The following was the presentation I made to City Council on March 12, 2014, regarding the DTES LAP and originally published on the Strathcona Residents Association website.


Re: Draft DTES Local Area Plan and Report

The Strathcona Residents’ Association does not support this draft plan.

The Strathcona Residents' Association voted to participate in the Local Area Planning Process when it became clear to us that we would have to make the best of a bad situation. To be clear: despite a guaranteed seat, the SRA had originally voted to abstain from the LAPP based on Council's arbitrary appointment of co-chairs that would select membership and determine terms of reference. Our membership felt strongly this was the wrong approach: it played into divisive political agendas, failed to accurately reflect the diversity of the communities, and would result in a failed process.

The fundamental failure of planning process that led to our rejection then, is reflected in our rejection of this DTES Local Area Plan draft you are considering now.

There is a popular notion in planning that "a plan nobody likes is inherently a good plan, because it favours no one group and strikes a balance". It should be considered that the limited support for this plan is not on account of its equanimity; but on account of its failure in delivering options, or detailed and practical analysis.

It should be acknowledged that there are individually agreeable parts to this plan, but the devil is in the details. Lacking those details, and given the limited capacity and opportunity to review the final draft and vet it with our own membership over the last two weeks, we cannot support this plan nor do we feel we can do the proper analysis to supply a complete and detailed critique.

The following comments on the plan are supplied with a feeling of resignation - because the general impression is that the plan and policies will be passed regardless of how community or committee respond. Nevertheless, and for the record:

Having already mentioned issues with the co-chairs and membership issue, the notion that citizen volunteers would be expected to read, digest and disseminate the almost 500 pages of report, policies, plan, appendices, and social impact assessment in less than two weeks is unacceptable. Council doesn't have a mandate from voters, let alone LAPP stakeholders to push through a thirty year plan with less than two weeks to review.

Built Form.
Along with density, this plan introduces significant height and built form increases, but doesn't address the very real issue of land-lift and what effect that will have on existing affordable housing, artist and business space. Given the precarity of affordability in the DTES and the City as a whole, and given that this plan provides no compelling evidence for increasing heights and scale, there needs to be a more in-depth analysis of risks and options. Regarding height recommendations to protect the view from the McLean Park area, we would like to see stronger language and concrete policy to guarantee this view corridor/view cone.

Proformas, Definitions and Critical Analysis.
Often requested analysis of some of the plan's proposal and practicalities (the Coriolis Report, related proformas) were not supplied to the committee. Details about social housing and its definition were similarly withheld until very recently. The notion of a 'no-condo-zone' is not an anathema, but the trade off in building scale for questionable benefits is a concern. The notion of increased heights for buildings with micro-suite SRO replacement low barrier housing is of serious concern and requires a closer look at best practices.

Underperformance of social housing.
By social housing, specifically referring to the underperformance of low income and HILs housing, on the whole throughout the greater DTES, and the City in general. Recognizing that income assistance and welfare rates are too low — this plan should specifically encourage the Provincial Government to raise the rates.

Zoning Districts.
The relatively arbitrary nature of the DTES zoning districts do not accurately reflect the authentic and lived experience of neighbourhoods and residents. For instance, zoning for the DEOD fails to acknowledge that some of DEOD subarea 1 is less than 1/2 block from Strathcona Elementary School and Community Centre, or that Hastings Street is a transit route and shared community asset. Where applicable, when considering rezoning and development applications for specific projects (particularly in the case of DEOD sub area 1 and its focus on dense singles housing including low-barrier and supportive types) a place-based policy needs to be implemented to mitigate potential conflict.

Public Benefits.
In the context of the projected significant population increases in Hastings East and the DEOD, the plan does not deliver an appropriate increase in public benefits, already lacking in this area.

Prior Street.
The plan fails to acknowledge the longstanding concern about safety and safe access to Strathcona Park, community gardens and Atlantic Avenue. Particularly in the context of projected population increases, dearth of neighbourhood green space, and possible removal of the viaducts, traffic calming Prior Street needs to be an actual policy direction.

A robust and community-directed implementation strategy should be included as policy for this plan. As it stands, vague policy recommendations and a bi-annual community forum won't cut it. A methodology for reconsidering and correcting potential failed policy and a throttle for new development (in the event of a developer rush) should be included.

This is not a complete list, additional concerns remain about protecting heritage, local community economic development, protecting artist spaces in the community, enhanced health opportunities like a hospital or wellness centre, and more.

Ending on a positive note, though, the experience of attending and participating in the LAPP facilitated better understanding between sometimes divergent stakeholder interests, we would be remiss in not recognizing and thanking the City’s DTES Planning staff for their professionalism and hard work in making this process the best they could.

A popular mural in the neighbourhood proclaims "We Take Care of Each Other" and that sentiment genuinely reflects the spirit of Strathconans. Respect for that history of inclusion and diversity are presented in our bylaws and specific SRA policies like support for raising the provincial welfare rates, and advocating for a "30-30-30" socio-economic mix.

We clearly and consistently aspire to nurture a healthy and mixed community: supportive of low income and working Vancouverites; supportive of families and singles, children and seniors; supportive of the arts and small business; supportive of diversity; to nurture a healthy and mixed community where everybody can thrive.

on behalf of the Strathcona Residents' Association

Pete Fry — Chair,
CC: Strathcona Residents' Association Council
published on strathcona-residents.org