Some members of the gay community are expressing concern over a redevelopment proposal that, if approved by the city, would inject $7 million dollars into a new queer community centre.
The redevelopment proposal, submitted by Jim Pattison Developments and Reliance Properties, would require the city to rezone sites on Burrard and Hornby streets to accommodate the projects.
“I'm a West End resident and a member of our LGBT community, and I am opposed,” Jamie Lee Hamilton says.
Vancouver city staff recommended that Qmunity, BC’s queer resource centre, receive $7 million of the $15.8 million in Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) funds from the proposed redevelopment to help the organization find a new home.
Staff also recommended that the rezoning application be referred to a public hearing.
City council voted unanimously in favour of the staff recommendations on Nov 19. The proposal will now be sent to public hearing, likely on Dec 17.
Hamilton says she supports the need for public consultation but thinks the lack of transparency so far regarding the application process and Qmunity plans is worrisome.
“Where did this come from?” she asks. “It just seemed like a done deal, and the public hasn’t had the opportunity to have their voices heard, and Qmunity hasn’t asked the community about what they want.”
“I think a lot of people are so surprised because no one had heard of [the Pattison application and CAC allotment to Qmunity] before,” agrees former city councillor Alan Herbert.
According to the city staff report, two public open houses were held between 2011 and 2013 regarding the sites. In both cases approximately 12,000 notices were mailed out, attracting a total of 100 people between the two events.
“There has not been a significant amount of public interest in this particular application,” city planner Karen Hoese told council.
Herbert says he’s not opposed to the Pattison proposal or its accompanying CAC funding to Qmunity, but he wants more information to be made public before any decisions are made.
“I’m in favour of it and a community centre,” he says. “I’m very happy about the $7 million to do this. But I don’t know what this is. And that’s what needs to be decided.”
Herbert says he’d like to see a multipurpose queer community centre governed by an elected board made up of members from various groups and organizations throughout the community.
“It’s $7 million. I want to know that it’s going to be used properly and publicly. It’s not play money,” he says.
“It’s not up to Qmunity to decide,” he maintains. “It’s up to the community to decide what we want.”
“I have concerns about whether Qmunity could carry out something of this magnitude,” she says.
“We’re only going to get one chance at getting a centre that’s welcoming of the diversity of our community, so we have to get it right,” she adds.
“We don’t know how it’s going to unfold,” Qmunity vice-chair Morgan Camley told Xtra Nov 15. “The pieces are falling together quickly, but the larger pieces still have to be put in place.”
Camley says that it’s too early to discuss whether Qmunity would partner with other organizations in a new centre but that she hasn’t ruled it out.
NPA Councillor George Affleck also expressed concern to staff at the Nov 19 meeting. “I am wondering if there will be a clear public process allowing the LGBTQ community to have some comments on the nature of the community centre.”
“The $7 million is simply funding that has been set aside,” Hoese explained. “At some point, we’ll have to identify a location for the community centre, and the Qmunity folks will be able to participate in terms of programming and figuring out exactly what’s needed by the community. That’s a future process; it’s not part of this rezoning.”
While Hamilton believes that a new, multipurpose centre is crucial to the community, she is skeptical of a development deal that she says could further gentrify the West End by abolishing small businesses and downplaying the need for affordable housing.
“I think small businesses which serve the West End community will see their rents significantly rise as a result of this redevelopment, and small independent businesses along Davie are at great risk of being pushed out,” she says.