Dear Editor. It is, indeed, unfortunate that Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) chose not to hire a copy-editor to polish its petition. Not everyone has good writing skills, and whoever constructed the petition clearly has strengths other than articulating thoughts into writing.
Not only that, the initial petition has been amended, so which petition is the one that will be put forward as having gathered 2000 signatures? The initial one? The one in which there are factual errors re the proposed facility (eg ”50 metres from an elementary school)? Or the revised one which no longer begins by denying this is about NIMBY, and that is now prefaced with mention of upholding the bylaw C7.
When these signatures are brought to the attention of city council as support to the opposition against the proposed site, will council be informed that the original petition was amended? It’s all so very confusing. Like a horse got out of the gate before the whistle blew, and then returned to the gate, put on its ill-fitting horse-shoes and re-started the race. Then again, who decided there is a race?
Isn’t the decision to approve the re-zoning, ultimately, in the hands of Abbotsford City Council, regardless of how many signatures are gathered either for or against? And why would Abbotsford City Council look this gift horse in the mouth (BC HOUSING) if it means starting from square one again to find provincial funding for a homeless facility?
Let us hope that city council and mayor will put on their thinking caps, do their research, read the ACS documents with care, and ask the questions so many of us are asking, which are these:
1) Are crime rates higher in downtown Abbotsford than elsewhere?
2) Why aren’t people shopping in the downtown area now that it’s been beautified?
Is it because people prefer to shop in their own neighbourhood shops as that’s more convenient? Is it because they don’t use spas, or already have a spa they attend? Is it because they don’t buy goods such as those Bishop’s sells, and have their dry-cleaning done in their own neighbourhood? Is it because they’re not interested in beads and ceramics and hot yoga? And so forth.
During the years when the Downtown Abbotsford was considered its most “derelict?” I taught for Abbotsford Learning Plus in numerous existing facilities in downtown Abbotsford: Community Services, the former courthouse, Trinity United Church, and finally, in the former curling club. All were areas frequented in those years by persons with drug addictions, prostitutes, and some of them homeless. This did not deter seniors from attending courses they enjoyed. One group of 8 women actually met biweekly in Legal Grounds as a writers’ group. Yes, they chose to meet in the downtown area. It felt safe enough!
It just doesn’t wash that the primary reason the ADBA is opposed to this facility is because of its great threat to people desiring to make the area a destination. People don’t stay away for that reason; they stay away because there is nothing of interest that specifically draws them there. And the reality is that there are other unique areas in which they prefer to dine, shop, stroll, and explore.
All that aside, I am perplexed that the petition continues to be so non-factual, and riddled with generalities, such as this: “The central area of Abbotsford, with well-established malls, chain stores, must have 20 times people parking and shopping than the Historic Downtown, inserting a low-barrier home in close proximity to the mall would affect the atmosphere and future success there 20 times less than downtown. The economic impact on such an area would be almost none.”(sic)
How can ADBA say this? It is mere conjecture, guess work, about existing conditions, as well as imagined future conditions. Who takes such petitions seriously? Those who have been frightened, that’s who. Starting with the author of this document. But as the saying goes, “If you already know the answer is right, you don’t need any evidence to back you up.
What a pity; what a missed opportunity for ADBA to shine and to invite people to come see for themselves. Instead, ADBA’s petition is frightening people away. A wiser tactic might have been to educate the public about the minimal risk associated with encountering a panhandler. Fifty years ago, downtown Abbotsford was the shopping hub of Abbotsford. It could be a vibrant place again, but not if the ADBA continues to present it as a place of chaos and crime.
As for myself, I will continue to visit the downtown Abbotsford – as I have done since childhood – regardless of whom I may encounter on the street.
Updated 12:48, 22/07/13