Streets of Tears Plague Vancouver's Chinatown:
Property Owners Ask City Hall for
Three more restaurants closed in Chinatown in July. The bankruptcies and vacancies
continue. When five Chinatown bank locations leave, the message is loud
and clear. Some failed small business owners have been seen crying. Not
only are their life-savings gone, they still owe suppliers and fear the
loss of their homes. The historic area of Vancouver Chinatown has
become streets of tears.
"The bad luck started in 1990 with the
lighting project. The dragons on the lanterns should face each other
friendly, not towards our properties and sidewalks symbolically
attacking owners and people in the street," explains Jack Chow, a
vice-president of the Chinatown Property Owners Association. "Chinatown needs the city to dedicate a professional
planner who understands ornamentation without substance does little to
entice people to return."
Chow says the previous Non-Partisan
Association dominated city hall subordinated Chinatown concerns to the more politically connected
Gastown property owners and merchants. The NPA has controlled city
council and the development of Chinatown for decades, so he hopes the current
council dominated by the Coalition of Progressive Electors will be wary
of the entrenched NPA-Chinatown farm team of property owners and
merchants. In the last civic election, Chow said he supported the COPE
candidates for mayor and council because Chinatown needed a change in leadership at city hall.
"The previous city council and staff have
already caused for sometime a big black cloud over Chinatown," says Chow, a realtor and insurance
agent with two offices in Chinatown. "You can see that Chinatown's infrastructure has been continually
ruined, is devastated, and worsened this past year. Chinatown taxpayers have suffered heavy financial
losses due to unilateral and non-beneficial actions taken against Chinatown properties and businesses."
Chinatown property owners have been financially hard
hit the past few years. By Chow's calculations, the blocks bound by Main, Keefer, Quebec and the hydro substation has cost the city
tax base $550,542 this year. The assessed value has dropped $19.167
million from 1996 to 2003. In the same period, his calculations show
the Chinatown Merchants' Association Plaza Parkade at Keefer and
Columbia has decline almost $14 million in assessed value from the high
of $24.5 million in 1996.
"We asked the manager of the city property
tax department in writing to confirm to us the tax loss accounting,"
states a frustrated Chow, wondering what it takes to be heard at city
hall. "However, the said manager told us the City Manager (Judy Rogers)
intervened and forbid her to supply that information and not to deal or
talk to us. This is absurd and reinforces to us it is the City Manager
who has muzzled and dictated to city employees not to assist or
co-operate with vested owners of Chinatown totally against the City
Tenacious and astute, Jack Chow wants a
vibrant and bustling Chinatown. You can bet the dragons on top of the
lanterns are listening.