I hope you are interested to know more about my upcoming documentary film, CHAMPIONS OF LITTLE MOUNTAIN.
Since 2008 I’ve been producing and directing a documentary on the story of The Little Mountain Housing Project, we’re half way through the editing, and it’s clear that we need more funding to complete the film.
Here’s the video that launched the successful crowdfunding campaign of 2014:
Help to spread the message across social media in Canada?
Please email me at email@example.com with the Title: Funding the Champions.
Scroll down to read more about the project.
Great documentaries have a unique ability to engage and connect people, transform communities, and improve societies. Over the past nine years David Vaisbord has been successful in serving as a voice for his local community. Now, a team of dedicated individuals want to complete the feature documentary that takes this powerful David and Goliath story to local and national audiences.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
From July through August 2015 my garden celebrated the lives of Sim and Joan Chang through a patch of crocosmes which I transplanted from their garden at Little Mountain to mine.
Sim and Joan were among the “champions” of Little Mountain, including Ingrid and Antonia Steenhuisen, Karin Nicholetti, David Chudnovsky, and many others who fought to save the social housing project from destruction.
Sim’s flowers from Little Mountain
Sim’s flowers from Little Mountain
Sim’s flowers from Little Mountain
Sim’s flowers from Little Mountain
Sim’s flowers from Little Mountain
Sim’s flowers from Little Mountain
Here they are on my boulevard. Local bees and crocosmes. Caught by my camera. Saved from blades of Holborn’s lawn mowers. The editing of the documentary film, “Champions of Little Mountain” continues.
BC Housing finally flattens the last of 45 buildings at the Little Mountain Housing Project this week. The demolition took place on Tuesday December 16, 2014.
Karin Nicholetti, the last tenant to move out, payed her respects.
The last 3 Tenants had fought for and won a 5 year demolition reprieve. BC Housing attempted two times, in 2009 and 2012 to evict them.
The redevelopment of Little Mountain has been a failure. So much so that BC Housing is now taking a new approach: they intend to sell all their social housing assets to non profit organizations. This new intiative (as always with out any public consultation) will transform the housing portfolio from government responsibility to charity work. Such a profound change deserves some sober second thought. The first housing project to be sold will be Stamps Place.
When I shot this scene I assumed it would be the end of my film. I was wrong. Rich Coleman, the Minister of Housing was to cut the ribbon on the first new building in the spring of 2015. I will shoot that meeting, and my final words with the Minister before I begin to edit the film.
With your financial support we can make a truly great film. It’s never too late to make get involved. Find out more about the fundraising campaign at littlemountainfilm.com
I’ve had these photographs on my hard drive since October so as we head into winter here’s to memories of the fall and the last building standing at Little Mountain. The mushrooms have disappeared and the building will soon do … Continue reading →
BC Housing prepares the last Little Mountain Rowhouse for demolition.
Last week a good friend of mine who is a Vancouver artist, informed me that she had just received an eviction notice from her studio. I thought right…here’s another instance of how its getting harder and harder for anyone except the international business class to afford to live here. The Vision party is doing what they can, a couple of months ago they held a lottery to chose one arts group – out of dozens – who would get one new studio space in Vancouver. Forgive me if I’m underwhelmed.
Meanwhile a building at Little Mountain with 6 good suites of over 12,000 total square feet awaits demolition. Any major dude who knew Vancouver development politics would tell you that this spot on the Little Mountain site won’t be ready for construction for at least five years. But who’s counting.
The 2014 election data is out. Holborn gave $75,000 to Vision and $2,500 to NPA, so they’re betting that Vision will win this race.
What will the contribution buy them? Peace of mind? A sense that they contributed to the democratic process? After all they did fund two parties. Or do they share like many of us, a concern that a vote for the NPA might strengthen Kinder Morgan’s fight to ram a new pipeline through our city. Many big issues at stake in this election.
But most importantly for me and the community that I live in, what will this mean for Little Mountain? Especially since there’s been some talk that Holborn might renege on its committment to build community amenities as part of the redevelopment plan for Little Mountain.
BC Housing is poised to sell off another major piece of it’s social housing property in Vancouver, and as per usual there will be no public consultation. I hope to have some media to post on this project soon.
UBC Urban Geography student and Vaisbord with Steenhuisens’ family home at Little Mountain. The last of Little Mountain’s heritage social housing.
Last Friday and Saturday (Oct 17th and 18th) I gave tours of Little Mountain to UBC Urban Geography students.
On Friday we were fortunate to catch Ingrid Steenhuisen, one of the last residents of the heritage housing at Little Mountain in the process of cleaning up and moving out. Her relatives were there to help as were neighbourhood friends.
Planning Student, Friend and Vaisbord in the Steenhuisens’ basement.
While working on sorting family papers, Ingrid answered a few questions from the students.
Ingrid Steenhuisen talks to planning student about the Riley Park neighbourhood while packing boxes in her former home at Little Mountain.
If any readers have had the experience of cleaning out a family home, they can appreciate how much work it took, and how difficult it was to clear out the old three bedroom suite.
The view from this boys’ bedroom in the Steenhuisen unit is coloured by the nostalgia for vivid seafaring tales read before bedtime.
Ingrid is moving into the new building 100 yards to the south of her family’s old rowhouse.
The last heritage rowhouse – coming soon to a landfill near you.
Rather than being reused or remodelled, the heritage structure will be torn down by BC Housing ASAP.
This building has a relatively new roof and good structure. I know a number of artists who are desperate for studio space in Vancouver, who would move their studios to Little Mountain in a heartbeat, even if only for the two to five years it will take before anything happens here.
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.
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: email@example.com.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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
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: email@example.com
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister Responsible for Housing, Rich Coleman: email@example.com
Shayne Ramsay, CEO, BC Housing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dale McMann, ED for Lower Mainland, BC Housing: email@example.com
Joo-Kim Tiah, President, Holborn Group: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Cheng & Associates, Architectural Consultants: email@example.com
City of Vancouver
Mayor Gregor Robertson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor George Affleck: email@example.com
Councillor Elizabeth Ball: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Adrienne Carr: email@example.com
Councillor Heather Deal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Kerry Jang: email@example.com
Councillor Raymond Louie: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Geoff Meggs: email@example.com
Councillor Andrea Reimer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Tim Stevenson: email@example.com
Councillor Tony Tang: firstname.lastname@example.org
CoV’s City Manager Penny Ballem: email@example.com
CoV’s General Manager of Planning and Development: firstname.lastname@example.org
CoV’s City Planning Staff: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Until Sunday July 22, an iteration of The Little Mountain Project is on view at the Winsor Gallery, 3025 Granville Street, Vancouver B.C.
Join David Vaisbord at the gallery on Saturday July 21, from 1pm to 3pm, to have an informal conversation about the fusion of art and media, the website, civic engagement, and future of documentary filmmaking. Learn more about the Winsor Gallery Show.
The Little Mountain Project, installation view at ECUAD
I offer you a moment of truth.
Seven minutes from Meeting #29 of the Little Mountain Community Advisory Group, or as Ned Jacobs describes it: “a key point in a meeting between the CAG and the planners when the question of who is calling the shots was asked, but not satisfactorily answered.”
(see full text below)
Moments like these often end up defining an entire process.
It remains to be seen, what happens at City Hall next week.
Commentary on the Little Mountain Community Advisory Group Policy Statement, by Ned Jacobs:
June 21, 2012
In many respects, the Little Mountain Community Advisory Group (CAG) statement and recommendations are consistent with those of planning staff, but they differ in regard to overall density and building heights.
Planning staff have recommended that density in the range of 2.3 to 2.5 gross FSR be considered. This may not seem excessive, compared to net FSR figures for some recent high-density proposals for a single building or a city block, but the Little Mountain site is greater than 15 acres and will include streets and public plazas, which limit the overall ground coverage to about 40%.
For a variety of reasons specific to this site and its context, as well as the place and functions of the Riley Park neighbourhood in the city, the CAG concluded that density up to about 2 FSR was appropriate, but are willing to contemplate the risks of accommodating density up to 2.2 FSR to achieve key public amenities, or 2.3 FSR on condition that the additional units are non-market to increase social housing on the site. A target of 20% social housing is supported by both the City and the CAG, but cannot be achieved unless the province is willing to subsidize construction of at least 65 non-market units in addition to the 234 units they have committed to replace.
2.2 FSR is 50% greater than what could be achieved under the approved Community Vision Directions, which would limit building heights to 4 storeys and about 1.45 FSR. The difference between 2.2 and 2.5 FSR is significant: nearly 200 units, equivalent to about three 8-storey apartment buildings or at least one additional storey on each of approximately 20 buildings in the site plan. It would likely necessitate accommodating parking and traffic impacts from at least 150 additional cars, and put further strain on already stressed amenities and services. The CAG considers 2.5 FSR to be excessive, and highly problematic.
The CAG studied several existing high density large-site developments in Vancouver. In regard to the Olympic Village, at 2.6 FSR, the CAG concluded that the combination of building heights and ground coverage resulted in an overly canyon-like environment, not well suited for a family-oriented development. Arbutus Walk, at 1.9 FSR, was more comparable to the Little Mountain site in terms of neighbourhood context. CAG participants appreciated the human scale and diversity of housing types, which includes rowhouses, but thought that some of the green space is underused and might have been better utilized as floor space, while reducing the height and massing of an overly dominant building.
In regard to building heights, planning staff recommend that most of the buildings range from 4 to 8 storeys, with up to two buildings of 12 storeys. The CAG recommends that the majority of buildings be in the 4 to 6 storey range with no building greater than 10 storeys (or 100 feet) in order to preserve high quality public views to and from Queen Elizabeth Park, reduce shadowing, and provide better transitions of scale to the surrounding neighbourhood. There was little public support at the open houses for buildings over 9 storeys. The developer, Holborn Properties, is asking Council to amend the staff recommendations to permit consideration of one 14-storey building to provide “punctuation.” It also seems doubtful that Holborn will ne willing to provide the full complement of Development Cost Levies (DCLs) and Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) on the market units and, when it comes to rezoning may balk at the recommendation that all 234 replacement social housing units be built in the initial phase of construction.
Many CAG participants have a strong sense that the City’s “Little Mountain “planning team” is not actually comfortable with the density (up to 2.5 FSR) that they have recommended, but are responding to directions from “higher levels” within the administration. If these directions are in fact coming from the Mayor and/or powers that be on City Council, this is a problem because it means that professional arms length between our planners and our elected officials has been compromised. It was rumoured that on several occasions Planning Director Brent Toderian considered resigning because parts of some planning staff reports had been rewritten in the office of the General Manager and sent back with the expectation that he would “sign off” on them, and that Toderian’s discomfort with this was a major factor in his being fired “without cause.” One CAG member questioned whether the LM density recommendations are “circular”, meaning that the decision-makers are instructing staff in regard to recommendations, presumably to create the appearance that staff supports those decisions. Here is a link to a 7-minute video segment (by documentary film maker David Vaisbord) of a key point in a meeting between the CAG and the planners when the question of who is calling the shots was asked, but not satisfactorily answered. littlemountainproject.com
Ned Jacobs is a founding member of Riley Park/South Cambie Community Visions, Community Advocates for Little Mountain (CALM), and a participant on the CAG.
Observer + Participant
The Little Mountain Project
Please note that the draft Policy Statement (“Appendix A”) is included as a separate item due to its size.
At this Committee of Council Meeting, staff will be giving a presentation followed by short presentations by representatives from the Holborn Team and from the Little Mountain Community Advisory Group. After this, members of the public are allowed up to 5 minutes each to address City Council on the subject. Council may ask questions of you or of staff after you speak. If you wish to speak, please see this page: http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/mayorcouncil/speaktocouncil.htm
Senior Planner, Major Projects Group, Community Planning Division, City of Vancouver
t 604.871.6943 | f 604.873.7045 | email@example.com
Little Mountain Housing Program Homepage http://vancouver.ca/littlemountain
If you are new to this process, the quickest way to get up to date is to watch Meetings 29 and 35, which are summaries of City Planning and the Community’s Analysis of the Little Mountain redevelopment plan. Please go to my POSTINGS or ARCHIVE for further details.