Damian Inwood, The Province (Vancouver, BC), January 13, 2011
Dozens of angry Asian residents of a posh, University of B.C., highrise building aim to stage a placard-waving protest rally to protest a 15-bed hospice being planned next door.
“We cannot have dying people in our backyard,” said rally organizer Janet Fan, Wednesday “It’s a cultural taboo to us and we cannot be close to so many dying people. It’s like you open your door and step into a graveyard.”
Fan lives on the 17th floor at Promontory, at 2688 West Mall, near Thunderbird Stadium.
She said residents weren’t consulted and only found out when an open house on the proposed hospice was scheduled for Monday.
UBC planners are planning to build St. John Hospice next door.
“Next week we’re going to organize a march, holding banners, to the office of the president of UBC,” said Fan, a stay-at-home mom. “We’re going to tell him we don’t want this hospice and how enraged, angry and shocked we are.”
Fan said 80 per cent of the residents of her 18-storey building are Asian and are strongly opposed.
“Units here are worth $1 million,” she added. “We put our life savings into this.”
She said residents are worried the hospice will have a negative impact on their property values.
Asian residents living in other buildings in the upscale Hawthorn Place neighborhood have signed a 200-name petition, including 65 from Fan’s building.
Qing Lin, who bought a Promontory apartment for $900,000 almost a year ago, said she and her seven year old daughter will have nightmares if the hospice goes ahead.
“We believe that people dying outside will bring us bad luck,” she added. “I’m very angry and upset. If I had known it was going to be a hospice, I wouldn’t buy it for half the price.”
Her neighbour Anglea Gao, 34, clutching her nine-month-old son Ryan, agreed.
“It’s very disturbing,” she said. “My kids and I are going to feel so frightened and angry just to think there are dying people so close to us.”
Residents wrote a letter Jan. 9 to Jan Fialkowski, executive director of the University Neighborhood Association, (UNA) saying they feel a hospice is the equivalent of a funeral home or crematorium.
“‘Death is the Yin and ‘Live’ is the Yang,” it read. “If the Yin and Yang are near to each other, ‘Death’ will bring bad luck, meaning sickness and even death. . . . The ghosts of the dead will invade and harass the living.”
The letter said Asians believe that living next to “death” would “lead to failure of business, the loss of money, the break of marriage and family, and the healthy growing up of children will be affected.”
Sharon Wu, chairwoman of the UNA said 60 residents came to a UNA board meeting Tuesday.
“The UNA respects cultural beliefs,” she said. “UBC is planning to address the concerns of the residents. It’s a very emotional and sensitive issue.”
It’s not the first time the hospice has met with opposition.
It met with complaints when it was originally planned for Marine Drive, close to Place Vanier student residences.
Joe Stott, director of Campus and Community Planning, said objections came from students who didn’t want to have to keep quiet at night and from Pacific Spirit Park and the Wreck Beach Preservation Society.
Stott admitted planners have been caught by surprise by the latest round of complaints.
“Prior to the concerns raised on Friday with the UNA, it was to come up before the UBC board of governors in February but now it won’t do so,” he said.
Stott said the residents’ concerns will be examined.
“We are aware that graveyards are a bad thing and funeral homes are a bad thing,” he added. “We’re going to do some research into this but there’s no evidence that a hospice reduces property values.”