Brigade of academics petition city hall not to raise heights in DTES, Chinatown

Never seen anything like this before. A large group of profs, many with in-depth knowledge of gentrification and housing dynamics, have mobilized to oppose allowing taller new buildings in the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown.

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors:

Re: January 20, 2011 Council Meeting on the Historic Area Height Review Update.

We, the undersigned, are professors at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia with an interest in the fate and well being of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

We therefore note with concern the recommendation before Council to change the allowable heights in the ‘Historic Area’, which includes much of the Downtown Eastside. The effect of this will be to increase permitted heights on several sites. Assuming, as seems inevitable, that this facilitates market housing, we fear that this will lead to a further reduction of affordable housing in the surrounding area, particularly that of the residential hotels. This will have a devastating effect on low-income residents and the continued vitality and viability of the neighbourhood as a whole. We believe that planning in the Downtown Eastside should have at its centre the interests of the most vulnerable, rather than risk further destabilizing a community that is already facing intensifying pressures.

Market development, if wisely managed with the insights of the low-income community, can bring benefits to the Downtown Eastside. However, it can, and has, also led to increasing rents, conversions and displacement. We encourage Council not to proceed with the Height Review until a more thorough community based planning process is conducted, a cornerstone of which should be the improvement and protection of the affordable housing stock of the Downtown Eastside.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Blomley, Ph.D.

Professor, Geography, SFU

Elvin Wyly, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Geography;

Chair, Urban Studies Program, UBC

David Ley, Ph.D.

Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada,

Canada Research Chair,

Professor and Head of Department, Geography, UBC

Samir Gandesha, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Humanities, SFU

Eugene McCann, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor, Geography, SFU

Jeff Derksen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, English, SFU

Nicolas Kenny, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, History, SFU

Dara Culhane, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Anthropology, UBC

Jamie Peck, Ph.D.

Canada Research Chair in Urban & Regional Economy

Professor, Geography, UBC

Donald Grayston, PhD, former director, Institute for the Humanities, SFU; theologian and public educator

Derek Gregory, Ph.D., Professor, Geography, UBC

Fellow of the British Academy; Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; Dr. h.c (Heidelberg); Dr. h.c. (Roskilde)

Steve Collis, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor; Associate Chair, English, SFU

Mónica Escudero, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer

Spanish Language Program, Language Training Institute

Humanities Department SFU

Graham Riches, Ph.D.,

Emeritus Professor, Social Work, UBC

Elise Chenier, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, History, SFU

Janice Matsumura, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor, History, SFU

Paige Raibmon, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor, History, UBC

Endar Brophy, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Communications, SFU

Gary Teeple, Ph.D,

Professor, Sociology;

Director of Labour Studies, Morgan Centre for Labour Studies.

Clint Burnham, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, English, SFU

Thomas Kemple, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Sociology, UBC

Sunera Thobani, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies, UBC

Willeen Keough, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of History, SFU

Karen Ferguson, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor, Urban Studies/History, SFU

Pilar Riano-Alcala

Associate Professor, Liu Institute/Social Work, UBC

Mark Leier, Ph.D.,

Professor, History, SFU

Valerie Raoul, Ph.D.,

Emerita Professor, Women’s Studies and French, UBC

Catherine Murray, Ph.D.,

Professor, Chair, Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies, SFU

Shauna Butterwick, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies, UBC

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