A Noble Fight? Chinatown’s 105 Keefer Struggle Inspires Opponents of Social Housing / Wellness Centre

1636 Clark Drive & 1321-1395 East 1st Avenue
As one community in Vancouver fights for more options to keep their neighbours homed and healthy, another misappropriates that spirit in their fight for the exact opposite. This attitude was on display at the pre-application open house, and was again shown at the city led open house for this recovery / wellness centre and the attached non-market homes.

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The open house was in full swing by the time we arrived as I first had to pick Darren up from a separate event down in Marpole. It almost felt like two separate political groups accidentally booked the same venue for a campaign rally. On one side supporting the proposal were former members of the NPA, as well as candidates and supporters of OneCity who were easily identifiable by their buttons and cheery attitude. Meanwhile, the opposition was joined by at least one candidate from Pro-Vancouver, whose members were not wearing buttons, so it was more difficult to guess their numbers.

This candidate seemed genuinely sympathetic to those opposed to this proposal, even when the idea was raised that those in favour were paid to be in attendance. This group discussed whether the applicant (in this case, BC Housing, Vancouver Coastal Health and the City of Vancouver) had bussed these supporters in from outside Vancouver, like what was alleged to have occurred with 105 Keefer. Later I heard these same people loudly discussing how they could employee strategies that were used by those opposed to that development in Chinatown to stop this proposal. Clearly, it doesn’t seem they were aware of what the opposition to 105 Keefer actually stemmed from.

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To the applicant team’s credit, they made a point of addressing concerns the community raised at the previous open house. There were seniors members of the VPD in attendance to address security concerns, several information boards with answers to questions raised at the last event, and even reference letters from Emily Carr University and St. Francis Xavier School stating the existing treatment centre has never resulted in threats or problems. Despite this, there were still some ignorant comments, as one person said they would be afraid to walk past the building due to the worry of being hit by beer bottles thrown down from the roof.

Perhaps these overblown concerns are a sign of how little non-market housing exists in this area of the Grandview Woodlands. While some feel the neighbourhood is overburdened, there are actually only 8 non-market buildings in a 3 block radius of this site (that number includes co-op housing). In fact, these 100 homes will be the first built since 1990. Still, sometimes it’s easier to give into one’s prejudices than it is to accept facts.

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Despite the high passions involved, the two opposing views were fairly cordial with each other, Though I did overhear one person exclaim, roughly, “Just because I don’t want it near me, doesn’t mean I’m a Nimby! I hate that word, and being called it!” So, there were obviously some strong disagreements, but with a crowd of roughly 200 people, that’s to be expected. Still, it appears the applicant’s outreach is paying off, as it appeared there was a slight majority in favour of the proposal.

Clearly, the more people learn, the more they realize these badly needed homes and services are no threat to the community, and will only enhance it. Hopefully you feel like you’ve learned enough to weigh in, and make your thoughts heard here.

Project Stats

The proposal consists of a 12,192 sq. m (131,234 sq. ft.) mixed-use building and includes:

  • social enterprise space at grade;
  • withdrawal management centre operated by Vancouver Coastal Health, including up to 20 transitional units;
  • 97 social housing units;
  • floor space ratio (FSR) of 3.07;
  • maximum building height of 30.5 m/100 ft. (fronting Clark Drive) and 19.8 m/65 ft. (fronting McLean Drive); and
  • 39 car and 100 bicycle parking spaces.

This application is being considered under the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.

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