You are on page 1of 2

27th October, 2017

To the Development Permit Board and Director of Planning,

I am writing to oppose the development application for 105 Keefer, a site of enormous historic and cultural
significance located in Vancouver's historic Chinatown neighbourhood in my riding of Vancouver East.

105 Keefer is directly adjacent to the Chinatown Memorial Square, which houses the historically significant
monument commemorating the Chinese railway workers and WWII Veterans. This Memorial depicts the history
of Chinese Canadians in Canada and is profound in its meaning to our community. It is surrounded by the
Chinese Cultural Centre, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden, and the Andy Livingstone Park; all of which
are important cultural sites and spaces for the Chinatown community. 105 Keefer borders the National Historic
Site on East Pender Street where valuable heritage buildings are located. Because of its location, 105 Keefer
also serves as a gateway site to Chinatown. All these factors combined make 105 Keefer a uniquely significant
site within a culturally sensitive neighbourhood.

As you know, ongoing immense development pressure is having a direct impact on Chinatown even though
Chinatown is a recognized National Historical Site. Chinatown bears witness to this nation's history and
showcases its diverse cultural traditions. As such, that recognition should mean more than just installation of
plaques. Action needs to be taken by all levels of government in partnership with the community to honour that
recognition. Both infrastructure and programming support are needed. Unfortunately, this proposed
development will do little to contribute to the needs of the community in both respects.

For our community, historic Chinatown is experienced, through both its physical structures, and its ambience.
When our community thinks about protecting the heritage of Vancouver's Chinatown, the size, scale and
architecture of the exterior of the building is just as important as the use of the building. When community
members think about the ambience of Chinatown, we are envisioning a Chinatown vibrant with aromatic food
stalls, similar to the food streets in Hong Kong and China. We are imagining a hub of intergenerational
activities, where elders share stories of the past, teach the youth various traditions and the secret of how to
make homemade Chinese delicacies in celebration of different cultural festivals, or play mah-jong together.

There has been strong momentum in current revitalization efforts by community members to guide changes to
Chinatown in a way that honours the areas historic significance and community vision for the neighbourhood.
Some of the dedicated members of our community even envision Vancouver's Chinatown designated a
UNESCO world heritage site, and they have been working hard to try to realize this dream. There is currently a
robust fundraising effort to establish an intergenerational drop-in space for Chinese youth and seniors.

To truly honour the history of Chinatown, many of my constituents want to see our community build on our
capacity to learn from and care for its elders, and they want to see a community that can support young
families. Many of the current residents of Chinatown are seniors now, and are living in substandard housing.
Those seniors, and the businesses that serve them are in perpetual danger of being displaced by the ongoing
developments. I therefore feel very strongly that every development in Chinatown matters, and should prioritize
affordable housing and services for seniors and families.
The current development application for 105 Keefer offers only 111 market units and a limited community
space. It is not at all aligned with community priorities and needs. Social and rental housing geared for seniors
and low-income residents have been loudly and repeatedly voiced as one of the most needed amenities for
Vancouver Chinatown. When the last rezoning application was denied, a media statement was released where
the developer has pledged to work with the community in shaping a new application. In the rejected application,
there were 25 units which could be purchased by BC Housing and used for low-income seniors housing. While
this was already woefully inadequate in a community where there is a desperate need for safe affordable
housing for low income individuals, even this small token for government to purchase social housing units from
the developer was removed in the current application.

I recognize that the developer is not obliged to provide affordable housing on the site, that said, it is deeply
disappointing that the developer did not incorporate social housing opportunities on the site to reflect the spirit
and desires of the community. I note also that since 2014, the developer has put forward five development
applications for 105 Keefer, with arguably minimal changes each time.

With the ongoing developmental pressures on Chinatown, City of Vancouver staff have been working with
community members to re-evaluate the character and impacts of new buildings allowed under development
policies adopted in 2011. A number of proposed changes have been made and are slated to be presented to
City Council in the fall. Under the recommended new zoning policies for Chinatown, the development
application for 105 Keefer would violate the maximum site frontage size, maximum density, maximum number
of storeys allowed, and second-floor-use recommendations. Knowing that changes to Chinatown zoning
policies may be forthcoming, approval of the current application would be very untimely. Out of respect for the
community members time and effort, as well as the efforts of the City staff who have worked closely with them
to develop these proposed policy changes, I believe that further development applications to the site should be
stayed until City Council has voted on the proposed zoning policy changes.

In the meantime, I respectfully ask that Council make every effort to explore options, in partnership with senior
levels of government, to either purchase the site or to make a land swap with the development on this important
site.

The City has also made great investments to protect the neighbourhood through the Chinese Society Legacy
Program. The Chinese Society Legacy Program is aimed at stabilizing the area's 12 heritage buildings as
important heritage assets and cultural legacies. On May 20, 2017, the community celebrated the first of these
renovations completed by the Mah Society, which has been recognized with a 2017 Heritage Award from the
City. It would truly be a shame to put these hard fought victories at risk.

In closing, I do not believe that the development application for 105 Keefer will contribute positively to the
realization of this vision or add to the unique and distinct cultural identity of Chinatown. In fact, I feel that it will
do the very opposite. For all the above mentioned reasons, I am writing once again in opposition of the
development application of 105 Keefer.

Sincerely yours,

Jenny Kwan
MP, Vancouver East
NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
NDP Critic for Multiculturalism

cc Mayor Robertson and Council

Related Interests