The City of Vancouver recently released it’s Downtown Eastside Local Area Planning Program for public feedback and consultation. The Local Area Plan will provide guidance and direction for city policies on neighbourhood development well into the foreseeable future. Although the proposed planning policies contain some important directives for protecting parkland, architecture and artistic and cultural spaces and housing, the plan has one serious flaw.

For the area known as Japantown or the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District the city proposes creating “regulatory strategies to prioritize social housing and secured market rental housing.” What this translates into in real terms is a proposal to create a modern designated ghetto in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. For one of the most desolate, impoverished, crime and drug-ridden areas of the city the new plan calls for regulations and policies that keep it that way. This is wrong and reeks of flawed social engineering


City plans for a modern designated ghetto in the heart of the Downtown Eastside?

Reading through the planning materials warning of “gentrification” and calling for more “non-profit” housing projects one begins to wonder if city planners have spent any time in the neighbourhood at all. Has the city simply listened to the misguided special interests led by Jean Swanson, Wendy Pederson and their sorry little band of restaurant protestors? Is this an effort to appease them? Did the “gentrification” bogey man scare the planners? At what point do the municipal taxpayers and residents say enough of this silly farce?

The new small business people and market housing residents in Gastown are a young generation of urban pioneers who saw opportunities and recognized the need to step in where decades of government policies have failed. Together they have toiled, cooperated, and spent hard earned private dollars to find a new direction for Gastown and the surrounding areas. The government did not instill the new spirit in Gastown – private citizens did. This is not the time for “big government” to micro-regulate the area.


Hastings Street today within the proposed “Ghetto Zone”.

Today’s pioneers know there is a need for social housing that works and improved government services. But they also know that a community without a mixed housing plan is doomed to fail and eventually decline.

History tells us a future recession is inevitable and with it will come cuts to government services. If most of the funding for an entire neighbourhood is dependent on government handouts, what will happen when that funding is cut? How are services and a local economy maintained if an entire neighbourhood is on some form of income assistance? Can the city planners show us a modern community anywhere in the world where similar policies have worked successfully over time? Why are there no references and international models for this concept within the planning documentation?

60 Minutes on Chicago’s Cabrini–Green. Cabrini–Green is a public housing project located on Chicago’s Near North Side. It is geographically similar to the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District in its proximity to the central business district. The buildings of Cabrini–Green are now being replaced by mixed income housing.

Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, Missouri was devised as part of the massive urban renewal projects of the 1950’s and 1960’s. In twenty years Pruitt-Igoe crumbled into terrible decrepitude.
The residents of Japantown and Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District deserve a plan that provides a real roadmap to diversified, self-sustained local economic development. For the residents who see the area as a vibrant community of hard working people struggling to build homes and grow businesses the city’s plan is almost incomprehensible.


Children playing in Japantown, Vancouver (Before 1941)

Movement, security and residential and commercial property valuations will suffer from the policy proposed. Furthermore, a renewed commitment to concentrating persons with drug addictions and mental illness in the center of the community is terribly destructive and misguided. The Downtown Eastside needs a comprehensive plan for urban renewal and social development that encourages entrepreneurship and economic development for small business servicing a variety of demographic markets.

The current proposal is a neighbourhood killer for Japantown and Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District. It is shortsighted and ignores local knowledge that can be gleaned simply by taking a long walk though our streets and speaking with local residents.

We look forward to seeing a revised plan for the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District that doesn’t play politics with our future.

The Editors

*Please take a few moments to submit your views to the City of Vancouver Planning Department here.

Photos by Jeff Topham and Vancouver Archives

Evolve together.  


  1. Chris Nicola says:

    Calling this "Ghettoization" feels a bit extreme but perhaps I'm reading the plan wrong or woefully ignorant on this subject. The plan seems to call for 60% social housing mix with 40% "secure market housing rentals". The space appears to be intended not simply for those on social assistance but a mix of social and market rentals. Are you just questioning this mix specifically? If so what are you proposing as a better solution to the area's problem.

    You suggest that small businesses and "market housing" people should be allowed to continue to be part of the solution but don't really specify what that is. This rant is long on criticism and short on proposals.

    I'd love to give the city feedback on how they can improve their plan, but you've provided no suggestions on exactly what that feedback should be other than "no".

  2. Anthony Ryder says:

    no solutions as usual from GG

  3. Barbara-Lynn Pollard says:

    considering that Japantown and the DTES/Oppenheimer neighbourhood have existed longer than said "Editors" have been alive the neighbourhood will long survive after the Gastown Gazette goes out of business and I am pretty sure that more desperately needed social housing won't kill off any pretentious "urban pioneers".

  4. Barbara-Lynn Pollard says:

    Censoring again are you by removing people's posts that disagree with you Editors…if you can't take criticism perhaps you should't be blogging.

  5. Barbara-Lynn Pollard says:

    I guess I will be contacting your advertisers and telling them exactly what you do to people who disagree with you and your libelous reporting….The court of public opinion will hold sway once advertisers start loosing business because you choose to undertake a course of censorship. you are no better that the protesters and twice as offensive.

  6. Micha Vancouver says:

    Hey Guys….just an FYI: I'm on an iPad and when I click on your links and go to your website it kind of glitches out. The page goes super small and the sidebar actually separates the header banner. After a few "page pinches" it eventually rights itself. Just thought you might want to know.

  7. Do you know zhat the City of Burnaby does to handle the social housing problem? Nothing, they send them to the DTES and Surrey! Its a fact; look it up.

  8. Barbara-Lynn Pollard says:

    I am quite serious about contacting your advertisers and letting them know about how you censor comments, print libelous and slanderous articles and generally have no journalistic ethics whatsoever. keep on deleting my comments, your advertisers will be hearing all about it. I have screen shots of everything that I have posted on this page which you have deleted. Your advertisers will be receiving copies of them all as well of copies of every article with slander you have printed highlighted.

  9. Micha Vancouver Thank you very much Micha.

  10. so typical of the city – make grandiose announcements and that's it

  11. Gale Liebert says:

    Chris, seems to me you're asking the Gazette to tell you what to think… why do you need them to tell you what your feedback to the city should be?

  12. Ryan Bontes says:

    I am all for the gentrification of this area. I moved to Gastown from English Bay recently, as it is by far the nicest area of Downtown, and everyone should have the right to feel at home there, be that the homeless, or working professionals. It seems that there is always someone protesting about something… the most pathetic of protests being about the opening of restaurants. Heaven forbid that a business should be opened that provides employment opportunities, which in turn gives the government more tax payments, which go to the upkeep of our city and surrounding areas….

  13. Gale Liebert says:

    Anthony, I don't see your thoughts regarding a solution either.

  14. Sarah Evans says:

    The kinds of policies like the City is proposing make mixed income communities possible; without them, everyone who is poor gets pushed out.

  15. Steve Jed says:

    Part of the answer is in the Cabrini Green video.

  16. The problem is they are and never will about mixed income communities never have in more than 25,years – the focus always has been on the drug addict and other people with serious problems and if you don't believe that where are the community centers and other assorted facilities for those people with children and the elderly

  17. C D Isadore Rivard says:

    It's unsustainable to concentrate so many social housing projects in one such area. A mixed neighbourhood plan that is being suggested here as an alternative sounds alot less crazy than having 60% Social Service Industry Developments and Projects taking up all that great space.

  18. Barbara-Lynn Pollard

    Tick tock Barb, poverty pimps are going to have their Vancouver privileges revoked soon.

  19. Barbara-Lynn Pollard says:

    Does your new social media comment policy means that you will be removing all comments using the highly disturbing comment "poverty pimps" and anything that Mal Fenderson posts." ? just curious or are you going to just use it to continue to censor anyone who disagrees with your opinion. btw, thanks for your oh so insightful emal, considering that I have never publically posted where I work, I do believe you are in violation of a little thing called "right to privacy" not to mention the code ethics of the Canadian Association of Journalists. And just so you know boycotting an advertiser of a "newspaper" that is part of the public domain is not a criminal offense or an attack. It is the right of every Canadian to protest peacefully and a boycott of advertisers is probably the most powerful of peaceful protests, have a nice day. happy tracking ;)

  20. Joseph Josiah says:

    Yeah, the world just works so perfectly like that doesn't it?

  21. to Mr Ryder and the other folks who wish to see the slum continue – your solution Mr Ryder is? to Wha?
    tTo leave some of the most valuable real estate in all of Canada in the hands of the street people and drug addicts. Why would any major city create or condone a slum (which is what the area now is) in the heart of its tourist and nightclub district as well as let the attendant blight continue to impact the residents of Strathcona , one of the oldest communities in the city.
    I am 65 and I remember the area before this Skid Road scene took over the area and before the city of Vancouver dumped all its poor, mentally ill, handicapped and drug abuser into the area for more than 35 years.Setting up a idiotic plan that the city now proposes is to continue the wretched ghetto that is now the shame of this beautiful city.

  22. Scott Clark says:

    As a person who sits on the DTES Local Area Planning Process (DTES LAPP) I can assure your readers that there is no consensus on the so called 'social justice zone' that somehow got into the plan. Many of us have questioned where is the evidence based research that supports creating this zone? Many from others sectors have stated that many developers will not touch this area because they cannot make it fiscally viable. Unless senior levels of government provide resources or some cross community trade off with developers comes to the table in seems likely the area will remain the same. Others have outright stated that we have far too much social housing in the DTES and perhaps it would be better to look elsewhere ensuring Vancouver's other 23 communities step up and ensure there is more mixed social/scattered site housing elsewhere, thus making Vancouver as a whole a social justice zone. While it is important to read the DRAFT PLAN, I would encourage readers to also look at the soon to be adopted "Healthy City For All" document which will go before City of Vancouver Council in the near future. is this 'zone' to appease a small group of people, where is the evidence based research to support this, is it consistent with the "Healthy City For All" document, can it be financially viable for developers, will senior levels of government step up? All good questions, that assist us all to make informed critical decisions.

  23. Melvin Butter says:

    Barbra shut up already!