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.
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.
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
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