Report of rally at St John’s Church, 1401 Comox (Apr 16)

Fifty to 100 people showed up at our rally today. CBC Television and Global Television and other media were present. We will follow up soon with more information about the event plus video. Thank you to everyone who attended.

To view Global TV coverage (1) go to Global News Hour and slide “progress bar” to approx. 11:10.

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Main messages were…

  1. The West End needs a comprehensive plan to ensure that the real needs of our community are met and to enhance quality of life for current and future residents.
  2. We do not need spot-by-spot rezonings like this proposed project that favors developers and allow construction of a building out of character with the neighbourhood.
  3. Why here today? The current owners of St John’s Church (Westbank Projects Corp. and Peterson Investment Group) are preparing to demolish St. John’s Church, even though the rezoning application is on hold and no Public Hearing has even been scheduled to hear public opinion.
  4. Explained chronology of events leading up to this day, including the fact that the STIR program, the only justification for a proposal for a 22-storey tower here, was created with no public input. Incentives for developers on this site are estimated at about $80,000 per apartment (193 units) [Figures to be confirmed]. See WEN website for chronology.
  5. Mayor and and Councillors were all invited to this event, but none were able to attend. Mayor Robertson has not responded to any of our many written requests to consider options to save this church and/or the site for community purposes.
  6. Speakers Bill McCreery (citizen, architect, developer and currently candidate for next civic election) and David Pasin (member, West End Community Centre Association) reported on efforts they have made to support the West End and preserve this church as an annex to the local community centre. They emphasized that the church and site could still be saved as valuable community assets.

Citizens from other neighbourhoods of the city were present to show their support for our actions, including North East False Creek Residents’ Association, and the spokesperson for Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver. The Statement from NSV follows.

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Public Statement from Ned Jacobs, Spokesperson for Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV),  April 16, 2011

Regarding the immanent demolition of St. John’s Church at 1401 Comox Street in Vancouver, and proposal to spot rezone and redevelop the site under the Short Term Incentives for Rentals Program (STIR).

  • The Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver Steering Committee is dismayed to learn that the demolition of St. John’s may be imminent
  • We are opposed to this church and community amenity being demolished ahead of the Development and Building Permits being issued for the site. We also have major concerns about the STIR project being proposed.
  •  The tower proposed to replace this splendid example of West Coast architecture, rare in Downtown Vancouver, would significantly damage the livability of the neighbourhood, severely compromise the public realm, and signal the further erosion of Vancouver’s long-standing commitment to high-quality urban design and community involvement in decision making. That the proponent for this spot rezoning has sought to justify it on grounds that substantial public subsidies to the developer under the STIR program (which our Mayor has characterized as a “stimulus” for the development industry) would provide “affordability,” is an affront to the truth and the intelligence of informed Vancouver taxpayers.  It is unacceptable and regrettable that the Mayor has failed to respond in any way to West End Neighbours’ correspondence expressing their objections to the demolition of St. John’s.
  •  I urge West Enders, who have banded together to expose these fallacies, and who correctly insist that development be consistent with existing design guidelines and subject to comprehensive neighbourhood-based planning, to continue to press City Council to purchase this property, which is ideally situated to provide public space and services for the community at a scale that enhances, not blights, the West End environment.  
  •  I also want to speak today about another crucial, time-sensitive issue with major implications for West End Neighbours and other community groups.
  •  An extremely troubling staff report is going to be heard at Council this coming Tuesday at 9:30am.  The report contains proposed revisions to the City’s streets and traffic by-law.  Council is planning to pass the by-law revisions on Tuesday. 
  •  If those revisions are approved, then this event —and others like it in residential areas of Vancouver — would be illegal after Tuesday.  This event would contravene the revised by-law because, to use the language of the proposed by-law, it involves
  •  (1)   A person who wanted to “place … any structure, object, or substance” that conveyed “political expression” that might “encroach” on a City street or sidewalk
  • and
  • (2)  Takes place in an area that is zoned residential.   
  •  If you are concerned about what is being proposed then you can find out more by visiting the CityHallWatch website (which is www.CityHallWatch.ca) and the blog of the Vancouver Public Space Network (which you can reach from www.VancouverPublicSpace.ca).
  •  Please consider e-mailing Mayor and Council and/or signing to speak at Tuesday morning’s Council meeting.

Statement delivered by Ned Jacobs,  On behalf of the Steering Committee, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver

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