Dedication of the Rich Colman “Vacant Lot” took place on Saturday April 8. The project was a collaboration of Community Advocates for Little Mountain including David Chudnovsky, Barry Growe, Catherine Hembling, Linda Shuto, and David Vaisbord.
Evidently the press found our approach creative and incisive because we received great coverage from Global, CBC and CTV and more. Here it is!
The former lands of the Little Mountain Housing Project were unofficially opened to the public last month, through what appears to be motor vehicle accident that tore through the fence on the corner of Ontario Street and and 37th Avenue. In any event, it’s time that the fence came down, as it serves no purpose than to separate citizens from a public space that will not see complete re-development for another two decades.
Elsewhere on the property one of the Heritage Trees was damaged by the heavy snow, but it appears to be only one large branch that separated from the trunk.
Across the fence from Little Mountain on other sites to the North-East, numerous other Vancouver Developers are well into construction of new condos. Condos which, according to some critics of the Vancouver housing crisis, relieve some pressure from Vancouver’s overheated housing market. Holborn isn’t building any of these new homes.
On the sixteen acres adjacent, Holborn CEO Joo Kim Tiah – the owner of Trump Tower – speculates on the increasing value of the former site of the Little Mountain Housing Project while doing nothing to alleviate Vancouver’s housing problems. No new social housing, no new family housing, no new market housing, no new luxury housing. No housing.
The Malaysian business tycoon strictly patrols the fence around his property in order to forbid local contractors from parking next to it.
While elsewhere along his fence a splash of pink is a reminder that the numbers of needy and homeless in Vancouver continue to rise.
The epic winter of 2016-17 will be remembered by some for the salt crisis and by others for ice fortresses and ice skating on local streets and lakes.
Tomorrow night, July 19, at 6pm Vancouver City Hall will hold public meetings on the REZONING document for Little Mountain. You can register to speak on line by email at email@example.com. I will record this meeting and upload it to the web.
I recorded the most recent meetings of the Little Mountain Advisory Group, and will upload them as soon as I can. As you can imagine, my time to upload content to this website is limited as I continue to edit the documentary: Champions of Little Mountain.
I will begin to communicate more regularly as the launch date approaches.
A Holborn Haunted Halloween for Little Mountain in 2014!
Last week Holborn’s Joo Kim Tiah was in downtown Vancouver promoted his ultra luxury Trump Tower project with Donald Trump’s children. If that wasn’t scary enough, across town in my neighbourhood, the Holborn Properties Little Mountain community office had a downright haunted look about it!
We visit new and active construction sites in Little Mountain vicinity.
Vaisbord’s UBC tour visits Holborn Office.
We finish our tour at the last heritage bldg.
I was giving a tour of the area to UBC students when we came upon it. I decided to photograph it and send it to you for your enjoyment.
And be sure to check out my workshop on the Hyperlocal Documentary on November 12th. Find out more on FACEBOOK or buy tickets here.
Have a happy and safe Halloween from the Little Mountain Project.
Last night I joined Dr. Wendy Sarkissian‘s Urban Planning class at Langara University in the company of dedicated civic activists including Eileen Mosca of Grandview, Gudrun Langolf of Marpole, Ned Jacobs of Riley Park/South Cambie, Randy Helten of Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver and Jak King, president of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council.
Vaisbord speaks to Langara University Planning Students on Oct 21, 2014
It was a great conversation. King’s overview of the event is here on his blog: Jak’s View of Vancouver. And kudos to students April and Elona who did a great job of of organizing the session.
Undergraduate Student, Ned Jacobs, Jak King in Sarkissian’s Langara Classroom
The Langara class began with a discussion of the Little Mountain Project. A key discussion point was the clip A Moment of Truth. The flaw within the community consultation process is clearly visible. Planner Ben Johnson must inform the community that their recommendations will never be accepted: “a higher level of direction” controls the process that includes both senior staff and City Council — all Vision Party dominated — rendering the entire process, nearly irrelevant.
Vaisbord speaks on the Little Mountain Project – Vancouver planner Ben Johnson projected on screen, from a video entitled: “Meeting 29: The Moment of Truth”.
I qualify the process as “nearly irrelevant” because the community, with the assistance of the planning department accomplished what they set out to do. The community was ready to unanimously support a final document but that document wasn’t good enough for “senior staff” who opted for a higher density than that recommended by the community. The fact that Vision staff and councillors chose to poison the well in the end was a huge disappointment to everyone, except the developer Holborn Properties, of course.
This, and many other flawed consultation processes are coming back to haunt the Vision Party as it seeks re-election by angry Vancouver communities seeking input into the future of their city.
What has been going on at Little Mountain?
In the last rays of sun in Sept/Oct 2014 the owner (BC Housing or Holborn?) did a complete site cleanup, consisting of cutting the grass, trimming the trees, covering their root systems with fresh sod, and removing the rotting orange fences which once surrounded them.
Remains of Orange Fencing around Little Mountain trees
The old orange fences were erected to protect the trees from damage during a construction boom that never happened. Instead they rotted in place, year upon year becoming more weathered and decrepit. As unsightly as they were, they provided a visual reminder of how much time had elapsed since promises were made to rebuild Little Mountain Housing.
Photograph: 4 Seasons of Little Mountain – David Vaisbord
Now they are gone and Little Mountain almost resembles a park. Ask anyone who walks by, and they’ll probably respond that they don’t remember what was there anymore.
Cutting the grass at Little Mountain at the base of a tree once surrounded by orange fencing.
Landscaping at Little Mountain Fall 2014
Stroller in waiting.
Little Mountain seems more park-like now that the orange fences are gone. What was once the first social housing project in BC passes slowly into oblivion.
With apologies to my readers – this new blog entry is long overdue!
This blog was out of commission during my crowdfunding campaign for The Little Mountain Film, and then I took a summer hiatus. For information on how to support the film project go to: http://www.littlemountainfilm.com/
Today, I post a new banner photo that begs the question: What would Little Mountain look like as a tent city? Oppenheimer Park is a city park that is now a living community.
The Little Mountain Housing Project was a living community that is now a private park.
Just click on the icon below to be redirected to the documentary film fundraising site:
I’m ecstatic to be finally embarking on campaign to fund the Little Mountain Film. After six years in the making, I’m ready to share this story with the world. Thank you all for joining me on the journey. Most of you have been involved in the fight for Little Mountain for just as long as I have. I’m hoping that finishing this film will create a way to get the word out about what happened at Little Mountain – the good, the bad, the ups, and the downs. Please join me in making finishing this film. Check out our crowd-funding campaignHERE and let the world hear about Little Mountain.
I met Georgia Straight writer Carlito Pablo at Little Mountain last week, and he included me in the article he wrote this week: Sam and Joan article in Georgia Straight
It talks about the passing of both Joan (which I shared on this blog) and Sammy.
I’ve not had a moment to spare since I committed to launch an Indiegogo Funding Campaign for the feature documentary film, and spent the last 4 weeks in my edit studio cutting a 4 minute trailer. It boils down to a week a minute.
I regret not having time to post about the passing of Sammy (Sim) Chang, but once the campaign is up and running I’ll have to time to go back and write the post in a few days, now that the campaign is up and running.
Barry and the tenants at Heather Place, including Karen Gilchrist and Tamara Szymanska will be speaking to City Council at City Hall next week, on April 15, and I will be there to record their presentations and their thoughts on the process, for a future post.
There are many lessons to be learned at Little Mountain. I’ll cover them in my documentary.
On January 19th 2014, one of the world’s leading authorities on community engagement, Dr. Wendy Sarkissian spoke to Vancouver residents about the successes and failures of community engagement in Canada, Australia and the USA.
Have the last three years of community engagement at Little Mountain been a success? That depends on who you talk to and there’s more to come in 2014. Prior to Dr. Sarkissian’s talk, I speak for a minute about my commitment to The Little Mountain Project and ask for support for my upcoming crowdfunding campaign, this spring.
If you send me your email address, I will be able to keep you up to date on details about the campaign, to be launched in the spring. Alternatively you can Facebook friend me or follow me on Twitter. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Sarkissian inspires Vancouver citizens in January 2014. (littlemountainproject.com).
Moderated by Stephen Bohus, the conversation took place at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre. Urbanist and community advocate Ned Jacobs begins the conversation. The following information was provided by the organizers prior to the event:
“Densification Wars.” Community Planning in New South Wales and Vancouver:
A public conversation with Dr. Wendy Sarkissian, Ned Jacobs, and You!
Dr. Wendy Sarkissian, lives and practices community planning in the Australian state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, a city experiencing similar growth and affordability pressures as Vancouver. She is co-author of the award-winning book Housing as if People Matteredand three recent books on community engagement. Dr. Sarkissian grew up in Vancouver and was an adjunct professor at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning. Her PhD was in Environmental Ethics and Planning Education.
Jacobs & Bohus at Dr. Sarkissian’s Vancouver talk.
Ned Jacobs, a son and student of the late urbanist Jane Jacobs, is an advocate for environmental sustainability, social/affordable housing, high quality urban design, and civic electoral reform. He serves on volunteer advisory groups for the redevelopment of Little Mountain Housing and the Cambie Corridor, and is the Riley Park/South Cambie Community Visions Group liaison to the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods.
Keep up to date with me, and about the project on my Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Please note: I am writing an addendum to this posting that corrects a misperception I had about the one new seniors building. NOTE that after only 3 years of existence (by 2017) this building was exhibiting STRUCTURAL FLAWS; cracks and stress points that were making it impossible to open screen doors; MECHANICAL FAILURE, hot water systems had collapsed leaving tenants without hot water for weeks; and INFESTATION by ants. This building is much less than was promised. Tenants are begging to be moved out to older and better built accomodations. In view of such events, this new building is edifying in its egregiousness. April 2017.
“Edify” According to the Mirriam Webster Dictionary: Definition #1: To teach (someone) in a way that improves the mind or character.
Edifying New Social Housing Rises at Little Mountain in Vancouver – David Vaisbord Photo
Rising from the ground at Little Mountain is an edifying example of social housing in Vancouver. I call it “edifying” because as the first new building of a large master-planned community, it sets the height of the bar to which all new housing on the Little Mountain site – market or social housing included – must rise to. In addition, the seamless integration of social housing with other eventual forms of housing on the site will have to follow a model of urban planning, where it is impossible to tell social from market housing.
An angled profile meets East 37th Avenue and Main streets in Vancouver – David Vaisbord Photo
But look around, you can’t help but notice it’s the only construction site on a massive empty lot. Which begs the question, why is it being built? The answer to that one is the most edifying of all. It’s a story about 3 families who resisted eviction and with the assistance of their community, won a major victory. That’s a story that can now be told 5 years after it began, as the results of their struggle slowly rises from the ground.
The Little Mountain Story is your story. You are the community who fought to save Little Mountain. So please stay tuned for more information on the launch of the Little Mountain Project documentary funding campaign in 2014.
And if you would like to take part in the strategy of this funding campaign, we need your passion and ideas. Contact me by email ASAP at: email@example.com.
The Long View – Little Mountain’s new social housing – David Vaisbord Photo
According to Phillip Scott, Holborn’s new Development Manager, the completion date of this new seniors housing is the fall of 2014 or the spring of 2015.
The Longer View at Little Mountain: This new building sits on 16 acres of wasteland – David Vaisbord Photo.
Coda: Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail writes that much of the criticism of densification in Vancouver is based on worries about the Social Housing component. Where does he get his information? I get mine at ground level. My neighbourhood is fighting for more units of social and affordable housing at Little Mountain.
The Little Mountain Project
Andrishak has stated that he does not see LM as a tower site. He quoted urban design educator and writer Jan Gehl, “a city is not the buildings alone, it’s the spaces between them that matter most.” The Advisory Committee has been concerned about urban space at Little Mountain since 2010. If you want to feel like you were there, open a second window and click through his PowerPoint PDF (courtesy of Vancouver Planning) as he speaks.
In the Q&A that follows Deborah Butler – one of the 7 members of the Advisory Committee who drafted the Community’s Position on the Policy Statement – compliments Andrishak on his presentation, but urges him to consider the neighbourhood’s criticisms of the policy statement as ratified by City Council in 2012. I would encourage Andrishak to review both Advisory Committee Meeting 35, and Part 1 of the City Hall session of June 2012, which deal with density and height. The Little Mountain Policy Statement itself can be viewed by clicking HERE.
Other subjects covered in the meeting are:
The timetable of the Rezoning Process.
Rightsizing the retail component of the project.
Employing swails to deal with excess water on the property.
How the legibility and visibility of ground floor entryways can enhance community.
Inclusive design that fits many generations of user.
Re-energizing the community around this NEW rezoning process, through new signage around the property or by other means.
The constant evolution of the project, and how the new building already renders the old site plan obsolete.
The challenges of phasing in Social Housing over the many project phases to come.
The timetable for completing the first Social Housing building = late 2014 or 2015.
The obligation for all future builders on the site to abide by the policy statement.
PS: The discussion gets heated, and humourous at the end.
With my compliments to all participants in the room.
The Little Mountain Project.
Know MORE at littlemountainproject.com
If you’d like some, I may be able to hook you up with a supplier, but you’ll have to dig them up yourself, and haggle with an old Chinese man on the price.
Chang and Vaisbord sample the gourmet harvest at Little Mountain.
Next posting, Gary Andrishak, the new architect for Little Mountain, speaks about civic planning, architecture, and guiding principles with the Little Mountain Advisory Group, on video later this week.
The Little Mountain Project
Last night the Little Mountain Advisory Group reconvened after a long hiatus, at the Hillcrest Community Centre. I was there as always, continuing my 5-year experiment into community engagement, and shot my 350th hour of footage for The Little Mountain Project — soon to enter the fundraising stage of a feature documentary about the amazing neighbourhood in which I live.
Gary Andrishak’s opening remarks – David Vaisbord recording them.
Andrishak breezed through an introduction of himself and his work, while stating his strong agreement with all of the policies on Little Mountain, developed through community engagement. Proving himself to be a master communicator, he invited everyone in the room to introduce themselves and proceeded to listen to community reiterate some of their ongoing concerns. Joo Kim Tiah (Holborn’s CEO) introduced himself, but kept a low profile throughout. Phillip Scott, Holborn’s new Development Manager also said a few words.
Planner Ben Johnson responds to questions.
News that Andrishak was a lead architect on the Arbutus Walk Project (a predominantly low-rise development) was music to the ears of many in the room, as Arbutus Walk was one of the feature studies of the Advisory Group with an official tour, given three years ago by City Planners and viewable online HERE.
Andrishak identified himself as an expert in community building and planning, who would do things a little differently from that his predecessor James Cheng. As some of you may know, Cheng resigned from the project owning to recent health concerns.
Scott, Johnson & Andrishak at Little Mountain Mtg
He brings an interest in cutting edge urban design, and in particular new projects in Scandinavia. Does this mean that he is in favour of reduced density or height? Improved public realm? He did mention that he was very much in favour of developments with ground level connections to the communities surrounding them. I’m very interested to see what he will bring to the revisioning of our neighbourhood.
You will want to listen to his presentation for yourself.
I will upload the meeting in its entirety next week.
New construction at Little Mountain casts a long shadow in the autumn light – October 2013 – David Vaisbord photo.
Currently, the first to be built on the site is taking shape at Little Mountain, and it does it casts a long shadow. It makes me wonder how dark the site will be, at the projected heights and density of James Cheng’s vision.
On Thursday, the Minister of Housing claimed to have completed the sale of Little Mountain to the Holborn Group. The value of the “secret deal”, which had remained confidential until now, was also revealed. That value is said to be in the neighbourhood of $300 million in cash and social housing.
The sale was reported by The Globe and Mail yesterday. The news was not repeated on television. Given the persistent secrecy around the project it is difficult to actually believe anything that the government says about Little Mountain. Perhaps one day the government will actually allow someone from outside of their circle to look at the contract and the terms of the province’s agreement, for the benefit of the public and taxpayers of B.C.
This sale, (if it has in fact been sold) along with the re-election of the Liberal Government may guarantee that the developer will get his way at Little Mountain. Many wished for an alternative universe to the one proposed by the government/developer and we shall all see how it rolls out…
There is currently one social housing building being built on site. It was authorized and re-zoned under extraordinary circumstances, after a small group of tenants (with the support of the community) fought eviction. Read about it here.
A new 3-part blog series on The Little Mountain Project. Part 3
Frankly, I wish there didn’t have to be a bad or an ugly. I would rather spend my time working on the feature documentary about Little Mountain.
There are small things that help us to honour the past, the Birks Clock for instance was saved, though the Birks Building was not. We call it “heritage”. We entrust the preservation of those few objects to the people who build our cities, and how they handle that heritage may reflect upon how they think about it.
Holborn’s Joo Kim Tiah and Donald Trump – we’re trusting them to build the new Vancouver
Two mid-century HERITAGE LAMP POSTS have laid undisturbed on a roadway close to the new building site at Little Mountain for past last three years.
Two mid-century heritage lamps at Little Mountain lay undisturbed for 3 years .
Little Mountain Policy statement – showing the street lamps as they once were.
The Planning Department chose one of the lamp posts for the title page of their Little Mountain Policy statement, because it said something about the history of the place – because it was a landmark.
The demolition company which laid most of Little Mountain Housing to waste was, inexplicably, responsible for the preservation of those two heritage lamp posts. One of the lamps was the focal point of a short film I made in a snowstorm in the winter of 2009. In the film the streetlamp flashed intermittently, resembled a lighthouse emitting a distress signal, a warning of things to come…
And then last month, a construction company named URBAN ONE started work near that part of the site. I had noticed that they were missing from the roadway. I went to look for them, and found them in the grass nearby.
Wasted heritage at Little Mountain
Thinking about the details at Little Mountain.
Little Mountain: Detail of leaf-forms on capitals.
Perhaps it’s my fault. I never lived at Little Mountain but after 5 years of filmmaking I’ve become attached to a few things.
So I’ve got some questions:
What constitute civic heritage for you, at Little Mountain?
How would you represent it in a civic art project?
Would a poodle on a pole be good representation of the gentrification of the site?
Send me your ideas and I’ll post them.
The Little Mountain Project
A new 3-part blog series on The Little Mountain Project. Part 2
Urban One builders enters Little Mountain with blazin’ chainsaws.
URBAN ONE – Construction or Demolition service?
I’ve heard the words “heritage-trees” uttered countless times. Three years ago, arborists painstakingly mapped every tree, noting health and potential longevity.
Development Permit shows location of heritage trees bisected by new power lines.
Subsequently, the Planning Department of the City of Vancouver, gave heritage trees prominent status within the Little Mountain Policy statement (see downloadable PDF, particularly page 35 – “TREES”).
URBAN ONE slashes through the canopy for temporary power connections at Little Mountain construction site.
Power Lines once followed established roads through the site.
Trees should be removed to make way for the construction of buildings, not however, to make way for temporary power lines to be eventually buried underground.
So why did tree removal crews break through the orange tree-protection fences to chop a huge wedge through the the living canopy of the proposed Little Mountain Village Square?
Little Mountain: Detail of cuts to planned Village Square.
A power line route circumventing the heritage trees already existed. Why didn’t URBAN ONE communicate with the City of Vancouver’s Planning Department before launching their logging crew through the boulevard? And what does this say about the safety of the remainder of the “heritage trees?”
We have a lack of communication. After two years of consultation the parties involved might just be a little bit weary of Q&A. Well I have advice for everyone involved: Get used to it*.
If the HOLBORN GROUP and URBAN ONE wish to communicate with the community about what they are doing at Little Mountain and why they are doing it, I offer to them this forum – The Little Mountain Project – in order to clarify their actions.
Coming soon…the ugly.
These signs have been popping up everywhere at Little Mountain since the damage was done.
*The Major Projects division of Vancouver’s Planning Department has promised the community, that the Little Mountain Advisory Group will continue to have an active role to play in the rezoning of Little Mountain. We look forward to the resumption of that process.
The Little Mountain Project
A new 3-part blog series on The Little Mountain Project. Part 1
Although I’ve written about the preparation and groundbreaking at Little Mountain in 2013, I wanted to write something about the first 6 months of this year at Little Mountain. And the activities have been so varied and bizarre that the only way to describe them was: Good, Bad, and Ugly. So without further ado…THE GOOD!
THE GOOD Developer begins building social housing at Little Mountain for seniors!
In January 2013 the plans for the construction of the 1st new building at Little Mountain were released. They were publicly revealed for the first time, to Vancouver City’s Urban Design Panel, see above. The panel was impressed. The new social housing is of moderate height and very well designed. Actually, it’s spectacular! Congratulations to the architectural firm of Glair Williams, to James KM Cheng architects and the Holborn Group for welcoming the highly competent and imaginative Glair Williams firm into the project.
Model of new building reviewed at Urban Design Panel
Congratulations also to the community and activists who thwarted BC Housing’s dreams of demolishing the last occupied building, and compelled the government into thinking about the redevelopment of Little Mountain in a smarter and more humane way. As a result, 53 units of new seniors housing will be fast-tracked. This is particularly good news for senior citizens, who were among the hardest hit by the relocation process. Separated from their beloved neighbourhood, old friends and shopping patterns, many were highly stressed. Many complained of substandard replacement housing, and could not wait to return. Some have already passed away – the interminable wait for new housing was just that.
Rich Coleman at Little Mountain Press Conference 2013
The announcement of the new building offered Rich Coleman and the BC Liberals a photo opportunity prior to the 2013 Provincial Election, and I was there to record the event (which I will integrate into feature documentary on Little Mountain).
This project was a huge win for both the activists AND the government, though I don’t think that Minister Coleman* sees it that way.
Exact location of new Little Mountain Seniors’ Housing. Click on image to enlarge.
*Rich Coleman, in a recent conversation with me, stated that I never had anything nice to say about Little Mountain, so I have proved him wrong, right here. There were good things to report. I don’t write the script. I merely observe the play.
Coming soon…with apologies…the bad.
The Little Mountain Project
I finally had a chance to meet and talk to the Minister today. It was a brief encounter and he made it clear that he wasn’t going to add any more words to our conversation as he bristled and walked away from my camera; but nevertheless, it was satisfying to get it done. There are mythologies passed from generation to generation about how difficult it is to capture the fleeting image and words of Rich Coleman.
Ingrid Steenhuisen asks the Honourable Rich Coleman for an opportunity to meet and talk about social housing issues. (Sam Chang in foreground – Ms. Steenhuisen appears partially hidden behind him) Photo by David Vaisbord at the Groundbreaking at the Little Mountain Project, April 11, 2013.
Minister Coleman shook hands with Ingrid Steenhuisen and Sam Chang,(among the last tenants of the last remnant of Little Mountain Housing) and though he did not refuse Ms. Steenhuisen’s suggestion that they meet and talk about social housing concerns, he didn’t exactly set a firm date. Let me guess when that meeting might happen: When hell freezes over.
There was very little notice given to the press (and none to the community) about when and where the press conference would take place, but in spite of the tight time frame, some key community critics of the project managed to get there on time, including David Chudnovsky and Ned Jacobs. The developer, Joo Kim Tiah; the architect, James Cheng; the head of BC Housing, Shayne Ramsay, and all of their key associates were in attendance. Apparently, they were on the invite list.
Sam Chang performs his own ground breaking ceremony at Little Mountain, April 11, 2013
In his speech, Minister Coleman answered many of my questions, so I didn’t have to ask them outright. He explained what he saw when he looked out over the wasteland at Little Mountain, and his rationale for it. I recorded it and will post it asap.
Minister Rich Coleman behind Media Scrum at Little Mountain, April 2013
BTW, did anybody see any coverage of the event on the evening news? During a media scrum after the main event was over, the subject swiftly changed from Little Mountain to election politics, using the Little Mountain signage as the background. That blue-coloured background was visible in several election reports, but I did not find any coverage of the groundbreaking event on television.
ps: Vote for Little Mountain Stories web project at http://www.connectthedocs.ca/ Deadline for voting is Friday April 12, 2012 @ 9pm Pacific time.
11:45 AM this morning (April 11th) is official groundbreaking for one new building at Little Mountain and Rich Coleman will be there! UNBELIEVABLE? Nobody can remember the last time they saw him at the project, if ever.
I’m going to be there by 11am with video camera to record Coleman, the first official appearance of the author of the destruction of Little Mountain Housing. What will he see when he casts his across the landscape. It’s hard to imagine. But not to dwell on negatives, he’s here to tell us the good news, that congratulations are in order for him and his friends, as they break ground on the building that the residents and community fought so hard for.
Yesterday I shot some footage of BC Housing, sprucing up the wasteland for today’s press conference. Here it is:
By the way, if you haven’t voted yet for my new web project: Little Mountain Stories, take a second and make a few clicks. If I get enough votes I’ll be able to pitch this project at the Hot Docs documentary festival in Toronto – it’s just a couple of clicks, but could mean a huge difference in getting exposure and FUNDING for this project.
For those of you came to city hall to speak, who missed work, and patiently waited for your 5 minutes to arrive, this is your chance to see how well you did on camera. There are many view expressed here. Some of the speakers represent the Little Mountain Advisory Group, others come from sectors of the community who did not attend the meetings. Some are simply friends of the developer. The speakers list was open to whoever wanted to speak.
Kudos to everyone for PARTICIPATING. Politics is an exercise which (for the most part), takes place IN PUBLIC and IN PERSON.
Little Mountain Project
David Vaisbord photographs last row house in morning light, August 2012.
In the Georgia Straight, Vision Councillor Kerry Jang claims: “We’ve always maintained at the city that we need to find a way of accommodating these folks,” Jang told the Straight by phone. “It’s kind of inhuman to uproot them, right?
Hmmm…then why did it take the concerted efforts of dozens of advocates/activists in public, and behind the scenes, to make this happen? If this was indeed the view of the Vision Party, why didn’t they denounce the decision to evict the last tenants when it was announced this summer? Why did it take them till the month of October, to do anything?
Coming up. Scenes from the Screening at the Little Mountain Gallery.
This battle has been won owing to the concerted efforts of many!
The last tenants of The Little Mountain Housing Project will not be evicted by BC Housing!
Firstly, I want to recognize the last residents of Little Mountain for their heart and tenacity. It’s been their fight from the beginning. Ingrid Steenhuisen, Sammy and Joan Chang, and Karin Nicholetti have been fighting eviction for over 4 years, and this news must come as a bitter sweet vindication, as they remember the community they once lived in – one that was demolished without just cause in 2009.
To find all the PRESS related to the evictions click HERE.
Two mid-century heritage lamps at Little Mountain lay undisturbed for 3 years .
The mobilization of people and ideas which led to the rescinding of the eviction notices, is well documented by my friends at the MAINLANDER. Please read this article by Tristan Markle and Nate Crompton, it saves me the time to repeat it here. Nate and Tristan are members of the Vancouver Renters Union, one of the key elements of this successful campaign.
The RALLY has been CANCELLED. Tonight we CELEBRATE at the screening at the Little Mountain Gallery: 195 E. 26th Avenue. The FREE screening begins at 7pm with special guests, RED 1, Sammy and Joan, Debbie Lawrance, Ingrid Steenhuisen, Ellen Wordsworth, Me (the filmmaker), and more.
Below, is the press release that came from the City of Vancouver, yesterday.
Office of the Mayor
October 25, 2012
Social housing to move forward at Little Mountain; tenants can remain on site
Vancouver –- Mayor Gregor Robertson says it is good news that social housing at Little Mountain will go ahead, and that a deal has been reached to let the remaining tenants stay on site.
The B.C. government, the City of Vancouver and Holborn Properties have signed an agreement that will allow up to 50 social housing units to be built right away at Little Mountain, prior to the completion of the rezoning process.
“Little Mountain has a long history in Vancouver, and it’s great that we’ve reached an agreement to expedite the social housing and allow the remaining residents to stay on site,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The social housing is an important first step to building a new and inclusive community at Little Mountain.”
In a solution found with BC Housing, remaining tenants will be able to stay on site without prior relocation and work can start immediately on what will eventually be 234 new social housing units. Those units are especially targeted for families and seniors, and will ensure a full bedroom-for-bedroom replacement of Little Mountain’s original social housing. BC Housing confirms that rent will remain the same – 30% of income – and the hope is that construction will begin in the first part of 2013.
The City will subdivide the lot and expedite permits to help fast-track the social housing.
It’s an agreement that honours the commitment that the replacement social housing units will be an integral part of the first phase of the new development on the Little Mountain site, and also allows households that moved off site to begin returning to their homes on an accelerated basis.
The Little Mountain property in Vancouver, bounded by 33rd to 37th Avenues between Main and Ontario Streets, is being redeveloped into a mixed-use community. As part of the development, the original 224 units of social housing will be replaced with 234 units of new social housing.
For more information, please contact:
Executive Assistant, Media Relations and Communications
Office of the Mayor – City of Vancouver
Cell: 604-809-9951 – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find the Mayor’s Office on Twitter: @VanMayorsOffice
Sign up for the Mayor’s email updates: Click here
FOR THE RECORD. It is clear to everyone in Council Chambers at the time, that the timeline for “Rezoning and Implementation” is from 12 – 18 months.
This Slide presented by Ben Johnson of the planning department indicates that 12 – 18 months is a standard timeline for REZONING and IMPLEMENTATION.
City Planner, Ben Johnson speaks to the timeline at approx. the 21:40 point in the video. As far as I am aware, this second phase of the planning process has not yet begun. This places the beginning of construction of PHASE 1 of Little Mountain well into 2014.
This has led to a war of words in the press, in which Vancouver’s Planning department has been quoted as stating: “A development this complex would likely take 12 months of public hearings, assuming that the developer’s plans are within the boundaries of the City’s policy statement; following that is six months of enactment. If it’s concurrent, the project could have shovels in the ground by 2014.”
James Cheng plays Holborn’s demo video to City Council
The Ministry of Housing, BCHousing and the Holborn team appear to be willfully ignorant of the facts, as they press EVICTION NOTICES on the last four families at Little Mountain.
Please stay tuned. Part 2 – the Community Speakers – is coming up. Please excuse the delays. Keeping up with the Little Mountain Project is more than a full time job for one person. Volunteers are welcome to contribute. Send an email or use the comment form.
The shorts are part of a work-in-progress created the past 4 years, in support of the families fighting eviction on the social housing site.
Here are the details:
TIME: Friday October 26nd at 7pm. WHERE: Little Mountain Gallery, at 26th Avenue at Main Street — 195 E 26th Avenue. WITH: guests “RED 1” of the Rascalz; Ingrid Steenhuisen, one of the last tenants at Little Mountain; Tristan Markle co-founder and editor of of Vancouver’s progressive online news: The Mainlander, and the filmmaker, David Vaisbord. PRICE: The screening is FREE.
Here’s a short excerpt from a press release that’s going out today:
Vancouver filmmaker David Vaisbord presents six film stories about the Little Mountain Housing Project.
www.littlemountainproject.com suggests ways in which Vancouver citizens can take action, from firing off emails, to joining active citizens’ groups, to speaking at council meetings, and attending public rallies.David began The Little Mountain Project as an experiment in what he calls “hyperlocal documentary filmmaking”, a term which describes a film in which the subject and audience, connected by the Internet, are one-and-the-same. Future projects, listed on the website include a number of multi-platform digital media experiences. His most recent streamed media is The Eviction of Sammy and Joan, which has been viewed over 1200 times over the past 4 weeks. Vaisbord states, “It’s about generating public interest in the way BC Housing and the BC Government abuse the most vulnerable people in society – in this instance, the treatment of blind senior citizens.”
Chudnovsky spoke to Task Force Recommendation 3, which aims to “Protect existing non-profit, social and co-operative housing that may be under threat and continue to protect the affordable market rental stock using the community planning process to focus on strategies to repair, renew and expand the stock neighbourhood by neighbourhood.”
In view of Vancouver City Council’s own recommendations, Chudnovsky suggested that Council take 3 specific actions.
1. To take a public stand against the eviction. To make a MOTION, expressing your opposition to the eviction, and pass it unanimously, today.
2. To use your influence with BCHousing and the Government of British Columbia, to rescind the eviction notices.
3. To use the rezoning and regulatory powers of the City of Vancouver to encourage the proposed developer to rescind the eviction notices.
Will the MOTION based on his suggestions ever be written and passed?
With the spectre of the October 29th TENANCE HEARING hanging over the tenants heads, it will be interesting to see if this Mayor and Council takes any action. It must be noted that in some circles, this Mayor and Council are perceived to be in the pockets of Vancouver developers. If that is the case, any hint of saying “NEVER AGAIN” to developer aspirations — such as the ones that demolished the community at Little Mountain Housing — may be perceived as “ANTI-DEVELOPER.”
On October 3rd, 2012, Council Chambers of the City of Vancouver became a screening room, when I presented my 5 minute cut of “The Eviction of Sammy and Joan,” during the discussion of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability. You can view my presentation in the video below. The short film itself can be viewed HERE.
NB: This screening was significant in the decision that was subsequently announced on October 25th, to preserve the last building, and fast track the construction 50 new social housing units at Little Mountain. Please look for news reports on this website.
John Grierson (the “father of the documentary film”) was known to say, that if he could get the right dozen people into a screening room to see a film he was happy. I presented the film on the suggestion of veteran civic planner Nathan Edelson, who saw it the previous evening at a screening at UBC. In the Q&A that followed he urged me to edit the over seven minute film to under 5 minutes, in order to make it fit within the 5 minute limitation on speakers before City Council. I did that.
When the screening was over, there was dead silence. Councillor Andrea Reimer was the first to speak, and directed Mayor and Council to this website, where the longer version can be streamed. A question from Councillor Elizabeth Ball followed. I was not really prepared to talk, as I was up half the night editing the film. I was happy to leave the words to David Chudnovsky, who followed me on the speakers list.
The speech by DAVID CHUDNOVSKY, (former NDP MLA for Vancouver-Kensington) which followed my screening, was a concise exposition on the Mayor’s Task Force Recommendation Number 3: To “Protect existing non-profit, social and co-operative housing that may be under threat,” and how it directly related to the current crisis at Little Mountain, the eviction of the last tenants, and the demolition of the last building.
In conclusion, Chudnovsky made THREE EXPLICIT REQUESTS of the Mayor and his Councillors on what IMMEDIATE ACTIONS TO TAKE.
Mr. Chunovsky’s 5-minute speech will be viewable on my next posting, tomorrow.
See you then,
The Little Mountain Project
Five short films from The Little Mountain Project screen tonight at the University of British Columbia.
Here are the details:
TIME: Tuesday October 2nd at 6pm
WHERE: UBC Student Union Building – Norm Theatre.
WITH: CINEMA POLITICA and guests “RED 1” of the Rascalz; Ingrid Steenhuisen, one of the last tenants at Little Mountain; and Tristan Markle co-founder and editor of of Vancouver’s progressive online news site: The Mainlander.
Find out more, on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/285629348217987/permalink/289566194490969/
Together we’ll be talking about the past and present crises faced by residents at Little Mountain Housing, and the documentary strategy which motivates my current work-in-progress at Little Mountain. I’m looking forward to discussion to follow the screenings.
Eviction delayed for Sammy and Joan and the last 4 families at Little Mountain!
Sammy (Sim) Chang and Joan Chang in their organic garden, soon to be evicted from their home at the Little Mountain Housing project.
Last week, on Tuesday September 18th, at their HEARING (by teleconference) with the RENTAL TENANCY BRANCH, the tenants with David Chudnovsky acting as their advocate, won the right to have an adjuication IN PERSON.
The date of that NEW hearing was announced YESTERDAY, and has been set for: October 29, 2012 at 10am
at the RTB office in Metrotown.
Suite 400 – 5021 Kingsway Burnaby, BC.
No eviction may take place until a final decision is made by the RTB, so in effect, the tenants won their first battle against BC Housing and the Holborn Group. Lawyers for BC Housing will, without a doubt, seek a definitive eviction date at the next meeting.
Meanwhile, in a recent interview in the Vancouver Sun of September 25, 2012, the Holborn Group’s Joo Kim Tiah, made some very vague promises that construction could begin in May of 2013. This claim is NOT supported by REALITY.
The tag-team of the Holborn Group and the Ministry of Housing/BC Housing do not have the authority to over-ride the legitimate powers of The City of Vancouver to manage its own rezoning processes. The Vancouver planning department has re-iterated several times, that the process of rezoning at Little Mountain will take at least 18 months, and considering the length of time the site has already remained empty, far longer.
My interpretation is that the accelerated demolition process at Little Mountain has but one purpose: To close the sale of the Little Mountain lands to The Holborn Group prior to the Provincial Elections of May 2013.The BC Liberals are desperate for one piece of good news, and are willing displace vulnerable people (the very people they claim to protect) for short-term political gain.
This is how I predict it will go down:
With the tenants successfully evicted, the sale will go through, and the Liberal Government will announce the success of their strategy. They’ll exhume their promise to build the 14 housing sites, and trumpet their holiness! And then… NO SHOVEL will break ground, NO HOUSING CONSTRUCTION will begin, and the site will remain EMPTY for at least another year.
Neighbour – Little Mountain Community
There are a number of important issues involved in the eviction of Sammy and Joan. I list a few here:
PHYSICAL JEOPARDY Sammy and Joan are both completely blind. Sammy fought the first eviction notice in 2009 for good reason, BC Housing did not have a plan to redevelop Little Mountain, and the safety of his wife was of the highest importance. Sammy did visit a number of BC Housing locations prior to deciding to reject with finality the offer to relocate. Every location that Sammy visited displayed environmental hazards – driveways, parking lots, concrete trip zones etc. – which posed a serious threat. I accompanied Sammy on several of those outings, and realized how many small obstacles we negotiate daily, and how we rely on our sight to get around them.
Sammy no longer has eyesight to help Joan negotiate unfamiliar territory. He can not longer assess the danger of any new environment for his wife, or himself. Relocation puts Sammy and Joan’s physical safely in real jeopardy.
DESTRUCTION OF LIVELIHOOD Sammy is one of Vancouver’s original urban organic gardeners. His garden is his life, and a mainstay of his diet. Sammy is also a chef, and both he and Joan cooks their own food.
Joan has mentioned that BC Housing intends to put them in a facility which garnishes 75% of their income for life support. This means that the facility prepares and cooks all the meals in an institutional setting. Currently Sammy keeps 75% of his income for life support, and buys and prepares food in his way. Sammy and Joan are two independent, blind seniors who live a frugal and healthy life.
Remove Sammy from his garden, and deny this blind couple any control over their diet and lifestyle and you might as well be putting them in prison.
PERSONAL SAFETY Recent news has brought the safety of many BC Housing operations into question. Seniors have spoken about how dangerous it is to live in BC Housing projects near the downtown east side. One woman mentioned that she had to sleep with “a knife under her pillow.”
BC Housing has been taking to them about Hastings Street (watch the video)! How well will a blind couple fare in such an environment? I’m sure that you can imagine! This eviction will compromise their personal safety.
HEALTH and STRESS Could BC Housing have picked a more stressful time in Sammy’s life, in which to evict him? The loss of his eyesight in March of 2012 a tragic event. Now, just as he is being offered hope that he might restore part of it, BC Housing burdens him with the stress of eviction. It’s no wonder that he can no longer sleep, and his life, leading up to both his eviction and his eye operation is hell. If BC Housing has anything in their mission statement about ethical and moral values, they are violating all of them at once.
CAN BC HOUSING MITIGATE THE PROBLEM? YES THEY CAN, by not moving Sam and Joan off the site until it is absolutely necessary, and certainly not in order to perform more “environmental testing” 18 months to two years prior to the commencement of any new construction.
In fact considering the enormity of the Little Mountain property, and the mandate of the developer — to build the replacement social housing in the first phase of development — it is very likely that a building could be built to satisfy that mandate and house Sammy and Joan, WITHOUT them ever needing to be relocated!
If BC Housing choses to pursue this latest round of evictions, they will be proving without a shadow of a doubt that they are not only capable of screwing up on a very large scale (witness the Little Mountain site today), but on the smallest personal level, continuously on the same project. What does that say about this crown corporation?
SAMMY AND JOAN NEED YOUR SUPPORT – NOW. Find out how, by clicking HERE, and by connecting to this FACEBOOK page.
Little Mountain Community
CBC radio talkback number: 604-662-6690
CKNW radio comment line: 604-331-2784
4. Make you voice heard by officials:
Provincial Government and BC Housing
Premier Christy Clark: email@example.com
Minister Responsible for Housing, Rich Coleman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shayne Ramsay, CEO, BC Housing: email@example.com
Dale McMann, ED for Lower Mainland, BC Housing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joo-Kim Tiah, President, Holborn Group: email@example.com
James Cheng & Associates, Architectural Consultants: firstname.lastname@example.org
City of Vancouver
Mayor Gregor Robertson: email@example.com
Councillor George Affleck: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Elizabeth Ball: email@example.com
Councillor Adrienne Carr: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Heather Deal: email@example.com
Councillor Kerry Jang: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Raymond Louie: email@example.com
Councillor Geoff Meggs: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Andrea Reimer: email@example.com
Councillor Tim Stevenson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Tony Tang: email@example.com
CoV’s City Manager Penny Ballem: firstname.lastname@example.org
CoV’s General Manager of Planning and Development: email@example.com
CoV’s City Planning Staff: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
It is Machiavellian, how BC Housing choses the end of summer to evict its last tenants at Little Mountain. It’s so obvious and disheartening that they chose a time when everyone is on vacation, to deliver mean-spirited information to their most vulnerable clients, when critics and neighbourhood supporters are on vacation, and aren’t ready or capable of reacting quickly to the news.
And what I had really wanted to write about was wildflowers and wildlife at Little Mountain. If there was any good news to report about Little Mountain over the summer of 2012, is that the site had become a place of rebirth, if not for housing then for nature and urban wildlife.
It was only two months ago, on June 27th, that all interested parties convened at City Hall to hash out a Policy Statement on redevelopment. And then the BC Liberal Government through its housing organ — British Columbia Housing — lifted its iron fist once again and brought it down at Little Mountain and it was “eviction time” again. But this time, instead of the threat of aesbestos in the buildings, it’s residues of heating oil in the ground water.
But before I go into greater detail on the groundwater testing (in a future blog) can anyone from the City of Vancouver, or BC Housing, or the engineering firm tell me why they had to cut down all the wildflowers? Including a tiny stand of bullrushes – the week after?
The Little Mountain Project, in late summer, 2012.
The last of 3 heating oil tanks were lifted out of the ground last week at Little Mountain, completing the sold remediation process at Little Mountain. This was routine business. Thousands of tanks are removed by Vancouver home owners each year in accordance with environmental regulations.
All three were removed in a day without incident.
Environmental testing of the soil samples takes 2 weeks.
Drilling machinery was seen on site this week. Groundwater testing is the next phenomenon to occur at Little Mountain – a full 18 months early – if necessary at all. (which is doubtful)
Following the logic of the BC Ministry of Housing, it must pay somehow, to destroy communities earlier, rather than later. One must assume that if the deal between Holborn and the BC Liberals can be finalized early, and Holborn can be forced to PAY UP, then the Liberals will have some cash to throw at the debt, or other social housing committments they have reneged upon etc. etc. prior to the rapidly approaching B.C. ELECTIONS.
The first of three oil tanks is lifted from the ground at Little Mountain Housing
Here are a few links to articles on what promises to be a new eviction fiasco at Little Mountain Housing. The Vancouver Courier article of August 1st communicates a few important points by Ingrid Steenhuisen, one of the last and most important voices at Little Mountain, but wastes the second half rehashing old information from the developer regarding numbers of replacement housing. Most of this could be researched on line, and had nothing to do with the urgent and timely eviction issue. The Georgia Straight article which is much better than the Courier article, includes a bizarre comment by Vision councillor Kerry Jang who refers to the last remaining townhouse in plural (“those buildings”) while arguing that it will be difficult to perform remediation tasks around them. Really, Councillor Jang? As of Monday August 13th, all remaining and offending oil tanks adjacent to the townhouse were removed and samples will be sent for testing. There were no “difficulties”. Routine testing of the removal usually takes no more than a couple of weeks. FOOTAGE OF THE OIL TANK REMOVAL WILL BE UPLOADED TO THIS SITE, NEXT WEEK.
Oil Tank Removal at Little Mountain on August 13, 2012
Workers use jars at Little Mountain to select soil samples from three areas below the old oil tanks.
Final Stage of Little Mountain Remediation accomplished in a day.
According to the workers at the site, the old tanks were filled with sand over 50 years ago. The sand absorbed most of the oil, rendering the excavation task easy and without incident. What about the claims that other forms of remediation are necessary, and that they necessitate the removal of the last building and the eviction of its tenants, 18 months prior to construction? More to come on this important subject. Important, because it involves the lives of three families who have managed to create a tiny supportive community out of the ruins of the old.
In what seems to be another incredible move by BC Housing – since the tragedy of the demolition of Little Mountain itself 5 to 15 years prematurely – it has come to my attention that BC Housing has handed out NEW EVICTION notices to the last 4 families occupying the last row-house building at Little Mountain.
This move is grossly premature – 18 months or more early – as the Rezoning Process is not yet begun. There are no architectural plans – only a site plan and scale model (which itself is only a sketch) There is no schedule for construction. There is literally no reason to hasten eviction at this point.
In addition, the two-year re-development consultation process (with the City of Vancouver Planning Department, the Community, the Developer) is violated by premature demolition of the last remaining row hose. There is no decision yet, on the final use for the Vancouver Heritage Building. Please view Meeting #27, the Heritage Analysis of the Last Building at Little Mountain. Does the developer realize that he is in contravention of his commitment to an open and comprehensive consultation with the city and the community? Is the BC Liberal Goverment aware of this commitment? BC Housing officials have attended meetings and the last Open House at Little Mountain. Feigning ignorance will not do at this point. Do they have any interest in public process?
Sam and Joan in front of their home and garden at Little Mountain Housing – circa 2009
Sammy and Joan Cheng pictured above are a completely blind couple and have lived at Little Mountain for many years. They are extremely vulnerable. At the time that this photo was taken in the fall of 2009, Sammy (who had partial eyesight at the time) had gone to look several times, for suitable apartments for his completely blind wife (Joan) but did not find any which were safe enough, in terms of apartment layout and surrounding street-scape. In a tragic turn of events, Sammy’s remaining eyesight was lost this year. When Sammy had his eyesight he was feisty and fought against relocation. Today he powerless owing to complete lack of sight. At the end of September Sammy will go for surgery on his eye, to implant a new cornea. BC HOUSING HAS CHOSEN TO EVICT HIM ONLY DAYS FROM THE DATE OF HIS SURGERY. Sammy is under incredible stress with both the eviction and his operation coming fast. DOES BC HOUSING HAVE ANY ETHICS WHATSOEVER? What is this monster of an organization, which you and I – the taxpayer – support?
This hasty and unnecessary relocation, propelled by politics, may prove tragic for this couple.
BC Housing claims that there are “environmental concerns” and that they have to do remediation of the residue from buried oil tanks. I have placed footage of the excavation of the oil tanks on line. The 3 tanks were removed in a day.
Nevertheless, BC Housing states that ground-water testing now needs to be done.
They state that such remediation needs to be done in dry weather. There will be – NO DOUBT – dry weather next summer, when this remediation should sensibly take place. At this point in my investigation there seems to be little reason to perform any additional remediation on the site, but you will hear more about this.
For whom is this “remediation” being done? It may be HOLBORN who are seeking to prematurely demolish the last building prior to further public discussion. Can the developer give us some clarity here? Joo Kim Tiah of Holborn should answer to this.
Who else is instigating this move? The Ministry of Housing? Rich Coleman’s office?
And what does the City of Vancouver, its Mayor Gregor Robertson, and Vision Councillors have to say about it?