Media Release, December 6, 2013: City’s Actions Displace Low-Income Seniors, Artists and Threaten 120-Year Old Historic Property in Japantown

For Immediate Release
December 6, 2013

Chinese version follows below.

City’s Actions Displace Low-Income Seniors, Artists and Threaten 120-Year Old Historic Property in Japantown

Group demands Restitution and Protection of Heritage

Vancouver – At a press conference today at 9:30am, at the Vancouver Japanese Language Centre and Japanese Hall, 487 Alexander Avenue – 4th Floor, members of the Ming Sun Benevolent Society, owners of 439 Powell Street in the Downtown Eastside, along with local artists, planners, heritage preservationists and citizens, are asking the City to immediately halt plans to demolish the historic 120 year old building in Japantown, and make restitution for the damage they have caused to the community.

In July 2013, contrary to their own guidelines, the City of Vancouver made a hasty decision to tear down a building at 451 Powell Street, citing public safety.   This act led to the displacement of 10 low-income seniors in the adjoining building living in SRA units, as well as an artist collective.

The City did not consult with the owners of either building.  They did not obtain a geotechnical review, or an independent structural report, nor did they conduct a hazardous material assessment or an assessment to minimize impacts on adjacent properties – all of which is a requirement by the City for anyone wishing to demolish a building.

Instead, the City responded to reports of a cracked wall at 451 Powell and sent demolition crews in and tore the building down within a few hours of inspection. The demolition caused structural damage to the Ming Sun Benevolent Society building next door at 439 Powell. The City immediately evicted all the residents of 439, and over subsequent months vandals targeted the building and caused further damage. Now the City of Vancouver is demanding demolition of the building. The Society does not want the 120- year old building demolished, and wants the City to make repair and restitution.

David Wong, an architect and a representative of the Ming Sun Benevolent Society, says: “The 90 year old Ming Sun Benevolent Society has an impeccable record of providing safe, clean housing for low-income people at under welfare rates at 439 Powell St.  Our building was in good shape until the City forced us into the current situation.  To replace those SRO units will cost $80,000 per unit.  We want to repair the building but due to the City’s actions, the damage from vandals is extensive. We are a benevolent society.  We are non-profit.  The City has consistently provided contradictory information, and has put great pressure on us to tear down a building that we have maintained and cared for and which housed our historic archives.  We do not want to tear it down.  We feel betrayed by the City.  Our tenants feel betrayed.  Someone made an uninformed decision.  The way we were treated is just not right.”

Jinhan Ko, spokesperson for the Instant Coffee Artist Collective that has occupied the main floor of the building for many years, says: “There are many issues at play here – a lack of due process, the rights of the owners of the adjacent building, the tenants and the artists who were leasing studio space, and the haste in tearing down a building with significant historic value.  The whole process was suspect from the beginning – and now we are left with less space for artists in Vancouver.  We are already losing artists at a rapid pace to places like Montreal and Berlin, because it is not possible to find affordable space here – we are losing our best talent and this is one more example of that.”

Sid Tan, well known Vancouver community organizer and media producer, says: “City Hall’s action is arrogant, dismissive and seems an abuse of power.  We have a civic government that pretends to care about minorities and low-income people and the arts.  We have a civic government that purports to care about the environment and here they are pushing to discard a building that has been deemed solid by a structural engineering firm, a building that provided homes low-income seniors and a studio for artists, and, a building of historic value that took energy to create.  Why does the City of Vancouver want to tear down such an important building that is part of our history?”

The supporters of 439 Powell are calling on the City to immediately stop the demolition order, pay for an outside study on the viability of the building, and cover costs to repair the damage that occurred as a result of their actions.

The building is slated to come down December 9th.

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Media Contacts:
David Wong:  604-340-3793, Ming Sun Benevolent Society
Jenifer Papararo: 604-339-5379, Instant Coffee Art Collective

新聞發佈
For Immediate Release
December 6, 2013

 溫哥華市政府下令清拆市内Japantown一棟超過120年的歷史建築將直接影響區内多名低收入老人及本地藝術家。社區人士要求市府致力保護古蹟並提供合理賠償

民星總社(Ming Sun Benevolent Society)成員,溫市中心東區439Powell Street業主,以及多名本地藝術家、城市規劃學者、文物保護人士與區内居民希望市府馬上停止計劃清拆市内Japantown一棟超過120年的歷史建築,並且對區内居民作出賠償。 

2013年7月,市府違反準則,以公衆安全為理由下令清拆位於451Powell Street 的建築。清拆令導致十名低收入老人及一個藝術團體被逼搬遷。

市府當時並沒有進行任何公衆咨詢,沒有獲得土地工程研究報告、獨立建築結構報告,也沒有對清拆時釋放的有害物質及對鄰近樓宇的影響作出評估。以上都是市府對建築物進行清拆前的要求。

相反,市府派人檢查451 Powell Street外牆裂痕之後數小時便下令清拆整棟建築。清拆期間更對旁邊439 Powell St 的民星總社造成結構性破壞。市府之後隨即下令439 Powell St的居民搬走,大廈空置之後慘遭進一步破壞。位於439 Powell St的建築已有超過 120年歷史,現在市政府將下令清拆,我們強烈要求市政府停止清拆計劃並負責維修及作出賠償。

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Media Contacts:
David Wong:  604-340-3793, Ming Sun Benevolent Society
Jenifer Papararo: 604-339-5379, Instant Coffee Art Collective

cropped-ming-sun-media-conference-building.jpg

Photo credit: Sid Chow Tan

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One thought on “Media Release, December 6, 2013: City’s Actions Displace Low-Income Seniors, Artists and Threaten 120-Year Old Historic Property in Japantown

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