Our Vancouver includes the DTES. Flickr photo: M-J Milloy
The following is my weekly column from 24 Hours...
We’ve created this sad little borough known as the Downtown Eastside by ignoring it, and by listening to the advice of the poverty industry that seeks to maintain the status quo.
A friend from my neighbourhood is a serial entrepreneur with a taste for offbeat music, culture and art. He’s the perfect individual to lead a revitalization of those desperate streets. Among **David Duprey’s accomplishments are two restored storefronts on East Hastings near Main Street currently leased out to other businesses. He’s also refurbished and re-opened a live music venue he dubbed the Rickshaw Theatre.
When David first arrived in the neighbourhood he almost walked away due to the red tape city bureaucrats heaped upon him. Thankfully for that community he persevered.
Last week the Vision Vancouver city council appeared to take the Downtown Eastside two steps back by blocking a discussion about modest building height increases in that neighbourhood. The poverty industry was in full swing – they created an absurd and shameful campaign labeled ‘Fight the Height,’ which featured a poster full of human silhouettes swinging from nooses off the tops of buildings.
If anyone is the reason for death and decay on the mean streets of the Downtown Eastside, it is the leaders of the poverty industry itself.
The process of increasing height in the DTES began almost four years ago. It’s shocking to think that city hall has taken this long to deliberate on this topic. But when eighty members of the public arrived at city hall to debate it with the Vision/COPE majority, council blinked big time. Vision Councillor Raymond Louie moved a motion to defer further discussion, leaving those 80 members of the public standing stunned outside the council chamber.
Among the people who weighed in at the eleventh hour were a group of academics who co-signed a letter decrying any change to the built form in a place many refer to as a ghetto. None of these professors had any expertise in planning or architecture, but that didn’t stop Vision Coun. Kerry Jang from praising “the learned people” from joining the debate.
Even former mayor, premier and Kerrisdale resident Mike Harcourt got into the act, saying he wanted more study. But more study means more delay and more decay. If there were an earthquake tomorrow, take a guess how many of these beloved ‘heritage’ structures might be left standing?
Our politicians – current and former – who want to preserve the Downtown Eastside as is are consigning it to more years of misery.
Opponents wrongly claim that the only way to preserve “affordability” is to restrict any market housing. That is precisely how we keep the DTES as the city’s shame – keep only poor people here.
It’s time for a mix of incomes to return, along with small businesspeople like my friend David. That’s the only way out of DTES despair.
- post by Mike. As it happens the Vancouver Sun published a similar comment on the same day. There are several who have expressed their frustration at the latest delays in bringing new development into the DTES. Also worth reading is Allen Garr's account of what happened last week.
**While we salute the work of people like David Duprey in the DTES, he had no involvement in this article and was used as a subject without his knowledge.