Pubdate: Wed, 18 Apr 2012
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Ian Austin


Condo Plans Will Disrupt Drug Trade, Group Says

About 100 protesters stormed Vancouver city hall on Tuesday, 
concerned about gentrification in the Downtown Eastside and 
disruption of the local drug trade.

The group first chanted and unfurled banners at the proposed Sequel 
138 condo development in the squalid 100-block East Hastings, then 
boarded a school bus and took over a city council meeting.

The coalition of development opponents includes the Vancouver Area 
Network of Drug Users (VANDU), which sent an open letter to council 
saying the proposed condo development - across the street from the 
Insite supervised injection site and in the heart of street level 
drug transactions - would set off a violent drug war.

"The evidence is clear that disruption and displacement of drug 
markets does not result in a reduction of drug supply, or a decrease 
in drug use," VANDU wrote.

"It does result in greater street violence as drug sellers, often 
people who are themselves addicted to drugs and are paid in drugs, 
compete for new turf."

Council quickly adjourned its regular meeting as the ragtag group 
entered - after its megaphone was seized - with city manager Penny 
Ballem and Councillors Andrea Reimer and Adriane Carr sticking around 
for speeches punctuated by cheers, drumming and banging on desks.

After a tense showdown, Reimer managed to broker a 30-minute informal 
information session, and eight councillors re-entered council 
chambers to listen to speakers.

"Remember, the strongest voice is a whisper," protester Duncan 
Macleod counselled the agitated group. "No shouting matches, please."

Carr promised to try to have the development decision brought back to 
council, rather than passed by an unelected development permit board.

The group, mildly pleased with that offer, left the chambers but 
promised to return next Monday when the development permit board is 
scheduled to vote on the proposal.

Would-be developer Marc Williams told The Province that his 97-condo 
project includes 18 social-housing units, and that he wants to change 
the neighbourhood for the better.

"I believe in the Downtown Eastside. I believe in the safe-injection 
site - it saves lives - and I believe in safe streets for everyone," 
said Williams, projecting sale prices of "less than $250,000."

"It's change, but it's positive change."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom