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Mayor backs away from tall buildings in Downtown Eastside, tho Chinatown okay

January 20th, 2011 · 9 Comments

What a surprise. (Not, when I think about it for 10 seconds.)

After a last-minute, intense lobby against a proposed city policy to allow taller buildings on a select group of sites near Chinatown — a lobby that included the city’s two former directors of planning and former mayor Mike Harcourt — Mayor Gregor Robertson has announced there needs to be more community consultation on the Downtown Eastside locations.

Mayor to introduce motion for more public consultation in Downtown Eastside

Mayor Gregor Robertson will be introducing a motion today at council to have more public consultation and engagement on planning in the Downtown Eastside, saying there needs to be more community consultation before moving forward with proposals for taller buildings.

He will also be calling for the creation of a Downtown Eastside neighbourhood committee to facilitate a neighbourhood-led engagement process.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from people both in and outside the Downtown Eastside that they have major concerns about the proposal to allow taller buildings in the neighbourhood,” said Mayor Robertson. “The long-term revitalization of the DTES requires broad community buy-in and support, and we don’t have that yet.
“Our goal is revitalization that includes the Downtown Eastside community. We want to build a diverse neighbourhood that includes a mix of incomes and more affordable housing. But right now, more work needs to be done to build consensus on how we move forward.”

With the report covering an area that spans Gastown, the Downtown Eastside, and Chinatown, the Mayor says it is important to distinguish which areas support the recommendations and can proceed, and which ones have concerns that need to be addressed.
“We’ve taken a thoughtful approach to revitalization, and some parts of the report, like Chinatown, have broad community support and are ready to move forward,” said Mayor Robertson. “The concerns we’ve heard are focused primarily on the Downtown Eastside and the impact on low-income residents, and so we need to take some more time to address those issues.”
When the initial Historic Area Height Review report was approved in early 2010, council also asked staff to undertake a social impact study of development on the low-income community in the DTES. Work on this study has been limited to date and more time is needed for information to be collected.
“The community in the Downtown Eastside is right to say that there has not been enough study on the social impacts on the low-income population,” said the Mayor. “The City only has so many resources and staff need more time to look at it in detail. More investment now in engaging the community and bringing stakeholders together will pay-off in the long run for the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood and the city as a whole.”
To enhance and accelerate the planning and consultation process in the Downtown Eastside, the Mayor will be calling for the creation of a community committee, chaired by one member of the Building Communities Society and one member of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council. The committee would engage with local residents and provide a report to council by December 31, 2011 on community priorities for planning and development in the neighbourhood. As well, the City would commit to completing the social impacts study by December 31, 2011.
Mayor Robertson is recommending that until the social impacts study and the community committee’s report are complete, that council respect existing plans and policies for the Downtown Eastside.
“We’ve heard from the community that they want more engagement in the planning process, and this is a way to do it,” said the Mayor. “A citizen-driven engagement process will supplement the City’s work underway and help craft an inclusive, diverse vision for the future of the neighbourhood.”

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