Chinatown was a vibrant, healthy neighbourhood in 1960s. However, by the 1980s, Vancouver’s Chinese community had largely moved to other areas of Vancouver, as well as Richmond. By 2000, after decades of neglect and disrepair, the neighbourhood had reached a crisis. In 2012, Vancouver council, with unanimous support from all stakeholder groups, approved a strategy to revitalize Chinatown, with three pillars: cultural, residential and economic.
Now, 6 years later, we’re seeing evidence that this plan has enjoyed some success. New mixed-use developments have been built, replacing vacant lots and derelict buildings. New residents have moved in, and supported a range of old and new businesses. Property owners are saying that vacancy rates are starting to improve, filling empty storefronts. There is now a palpable energy to Chinatown that was lacking just 10 years ago, and for many people who live and work in the area, the neighbourhood has become significantly healthier - albeit with lots of work still to do!
This success, however, is not without its detractors. A couple of the larger new developments are out of character with the rest of the area. Legacy Chinatown businesses have closed. Change, some say, has come too fast.
As a result, over the last three years a change to the zoning bylaw has been developing. It contains some great ideas for maintaining Chinatown’s character including a preference for storefronts that echo our small lot street rhythm and a clearer delineation of design standards to ensure new developments fit better in the area. Additionally, city staff will be developing initiatives to support legacy businesses, cultural intangibles, and the needs of low income seniors. Chinatown Voices supports this.
However, what we don’t support is the report also includes recommendations that will seriously affect housing affordability in the area. In the proposed bylaw, potential housing stock will be reduced to just 40% of that currently allowed. Funding social housing by allowing greater density is gone. Reducing housing inventory will drive prices up, contributing to Vancouver’s housing crisis. All the existing businesses in Chinatown need people to support to them - allowing for increased density will bring desperately needed daily foot traffic.
Read the full report.
How You Can Help
The new Chinatown downzoning policies have been sent to public hearing set for Thursday, June 28th at 6pm. If you want to help save Chinatown you need to do any or all of the following:
- Sign up to speak at the public hearing.
- Write a letter to email@example.com.
- Sign this petition:
"I support preserving heritage architecture and encouraging Chinatown character through proposed design policies."
"I do not support downzoning Chinatown which will hurt businesses, decrease available housing inventory, and increase housing costs."