Ordinary folks just made a difference!

Vancouver’s development permit board have turned down Beedie Holdings Ltd.’s application to develop a site at Keefer and Columbia in Chinatown with a controversial condo project. This was an historic victory for the community — one made possible because ordinary folks like you and I organized tirelessly to make it happen.

Beedie had originally proposed a 12-storey structure, which the community quite understandably opposed. The new development would have been far higher than surrounding structures, overshadowing the adjacent Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden, the Chinese Cultural Centre, and the Memorial Square honouring Chinese veterans. Local residents also wanted a project that provided affordable housing for Chinatown’s seniors and other residents struggling to find a home — not gentrification.

Last year, the developer brought this proposal forward to a public hearing, as they were required to do. As a result of intense lobbying and many nights of public delegations speaking against the proposal, city council turned it down. This was a big victory for all who want more affordable housing and developments that fit into their neighbourhoods.

The developer scaled back the proposal, reducing it in height from 12 to nine storeys. As the zoning already in place would allow nine storeys, a public hearing was no longer required. However, the proposal still had to be approved by the development permit board, which is made up of three senior staff members from city hall.

The board rarely turns a proposal down. Not since 2006 has it rejected one. So things were looking good for the developer. However, this scaled-back proposal contained absolutely no non-market or social housing, and would have added to the housing affordability crisis we already have.

The development permit board turned down the revamped proposal.

Community and social housing activists are now pressing hard to see the developer enter into a land swap with the City of Vancouver whereby the city would become the owner of the Keefer Street site. This would open up the door to a development made up entirely of social housing.

Sometimes it is possible to beat the developers. Chinatown’s residents and other concerned citizens just provided us with a great example.

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