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In Memoriam: Nathan Edelson, urban planner, friend, and ally of Chinatown (1947-2023)
Celebrate Nathan's life on Sunday, November 5 at 4pm
Nathan Edelson, born on March 1, 1947, and a cherished friend and dedicated ally of the Chinatown community, passed away suddenly on September 3, 2023, after a brief illness.
You might recognize him as the former DTES and Chinatown city planner who spoke at the 105 Keefer public hearings. He played a crucial role as one of the few technical experts who consistently shared his professional knowledge in public to advocate for our community during city hearings.
Beyond the public eye, Nathan was a quiet yet influential presence, always working to bring people together over common ground, and mentoring young individuals to the forefront.
Over a remarkable 25-year career at the city, Nathan was part of a generation of urban planners in Vancouver who prioritized community-focused neighbourhood planning. He oversaw Chinatown's planning for 15 of those years, including the creation of the Chinatown Memorial Plaza. This past September, in his memory, we dedicated an entire month of events at the plaza to honour his legacy.
Even in retirement, Nathan continued to offer his wisdom, knowledge, and extensive network to support Chinatown’s planning efforts. He did so while caring for his beloved wife, Norma-Jean McLaren, who, despite her dementia diagnosis and passing last year, was also a steadfast supporter of Chinatown.
At the recent development permit hearing for 105 Keefer in June, Nathan expressed his pride in seeing many people, both young and old, at city hall actively fighting for Chinatown — something he had strived for throughout his entire planning career. He would definitely be happy to see our ongoing collective efforts for the neighbourhood.
Nathan remained dedicated to planning, advocating, and organizing for Chinatown and 105 Keefer issues until the very end of his life. He contributed greatly to Chinatown, the DTES community, and Vancouver as a whole. Now it’s our turn to come together and celebrate his life, paying tribute to his legacy.
Join the celebration of life of Nathan Edelson this Sunday, November 5.
Date: Sunday, November 5, 2023
Location: Unitarian Church, 949 W 49th Ave, Vancouver
Nathan, Chinatown, and 105 Keefer
An archive of Nathan’s speeches on 105 Keefer to city council and the Development Permit Board in 2017 and 2023:
Nathan Edelson, a retired city planner responsible for Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside for 15 years, pointed out Beedie’s proposal is for one of the few remaining prominent sites in the neighbourhood, noting its proximity to the monument and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
“As you've heard, it will become an important entrance to this community, which is of national significance,” said Edelson, noting the ongoing Northeast False Creek plan for redevelopment. “Its design requires the fine-grained architecture to respond more closely with the area's historic character.”
Added Edelson: “In effect, this square is a sacred space in Chinatown, and it should be showcased by any adjacent development as a contribution to the reconciliation to the Chinese, as well as to the Indigenous people that this city supports.”
— “Decision on controversial Vancouver Chinatown condo project expected June 26” (Vancouver is Awesome, Jun 13, 2023)