***For immediate release***
June 26th 2023
Vancouver City Hall, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh) territory – The Vancouver Tenants Union condemns the Development Permit Board for its decision to ‘conditionally’ approve Beedie’s proposal to erect a luxury condominium on the historic site of 105 Keefer. The ‘conditions’ imposed on the proposal are meaningless cosmetic adjustments that do nothing to address the dire need for social housing in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside. The government’s shameful lack of commitment to defend popular opposition to the project – let alone its own rulings at City Hall – severely undermines the legitimacy of its leadership and the democracy it claims to uphold.
In one stroke, an unelected panel of City functionaries overpowered years of democratic process, hard-won by residents of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside who fought to be heard before a hostile City Council. Today’s conclusion marks a singularly appalling moment in Vancouver’s long history as a city governed by and for elite developer interests.
From the city’s colonial settlement to today, Vancouver’s Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside have been an historic battleground where working class tenants have fought racist exclusion by government, which often took the form of displacement by rampant urban development. This community, battered by recent years of dislocation and deprivation, remains defiant. Even though the Development Permit Board gave less than a month’s notice of the hearing on May 29 this year, the community rose up yet again to defend its survival. On May 25, a democratic Community Council convened over 500 longtime neighbourhood residents to ratify their unanimous opposition to the proposed luxury condominium at 105 Keefer.
What followed was a rapid series of escalating mobilizations against the impending project, a resurgence of action that could only spring from a foundation of intergenerational relationships built over years by working class residents, tenant organizers, and youth advocates in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside. In short time, nearly 500 signatures from residents of the neighbourhood and tenants across Vancouver were collected to demand that the provincial government, Premier David Eby, and Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon expropriate 105 Keefer from Beedie and build in its place urgently-needed social housing rented permanently at welfare- and pension-rates.
It has been ten years since Beedie first proposed his condominium to the Development Permit Board. In response the community, recognizing the dire threat of displacement the project promised, launched into action. What followed was a decade of organized resistance from the working class residents of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside. Hundreds of tenants mobilized year after year to oppose the project in defense of their home and the community they love. Their efforts led to an extraordinary series of victories against the billionaire developer: on five successive occasions Beedie was soundly defeated at City Hall.
But despite what appeared to be a decisive triumph over Beedie at the Development Permit Board in 2017, the community was denied its united demands for 105 Keefer: real social housing for its elderly working class residents to rent permanently at welfare- and pension-rates. In the years since 2017, the lot at 105 Keefer has sat empty while the disgraced developer waged a quiet battle in the courts to overturn the verdict of City Hall and crush the democratic will of the neighbourhood’s struggling tenants. Beedie – just one of many of Vancouver’s home-grown oligarchs – demonstrated his ill-gained power and contempt for the poor by purchasing a reversal of the 2017 ruling from the highest court on this stolen land. In the face of this naked betrayal of democracy, the pitiful silence of elected officials sends a clear message that the government serves profit, not people.
A vocal fraternity of Vancouver’s elite will no doubt applaud today’s farce at City Hall as a sign of ‘progress’ in Chinatown. Yet even these most committed boosters of real estate greed admit that Beedie’s approved proposal does not include much-needed affordable homes, let alone units rented at welfare- and pension-rates. The self-selected leadership class that defends Beedie’s vicious profit-seeking as being somehow in the interest of the neighbourhood will soon reckon with the reality that this development will only accelerate the destruction of a community they claim to care so much about. Yet history proves that working class residents of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside will never stop fighting to defend their homes.
So while Beedie may have bought another lifeline for his widely-despised project, the community and the movement will continue the struggle to realize its original vision for 105 Keefer and the neighbourhood at large: real social housing for all working class residents of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.
In the community’s decade-long struggle to defend itself from displacement, the government at all levels has demonstrated an unwillingness to protect the very existence of its most vulnerable and marginalized constituencies. But Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside has and will remain undefeated. This community will continue to fight on all fronts for its right to remain and flourish in the place it calls home. We proudly declare that today is only the beginning of a new chapter in the fight to come.