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Vancouver, British Columbia,
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  • Volume Eight, Number Five: July 2003

     Streets of Tears Plague Vancouver's Chinatown:

    Property Owners Ask City Hall for Dedicated Planner

    Sid Chow Tan

    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 mission statement."

    Tenacious and astute, Jack Chow wants a vibrant and bustling Chinatown. You can bet the dragons on top of the lanterns are listening.


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