British Columbia

From 105 Keefer success to 2018 elections, Chinatown advocates rally

The controversial development at 105 Keefer St. in Vancouver’s Chinatown may have been halted, but with municipal elections coming up this year, community advocates say the fight to preserve the neighbourhood and combat gentrification isn't over yet.

Advocates hope to bring community issues to forefront of municipal elections

Plans for development at 105 Keefer St., near the Chinese Cultural Centre and Sun Yat-Sen Garden, was halted last year. Advocates say the fight to preserve Chinatown isn't over yet. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

Community advocates for Vancouver's Chinatown say the fight to preserve the neighbourhood and combat gentrification isn't over yet, and with municipal elections coming up this year, they hope to keep the conversation going.  

Last November, plans for a nine storey residential building at 105 Keefer St. were rejected by Vancouver's Development Permit Board. This was the last of five proposals for the site in three years.

Yuly Chan with the Chinatown Action Group has been at the forefront of the neighbourhood debates. She says what happened with 105 Keefer St. was significant because of the message it sent.

"Even though it was just one site, we were able to address so many important issues," she told CBC host of The Early Edition Stephen Quinn.

Debate over the development project became a sort of stand-in for many of the issues facing the neighbourhood, from a lack of affordable housing and gentrification, to a loss of neighbourhood identity.

"All of this is more significant than the site itself," she said. "Being able to continue this conversation in 2018 — I think people are starting to wake up to what is so unjust in the city."

Looking ahead to 2018

One of the key takeaways from the 105 Keefer St. protests, Chan said, was centring the voices of community members and bringing everyone, young and old, together.

"The city needs to continue listening to the voices of working class residents," she said. "Gentrification is not only isolated within Chinatown. It's happening everywhere."

Chan said she hopes Chinatown can be a catalyst for addressing community issues facing residents across the city.

In April, the City of Vancouver plans to give a formal apology for historical racism against Chinese residents of the city.

Chan said she's not surprised it's coming up during an election year, and although it's an important acknowledgement, it is not enough on its own.

"We don't put our hopes in our municipal parties or in the government. It's really about putting hope in the power of the people, which 105 Keefer really demonstrated," she said.   

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

WIth files from The Early Edition