Followup on Wednesday’s council meeting

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In summary: “Save the Hollywood” Supporters crowded City Hall for the Heritage Report meeting.  Council listened, and moved an amendment to facilitate our goal of saving the Hollywood.  However, much work still remains to be done!

Congratulations and thank you to everyone who came out to speak for the Hollywood at City Hall on Wednesday. The turnout was amazing, with a total of 87 speakers putting themselves forward. While not all of them were there on behalf of the Hollywood, our voices formed the major component of the speakers list.

The Council Chambers and the balcony were filled to the brim and overflowed out into the lobby, where city staff had added rows of extra chairs to accommodate the crowd.

Your speeches were powerful, emotional and persuasive.

Bette Murphy led off by detailing what the Save the Hollywood Coalition would like to see Council do and how the Heritage Report could help in that effort to ensure that the Hollywood Theatre be saved.

Mel Lehan followed up with an inspiring recap of all the positive things the Coalition has done in the 25 days since we were asked to go out and put together a plan to save the Hollywood. He talked about all the interested purchasers, the arts and community organizations who have expressed interest in renting a saved Hollywood, and read out a list of all the organizations who have sent in letters of support for our effort to save the Hollywood Theatre.

These included:

  • The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

  • The Vancouver International Film Festival

  • The Arts Club

  • Rio Theatre

  • Doxa Film Festival

  • Vancouver Folk Fest

  • Music on Main

  • Downtown Eastside Centre for the Arts

  • Co-op Radio

  • St. James Community Square

  • R2R

  • Artists in our Midst

  • Art for Impact

  • Limelight Video

  • Dunbar Theatre

…and many more.

Michele Smolkin urged the Councillors and the mayor to take this opportunity to send a clear message that the city will no longer stand for wanton destruction of history and culture in favour of unfettered development.

She noted that more than 6000 people have signed the petition, online and on paper, and that Vancouverites care passionately for the Hollywood and for heritage and cultural buildings. These included people from all over Vancouver, from all kinds of backgrounds and from all levels of income.

Adam Abrams was the cultural hit of the evening as after his fine speech he broke into song with an a capella chorus of “Hooray for Hollywood”, with custom-crafted lyrics addressing the issue at hand. It brought smiles to the faces of the Mayor and Councillors, and rousing applause from the crowd. (Watch it here!)

Terry Martin talked emotionally about what a wonderful community space the Hollywood could be, based on the way it has operated in the past year.

Jan Pierce summed up the goal of our Coalition — that we want this to be a win-win for the owner, the neighbourhood and the City.

In between these spokespeople were dozens of passionate, articulate and thoughtful personal stories and ideas for saving the Hollywood.  All the speakers were riveting. Of particular note was the voice of all ages, including numerous thoughtful and heartwarming stories  by seniors and many youth, including a  preteen girl, who spoke eloquently about what the Hollywood means to her.

Council heard us loud and clear.  After the public spoke, Councillor Heather Deal moved the following  amendment:

FURTHER THAT where heritage resources of particular community or cultural significance are at risk, the Director of Planning may consider measures beyond conditional zoning where it would assist community objectives for heritage preservation, subject to approval by Council after a public hearing; and that this policy specifically apply to the Hollywood Theatre.

Members of the Save the Hollywood Coalition are studying this amendment as well as the whole Heritage report, and analyzing what both of them can mean for our effort.

It is certainly a positive step forward.  All the actions that we have taken in the last short while – the overflowing public meeting at St. James Hall on Nov. 17; the 6000-plus signatures on the petition; the letters sent by individuals to City Hall; the letters of support from arts and community organizations; and finally, the large number of speakers at City Hall on Dec. 4, all helped to convince Council that there is overwhelming public support and a plan to make this happen.

The Coalition is continuing to work on securing purchasers, renters, and letters of support.  We are putting together a plan that we believe will be a win-win for the community, the owner and the City.

Stay tuned!

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