Over at the MOV, we've been excitedly welcoming the cherry blossoms all over the city (seriously, so excited). And with the arrival of these new buds, there are a whole host of other fresh starts and new beginnings in Vancouver. This week check in with Vancouver's new proposed digital strategy, the start of greener garbage collection, and something that seems like an end, but what we hope will blossom as a new future possibility: the retirement of advocate for the homeless, Judy Graves.
Born Digital. On April 9, City Council met to discuss Vancouver's first ever digital strategy that, if adopted, would mean a huge shift in how the city processes licenses and permits as well as a significant expansion in the availability of free wi-fi. Sounds pretty good, but are there any concerns? Of course. Nikolas Badminton over at the Huffington Post blog suggests the strategy doesn't do enough: "I feel it is a safe governmental play that drags us to be where we should be right now in 2013, but with full implementation not until 2016. At that point we'll be four years behind."
This week in MOVments we explore some of the recent narratives, numbers, and neighborhood games top of mind in the ever-present world of Vancouver real estate. We have the on-going and multi-layered tale of gentrification in the DTES, some new research that tackles the oft-cited cause/effect relationship of of foreign-buyers driving up condo prices, a playful chronicle of one conceptual artist selling the smallest pieces of real estate in the history of Vancouver, and an online game that tests your knowledge of local city neighborhoods.
Pidgin Protesters. By now, you've probably heard about the protests happening outside of a newly opened restaurant called Pidgin in the Downtown Eastside. Anti-poverty activists are arguing that the intrusion of another high-end restaurant in the neighbourhood means that there is not only less space for low-income housing or organizations providing community services but that it is also disrespectful to the culture of the community. On the other side of the argument, people like city councillor Kerry Jang see the mixed nature of the area as a positive and restaurant co-owner Brandon Grossutti sees his efforts at hiring DTES residents as a path to a more integrated community. And while we're on the subject, check out a couple other perspectives that range from accusations of a kind of reverse NIMBYism to biased media coverage of protestors.
The Myth of the Foreign Buyer Boogeyman? Chances are that if you've lived in Vancouver for any length of time you've also heard about the people who come from overseas to buy up our real estate, drive up prices, and then leave the residences vacant. This Globe and Mail piece suggests that there may be less truth in the story than we previously believed. Although exact statistics are tricky to obtain the article states that "2012 figures from Landcor Data Corporation show that only 0.2 per cent of people who bought residential properties in Metro Vancouver last year are currently living outside of the country" In other words, hardly enough to drive the market. The article also says that many foreign investors are in fact also residing here, coming from China and other countries in order to support their children's educations.
Cube Living. Looking for some affordable real estate in the city? Then look no further than artist Alex Grunenfelder's Cube Living project at 221A Artist Run Centre. Last week, Grunenfelder was selling one cubic foot units of space to interested buyers for as little as one dollar. In this interview for The Tyee Grunenfelder explained the project: "I'm not necessarily advocating living in smaller spaces," he says of Cube Living. "It's about looking at the discussions that are happening around all of this, and maybe looking at things from a different point of view, and also trying to project, where is this going? Where is this process of urban densification going to end up?"
Know Your 'Hood. And finally, get to know your Vancouver neighbourhoods with this cute little app (helpful for the next time that you buy real estate?).
At the MOVeum:
March 3 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism March 7 - Special Curator Talk & Tour: A Clandestine History of Contraception March 10, 17, 24 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism
This week a shout out to a beloved, but long gone butcher shop on Granville got us thinking about instances where the city missed a chance to preserve its social institutions and foster its creative forces. From saying goodbye to a car-free block downtown to a long-awaited report on the Downtown Eastside missing women, there are certainly plenty of things to ponder on the current social and political horizon. However, these do not just represent some missed opportunities, they also offer chances to reflect, critically analyze, and move forward from where we are now.
Block 51. It looks like the pedestrian-only block adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Street will revert back to its former incarnation as a transit and traffic artery in the city. As the Globe and Mail reports the public space provided by Block 51 has been very popular over the summer but as the winter has set in, it has become much less animated, leading to the decision to open it to traffic again. While this may be the end of a central gathering place in the vicinity for the time being, the city has recognized the vital importance of these kinds of spaces, identifying other areas on Robson, Granville, and Hamilton as potential permanent gathering places.
Missing Voices. Commissioner Wally Oppal has submitted his final report on the investigation of the missing women cases in the Downtown Eastside between 1997 and 2002 and as the Georgia Straight reports, it will be made available to the public in mid-December. However, some have already pointed out some flaws. Kasari Govender of West Coast LEAF stated, “This inquiry was a missed opportunity to include the voices of marginalized women, of marginalized communities, and those who were directly impacted by the subject matter of the inquiry. It perpetuated the very problems it sought to alleviate,” But as the reaction to the report has already shown, many legal organizations, non-profits, and media outlets seem to be poised to continue the conversation, critically reflecting on the ongoing discrimination against women, Downtown Eastside residents, and sex-workers in the city and making their own recommendations.
Dude Chilling Park No Longer Quite So Chill. In case you missed it, Guelph Park in East Vancouver was briefly renamed Dude Chilling Park last Thursday. Artist Viktor Briestensky installed a sign with the new name after being inspired by a sculpture of a reclining man that inhabits the park. As the Province reports, Briestensky's goal was simply to promote intergenerational dialogue using humour. And although the sign was removed early Friday morning, it appears that Briestensky has partially succeeded; an online petition calling for the official renaming of the park is creating quite the buzz online, especially among Internet-savvy Vancouverites. Only time will tell if this ends up being a missed opportunity or an exciting example of art being used to reinvigorate an underused social space. You can check out the petition here.
November 28 - Evolving Geographies of Immigration in Vancouver: History and Horizons
December 6 - Curator's Talk & Tour with Viviane Gosselin
December 8 - Love You Forever Tattoo Parlour
[Image: James Inglis Reid Ltd. business card for the Granville Street butcher shop. Museum of Vancouver collection, H2004.12.32]
Voting. After an extremely low turnout in 2008, the City of Vancouver is trying to make it easier for people to vote in municipal elections with social media apps, more advanced polling days, and translating information and ballot questions into Punjabi and Chinese. An earlier request by the city to test online voting during this election was turned down by the provincial government.
OccupyVancouver. The handling of the camp at the Vancouver Art Gallery has emerged as a major election issue and as the protestors become more entrenched, so too does the pressure to move them. City staff have began to talk to the people at the camp about ending the occupation, but have yet to figure out the course of action with the smallest amount of conflict.
Legal experts at UBC opine that since the Art Gallery is on provincial land, it exists in a complicated grey area where city bylaws do not apply, making it difficult for anyone to form a legal case for removing the camp.
Others complain politicians should instead focus on addressing the conditions that led to the protest in the first place.
Missing women. Families of the missing women have testified to years of frustration, as police repeatedly ignored missing persons reports and chose not to investigate or press charges after receiving tips as early as 1997. The deadline for the inquiry has been extended by six months, due to the volume of evidence and testimony, and how long the proceedings took to begin.
Liquor laws. Both the Rio and District 319 have come up against the province's outdated liquor laws that prohibit them from screening films after acquiring their liquor licenses.
Videomatica. Finally some good news about one of Vancouver's best video rental stores: after slumping business and rising rents forced Videomatica to shut down their West 4th store, they've announced that they will continue DVD sales out of the back of Zulu Records.
In South Hill, residents have been using digital filmmaking to tell their stories and connect with their neighbours.
How a group of concerned community members saved the saved the hollow tree in Stanley Park.
Image: Karen Kuo
#occupyvancouver dominates the news this week. Thousands of people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for Occupy Vancouver's first General Assembly on Saturday. Many people are prepared to camp out for some time, though the ban on staking tents to the ground and cooking with propane makes this more difficult.
The Tyee asks people why they have chosen to take to the streets.
We Day. Meanwhile, another gathering for change: as 18,000 youth participate in We Day, where Mikhail Gorbachev and other speakers presented on the value of community service and youth engagement.
The Missing Women Inquiry is off to a rocky start with protests as several groups have chosen to not participate. Many groups are concerned that the lack of funding provided to advocacy groups for legal assistance for is a serious impediment to having their voices heard, and without their support for the process, it is uncertain whether the Inquiry will acheive its purpose.
Powwow. A huge powwow took place in the Downtown Eastside to honour First Nations elders.
Re:CONNECT challenges Vancouverites to reinvision the city's eastern core and viaducts as a vibrant space.
No more pictures. Jeff Wall laments the loss of photogenic buildings in Vancouver.
Local food. A few months after being featured in MOV's Home Grown exhibit, the Home Grow-In Grocery closed suddenly, taking customers' deposits with it. Now the store has reopened with new owners, who are trying to regain the trust of their customers while building our local food infrastructure.
Ethnic enclaves. Is it time for Vancouver to have a Pinoytown?
Image: Ariane Colenbrander
#OccupyVancouver. While protests on Wall Street continue, actions are spreading around North America and a demonstration is planned for Vancouver on October 15. While there's little indication that it has the potential of becoming violent, it seems to have the Vancouver Business Improvement Association worried.
The movement has Vancouver roots, though some at the General Assembly at W2 on the 8th felt that given the colonial history of Canada, "occupy" is an inapproriate term for the event.
Digitization. The Vancouver Archives describes some of the work and new challenges they're facing in storing digital content.
Building Vancouver has been posting some really fascinating material lately about the people who were involved with building many of Vancouver's historical buildings. It's worth a look.
Insite. Hastings Street erupted into a clebration and pancake breakfast as people gathered to hear the Supreme Court of Canada reject the federal government's appeal to close Insite. This is a landmark decision - not only does it allow the facility to remain open but it signals a change in attitudes toward addicts and positions healthcare as a higher priority than law and order. The unanimous decision by the court opens up possibility of safe injection sites across the country. Kind of fitting that this happened in Vancouver, the birthplace of Canada's first drug laws.
Stanley Park. While it's now the uncontroversial crown jewel of our city, Stanley Park got off to a rocky start, as the land was not only expropriated from First Nations people but also others who made their homes on the land. The removal of these people took nearly 40 years.
Growing pains. You can never have too much of a good thing. Or can you? In some cities there is a glut of farmer's markets and not enough consumer demand, forcing them to compete with each other for customers. In Vancouver the tight control over the creation of new markets seems to ensure that this will not be the case but in the suburbs it's a different story.
Mural tour. The City of Vancouver has created a cool interactive map and audio tour of murals in the downtown core and East Van.
Places that matter. John Atkin shares more of his findings while researching materials for the Heritage Foundation's Places that Matter project. This week: the Louvre Hotel and Saloon.
Image via Bruce...
Riot review. The independent review into the Stanley Cup riots released this week concluded that police were overwhelmed by an unexpectedly high number of people, but that given the lack of time to plan for the event, and the lack of a controlled facility within which to contain the live site, the riot was probably unpreventable. The report placed the blame on people who had too much alcohol and makes a variety of recommendations, including a regional framework for emergency services, the formation of a planning team for special events and using volunteers to staff events.
But if these sorts of events are going to require extra policing and other resources, then who should pick up the tab? The city would like to see the Canucks contribute more to both planning and funding and blames the NHL for not having a strategy to prevent or mitigate riots. Others want the province to pitch in.
Some wonder if, now that the dust has settled, the surveillance cameras are here to stay.
Wedged in. How did Gastown come to have so many oddly-shaped buildings? The answer lies in competing land surveys.
Red Gate's 60-day extension is finally up and many tenants are moving out. As with many other buildings in the Downtown Eastside, the building has been long neglected with no compromise reached between the owner, tenants and the city, leaving it's future uncertain. Unfortunately Vancouver is left with one less creative space.
Blighted. A 1964 NFB documentary describes some of the appalling poverty in East Van and the Downtown Eastside and proposes tearing the entire neighbourhood down - a future that thankfully never was.
East Van. The editors of the This is East Van project share some of their favourite photos from the book.
City of the century. In 1986 Vancouver celebrated it's hundredth year with Tillicum the otter and friends.
Image: Duane Storey, via flickr