Tom says this is still in process, working with Hastings BIA and business to dress up the street and encourage new businesses. Hastings Crossing has started a series of workshops to help and encourage new businesses. Red tape slows down getting business licenses and new businesses opening.

How can we use the fine tuning of LAPP to defend Stamps Place? Tome says it was separated out of Strathcona and designated as social housing only. The Hastings front (RayCam) can be redeveloped but Judy stated that the land was given to the co-op by CMHC and can only be redeveloped with the permission of RayCam. The City is working with the Province and later will work with the successful bidder for social housing. He is anticipating hearing who won in the next few months. BC Housing has not responded to requests for a meeting nor have they spoken with the residence in any form.

Concern expressed about plans to increase 50-70% the capacity of the port in container traffic. That means more trains over the next 20 years, and this traffic will affect the neighbourhood and will have to be monitored. Prior street traffic and False Creek Flats plans are in progress. National, Malkin and possibly even William, are alternative routes for current Prior traffic. Viaduct plans are still being developed and consultations are anticipated in the next year. Elana pointed out that consultations have continued but without the community and wondered why stakeholders don't include us. Tom says this was background info gathering, no decisions made, things idled while the election was dealt with. Tome will be restarting it soon.

Providence Property behind the bus station. Development plans dormant although the rumor was that St. Paul's Hospital would move there, but the move is not going to happen soon.

Many people pointed out that the lack of amenities is getting serious, population is going up but the recreational and other facilities are not being built. How can we find out how much City money is being spent in the neighbourhood on amenities and how much on police? Tom replied that much of that data disappeared with the cancelling of the long-form census. The City is making do with their own research but they lack the infrastructure. Several people expressed skepticism about the information not being available through other means. Tom said that City staff were doing what they could with what they had.

Take care and see you at the next meeting, March 4th at 7:15 at the Strathcona Community Centre,

SRA Executive Council: Elana Zysblat, Roberta Robertson, Gord Roe, Rick Archambault and Chris Coleman